By msmash from Slashdot's about-time department
In a collection of letters published by FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel on Thursday, representatives of T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon all said they had ceased or significantly curtailed the sale of their customers' location data to companies whose shady practices brought to light triggered alarms among privacy advocates and lawmakers on Capitol Hill. From a report: The companies were responding to questions from Rosenworcel prompted by news reports that location data originating with America's largest telecoms was being acquired and sold downstream by bounty hunters and others without the consent of the companies themselves or their customers. The New York Times, for instance, reported last year that law enforcement officials had also purchased access to location data, circumvented the usual need for a warrant. On Wednesday, House lawmakers grilled the FCC's chairman, Ajit Pai, for details about the status of the commission's nearly year-long investigation into the malpractice. After two hours, it adjourned with no new information.
In a May 15 letter, AT&T said that as of March 29 it was no longer sharing its customers' data with location aggregators. Sprint said in its letter that it is now only sharing location data with one location aggregator and two customers "with a public interest," a roadside assistance company and another that facilities compliance with state lottery requirements. T-Mobile said that, as of February 8, it had "terminated all service provider access to location data" under its aggregator program, and that, as of March 9, it had terminated all existing aggregator contracts. "Except for four roadside assistance companies," Verizon terminated its location aggregator program as of November 2018, the company said. It added that the four remaining contracts were terminated by the end of March.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Google is gunning for India's payment companies. The U.S. search giant entered India's payment space in 2017, and now it is hatching an initiative that could boost usage of its Google Pay service by tying it tightly to Android apps in the country. The company has built an in-app engagement rewards platform that promises to help developers and businesses retain users and drive engagement on their apps, two sources familiar with the matter said. It plans to formally launch the project through partners using an SDK later this year, TechCrunch understands.
Sitting at the core of this new play is Google Pay, which will be used for transactions between businesses and users, thereby expanding the reach of Google's payment service. Internally dubbed as Project Cruiser, the initiative has been in works since last year and it is led by Google's Next Billion Users team, sources said. Executives from the company have reached out to several businesses in India in recent months to coax them into coming on board, they added. The platform, if incorporated by developers into their apps, will allow app developers to incentivize users to perform certain actions in their app in a "scalable" fashion. For example, placing their first order, invite friends or adding a payment method, will all result in users earning a small sum of money.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Programmer Terence Eden doesn't like Google's AMP. He thinks Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages are a bad idea, poorly executed, and almost-certainly anti-competitive. So, he decided to join the AC (Advisory Committee) for AMP, he said, adding that he did not want Google to be surrounded with sycophants and yes-men. Here are some recommendations he has made: 1. Publish all user research: Don't allow new components to be created without a clear user story and research to support them.
2. Accessibly audit: Don't validate pages which can't pass an automated a11y test.
3. Stop the forced bundling: Let users opt-out of seeing AMP pages. Don't require AMP for prominent placement. Stop discriminating against non-Google browsers.
4. Reconsider AMP4Email : Lots of concerns from smaller email providers. Security and archiving concerns. Work with the ecosystem rather than imposing.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
An increasingly growing number of millennials in China are beginning to question the value of working long hours in the tech sector and deviate from the longstanding 996 work environment (working 9am to 9pm for six days a week) that many local companies religiously follow. From a report: In April, protests from tech employees against excessive overtime surfaced online, sparking an equal pushback from industry magnates such as billionaire Jack Ma of e-commerce giant Alibaba. The protests point to a mindset shift in the tech industry, whose penchant for long hours has been praised by Western executives as a reason for China's economic rise. But the shift could also have a cost for tech firms, venture capitalists and analysts say. According to job-hunting site Maimai, the tech sector was the only industry out of thirteen surveyed to see more people leave than join between October 2018 and February 2019.
"One of the highest costs in an organization is high employee turnover. A culture that is less focused on hours put in, may also become more effective if the focus is turned to output versus input," said Rui Ma, a San Francisco-based investor who has funded startups in China and North America. For some companies and employees, working 996 became a badge of honor and Silicon Valley heavyweights such as Sequoia Capital's Mike Moritz highlighted it as a competitive advantage over the United States. But a 996 backlash surfaced publicly in April, when a group of programmers launched an online protest against the practice.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's dubious-claims department
An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via Ars Technica: The Voynich manuscript is a famous medieval text written in a mysterious language that so far has proven to be undecipherable. Now, Gerard Cheshire, a University of Bristol academic, has announced his own solution to the conundrum in a new paper in the journal Romance Studies. Cheshire identifies the mysterious writing as a "calligraphic proto-Romance" language, and he thinks the manuscript was put together by a Dominican nun as a reference source on behalf of Maria of Castile, Queen of Aragon. Apparently it took him all of two weeks to accomplish a feat that has eluded our most brilliant scholars for at least a century. So case closed, right? After all, headlines are already trumpeting that the "Voynich manuscript is solved," decoded by a "UK genius." Not so fast. There's a long, checkered history of people making similar claims. None of them have proved convincing to date, and medievalists are justly skeptical of Cheshire's conclusions as well.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's mental-wellbeing department
Dating back to the 1930s, researchers have discovered that mental illnesses are more common in densely populated cities than in greener and more rural areas, but it wasn't until recently that scientists have started to seriously study the mechanisms through which exposure to various environmental stressors could be wounding our mental health. Popular Science reports: Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, director of the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany, and his research partner Matilda van den Bosch, an environmental health researcher at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, recently reviewed the scientific evidence for these and a number of other physical stressors to find out whether they contribute to depression. The pair searched for studies concerning a wide range of substances and situations that people might run across in everyday life. They discovered that while many of these factors were particularly abundant in cities, they weren't limited to urban environments. For example, air pollution isn't only found within city borders. Another potential danger was pesticides, which farm workers in particular come into contact with.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's first-of-its-kind department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Scientists have created the world's first living organism that has a fully synthetic and radically altered DNA code. In a two-year effort, researchers at the laboratory of molecular biology, at Cambridge University, read and redesigned the DNA of the bacterium Escherichia coli (E coli), before creating cells with a synthetic version of the altered genome. The artificial genome holds 4m base pairs, the units of the genetic code spelled out by the letters G, A, T and C. Printed in full on A4 sheets, it runs to 970 pages, making the genome the largest by far that scientists have ever built. The DNA coiled up inside a cell holds the instructions it needs to function. When the cell needs more protein to grow, for example, it reads the DNA that encodes the right protein. The DNA letters are read in trios called codons, such as TCG and TCA.
The Cambridge team set out to redesign the E coli genome by removing some of its superfluous codons. Working on a computer, the scientists went through the bug's DNA. Whenever they came across TCG, a codon that makes an amino acid called serine, they rewrote it as AGC, which does the same job. They replaced two more codons in a similar way. More than 18,000 edits later, the scientists had removed every occurrence of the three codons from the bug's genome. The redesigned genetic code was then chemically synthesized and, piece by piece, added to E coli where it replaced the organism's natural genome. The result, reported in Nature, is a microbe with a completely synthetic and radically altered DNA code. Known as Syn61, the bug is a little longer than normal, and grows more slowly, but survives nonetheless.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's supply-and-demand department
Most of the solar cells Tesla is producing at its Gigafactory in upstate New York "are being sold overseas instead of being used in the company's trademark 'Solar Roof' as originally intended," reports Reuters. "The exporting underscores the depth of Tesla's troubles in the U.S. solar business, which the electric car maker entered in 2016 with its controversial $2.6 billion purchase of SolarCity." From the report: Tesla has only sporadically purchased solar cells produced by its partner in the factory, Panasonic Corp, according to a Buffalo solar factory employee speaking on condition of anonymity. The rest are going largely to foreign buyers, according to a Panasonic letter to U.S. Customs officials reviewed by Reuters. When the two firms announced the partnership in 2016, the companies said they would collaborate on cell and module production and Tesla would make a long-term commitment to buy the cells from Panasonic. Cells are components that convert the sun's light into electricity; they are combined to make solar panels.
The situation raises new questions about the viability of cash-strapped Tesla's solar business. Musk once called the deal a "no brainer" - but some investors panned it as a bailout of an affiliated firm at the expense of Tesla shareholders. Before the merger, Musk had served as chairman of SolarCity's board of directors, and his cousin, Lyndon Rive, was the company's CEO. [...] Panasonic also produces traditional solar panels at the Buffalo plant for Tesla, but has been selling many of them to other buyers since at least last year due to low demand from the California car company, Reuters reported in August 2018. Tesla last month reported a 36 percent slide in its overall solar sales in the first quarter, adding to previous big drops since the SolarCity acquisition.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sign-of-the-times department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from PC Magazine: You're the Man Now Dog, a pioneer in the internet meme space, has shut down. The online community at YTMND.com allowed users to upload an image or a GIF and pair it with audio for hilarious results. Traffic to the website, however, dried up years ago with the rise of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. In 2016, site creator Max Goldberg said YTMND would likely shut down soon due to declining ad revenue and his ill health. "It seems like the internet has moved on," Goldberg told Gizmodo at the time. The dates back to 2001 when Goldberg paired a looping audio clip of Sean Connery uttering the line "You're the man now, dog!" with some text and placed it all on a webpage, Yourethemannowdog.com.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's political-biases department
On Wednesday, the White House launched a new tool for people to use if they feel they've been wrongly censored, banned, or suspended on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. "No matter your views, if you suspect political bias caused such an action to be taken against you, share your story with President Trump," the site reads. The Verge reports: The tool asks users for screenshots and links regarding specific enforcement actions, specifying Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube as platforms of interest. (None of the companies immediately responded to a request for comment.) The tool also collects significant personal information from the user, and near the end invites users to opt into email newsletters from President Trump, "so we can update you without relying on platforms like Facebook and Twitter." A separate question points users to an extensive user agreement, and makes clear that "you understand this form is for information gathering only."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's open-sesame department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Microsoft today announced that it has open-sourced a key piece of what makes its Bing search services able to quickly return search results to its users. By making this technology open, the company hopes that developers will be able to build similar experiences for their users in other domains where users search through vast data troves, including in retail, though in this age of abundant data, chances are developers will find plenty of other enterprise and consumer use cases, too. The piece of software the company open-sourced today is a library Microsoft developed to make better use of all the data it collected and AI models it built for Bing .
With the Space Partition Tree and Graph (SPTAG) algorithm that is at the core of the open-sourced Python library, Microsoft is able to search through billions of pieces of information in milliseconds. Vector search itself isn't a new idea, of course. What Microsoft has done, though, is apply this concept to working with deep learning models. First, the team takes a pre-trained model and encodes that data into vectors, where every vector represents a word or pixel. Using the new SPTAG library, it then generates a vector index. As queries come in, the deep learning model translates that text or image into a vector and the library finds the most related vectors in that index. The library is now available under the MIT license and provides all of the tools to build and search these distributed vector indexes. You can find more details about how to get started with using this library -- as well as application samples -- here.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
The "blue light" in LED lighting can damage the eye's retina and disturb natural sleep rhythms, France's government-run health watchdog said this week. From a report: New findings confirm earlier concerns that "exposure to an intense and powerful [LED] light is 'photo-toxic' and can lead to irreversible loss of retinal cells and diminished sharpness of vision," the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) warned in a statement. The agency recommended in a 400-page report that the maximum limit for acute exposure be revised, even if such levels are rarely met in home or work environments.
The report distinguished between acute exposure of high-intensity LED light, and "chronic exposure" to lower intensity sources. While less dangerous, even chronic exposure can "accelerate the ageing of retinal tissue, contributing to a decline in visual acuity and certain degenerative diseases such as age-related macular degeneration," the agency concluded. Long-lasting, energy efficient and inexpensive, light-emitting diode (LED) technology has gobbled up half of the general lighting market in a decade, and will top 60 percent by the end of next year, according to industry projections.Read Replies (0)