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Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, not Engaged Argument
Posted by News Fetcher on June 23 '17 at 07:23 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-things-work-there department:
Abstract of a study: The Chinese government has long been suspected of hiring as many as 2,000,000 people to surreptitiously insert huge numbers of pseudonymous and other deceptive writings into the stream of real social media posts, as if they were the genuine opinions of ordinary people. Many academics, and most journalists and activists, claim that these so-called "50c party" posts vociferously argue for the government's side in political and policy debates. As we show, this is also true of the vast majority of posts openly accused on social media of being 50c. Yet, almost no systematic empirical evidence exists for this claim, or, more importantly, for the Chinese regime's strategic objective in pursuing this activity. In the first large scale empirical analysis of this operation, we show how to identify the secretive authors of these posts, the posts written by them, and their content. We estimate that the government fabricates and posts about 448 million social media comments a year. In contrast to prior claims, we show that the Chinese regime's strategy is to avoid arguing with skeptics of the party and the government, and to not even discuss controversial issues. You can find the study here (PDF).

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Samsung Begins Production For Its First Internet of Things-optimised Exynos Processor
Posted by News Fetcher on June 23 '17 at 07:23 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's for-connected-future department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Samsung Electronics has launched the Exynos i T200, its first processor optimised for Internet of Things (IoT) devices, the company has announced. The South Korean tech giant said the chip has upped security and supports wireless connections, with hopes of giving it an advantage in the expanding IoT market. The Exynos i T200 applies Samsung's 28-nanometer High-K Metal Gate process and has multiple cores, with the Cortex-R4 doing the heavy lifting and an independently operating Cortex-M0+ allowing for multifunctionality. For example, if applied to a refrigerator, Cotext-R4 will run the OS and Cotex-M0+ will power LED displays on the doors.

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Trump Plans To Dismantle Obama-Era 'Startup Visa'
Posted by News Fetcher on June 23 '17 at 06:01 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's kick-the-can-down-the-road department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A regulation from the Obama administration that would have allowed foreign-born entrepreneurs who raise investor cash to build their startups in the U.S. won't be allowed to go into effect. The Department of Homeland Security will file an official notice to delay the International Entrepreneur Rule for eight months. The intention is to eliminate the rule entirely, according to sources briefed on the matter who spoke to The Wall Street Journal. The decision isn't final, and a DHS spokesperson told the WSJ that the department "cannot speculate" on the outcome of the review. The International Entrepreneur Rule, signed by former President Obama days before he left office in January, doesn't offer a visa but rather a type of "parole" that would allow immigrants to stay in the U.S. temporarily as long as they meet certain requirements. In order to qualify, a foreign entrepreneur has to raise at least $250,000 from well-known U.S. investors. The rule grants a stay in the U.S. of 30 months, which can be extended for an additional 30 months. Founders can't apply for a green card during that time. DHS has estimated about 3,000 entrepreneurs would qualify under the rule.

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Netflix Launches New 'Interactive Shows' That Let Viewers Dictate the Story
Posted by News Fetcher on June 23 '17 at 02:01 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's viewers-in-charge department:
Netflix announced that it's launching an all-new interactive format that turns viewers in storytellers, letting them dictate each choice and direction the story takes. "In each interactive title, you can make choices for the characters, shaping the story as you go," according to Netflix. "Each choice leads to a different adventure, so you can watch again and again, and see a new story each time." The Next Web reports: The first two interactive shows that will be available on Netflix are Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale and Buddy Thunderstruck: The Maybe Pile. Puss in Book launches globally today, with Buddy Thunderstruck slated to make its debut a month from now on July 14. The new experience will be available on most television setups and iOS devices. "Content creators have a desire to tell non-linear stories like these, and Netflix provides the freedom to roam, try new things and do their best work," Product Innovation director Carla Fisher said. "The intertwining of our engineers in Silicon Valley and the creative minds in Hollywood has opened up this new world of storytelling possibilities." Fisher further added that, for the time being, the streaming service will be mainly focusing its efforts on producing interactive content for children -- especially since their research has shown that they already tend to be prone to interacting with the screen.

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ESA Approves Gravitational-Wave Hunting Spacecraft For 2034
Posted by News Fetcher on June 22 '17 at 11:20 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's red-light-green-light department:
The European Space Agency has approved the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna mission designed to study gravitational waves in space. The spacecraft is slated for launch in in 2034. New Scientist reports: LISA will be made up of three identical satellites orbiting the sun in a triangle formation, each 2.5 million kilometers from the next. The sides of the triangle will be powerful lasers bounced to and fro between the spacecraft. As large objects like black holes move through space they cause gravitational waves, ripples which stretch and squeeze space-time. The LISA satellites will detect how these waves warp space via tiny changes in the distance the laser beams travel. In order to detect these minuscule changes, on scales less than a trillionth of a meter, LISA will have to shrug off cosmic rays and the particles and light from the sun. The LISA Pathfinder mission, a solo probe launched in December 2015, proved that this sensitivity was possible and galvanized researchers working to realize the full LISA mission.

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Scientists Discover How To Stop Luggage From Toppling On the Race Through the Airport
Posted by News Fetcher on June 22 '17 at 08:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's rock-and-roll department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Scientists have worked out why suitcases tend to to rock violently from one wheel to the other until they overturn on the race through the airport. This most pressing of modern mysteries was taken on by physicists in Paris, who devised a scale model of a two-wheeled suitcase rolling on a treadmill and backed up their observations with a pile of equations and references to holonomic restraints, finite perturbations and the morphing of bifurcation diagrams. Fortunately for non-physicists, the findings can be reduced to simpler terms. For the suitcase to rock it had to hit a bump or be struck in some other manner; the faster the suitcase was being pulled, the more minor the bump needed to set it off. So far, so obvious. But Sylvain Courrech du Pont wanted to know more. Why did a rocking suitcase swerve and make such violent movements that it might eventually topple over? After more treadmill tests and more equations, the answer popped up: because a suitcase's handle pulls from the middle and the wheels are at its sides, the suitcase swerves inwards whenever it tilts up on one wheel. If the rocking overcomes the dampening effect that happens when each wheel touches the ground again, the suitcase will keep on rocking or eventually flip over. In conclusion, the researchers discovered that "when a suitcase starts to rock out of control, the correct response is not to slow down but to pull it faster." The scientists have published their findings in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society.

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Home Improvement Chains Accused of False Advertising Over Lumber Dimensions
Posted by News Fetcher on June 22 '17 at 07:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's false-advertising department:
per unit analyzer writes: According to Consumerist, an attorney has filed a class-action lawsuit charging Home Depot (PDF) and Menards (PDF) with deceptive advertising practices by selling "lumber products that were falsely advertised and labeled as having product dimensions that were not the actual dimensions of the products sold." Now granted, this may be news to the novice DIYer, but overall most folks who are purchasing lumber at home improvement stores know that the so-called trade sizes don't match the actual dimensions of the lumber. Do retailers need to educate naive consumers about every aspect of the items they sell? (Especially industry quirks such as this...) Furthermore, as the article notes, it's hard to see how the plaintiffs have been damaged when these building materials are compatible with the construction of the purchaser's existing buildings. i.e., An "actual" 2x4 would not fit in a wall previously built with standard 2x4s -- selling the something as advertised would actually cause the purchaser more trouble in many cases.

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McDonald's Hits All-Time High As Wall Street Cheers Replacement of Cashiers With Kiosks
Posted by News Fetcher on June 22 '17 at 06:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's experience-of-the-future department:
McDonald's is expected to increase its sales via new digital ordering kiosks that will replace cashiers in 2,500 restaurants. As a result, the company's shares hit an all-time high, rallying 26 percent this year through Monday. CNBC reports: Andrew Charles from Cowen cited plans for the restaurant chain to roll out mobile ordering across 14,000 U.S. locations by the end of 2017. The technology upgrades, part of what McDonald's calls "Experience of the Future," includes digital ordering kiosks that will be offered in 2,500 restaurants by the end of the year and table delivery. "MCD is cultivating a digital platform through mobile ordering and Experience of the Future (EOTF), an in-store technological overhaul most conspicuous through kiosk ordering and table delivery," Charles wrote in a note to clients Tuesday. "Our analysis suggests efforts should bear fruit in 2018 with a combined 130 bps [basis points] contribution to U.S. comps [comparable sales]." He raised his 2018 U.S. same store sales growth estimate for the fast-food chain to 3 percent from 2 percent.

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The US Government Wants To Permanently Legalize the Right To Repair
Posted by News Fetcher on June 22 '17 at 06:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's big-win department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: In one of the biggest wins for the right to repair movement yet, the U.S. Copyright Office suggested Thursday that the U.S. government should take actions to make it legal to repair anything you own, forever -- even if it requires hacking into the product's software. Manufacturers -- including John Deere, Ford, various printer companies, and a host of consumer electronics companies -- have argued that it should be illegal to bypass the software locks that they put into their products, claiming that such circumvention violated copyright law. Thursday, the U.S. Copyright Office said it's tired of having to deal with the same issues every three years; it should be legal to repair the things you buy -- everything you buy -- forever. "The growing demand for relief under section 1201 has coincided with a general understanding that bona fide repair and maintenance activities are typically non infringing," the report stated. "Repair activities are often protected from infringement claims by multiple copyright law provisions." "The Office recommends against limiting an exemption to specific technologies or devices, such as motor vehicles, as any statutory language would likely be soon outpaced by technology," it continued.

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Ron Howard Steps In To Direct Han Solo Movie
Posted by News Fetcher on June 22 '17 at 04:43 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new department:
Two days after directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were let go in the middle of shooting the Star Wars Han Solo spinoff movie, the spot has been filled. Ron Howard has been named the new direct of Lucasfilm and Disney's Han Solo movie, according to The Hollywood Reporter. From the report: Howard, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter, will meet with the actors -- Alden Ehrenreich is playing the iconic smuggler, Donald Glover is playing Lando Calrissian, with Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke and Thandie Newton also on the roll call -- to soothe a rattled set and will pore over a rough edit to see what the project needs. Filming will resume on July 10. Howard, who directed 1995's Apollo 13 and won an Oscar for helming 2002's A Beautiful Mind, comes to the Han Solo film with several connections to George Lucas and the worlds of Lucasfilm. He appeared in Lucas' 1973 breakout film American Graffiti and helmed Lucas' 1988 pet fantasy project Willow. Howard also revealed on a podcast in 2015 that Lucas had approached him to direct 1999's Star Wars prequel The Phantom Menace. Though his recent movies, including Inferno and In the Heart of the Sea, have been costly ventures that underperformed at the box office, Howard is considered to be a safe choice to complete the task, someone who will ably finish the movie while being a calming presence on set.

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Wireless and Drone Execs Praised President Trump as He Pledged To Cut Down Regulations
Posted by News Fetcher on June 22 '17 at 03:22 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's making-friends department:
U.S. President Donald Trump offered support for emerging technologies including unmanned aerial vehicles and next-generation wireless networks in a meeting on Thursday with the chiefs of AT&T and General Electric and other business leaders. From a report: For the likes of AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, the public audience with Trump offered an opportunity to continue nudging the U.S. government -- including in a scheduled, private session with the leader of the Federal Communications Commission earlier Thursday -- to cut back on restrictions that make it difficult for AT&T and other telecom giants to grow their footprint and deploy the new technologies, such as 5G wireless. Speaking with Recode later Thursday, Marcelo Claure, the chief executive of Sprint, said that he and others in his industry had emphasized to Trump that the government must help them deploy new tools like small cells -- essentially, mini cell towers that improve wireless connectivity. Trump, for his part, promised Thursday to cut down on "too many years of excessive government regulation" to enable innovators and investments to offer new cutting-edge tools in health care, science, medicine and communication. "We have had regulation that's been so bad, so out of line that it's really hurt our country," he said.

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FCC Proposes $120 Million Fine On Florida Robocall Scammer
Posted by News Fetcher on June 22 '17 at 03:22 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's justice-is-served department:
The FCC on Thursday proposed a $120 million fine on a Florida resident alleged to have made almost 100 million spoofed robocalls to trick consumers with "exclusive" vacation deals from well-known travel and hospitality companies. Reuters reports: The man, identified as Adrian Abramovich, allegedly made 96 million robocalls during a three-month period by falsifying caller identification information that matched the local area code and the first three digits of recipient's phone number, the FCC said. The calls, which were in violation of the U.S. telecommunications laws, offered vacation deals from companies such as Marriott International Inc, Expedia Inc, Hilton Inc and TripAdvisor Inc. Consumers who answered the calls were transferred to foreign call centers that tried to sell vacation packages, often involving timeshares. These call centers were not related to the companies, the FCC said.

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Alphabet Says Uber Knew About Stolen Self-Driving Car Files
Posted by News Fetcher on June 22 '17 at 02:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's crystal-ball department:
In a Wednesday filing with a California court, Alphabet said a former self-driving executive Anthony Levandowski hatched a plan with Uber to steal more than 14,000 proprietary documents, including designs for the sensors that help the car see its surroundings. CNET reports: Alphabet says Uber's former CEO, Travis Kalanick, knew about the files but told Levandowski to destroy them. Uber has argued that it did not encourage or condone Levandowski taking any files from Waymo or bringing them to Uber, and has noted that his employment agreement affirmed he wouldn't do that. The litigation between Alphabet and Uber has been reported as a primary reason Kalanick was forced to resign as Uber's CEO Tuesday.

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Lawsuit Accuses Comcast of Cutting Competitor's Wires To Put It Out of Business
Posted by News Fetcher on June 22 '17 at 02:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's systematically-destroyed department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A tiny Internet service provider has sued Comcast, alleging that the cable giant and its hired contractors cut the smaller company's wires in order to take over its customer base. Telecom Cable LLC had "229 satisfied customers" in Weston Lakes and Corrigan, Texas when Comcast and its contractors sabotaged its network, the lawsuit filed last week in Harris County District Court said. Comcast had tried to buy Telecom Cable's Weston Lakes operations in 2013 "but refused to pay what they were worth," the complaint says. Starting in June 2015, Comcast and two contractors it hired "systematically destroyed Telecom's business by cutting its lines and running off its customers," the lawsuit says. Comcast destroyed or damaged the lines serving all Telecom Cable customers in Weston Lakes and never repaired them, the lawsuit claims. Telecom Cable owner Anthony Luna estimated the value of his business at about $1.8 million, which he is seeking to recover. He is also seeking other damages from Comcast and its contractors, including exemplary damages that under state statute could "amount to a maximum of twice the amount of economic damages, plus up to $750,000 of non-economic damages," the complaint says. CourtHouse News Service has a story about the lawsuit, and it posted a copy of the complaint.

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BBC Technical Glitch Leaves TV Presenter In Silence
Posted by News Fetcher on June 22 '17 at 02:01 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's call-IT department:
Viewers of BBC's News at Ten were entranced last night when a glitch in its system produced over four minutes of surreal beauty. Two readers share a report: Huw Edwards was left sitting in silence for four minutes at the start of BBC News at Ten on Tuesday night after a technical fault delayed the start of the programme and bemused viewers. Viewers on some devices and channels were left watching the presenter sitting in silence as he waited for his cue to start. The BBC News Channel showed Edwards sitting mute for the entirety of the delay, while BBC1 put up a message apologising for the fault and played saxophone music. On BBC iPlayer an announcer apologised for the glitch and breaking news alerts also appeared during the delay. When the programme started at 22:04, Edwards apologised for what he described as a "few technical problems." The presenter said on Wednesday that nobody had told him he was on air until two minutes into the delay. However, Edwards told Radio 4's The Media Show that he "sensed I might be on" so took "the most conservative approach possible" and sat at his desk reading his notes before the bulletin started. BBC hasn't shared more about those "technical glitches." You can watch the clip here.

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Fireball Browser Hijack Impact Revised After Microsoft Analysis
Posted by News Fetcher on June 22 '17 at 12:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's reality-check department:
Sean Michael Kerner, writing for eWeek: A browser hijacking operation initially reported to have 250 million victims by security firm Check Point isn't quite that large, according to a new analysis by Microsoft. On June 1, security firm Check Point reported that a browser hijacking operation called "Fireball" had already claimed 250 million victims. According to a Microsoft analysis published June 22, Check Point's estimate of the number of victims was "overblown" and the attack is not nearly as widespread as initially reported. The Fireball attack is a browser hijacking that is potentially able to download malware onto victims' systems, as well as manipulate pageviews and redirect search requests. Check Point's initial analysis claimed that Fireball was being bundled as part of free software downloads to unsuspecting users. "Indeed, we have been working with Microsoft on their analysis, feeding them with some additional data," Maya Horowitz, group manager of threat intelligence at Check Point, said in a statement sent to eWEEK. "We tried to reassess the number of infections, and from recent data we know for sure that numbers are at least 40 million, but could be much more."

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Chrome and Firefox Headless Modes May Spur New Adware & Clickfraud Tactics
Posted by News Fetcher on June 22 '17 at 12:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's browsers-trend department:
From a report: During the past month, both Google and Mozilla developers have added support in their respective browsers for "headless mode," a mechanism that allows browsers to run silently in the OS background and with no visible GUI. [...] While this feature sounds very useful for developers and very uninteresting for day-to-day users, it is excellent news for malware authors, and especially for the ones dabbling with adware. In the future, adware or clickfraud bots could boot-up Chrome or Firefox in headless mode (no visible GUI), load pages, and click on ads without the user's knowledge. The adware won't need to include or download any extra tools and could use locally installed software to perform most of its malicious actions. In the past, there have been quite a few adware families that used headless browsers to perform clickfraud. Martijn Grooten, an editor at Virus Bulletin, also pointed Bleeping Computer to a report where miscreants had abused PhantomJS, a headless browser, to post forum spam. The addition of headless mode in Chrome and Firefox will most likely provide adware devs with a new method of performing surreptitious ad clicks.

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Tesla Is Talking To the Music Labels About Creating Its Own Streaming Service
Posted by News Fetcher on June 22 '17 at 12:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's why-would-you-do-that department:
An anonymous reader shares a Recode report: Music industry sources say the carmaker has had talks with all of the major labels about licensing a proprietary music service that would come bundled with its cars, which already come equipped with a high-tech dashboard and internet connectivity. Label sources aren't clear about the full scope of Tesla's ambitions, but believe it is interested in offering multiple tiers of service, starting with a Pandora-like web radio offering. The bigger question: Why doesn't Tesla simply integrate existing services, like Spotify or Apple Music, into all of its cars from the start -- especially since Tesla already does a deal with Spotify for Teslas sold outside the U.S.? "We believe it's important to have an exceptional in-car experience so our customers can listen to the music they want from whatever source they choose," a Tesla spokesperson said. "Our goal is to simply achieve maximum happiness for our customers."

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Facebook Has a New Mission: Bring the World Closer Together
Posted by News Fetcher on June 22 '17 at 12:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's change-in-plans department:
Facebook CEO believes the company's primary purpose is a social one -- the same it has had for year -- but he's ready to update this mission for the first time. From a report: "We used to have a sense that if we could just do those things, then that would make a lot of the things in the world better by themselves," Zuckerberg told CNN Tech. "But now we realize that we need to do more too. It's important to give people a voice, to get a diversity of opinions out there, but on top of that, you also need to do this work of building common ground so that way we can all move forward together." The company even has a new mission statement: "To give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together." This marks the first time the company has overhauled its mission, which had previously been "to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected." Zuckerberg believes he has just the tool for the job: Facebook Groups, which are now used by a billion people. "A lot of what we can do is to help create a more civil and productive debate on some of the bigger issues as well," Zuckerberg told CNN Tech.

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Stephen Hawking Says He Is Convinced That Humans Need To Leave Earth
Posted by News Fetcher on June 22 '17 at 10:01 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's start-packing department:
Reader dryriver writes: Back in May, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking made yet another doomsday prediction. He said that humanity has 100 years left on Earth, which knocked 900 years off the prediction he made in November 2016, which had given humanity 1,000 years left. With his new estimate, Hawking suggested the only way to prolong humanity's existence is for us to find a new home, on another planet (alternative source). Speaking at the Starmus Festival in Trondheim, Norway on Tuesday, Hawking reiterated his point: "If humanity is to continue for another million years, our future lies in boldly going where no one else has gone before," he explained, according to the BBC. Specifically, Hawking said that we should aim for another Moon landing by 2020, and work to build a lunar base in the next 30 years -- projects that could help prepare us to send human beings to Mars by 2025. "We are running out of space and the only places to go to are other worlds. It is time to explore other solar systems. Spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves. I am convinced that humans need to leave Earth," Hawking added.

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