By EditorDavid from Slashdot's all-around-you department
An anonymous reader quotes Computerworld columnist Mike Elgan:
Ambient computing is real. It's the next megatrend in computing.... To interact in an "ambient computing" context means to not care and not even necessarily know where exactly the devices are that you're interacting with. When IoT devices and sensors are all around us, and artificial intelligence can understand human contexts for what's happening and act accordingly and in our interests, then ambient computing will have arrived...
As with many technology revolutions, including augmented reality and AI, the buzzword ambient will precede the actual technology by many years. In fact, the marketing buzzword is suddenly here in full force. The actual technologies? Not so much. Instead, we're on the brink of a revolution in what you might call "semi-ambient computing...."
Rumors are circulating that Google's next smartphones, the Pixel 4 line, may come with Soli built in. I told you in January about Google's Project Soli, which may be called the "Aware" sensor or feature in the Pixel 4 -- again, according to unconfirmed rumors. Soli or Aware capability means the Pixel 4 may accept in-the-air hand gestures, such as "skip" and "silence" during music playback. The new Google "wave" is a hand gesture. The ability to wave away music with a hand gesture brings the smartphone into the semi-ambient computing era. It basically adds natural hand gestures to natural-language processing.... Google also briefly talked last year about a healthcare assistant called Dr. Liz., which was described by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt as an ambient computing virtual assistant for doctors. We'll see if Google ever ships a Dr. Liz product...
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's lights-out department
Iwastheone quotes the BBC:
A massive electrical failure has left almost all of Argentina and Uruguay without power, according to a major Argentine electricity provider. Authorities say the cause of the blackout is still unclear. Argentine media said the power cut occurred shortly after 07:00 [03:00 PST, 11:00 BST], causing trains to be halted and failures with traffic signalling.
It came as people in parts of Argentina were preparing to go to the polls for local elections.
"A massive failure in the electrical interconnection system left all of Argentina and Uruguay without power," electricity supply company Edesur said in a tweet. Alejandra Martinez, a spokeswoman for the company, described the power cut as unprecedented. "This is the first time something like this has happened across the entire country." Argentina's energy secretary, Gustavo Lopetegui, said the cause of the power failure had not yet been determined. The Ministry of Civil Protection estimated that parts of the service could be restored in about seven or eight hours.
Edesur said that power had been restored over 75,00 clients in parts of Buenos Aires and local media reported that two airports were operating on generators in the capital. Uruguay's energy company, UTE, said in a series of tweets that power had been restored to coastal areas and to areas north of Rio Negro.
The combined population of Argentina and Uruguay is about 48 million people.... Tierra del Fuego in the far south is the only area that remains unaffected because it is not connected to the power grid.
"Local media have been showing voters casting their ballots in the dark, with mobile phones being used as lanterns."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's open-source-AI-trainers department
Facebook just open sourced a simulator for testing and training embodied AI systems -- like virtual robots. They worked with AR/VR researchers to release the simulator along with what they say are the most photorealistic 3D reconstructions of real world places available. [Facebook Reality Labs have named this "the Replica data set".]
The crazy part: Because more frames are always better for training computer vision in simulators, it can run at 10,000 FPS!
The simulator's ability to hit 10K frames per second prompted an interesting follow-up on the original submission. "It's a totally useless framerate for humans -- just absolute overkill for our brains/eyeballs -- but it's apparently a benefit for AI systems."
"As more researchers adopt the platform, we can collectively develop embodied AI techniques more quickly," explains Facebook's blog post, "as well as realize the larger benefits of replacing yesterday's training data sets with active environments that better reflect the world we're preparing machine assistants to operate in."
And if you're worried about privacy, Facebook assures readers that "The data used to generate Replica scans was anonymized to remove any personal details (such as family photos) that could identify an individual. The overall reconstruction process was meticulous, with researchers manually filling in the small holes that are inevitably missed during scanning and using a 3D paint tool to apply annotations directly onto meshes."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's billions-and-billions-served department
An anonymous reader quotes the Washington Post:
The company's new initiative -- a collaborative effort between its Uber Eats and Uber Elevate divisions -- began with tests in San Diego using fast food meals from McDonald's, but could expand to include a local fine-dining restaurant called Juniper and Ivy, the company said. Uber intends to roll out commercial food delivery using drones in the same city this summer, with a fee structure that mimics Uber Eats current pricing, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, which first reported the company's plan...
"We've been working closely with the FAA to ensure that we're meeting requirements and prioritizing safety," Uber Elevate's Luke Fischer, the company's head of flight operations, said in a statement. "From there, our goal is to expand Uber Eats drone delivery so we can provide more options to more people at the tap of a button. We believe that Uber is uniquely positioned to take on this challenge as we're able to leverage the Uber Eats network of restaurant partners and delivery partners as well as the aviation experience and technology of Uber Elevate."
How will Uber's drone delivery service work? After a restaurant loads a meal into a drone and the robot takes to the air, the company's technology will notify a nearby Uber Eats driver at a designated drop-off location, the company said. The driver will pick up and hand deliver the meal to the customer the same way the service currently operates. But in the future, Uber said, the company would like to land drones atop parked vehicles near delivery locations "through QR code correspondence." Once that happens, the last-mile leg of delivery would be completed by the Uber Eats driver who would hand-deliver the order.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's every-move-you-make department
This week Pinboard founder Maciej Ceglowski (also a web developer and social critic) asked readers of his blog to consider an emerging threat to ambient privacy.
He defines it as "the understanding that there is value in having our everyday interactions with one another remain outside the reach of monitoring, and that the small details of our daily lives should pass by unremembered."
Until recently, ambient privacy was a simple fact of life. Recording something for posterity required making special arrangements, and most of our shared experience of the past was filtered through the attenuating haze of human memory. Even police states like East Germany, where one in seven citizens was an informer, were not able to keep tabs on their entire population. Today computers have given us that power. Authoritarian states like China and Saudi Arabia are using this newfound capacity as a tool of social control. Here in the United States, we're using it to show ads. But the infrastructure of total surveillance is everywhere the same, and everywhere being deployed at scale....
Because our laws frame privacy as an individual right, we don't have a mechanism for deciding whether we want to live in a surveillance society. Congress has remained silent on the matter, with both parties content to watch Silicon Valley make up its own rules. The large tech companies point to our willing use of their services as proof that people don't really care about their privacy. But this is like arguing that inmates are happy to be in jail because they use the prison library. Confronted with the reality of a monitored world, people make the rational decision to make the best of it.
That is not consent...
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's great-expectations department
Chris Urmson helped pioneer self-driving car technology at Google before founding Aurora (which sells self-driving car software to automakers, and this week announced a new partnership with Chrysler and a new round of investment by Hyundai). In a new interview, Urmson "says he expects that in about five to 10 years, Americans will start seeing robots cruising down the road in a handful of cities and towns across the country," reports Slate.
"It will be about 30 to 50 years, he says, until they're everywhere. "
I think within the next five years we'll see small-scale deployment. That'll be a few hundred or a few thousand vehicles. Really this is the, it's Silicon Valley speak, this is the zero-to-one moment of proving that the technology actually works, understanding how customers want to use it, convincing ourselves that -- and when I say ourselves, I mean as a society -- that these are sufficiently safe, that we trust them on the roadway, and that's that first phase... [W]hen the technology actually starts to become scaled, then we can ask the question what have we learned, what are the ways that we can make this a little bit safer, a little bit incrementally more efficient, and that's what I think local and state governments and federal government would invest in infrastructure...
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Skynet department
AmiMoJo shared this post from one of the ACLU's senior technology policy analysts about what happens when security cameras get AI upgrades:
[I]magine that all that video were being watched -- that millions of security guards were monitoring them all 24/7. Imagine this army is made up of guards who don't need to be paid, who never get bored, who never sleep, who never miss a detail, and who have total recall for everything they've seen. Such an army of watchers could scrutinize every person they see for signs of "suspicious" behavior. With unlimited time and attention, they could also record details about all of the people they see -- their clothing, their expressions and emotions, their body language, the people they are with and how they relate to them, and their every activity and motion...
The guards won't be human, of course -- they'll be AI agents.
Today we're publishing a report on a $3.2 billion industry building a technology known as "video analytics," which is starting to augment surveillance cameras around the world and has the potential to turn them into just that kind of nightmarish army of unblinking watchers.... Many or most of these technologies will be somewhere between unreliable and utterly bogus. Based on experience, however, that often won't stop them from being deployed -- and from hurting innocent people...
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's free-as-in-labor department
Donation-based open source programmer Andre Staltz recently collected data from GitHub, Patreon, and OpenCollective to try to calculate how much money is being donated to popular projects.
The results? Out of 58 projects checked, "there were two clearly sustainable open source projects, but the majority (more than 80%) of projects that we usually consider sustainable are actually receiving income below industry standards or even below the poverty threshold."
More than 50% of projects are red: they cannot sustain their maintainers above the poverty line. 31% of the projects are orange, consisting of developers willing to work for a salary that would be considered unacceptable in our industry. 12% are green, and only 3% are blue: Webpack and Vue.js... The median donation per year is $217, which is substantial when understood on an individual level, but in reality includes sponsorship from companies that are doing this also for their own marketing purposes...
The total amount of money being put into open source is not enough for all the maintainers. If we add up all of the yearly revenue from those projects in this data set, it's $2.5 million. The median salary is approximately $9k, which is below the poverty line. If split up that money evenly, that's roughly $22k, which is still below industry standards. The core problem is not that open source projects are not sharing the money received. The problem is that, in total numbers, open source is not getting enough money...
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's black-and-white-and-read-all-over department
This week USA Today's former editor-in-chief argued that "Tech overlords Google and Facebook have used monopoly to rob journalism of its revenue," in an op-ed shared by schwit1:
Over the past decade, the news business has endured a bloodbath, with tens of thousands of journalists losing their jobs amid mass layoffs. The irony is, more people than ever are consuming news... Why the disconnect? Look no further than a new study by the News Media Alliance, which found that in 2018, Google made $4.7 billion off of news content -- almost as much as every news organization in America combined made from digital ads last year. Yet Google paid a grand total of zero for the privilege. News industry revenue, meanwhile, has plunged... Google and Facebook command about 60% of all U.S. digital advertising revenue, and have siphoned off billions of dollars that once were the lifeblood of the news media.
Let's be perfectly clear: Journalism's primary revenue source has been hijacked. It's time that news providers are compensated for the journalism they produce. That's why passage of the bipartisan Journalism Competition and Preservation Act is crucial...
Toward that end, "News industry officials, including Atlanta Journal-Constitution Editor Kevin Riley, testified Tuesday on Capitol Hill in favor of legislation they say would help recover advertising revenue lost in recent years to tech behemoths such as Google and Facebook."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's ruh-roh department
Internet-connected security cameras account for almost half of the Internet of Things devices that are compromised by hackers even as homes and businesses continue to add these and other connected devices to their networks. Research from cybersecurity company SAM Seamless Network found that security cameras represent 47 percent of vulnerable devices installed on home networks.
According to the data, the average U.S. household contains 17 smart devices while European homes have an average of 14 devices connected to the network... Figures from the security firm suggest that the average device is the target of an average of five attacks per day, with midnight the most common time for attacks to be executed -- it's likely that at this time of the night, the users will be asleep and not paying attention to devices, so won't be witness to a burst of strange behavior.
The anonymous reader who submitted this story suggests a possible solution: government inspectors should examine every imported IoT device at the border.
"The device gets rejected if it has non-essential ports open, hard-coded or generic passwords, no automated patching for at least four years, etc."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's expect-less-pay-less department
CBS News reports:
Target acknowledged nationwide "system issues" affecting its stores on Saturday that prevented its customers from checking out at registers. The outage caused long checkout lines at Target locations, with upset customers posting images and video on social media.
Slashdot reader McGruber shared an article reporting more than 5,000 posts on Downdetector.com about problems at Target stores Saturday -- and noting that Target is America's eighth-largest retailer. (CBS reports Target has 1,800 stores scattered across the country.) "This is how you bring America to a standstill," a Minnesota news producer joked on Twitter (where the phrase #targetdown is now trending...)
"At least Target kept me fed," the news producer added later. "They brought out candy and popcorn and wings. I'm thinking they should set up a TV next and pop in a movie. Maybe we can play bean bag toss, too..."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's boldly-going department
Long-time Slashdot reader fahrbot-bot brings us news about the southern hemisphere of Mars:
The University of Arizona HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) has posted a photo of curious chevron shapes in southeast Hellas Planitia that are the result of "a complex story of dunes, lava, and wind."
"Enterprising viewers will make the discovery that these features look conspicuously like a famous logo..."
RockDoctor (Slashdot reader #15,477) adds that "For those wanting to try to find it on a Mars map, it's at Latitude (centered) -49.325Â Longitude (East) 85.331Â."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's geeky-challenges department
Since 2005 Randall Munroe has been the author/illustrator of the popular nerdy comic strip XKCD -- and he's now planning to publish "the world's least useful self-help book." How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems offers readers a third choice beyond simply doing things either the right way or the wrong way: "a way so monumentally bad that no one would ever try it," according to a new page at XKCD.com:
It describes how to cross a river by removing all the water, outlines some of the many uses for lava around the home, and teaches you how to use experimental military research to ensure that your friends will never again ask you to help them move.
To promote the book Munroe has already scheduled visits in 14 nerd-friendly cities (including New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, and Raleigh). But a final 15th city will be chosen "based on the results of a challenge..."
The challenge: Write the best story using nothing but book covers. Arrange the titles of your favorite books into sentences that tell a story, assemble a single continuous line of people holding up the covers, and take a photo or video documenting your feat.
You can make the story as long as you want, but each book needs to be held by a different human. Creative grammar is fine, and you'll get extra credit for including as many books and people as possible.
Photos should be either shared on social media with the hashtag #howtoxkcd, or emailed to that address on Gmail. "Submit your entry between June 10 and July 31," explains the site, adding that a winner will be announced in August.
"Make sure to include your location (city/state, US only) so we know where to find you!"Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's where-to-GOTO department
"It took 10 months to get it done, but the Granite State is now officially a Geeky State," writes Concord Monitor science reporter David Brooks.
"The latest New Hampshire Historical Highway Marker, celebrating the creation of the BASIC computer language at Dartmouth in 1964, has officially been installed. Everybody who has ever typed a GOTO command can feel proud..."
Last August, I wrote in this column that the 255 official historical markers placed alongside state roads told us enough about covered bridges and birthplaces of famous people but not enough about geekiness. Since anybody can submit a suggestion for a new sign, I thought I'd give it a shot.
The creation of BASIC, the first programing language designed to let newbies dip their intellectual toes into the cutting-edge world of software, seemed the obvious candidate. Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code has probably has done more to introduce more people to computer programming than anything ever created. That includes me: The only functioning programs I've ever created were in vanilla BASIC, and I still recall the great satisfaction of typing 100 END...
But BASIC wasn't just a toy for classrooms. It proved robust enough to survive for decades, helping launch Microsoft along the way, and there are descendants still in use today. In short, it's way more important than any covered bridge.
The campaign for the marker was supported by Thomas Kurtz, the retired Dartmouth math professor who'd created BASIC along with the late John Kemeny. "Our original idea was to mention both BASIC and the Dartmouth Time-Sharing System, an early system by which far-flung computers could share resources. They were created hand-in-hand as part of Kemeny's idea of putting computing in the hands of the unwashed masses.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's editor-exploits department
JustAnotherOldGuy quotes Threatpost:
A high-severity bug impacting two popular command-line text editing applications, Vim and Neovim, allow remote attackers to execute arbitrary OS commands. Security researcher Armin Razmjou warned that exploiting the bug is as easy as tricking a target into clicking on a specially crafted text file in either editor. Razmjou outlined his research and created a proof-of-concept (PoC) attack demonstrating how an adversary can compromise a Linux system via Vim or Neowim. He said Vim versions before 8.1.1365 and Neovim before 0.3.6 are vulnerable to arbitrary code execution...
Vim and Neovim have both released patches for the bug (CVE-2019-12735) that the National Institute of Standards and Technology warns, "allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary OS commands via the :source! command in a modeline."
"Beyond patching, it's recommended to disable modelines in the vimrc (set nomodeline), to use the securemodelinesplugin, or to disable modelineexpr (since patch 8.1.1366, Vim-only) to disallow expressions in modelines," the researcher said.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's wars-of-words department
"Caterpillar Inc. is trying to stop a tiny cafe from using the word cat," reports Fast Company.
Long-time Slashdot reader UnknowingFool writes:
Caterpillar wishes to cancels the coffee shop's trademark claiming that the trademark on shop's apparel and footwear is too similar to theirs and would cause confusion for consumers. For reference, the coffee shop's t-shirts and merchandise feature a cat and a cloud. This is not the first time Caterpillar has made dubious trademark claims on "Cat" or "Caterpillar".
"Another small business faces a crazy legal challenge from a big company that should know better..." writes Inc. "There are literally hundreds of trademarks listed that include the word cat and that are intended for clothing. Without having a trademark or license, technically Cat & Cloud wouldn't be able to sell that merchandise without permission (whether from Caterpillar or one of the many other companies with cat-related trademarks for clothing)."
The coffee shop responded by setting up a GoFundMe campaign (which is now "trending" and has so far raised $12,482) for their legal defense.
They're arguing that Caterpillar's efforts "would effectively set the precedent for them to OWN the word 'cat', making it un-useable by any business in the US."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's coming-in-second-languages department
Python reached another new all-time high on the TIOBE index, now representing 8.5% of the results for the search query +"<language> programming" on the top 25 search engines. Python overtook C++ this month for the #3 spot, now placing behind only Java (#1) and C (#2).
That's prompted TIOBE to make a bold prediction:
If Python can keep this pace, it will probably replace C and Java in 3 to 4 years time, thus becoming the most popular programming language of the world.
The main reason for this is that software engineering is booming. It attracts lots of newcomers to the field. Java's way of programming is too verbose for beginners. In order to fully understand and run a simple program such as "hello world" in Java you need to have knowledge of classes, static methods and packages. In C this is a bit easier, but then you will be hit in the face with explicit memory management. In Python this is just a one-liner. Enough said.
Also on the rise in the June Tiobe index, Apple's Swift language is ranked 11th, with a rating of 1.419 percent. Swift was ranked 15th at this time last year and 18th last month, while its predecessor Objective-C language ranked 12th this month with a rating of 1.391. Tiobe expects Objective-C to drop out of the top 20 within two years.
Python was also TIOBE's fastest-rising language in 2018 -- though in 2017 that honor went to C, and in 2015 to Java...Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's full-of-pootential department
fahrbot-bot shares a report from Ars Technica: One patient has died and another became seriously ill after fecal transplants inadvertently seeded their innards with a multi-drug resistant bacterial infection, the Food and Drug Administration warned Thursday. The cases highlight the grave risks of what some consider a relatively safe procedure. They also call attention to the mucky issues of federal oversight for the experimental transplants, which the FDA has struggled to regulate. In its warning Thursday, the agency announced new protections for trials and experimental uses of the procedure.
The FDA shared minimal details from the deadly transplants. Its warning only noted that the cases involved two patients who were immunocompromised prior to the experimental transplants and received stool from the same donor. Subsequent to the transplant, the patients developed invasive infections from an E. coli strain that was resistant to a wide variety of antibiotics in the penicillin and cephalosporin groups. The E. coli strain carried a drug-defeating enzyme called an extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL), which generally cleaves a ring common to all the chemical structures of those antibiotics. When unnamed researchers who administered the transplant looked back at the donor stool, they found that the stool contained an identical ESBL-producing E. coli. One of the patients died and the fate of the other was not discussed. The agency also did not say how or why the patients were immunocompromised prior to the transplants, what the transplants were attempting to accomplish, how they were carried out, who conducted the transplants, or when they occurred.Read Replies (0)