By EditorDavid from Slashdot's steering-committees department
"If you don't place a Capable Engineering crew to oversee a project that involves lives, you're asking for trouble," writes Slashdot reader Neuronwelder. Consumer Reports writes:
Congress is moving ahead with plans to let self-driving cars be tested on U.S. roads without having to comply with the same safety rules as regular vehicles... The House passed its version of the legislation earlier this month with little opposition. The Senate is expected to vote on its bill in the coming weeks... "Federal law shouldn't leave consumers as guinea pigs," said William Wallace, policy analyst for Consumers Union. "We were hopeful that this bill would include much stronger measures to protect consumers against known emerging safety risks. Unfortunately, in the bill's current form, it doesn't."
The legislation, which would take effect in 18 months, would allow the deployment of up to 50,000 self-driving vehicles per company in the first year of its application, rising to 100,000 vehicles annually by the third year, exempt from essential federal safety standards... Automakers might be able to go beyond the limits by getting exemptions for more than one model. The bill also creates a means to go beyond 100,000 cars for each company, by allowing automakers to petition the NHTSA after five years for more vehicles.
"The bill pre-empts any state safety standards," argues the group Consumer Watchdog, "but there are none yet in place at the national level."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's green-alert department
Vortex.com is one of the oldest domains on the internet -- one of the first 40 ever registered, writes Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein. So why does Google sometimes block the email he sends?
Here's why. First, my message had the audacity to mention "Google Account" or "Google Accounts" in the subject and/or body of the message. And secondly, one of my mailing lists is "google-issues" -- so some (digest format) recipients received the email from "firstname.lastname@example.org"... Apparently what we're dealing with here is a simplistic (and frankly, rather haphazard in this respect at least) string-matching algorithm that could have come right out of the early 1970s...! [A]t least in this case, it appears that Google is basically using the venerable old UNIX/Linux "grep" command or some equivalent, and in a rather slipshod way, too.
In addition, the article concludes, "I've never found a way to get Google to 'whitelist' well-behaved senders against these kinds of errors, so some users see these false phishing warnings repeatedly.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Pirates-of-the-Kodi-Media-Players:-On-Stranger-Tides department
An anonymous reader quotes the EFF:
In the past few years, the sale of pre-configured Kodi boxes, and the availability of a range of plugins providing access to streaming media, has seen the software's popularity balloon -- and made it the latest target of Hollywood's copyright enforcement juggernaut. We've seen this in the appearance of streaming media boxes as an enforcement priority in the U.S. Trade Representative's Special 301 Report, in proposals for new legislation targeting the sale of "illicit" media boxes, and in lawsuits that have been brought on both sides of the Atlantic to address the "problem" that media boxes running Kodi, like any Web browser, can be used to access media streams that were not authorized by the copyright holder...
The difficulty facing the titans of TV is that since neither those who sell Kodi boxes, nor those who write or host add-ons for the software, are engaging in any unauthorized copying by doing so, cases targeting these parties have to rely on other legal theories. So far several legal theories have been used; one in Europe against sellers of Kodi boxes, one in Canada against the owner of the popular Kodi add-on repository TVAddons, and two in the United States against TVAddons and a plugin developer... These lawsuits by big TV incumbents seem to have a few goals: to expand the scope of secondary copyright infringement yet again, to force major Kodi add-on distributors off of the Internet, and to smear and discourage open source, freely configurable media players by focusing on the few bad actors in that ecosystem.
The EFF details the specific lawsuits in each region, and concludes that their courts "should reject these expansions of copyright liability, and TV networks should not target neutral platforms and technologies for abusive lawsuits."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's spoilers department
schwit1 was the first Slashdot reader to bring us the news. Newsweek reports:
Archaeologists believe they have found the key to unlocking a mystery almost as old as the Great Pyramid itself: Who built the structure and how were they able to transport two-ton blocks of stone to the ancient wonder more than 4,500 years ago...?
Experts had long established that the stones from the pyramid's chambers were transported from as far away as Luxor, more than 500 miles to the south of Giza, the location of the Great Pyramid, but had never agreed how they got there. However, the diary of an overseer, uncovered in the seaport of Wadi al-Jafr, appears to answer the age-old question, showing the ancient Egyptians harnessed the power of the Nile to transport the giant blocks of stone.
According to a new British documentary Egypt's Great Pyramid: The New Evidence, which aired on the U.K.'s Channel 4 on Sunday, the Great Pyramid, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu, was built using an intricate system of waterways which allowed thousands of workers to pull the massive stones, floated on boats, into place with ropes. Along with the papyrus diary of the overseer, known as Merer, the archaeologists uncovered a ceremonial boat and a system of waterworks. The ancient text described how Merer's team dug huge canals to channel the water of the Nile to the pyramid.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's time-for-sun department
An anonymous reader quotes the Verge:
Battery life on smartwatches is, in a word, bad. And while most of today's watches can more or less make it through a day without dying, they're still a far cry from the months or even years that traditional watches can run for. What if you never had to charge your smartwatch? That's the promise of Lunar, a new Kickstarter project that claims to be the world's first solar-powered smartwatch... The company says that the watch can charge off both indoor and outdoor light, and can run off as little as one hour of exposure a day. (The company also includes a traditional inductive charger as a backup.)
As for the watch itself, it's a pretty standard hybrid smartwatch, solar power aside. It'll be able to do basic activity and sleep tracking, offer some limited notification support through a colored LED, and automatically set time zones through a connected smartphone app. Also, given the need for low power consumption for the solar charging to feasibly work, there's no screen on the Lunar. Instead, there's just a ring of LED lights located where hour markers would be.
The campaign reached its funding goal wIthin two days of launching -- and one week later had double that amount, raising a total of $101,987 from 564 backers.
It's not clear if Slashdot readers love or hate smartwatches. Does it make a difference if the watch is solar powered?Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's living-on-the-Edge department
Mark Wilson writes: It's now a little more than a year since Microsoft first brought extensions to Edge. After so long you would expect the selection of addons to be overwhelming -- but that's far from being the case. In all, there are only 70-odd Edge extensions available, and Microsoft has been moved to explain why. In a blog post, the company almost apologetically explains that it is "building a thoughtfully curated ecosystem," citing concern over quality and a fear of diminishing the user experience. What some might describe as "slow," Microsoft refers to as a "purposefully metered approach" to new extensions, and you probably shouldn't expect things to speed up a great deal any time soon. Colleen Williams, senior program manager for Microsoft Edge, says "We want Microsoft Edge to be your favorite browser, with the fundamentals you expect -- speed, power efficiency, reliability, security." She also adds that "Astute observers of our release notes and active testers in the Insider program may have noticed that some preview builds break extensions temporarily."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's future-phone-features department
BrianFagioli writes: Friday, Microsoft released a refreshed preview of Skype for Linux. There are both DEB and RPM packages available, making it easy to install on, say, Ubuntu, Debian, or Fedora. In fact, I successfully installed it on Pop!_OS earlier today. Believe it or not, the new interface is quite nice, making it something I could possibly enjoy using on my Linux machine. "Great news for Skype for Linux users -- the next generation of Skype for Linux is launching!" says The Skype Team. "Starting today, you can download Skype Preview for Linux and start enjoying new features across all your devices -- including screen sharing and group chat. With Skype for Linux, you can take advantage of the screen sharing feature on your desktop screen. Now, you can share content with everyone on the call -- making it even easier to bring your calls to life and collaborate on projects."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's dire-warnings department
An anonymous reader quotes Silicon Beat:
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak penned an op-ed on Friday with a former Federal Communications Commission chairman, urging the current FCC to stop its proposed rollback of Obama-era net neutrality regulations. In the op-ed published by USA Today, Wozniak and Michael Copps, who led the FCC from 2001 to 2011, argued the rollback will threaten freedom for internet users and may corrode democracy... "Sometimes there's a nugget of truth to the adage that Washington policymakers are disconnected from the people they purport to represent," they wrote. "It is a stirring example of democracy in action. With the Internet's future as a platform for innovation and democratic discourse on the line, a coalition of grassroots and diverse groups joined with technology firms to insist that the FCC maintain its 2015 open internet (or 'net neutrality') rules."
In the joint letter, Wozniak and Copps write that "We come from different walks of life, but each of us recognizes that the FCC is considering action that could end the internet as we know it -- a dynamic platform for entrepreneurship, jobs, education, and free expression."
"Will consumers and citizens control their online experiences, or will a few gigantic gatekeepers take this dynamic technology down the road of centralized control, toll booths and constantly rising prices for consumers? At stake is the nature of the internet and its capacity to transform our lives even more than it already has."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's break-the-silence department
An dochasac writes: WAPA (680 AM) is a radio station in San Juan, Puerto Rico. After Hurricane Maria took out power, phone lines, cell towers and internet, WAPA was the only Puerto Rican radio station on the air for crucial public emergency communication. But WAPA's signal coverage was significantly cut in March 2017 when the FCC refused to renew the license for synchronous AM booster stations at Arecibo, Mayaguez and Aguadilla in March due to procedural issues with the petition for renewal. This decision limited the coverage, signal strength and signal quality of this station for remote and mountainous parts of Puerto Rico where the need for emergency communications is greatest. The FCC audio division chief who pulled WAPA's synchronous booster license decided to retire a few days ago. The position is open but is focused on legal training rather than technical expertise and experience with emergency communications.
FCC audio division's regulations have done little to stop AM and satellite radio from broadcasting right-wing streams-of-consciousness throughout the lower 48 states. With IoT, cellular, mesh, satellite, social media and cognitive radio, communications technology is changing much faster than the FCC's legal efforts to regulate it. But its arcane regulations leave Puerto Rico as one of the few islands in the Caribbean without a long distance shortwave broadcast station. With line of sight FM stations offline and WAPA's AM station neutered, post-Maria Puerto Ricans have a better chance of getting news and emergency information from Havana, Cuba than from anything under the FCC's increasingly pointless jurisdiction.Read Replies (0)
Apple is Really Bad At Design
Posted by News Fetcher on September 29 '17 at 10:40 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's reality-check department
Joshua Topolsky, writing for the Outline: Once upon a time, Apple could do little wrong. As one of the first mainstream computer companies to equally value design and technical simplicity, it upended our expectations about what PCs could be. "Macintosh works the way people work," read one 1992 ad. Rather than requiring downloads and installations and extra memory to get things right (as often required by Windows machines), Apple made it so you could just plug in a mouse or start up a program and it would just... work. Marrying that functionality with the groundbreaking design the company has embodied since the early Macs, it's easy to see how Apple became the darling of designers, artists, and the rest of the creative class. The work was downright elegant; unheard of for an electronics company. [...] But things changed. In 2013 I wrote about the confusing and visually abrasive turn Apple had made with the introduction of iOS 7, the operating system refresh that would set the stage for almost all of Apple's recent design. The product, the first piece of software overseen by Jony Ive, was confusing, amateur, and relatively unfinished upon launch. [...] It's almost as if the company is being buried under the weight of its products. Unable to cut ties with past concepts (for instance, the abomination that is iTunes), unable to choose clear paths forward (USB-C or Lightning guys?), compromising core elements to make room for splashy features, and executing haphazardly to solve long-term issues. [...] Pundits will respond to these arguments by detailing Apple's meteoric and sustained market-value gains. Apple fans will shout justifications for a stylus that must be charged by sticking it into the bottom of an iPad, a "back" button jammed weirdly into the status bar, a system of dongles for connecting oft-used devices, a notch that rudely juts into the display of a $1,000 phone. But the reality is that for all the phones Apple sells and for all the people who buy them, the company is stuck in idea-quicksand, like Microsoft in the early 2000s, or Apple in the 90s.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's back-from-the-dead department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Scientific American about a device that delivers infusions of DNA and other molecules to restore injured limbs in mice, and maybe someday, humans: Cells are typically reprogrammed using mixtures of DNA, RNA and proteins. The most popular method uses viruses as a delivery vehicle -- although they can infect unintended cells, provoke immune responses and even turn cells cancerous. One alternative, called bulk electroporation, exposes cells to an electric field that pokes holes in their membranes to let in genetic material and proteins. Yet this method can stress or kill them. Tissue nanotransfection, described in a study published in August in Nature Nanotechnology, involves a chip containing an array of tiny channels that apply electric fields to individual cells. "You affect only a small area of the cell surface, compared with the conventional method, which upsets the entire cell," says study co-author James Lee, a chemical and biomolecular engineer at The Ohio State University. "Essentially we create a tiny hole and inject DNA right into the cell, so we can control the dosage."
Chandan Sen, a physiologist at Ohio State, and his colleagues developed a genetic cocktail that rapidly converts skin cells into endothelial cells -- the main component of blood vessels. They then used their technique on mice whose legs had been damaged by a severed artery that cut off blood supply. New blood vessels formed, blood flow increased, and after three weeks the legs had completely healed.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's my-house-my-rules department
eeplox shares a report from VICE, adding: "Community-built sites like these are very much needed since Reddit announced they were going closed source": After r/LeftWithSharpEdge was taken down, ziq [one of the subreddit's members] decided to leave Reddit and create an independent anarchist community free from its rules. Raddle.me, which was originally called Raddit.me, is an "alternative that is focused on community building and openness, and not controlled by a corporation," ziq told me. The original name was intended to sound similar to Reddit, but was later changed to avoid potential trademark issues. Raddle doesn't have advertisements or run analytical software, so its size is difficult to calculate -- but that's by design. The site is meant to be an alternative to social networks that profit by monitoring user behavior and serving advertisements. "We have no ads, no tracking, no user profiling and we don't collect or share any user data with anyone," ziq said. The site is community-built and anyone can contribute to the code. Ziq's commitment to privacy is an appealing virtue for Raddle's users. "I'm always very uneasy about the lack of concern for privacy online," Tequila_Wolf, a user who posts frequently to Raddle, told me in a direct message. "When you have friends on government lists who get harassed at every border because, say, they are members of Anarchists Against The Wall, you know you don't want to get on that list." Raddle ultimately came out of more broad problems ziq and Emma saw with Reddit. Ziq complained about how it has increasingly become a recruiting ground for the alt-right, the social network's overemphasis on America (r/politics, a major subreddit, only discusses U.S.-based politics, for example), and the fact that the site's code isn't open source, among other issues. Emma mentioned what she says is a problem with harassment on the site. "To me, the biggest problem with Reddit is how its administrators ignore the routine harassment and witch-hunts of marginalized people that takes place, with r/The_Donald being the most prominent example," she said.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's depths-of-hell department
Apple is currently investigating reports of the iPhone 8 Plus splitting open while being charged with the included cable and plug adapter. The first claim comes from a Taiwanese iPhone 8 Plus owner, who posted photos which show damage consistent with a swollen battery. The second claim is from a Japanese owner who posted similar photos of his device, which he says arrived in this state. The Next Web reports: The phone belonged to a Ms. Wu, who recently renewed her phone contract and purchased a 64GB rose gold iPhone 8 Plus. The issue emerged five days after purchasing the phone. Wu placed her phone on charge, using the supplied cable and adaptor. After three minutes, she reported seeing the front panel bulge, and eventually lift completely from the device. According to multiple Taiwanese outlets, the phone was later recovered by the carrier, and has since been shipped to Apple for analysis. 9to5Mac adds: While any incident affecting a new iPhone model is bound to attract media attention, it's worth noting the usual disclaimers. First, any device manufactured in the millions will include some faulty models -- the real news would be if this were not the case. Second, investigations into charging-related incidents often reveal that a third-party charger was used, even when an owner initially claims to have used the supplied Apple one.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's hand-it-over department
PopeRatzo shares a report from CNN: Trump administration lawyers are demanding the private account information of potentially thousands of Facebook users in three separate search warrants served on the social media giant, according to court documents obtained by CNN. The warrants specifically target the accounts of three Facebook users who are described by their attorneys as "anti-administration activists who have spoken out at organized events, and who are generally very critical of this administration's policies." One of those users, Emmelia Talarico, operated the disruptj20 page where Inauguration Day protests were organized and discussed; the page was visited by an estimated 6,000 users whose identities the government would have access to if Facebook hands over the information sought in the search warrants. In court filings, Talarico says if her account information was given to the government, officials would have access to her "personal passwords, security questions and answers, and credit card information," plus "the private lists of invitees and attendees to multiple political events sponsored by the page."Read Replies (0)