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US Spy Satellite Buzzes ISS
Posted by News Fetcher on June 15 '17 at 03:22 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's close-call department:
The spy satellite that SpaceX launched about six weeks ago appears to have buzzed the International Space Station in early June. The fly-by was made by a dedicated group of ground-based observers who continued to track the satellite after it reach outer space. Ars Technica reports: One of the amateur satellite watchers, Ted Molczan, estimated the pass on June 3 to be 4.4km directly above the station. Another, Marco Langbroek, pegged the distance at 6.4km. "I am inclined to believe that the close conjunctions between USA 276 and ISS are intentional, but this remains unproven and far from certain," Molczan later wrote. One expert in satellite launches and tracking, Jonathan McDowell, said of the satellite's close approach to the station, "It is not normal." While it remains possible that the near-miss was a coincidence due to the satellite being launched into similar orbit, that would represent "gross incompetence" on the part of the National Reconnaissance Office, he said. Like the astronaut, McDowell downplayed the likelihood of a coincidence. Another option is that of a deliberate close flyby, perhaps to test or calibrate an onboard sensor to observe something or some kind of activity on the International Space Station. "The deliberate explanation seems more likely, except that I would have expected the satellite to maneuver after the encounter," McDowell said. "But it seems to have stayed in the same orbit."

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Microsoft's AI Is the First to Reach a Perfect Ms. Pac-Man Score
Posted by News Fetcher on June 14 '17 at 11:23 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's game-over department:
Maluuba, a deep-learning team acquired by Microsoft in January, has created an AI system that has achieved the perfect score for Ms. Pac-Man. According to The Verge, the AI system "learned how to reach the game's maximum point value of 999,900 on Atari 2600, using a unique combination of reinforcement learning with a divide-and-conquer method." From the report: Though AI has conquered a wealth of retro games, Ms. Pac-Man has remained elusive for years, due to the gameâ(TM)s intentional lack of predictability. Turns out itâ(TM)s a toughie for humans as well. Many have tried to reach Ms. Pac-Manâ(TM)s top score, only coming as close as 266,330 on the Atari 2600 version. The gameâ(TM)s elusive 999,900 number though, has so far only been achieved by mortals via cheats. Maluuba was able to use AI to beat the game by tasking out responsibilities, breaking it up into bite-sized jobs assigned to over 150 agents. The team then taught the AI using what they call Hybrid Reward Architecture â" a combination of reinforcement learning with a divide-and-conquer method. Individual agents were assigned piecemeal tasks â" like finding a specific pellet â" which worked in tandem with other agents to achieve greater goals. Maluuba then designated a top agent (Microsoft likens this to a senior manager at a company) that took suggestions from all the agents in order to inform decisions on where to move Ms. Pac-Man. The best results came when individual agents âoeacted very egotisticallyâ and the top agent focused on what was best for the overall team, taking into account not only how many agents wanted to go in a particular direction, but the importance of that direction.

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We Could Have Had Cellphones Four Decades Earlier
Posted by News Fetcher on June 14 '17 at 08:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's woulda-coulda-shoulda department:
_Sharp'r_ writes: Professor Thomas Hazlett of Clemson University analyzed the history of wireless spectrum and concluded the technology was known and available for cellphones in the 40s, but there was no spectrum available. Based on assumptions cellphones would always be luxury goods without mass appeal, significant spectrum for divisible cellular networks wasn't legally usable until the early 80s. Instead, the unused spectrum was reserved for the future expansion of broadcast TV to channels 70-83. Here's an excerpt from the report: "When AT&T wanted to start developing cellular in 1947, the FCC rejected the idea, believing that spectrum could be best used by other services that were not 'in the nature of convenience or luxury.' This view -- that this would be a niche service for a tiny user base -- persisted well into the 1980s. 'Land mobile,' the generic category that covered cellular, was far down on the FCC's list of priorities. In 1949, it was assigned just 4.7 percent of the spectrum in the relevant range. Broadcast TV was allotted 59.2 percent, and government uses got one-quarter."

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US Internet Company Refused To Participate In NSA Surveillance, Documents Reveal
Posted by News Fetcher on June 14 '17 at 07:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's tug-of-war department:
Zack Whittaker reports via ZDNet: A U.S. company refused to comply with a top-secret order that compelled it to facilitate government surveillance, according to newly declassified documents. According to the document, the unnamed company's refusal to participate in the surveillance program was tied to an apparent expansion of the foreign surveillance law, details of which were redacted by the government prior to its release, as it likely remains classified. It's thought to be only the second instance of an American company refusing to comply with a government surveillance order. The first was Yahoo in 2008. It was threatened with hefty daily fines if it didn't hand over customer data to the National Security Agency. The law is widely known in national security circles as forming the legal basis authorizing the so-called PRISM surveillance program, which reportedly taps data from nine tech titans including Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and others. It also permits "upstream" collection from the internet fiber backbones of the internet. Any guesses as to which company it may be? The company was not named in the 2014-dated document, but it's thought to be an internet provider or a tech company.

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Wind, Solar Surpassed 10 Percent of US Electricity In March, Says EIA
Posted by News Fetcher on June 14 '17 at 06:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-milestone department:
According to the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration, wind and solar produced 10 percent of the electricity generated in the U.S. for the first time in March. The Hill reports: The Energy Information Administration's (EIA) monthly power report for March found that wind produced 8 percent of the electricity produced in the U.S. that month, with solar producing 2 percent. The two sources combined to have their best month ever in terms of percentage of overall electricity production, EIA said. The agency expects the two sources topped 10 percent again in April but forecasts that their generation will fall below that mark during the summer months. Due to the way geographic wind patterns affect the generation of electricity, the two sources typically combine for their best months in the spring and fall. Annually, wind and solar made up 7 percent of electric generation in 2016, EIA said.

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Netflix Has More American Subscribers Than Cable TV
Posted by News Fetcher on June 14 '17 at 06:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's big-milestone department:
According to Leichtman Research estimates from the first quarter of 2017, there are more Netflix subscribers in the U.S. (50.85 million) than there are customers for major cable TV networks (48.61 million). While it doesn't mean Netflix is bigger than TV because it doesn't account for the 33.19 million satellite viewers, it represents a huge milestone for a streaming service that had half as many users just 5 years ago. Engadget reports: The shift in power comes in part through Netflix's ever-greater reliance on originals. There's enough high-quality material that it can compete with more established networks. However, it's also getting a boost from the decline of conventional TV. Those traditional sources lost 760,000 subscribers in the first quarter of the year versus 120,000 a year earlier. Leichtman believes a combination of cord cutters and reduced marketing toward cost-conscious viewers is to blame. Cable giants might not be in dire straits, but they're clearly focusing on their most lucrative customers as others jump ship for the internet.

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Facebook Built an AI System That Learned To Lie To Get What It Wants
Posted by News Fetcher on June 14 '17 at 04:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's gotta-do-what-ya-gotta-do department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: Humans are natural negotiators. We arrange dozens of tiny little details throughout our day to produce a desired outcome: What time a meeting should start, when you can take time off work, or how many cookies you can take from the cookie jar. Machines typically don't share that affinity, but new research from Facebook's AI research lab might offer a starting point to change that. The new system learned to negotiate from looking at each side of 5,808 human conversations, setting the groundwork for bots that could schedule meetings or get you the best deal online. Facebook researchers used a game to help the bot learn how to haggle over books, hats, and basketballs. Each object had a point value, and they needed to be split between each bot negotiator via text. From the human conversations (gathered via Amazon Mechanical Turk), and testing its skills against itself, the AI system didn't only learn how to state its demands, but negotiation tactics as well -- specifically, lying. Instead of outright saying what it wanted, sometimes the AI would feign interest in a worthless object, only to later concede it for something that it really wanted. Facebook isn't sure whether it learned from the human hagglers or whether it stumbled upon the trick accidentally, but either way when the tactic worked, it was rewarded.

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Konami Reportedly Blacklisting Ex-Employees Across Japanese Video Game Industry
Posted by News Fetcher on June 14 '17 at 04:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's gaming-giants department:
The Nikkei Asian Review newspaper is reporting that the Japanese entertainment company Konami is blacklisting former employees in the Japanese video game industry. "The company is particularly targeting those who work for Kojima Productions, which was founded in 2016 by Hideo Kojima, who used to be a top designer at Konami," reports Ars Technica. From the report: Furthermore, according to the article, Konami is pressuring other companies not to hire its former employees. As the Nikkei Asian Review wrote: "One ex-Kon described his surprise at learning that Konami had instructed an employee at a television company not to deal with its former employees. In another case, a former Konami executive was forced to close his business due to pressure from the gaming giant. Ex-Kons are not allowed to put their Konami experience on their public resumes. 'If you leave the company, you cannot rely on Konami's name to land a job,' explained a former employee. If an ex-Kon is interviewed by the media, the company will send that person a letter through a legal representative, in some cases indicating that Konami is willing to take them to court."

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The Next iPhone Will Have Wireless Charging, Says Apple Supplier
Posted by News Fetcher on June 14 '17 at 03:22 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cat-is-out-of-the-bag department:
Robert Hwang, CEO of a large iPhone manufacturing company in India, has let slip that the upcoming iPhone will have wireless charging. Hwang told reporters after the company's shareholder's meeting: "Assembly process for the previous generations of [iPhones] have not changed much, though new features like waterproof and wireless charging now require some different testing, and waterproof function will alter the assembly process a bit." 9to5Mac reports: Just this week, new glass panels purporting to be from the upcoming iPhones have given us another glimpse into the devices' designs. Showing off an iPhone 7s, 7s Plus, and iPhone 8, the images indicated that the glass back panels would open the door for wireless charging across all the devices. According to Hwang, Wistron's India facility is currently making "a small number" of handsets for Apple. He states the growth in manufacturing will hinge on relations between Apple and the Indian government.

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Federal Regulators Are Investigating Uber Over Privacy Violations
Posted by News Fetcher on June 14 '17 at 03:22 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's can't-catch-a-break department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Recode: One of the U.S. government's most powerful consumer protection watchdogs appears to be quietly probing Uber and the company's privacy practices. The inquiry is under way at the Federal Trade Commission, according to four sources familiar with the matter, where the agency's investigative staff appears to have focused its attention on some of the data-handling mishaps that have plagued the company in recent years -- perhaps including employees' misuse of "god view," a tool that had previously allowed some at Uber to spy on the whereabouts of politicians, celebrities and others using the ride-hailing app. The sources cautioned to Recode that FTC staff regularly question companies on consumer-protection matters, like privacy -- and often, the agency chooses not to pursue any penalties while closing its investigations as quietly as it began them. Still, the scrutiny could easily blossom into a full-fledged legal complaint against Uber -- a reality the company knows well.

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Samsung Left Millions Vulnerable To Hackers Because It Forgot To Renew a Domain
Posted by News Fetcher on June 14 '17 at 02:01 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department:
An anonymous reader writes: Samsung cellphones used to have a stock app called S Suggest. The company apparently discontinued the app recently, and then forgot to renew a domain that was used to control it. This snafu left millions of smartphone users vulnerable to hackers who could've registered the domain and installed malicious apps on the phones.

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Robots Are Coming For Our Ms. Pac-Man High Scores
Posted by News Fetcher on June 14 '17 at 02:01 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's that-hurts department:
A Microsoft-made AI system has achieved a perfect score of 999,990 points on the Atari 2600 version of the classic 'Ms. Pac-Man.' From a report: Researchers at the Microsoft-owned deep learning company Maluuba have used an AI system to break the all-time Ms. Pac-Man record. In a blog post, Microsoft wrote that, "using a divide-and-conquer method that could have broad implications for teaching AI agents to do complex tasks that augment human capabilities," Maluuba's AI was able to record a perfect Ms. Pac-Man score of 999,990 on the Atari 2600 version of the game, breaking the all-time record of 933,580.

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More Than 80% of US Adults Get News On Their Phones
Posted by News Fetcher on June 14 '17 at 12:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's changing-patterns department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: More than 80% of U.S. adults get news on their phones -- up from roughly half of Americans just four years ago, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center. Most of that growth comes from adults older than 65 whose news consumption via mobile spiked almost 25% in the last year, and has tripled over the past four years.

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Ask Slashdot: Your Favorite Subscription Services?
Posted by News Fetcher on June 14 '17 at 12:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's let's-get-going department:
An anonymous reader writes: What are some subscriptions services that you are paying for and love to pay? Please include music/movie services, news outlets, software, and courses.

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Germany Plans To Fingerprint Children and Spy On Personal Messages
Posted by News Fetcher on June 14 '17 at 11:25 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's privacy-woes department:
From a report: Germany is planning a new law giving authorities the right to look at private messages and fingerprint children as young as 6, the interior minister said on Wednesday after the last government gathering before a national election in September. Ministers from central government and federal states said encrypted messaging services, such as WhatsApp and Signal, allow militants and criminals to evade traditional surveillance. "We can't allow there to be areas that are practically outside the law," interior minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters in the eastern town of Dresden.

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Google Drive Will Soon Back Up Your Entire Computer
Posted by News Fetcher on June 14 '17 at 11:25 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's aggressive-expansion department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Google is turning Drive into a much more robust backup tool. Soon, instead of files having to live inside of the Drive folder, Google will be able to monitor and backup files inside of any folder you point it to. That can include your desktop, your entire documents folder, or other more specific locations. The backup feature will come out later this month, on June 28th, in the form of a new app called Backup and Sync. In some other news, Box announced on Wednesday desktop apps for its storage service.

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Oil Changes, Safety Recalls, and Software Patches
Posted by News Fetcher on June 14 '17 at 10:03 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's interesting-perspective department:
An anonymous reader shares a blog post: Every few months I get an email from my local mechanic reminding me that it's time to get my car's oil changed. I generally ignore these emails; it costs time and money to get this done and I drive little enough -- about 2000 km/year -- that I'm not too worried about the consequences of going for a bit longer than nominally advised between oil changes. I do get oil changes done... but typically once every 8-12 months, rather than the recommended 4-6 months. On the other hand, there's another type of notification which elicits more prompt attention: Safety recalls. There are two good reasons for this: First, whether for vehicles, food, or other products, the risk of ignoring a safety recall is not merely that the product will break, but rather that the product will be actively unsafe; and second, when there's a safety recall you don't have to pay for the replacement or fix -- the cost is covered by the manufacturer. I started thinking about this distinction -- and more specifically the difference in user behaviour -- in the aftermath of the "WannaCry" malware. While WannaCry attracted widespread attention for its "ransomware" nature, the more concerning aspect of this incident is how it propagated: By exploiting a vulnerability in SMB for which Microsoft issued patches two months earlier. As someone who works in computer security, I find this horrifying -- and I was particularly concerned when I heard that the NHS was postponing surgeries because they couldn't access patient records. [...] I imagine that most people in my industry would agree that security patches should be treated in the same vein as safety recalls -- unless you're certain that you're not affected, take care of them as a matter of urgency -- but it seems that far more users instead treat security patches more like oil changes: something to be taken care of when convenient... or not at all, if not convenient. It's easy to say that such users are wrong; but as an industry it's time that we think about why they are wrong rather than merely blaming them for their problems.

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Apple Issues $1 Billion Green Bond After Trump's Paris Climate Exit
Posted by News Fetcher on June 14 '17 at 10:03 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's for-green department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Apple offered a $1 billion bond dedicated to financing clean energy and environmental projects on Tuesday, the first corporate green bond offered since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement. The offering comes over a year after Apple issued its first green bond of $1.5 billion -- the largest issued by a U.S. corporation -- as a response to the 2015 Paris agreement. Apple said its second green bond is meant to show that businesses are still committed to the goals of the 194-nation accord. "Leadership from the business community is essential to address the threat of climate change and protect our shared planet," said Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives.

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US Weighs Restricting Chinese Investment In Artificial Intelligence
Posted by News Fetcher on June 14 '17 at 08:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's ongoing-tussle department:
An anonymous reader shares a Reuters report: The United States appears poised to heighten scrutiny of Chinese investment in Silicon Valley to better shield sensitive technologies seen as vital to U.S. national security, current and former U.S. officials tell Reuters. Of particular concern is China's interest in fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, which have increasingly attracted Chinese capital in recent years. The worry is that cutting-edge technologies developed in the United States could be used by China to bolster its military capabilities and perhaps even push it ahead in strategic industries. The U.S. government is now looking to strengthen the role of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), the inter-agency committee that reviews foreign acquisitions of U.S. companies on national security grounds. An unreleased Pentagon report, viewed by Reuters, warns that China is skirting U.S. oversight and gaining access to sensitive technology through transactions that currently don't trigger CFIUS review.

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Congressman Steve Scalise Among 5 Shot at Baseball Field
Posted by News Fetcher on June 14 '17 at 07:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's news department:
From a New York Times report: A lone gunman opened fire on Republican members of the congressional baseball team at a practice field in a Washington suburb Wednesday, using a rifle to shower the field with bullets that struck five people, including Steve Scalise, the majority whip of the House of Representatives. Two members of Mr. Scalise's protective police detail were wounded as they exchanged gunfire with the shooter in what other lawmakers described as a chaotic, terror-filled ten minutes that turned the baseball practice into an early-morning nightmare. Police said a total of five people were shot, two critically. Standing at second base, Mr. Scalise was struck, in the hip, according to witnesses, and collapsed as the shots rang out, one after another, from behind a chain-link fence near the third-base dugout. Witnesses said Mr. Scalise, of Louisiana, "army crawled" his way toward taller grass as the shooting continued. Alternative source: NBC News, CNN, BBC, NPR, WashingtonPost, and WSJ.

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