By msmash from Slashdot's enough-for-now department
Sphero's hinted that it's getting out of the licensed product game, but this week CEO Paul Berberian confirmed that the company is clearing out its remaining licensed inventory and won't be restocking the supply. From a report: That means the company won't be producing any more BB-8s, R2-D2s, Lightning McQueen cars, or talking Spider-Mans. The listings for all the toys list them as "legacy products" that are no longer in production. App support will continue for "at least two years, if not longer," Berberian says. The Disney partnership lasted three years, but ultimately, the licensed toy business required more resources than it was worth, Berberian tells The Verge. These toys sold well when released with a movie, but interest waned over time as the movie became more distant, he says. Still, the company sold "millions" of BB-8s, although company data shows that the toys weren't used much after initial play time and eventually sat on shelves.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's justice-done department
They say revenge is a dish best served cold. But for Mark Rober, it's much sweeter served smart, smelly and covered in glitter. From a report: The former NASA engineer-turned-YouTube star has received plaudits online after designing a booby trap to avenge all those who've fallen victim to a new wave of neighborhood crime: doorstep delivery theft. Rober spent six months combining GPS tracking, cameras, fart spray and glitter in an elaborate and amusing mechanism after discovering thieves had stolen an Amazon delivery from his doorstep.
In a video posted on his channel, the 38-year-old, who helped design the U.S. space agency's Curiosity Rover, said his engineering experience left him well-placed to "take a stand" after dismissive police left him feeling "powerless." "If anyone was going to make a revenge ... package and over-engineer the crap out of it, it was going to be me," said Rober, who spent nine years with NASA.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
An anonymous reader shares a report: According to the yearly report published by Stockholm-based phone number-identification service Truecaller, spam calls grew by 300 percent year-over-year in 2018. The report also found that telecom operators themselves are much to blame. Between January and October of this year, Truecaller said, users worldwide received about 17.7 billion spam calls. That's up from some 5.5 billion spam calls they received last year.
One of the most interesting takeaways from the report is a sharp surge in spam calls users received in Brazil this year, making it the most spammed country in the world. According to Truecaller, an average user in Brazil received over 37 spam calls in a month, up from some 20 spam calls during the same period last year. According to the report, telecom operators (at 32 percent) remained the biggest spammers in Brazil. The report also acknowledged the general election as an event that drove up spam calls in the country. As in Brazil, Indians were bombarded by telecom operators (a whopping 91 percent of all spam calls came from them) and service providers trying to sell them expensive plans and other offerings.
Spam calls received by users in the U.S. were down from 20.7 calls in a month to 16.9, while users in the U.K. saw a drop in their monthly dose of spam calls from 9.2 to 8.9. [...] Truecaller also reported that scam calls subjecting victims to fraud attempts and money swindling are still a prevalent issue. One in every 10 American adults lost money from a phone scam, according to a yearly report the firm published in April this year.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's end-of-road department
One of the great hopes of the UK tech sector, Blippar, has collapsed into administration over a funding row. BBC News reports: The augmented reality firm was co-founded by Ambarish Mitra, and its technology was used in a partnership with the BBC's Planet Earth II series. Blippar was one of the UK's tech "Unicorns" -- start-up businesses that are worth $1bn or more. Mr Mitra became a brand ambassador for the UK to promote British innovation around the world. He claimed to have founded his business from a Delhi slum, leading him to be dubbed a "real-life Slumdog Millionaire". However, the Financial Times ran a profile disputing many of Mr Mitra's claims about his birth and his business development.
It seemed to be one of the brightest stars in London's tech firmament, raising big sums from American and Malaysian backers who bought into the message that augmented reality was the next big thing. So why has the Blippar bubble burst? A few years ago it did appear to have something groundbreaking -- you could point its phone app at everyday objects and they would animate into action, give you useful information or serve up an advert.
But the business appeared to depend on a very fickle set of customers -- advertising agencies wanting to use its augmented reality tools in their campaigns. Not only are much bigger firms offering similar technology but big brands seem to have concluded that it's a gimmick whose time may already have passed. What's more Blippar suffered from a lack of focus, trying out a range of ideas -- making an app for Google Glass, opening a Silicon Valley office, launching a facial recognition service.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's ready-or-not-here-I-come department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: France won't wait on the rest of the European Union to start taxing big tech. French finance minister Bruno Le Maire says the country will move ahead with a new tax on Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon starting Jan. 1, 2019. The tax is expected to raise $570 million in 2019. France and Germany had originally pushed for an EU-wide 3% tax on big tech firms' online revenues, in part to prevent companies like Apple from sheltering their profits in countries with the lowest tax rates. The deal, which required the support of all 28 EU states, appeared to crumble earlier this month, with opposition from countries including Ireland, home to the European headquarters of Google and Apple.
France and Germany attempted to salvage the deal by scaling it back to a 3% tax on ad sales from tech giants. That would effectively limit the tax to Google and Facebook, excluding companies like Airbnb and Spotify that might have been harder hit under the initial proposal. In the meantime, France is moving ahead with its own tax on Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon, which are collectively known in the region as GAFA. "The tax will be introduced whatever happens on 1 January and it will be for the whole of 2019 for an amount that we estimate at [$570 million]," Le Maire said at a press conference in Paris, the Guardian reported today (Dec. 17).Read Replies (0)
Tumblr Porn Vanishes Today
Posted by News Fetcher on December 17 '18 at 08:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's commence-panic department
Earlier this month, Tumblr announced that it would be permanently banning adult content from its platform on December 17th. Well, that day has arrived and the social media site is now hiding all posts that are currently flagged as explicit, as well as posts that users are in the process of appealing. This includes media showing sex acts, exposed genitals, and "female-presenting" nipples. The Verge reports: In addition to what's already gone, more adult content is going to be flagged in coming weeks, Tumblr says, and it hopes that the automated tools will be more accurate at picking out what counts as explicit. In a blog post that went up today, Tumblr apologized to users: "We are sorry that this has not been an easy transition and we know we can do a better job of explaining what we're doing." It said the change would be a slow process that involves "flagging tens of billions of GIFs, videos, and photos."
Many users also criticized Tumblr's decision to consider "female-presenting nipples" as explicit, while male-presenting nipples were still okay. Some pointed out that in the case of non-binary, genderfluid, or trans individuals, it would be confusing where the line would be drawn on whose nipples would be considered explicit. In its blog post today, Tumblr has added the caveat, "yeah, we know you hate this term," but maintained the language and distinction. "We understand and agree that there have been too many wrongfully flagged posts since we announced the policy change," says Tumblr. But if users don't appeal their posts, then they're out of luck. That could also be a problem for popular older accounts, which may not have anyone monitoring them to appeal the overly aggressive moderation. Flagged content will be hidden, but not deleted, Tumblr emphasized. That will allow posts to be appealed even after they're removed from public view. On a more positive note, Tumblr says that "all appeals will be sent to a real, live human who can make the appropriate call."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's confirms-what-we-already-knew department
AmiMoJo shares a report from the BBC: Russia used every major social media platform to influence the 2016 US election, the report claims. New research says YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram and PayPal -- as well as Facebook and Twitter -- were leveraged to spread propaganda. Its authors criticize the "belated and uncoordinated response" by tech firms. It is the first analysis of millions of social media posts provided by Twitter, Google and Facebook to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Russia adapted techniques from digital marketing to target audiences across multiple channels, with a particular focus on targeting conservatives with posts on immigration, race, and gun rights. There were also efforts to undermine the voting power of left-leaning African-American citizens, by spreading misinformation about the electoral process. "What is clear is that all of the messaging clearly sought to benefit the Republican Party -- and specifically Donald Trump," the report says. "Trump is mentioned most in campaigns targeting conservatives and right-wing voters, where the messaging encouraged these groups to support his campaign. The main groups that could challenge Trump were then provided messaging that sought to confuse, distract and ultimately discourage members from voting."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cause-and-effect department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Writing in the Journal of Neuroscience, Peters and colleagues describe how they recruited 32 healthy men aged between 19 and 33 and gave all of them the same dinner of pasta and veal, an apple and a strawberry yoghurt. Participants were then either sent home to bed wearing a sleep-tracking device, or kept awake in the laboratory all night with activities including parlor games. All returned the next morning to have their hunger and appetite rated, while 29 of the men had their levels of blood sugar measured, as well as levels of certain hormones linked to stress and appetite. Participants also took part in a game in which they were presented with pictures of 24 snack food items, such as chocolate bars, and 24 inedible items, including hats or mugs, and were first asked to rate how much they would be willing to pay for them on a scale. During a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan, they were asked to choose whether or not they would actually buy the object when its price was fixed -- an experiment that allowed researchers to look at participants' brain activity upon seeing pictures of food and other items. A week later, the experiment was repeated, with the participants who had previously stayed up allowed to sleep, and vice versa.
< article continued at Slashdot's cause-and-effect department
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's show-me-the-evidence department
hackingbear writes: Germany's IT watchdog has expressed skepticism about calls for a boycott of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, saying it has seen no evidence the firm could use its equipment to spy for Beijing, news weekly Spiegel reported. "For such serious decisions like a ban, you need proof," the head of Germany's Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), Arne Schoenbohm, told Spiegel, adding that his agency had no such evidence. The U.S. has been pressuring German authorities for months to drop Huawei, according to people familiar with the matter, but the Germans have asked for more specific evidence to demonstrate the security threat. German authorities and telecom executives have yet to turn up any evidence of security problems with Chinese equipment vendors, according to a person familiar with the matter. Separately, at a (secret lobster-themed) meeting in Canada in July 2018, espionage chiefs from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S. -- all signatories to a treaty on signals intelligence, and often referred to as the "Five Eyes" -- agreed to do their best to contain the global growth of Chinese telecom (vendor) Huawei, the Australian Financial Review reported (paywalled). On the other hand, documents leaked by WikiLeaks and Snowden claimed that the NSA, the leader of the Five Eyes, tapped German Chancellery for decades and bugged routers made by Cisco, the leading American networking equipment vendor.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's he-says-she-says department
Joshua Bakita, a former software engineering intern on the Edge team at Microsoft, says one of the reasons why Microsoft had to ditch EdgeHTML rendering engine in Edge browser and switch to Chromium was to keep up with the changes (some of which were notorious) that Google pushed to its sites. These changes were designed to ensure that Edge and other browsers could not properly run Google's sites, he alleged. Responding to a comment, he wrote: "For example, they may start integrating technologies for which they have exclusive, or at least 'special' access. Can you imagine if all of a sudden Google apps start performing better than anyone else's?" This is already happening. I very recently worked on the Edge team, and one of the reasons we decided to end EdgeHTML was because Google kept making changes to its sites that broke other browsers, and we couldn't keep up.
For example, they recently added a hidden empty div over YouTube videos that causes our hardware acceleration fast-path to bail (should now be fixed in Win10 Oct update). Prior to that, our fairly state-of-the-art video acceleration put us well ahead of Chrome on video playback time on battery, but almost the instant they broke things on YouTube, they started advertising Chrome's dominance over Edge on video-watching battery life. What makes it so sad, is that their claimed dominance was not due to ingenious optimization work by Chrome, but due to a failure of YouTube. On the whole, they only made the web slower.
Now while I'm not sure I'm convinced that YouTube was changed intentionally to slow Edge, many of my co-workers are quite convinced -- and they're the ones who looked into it personally. To add to this all, when we asked, YouTube turned down our request to remove the hidden empty div and did not elaborate further. And this is only one case.Read Replies (0)
MIPS Goes Open Source
Posted by News Fetcher on December 17 '18 at 01:32 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department
Junko Yoshida, writing for EETimes: Without question, 2018 was the year RISC-V genuinely began to build momentum among chip architects hungry for open-source instruction sets. That was then. By 2019, RISC-V won't be the only game in town. Wave Computing (Campbell, Calif.) announced Monday (Dec. 17) that it is putting MIPS on open source, with MIPS Instruction Set Architecture (ISA) and MIPS' latest core R6 available in the first quarter of 2019. Art Swift, hired by Wave this month as president of its MIPS licensing business, described the move as critical to accelerate the adoption of MIPS in an ecosystem.
Going open source is "a big plan" that Wave CEO Derek Meyer, a MIPS veteran, has been quietly fostering since Wave acquired MIPS Technologies in June, explained Swift. Swift himself is a MIPS alumnus who worked at the company as a vice president of marketing and business development for four years. Wave, which styles itself as a tech startup poised to bring "AI and deep learning from the datacenter to the edge," sees MIPS as a key to advancing Wave's AI into a host of uses and applications. Included in MIPS instruction sets are extensions such as SIMD (single instruction, multiple data) and DSP. Swift promised that MIPS will bring to the open-source community "commercial-ready" instruction sets with "industrial-strength" architecture. "Chip designers will have opportunities to design their own cores based on proven and well tested instruction sets for any purposes," said Swift.Read Replies (0)