By EditorDavid from Slashdot's behind-on-broadband department
Salon just published a new interview with Susan Crawford, the author of "Fiber: The Coming Tech Revolution -- And Why America Might Miss It."
Crawford has spent years studying the business of these underground fiber optic cables that make fast internet possible. As it turns out, the internet infrastructure situation in the United States is almost hopelessly compromised by the oligopolistic telecom industry, which, due to lack of competition and deregulation, is hesitant to invest in their aging infrastructure... This is going to pose a huge problem for the future, Crawford warns, noting that politicians as well as the telecom industry are largely inept when it comes to prepping us for a well-connected future...
"The decay started in 2004 when -- maybe out of gullibility, maybe out of naivety, maybe out of calculation -- then-chairman of the FCC, Michael Powell, now the head of cable association -- was persuaded that the telcos would battle it out with the cable companies, that their cable modem services would battle it out with wireless, and all of that competition would do a much better job than any regulatory structure could at ensuring that every American had a cheap and fantastic connection of the internet. That's just turned out that's just not true. Since then, he deregulated the entire sector -- and as a result, we got this very stagnant status quo where in most urban areas -- usually the local cable monopoly has a lock in the market and can charge whatever it wants for whatever type of quality services they're providing, leaving a lot of people out."
"Because Americans don't travel," she adds, "you don't get the sense of what a third-world country the U.S. is becoming when it comes to communications."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's future-shock department
Citing "significant" new corporate investments in AI technology, futurist Gary Grossman argues that AI "may be the fastest paradigm shift in the history of technology -- and warns there's a counter-argument to the theory that AI will create as many jobs as its displaces.
"The other view is that this time is different, that we are not just automating labor but also cognition and many fewer people will be needed by industry."
KPMG claims more than half of business executives plan to implement some form of AI within the next 12 months... The disruption is already beginning, with fully 75% of the organizations KPMG surveyed expecting intelligent automation to significantly impact 10 to 50% of their employees in the next two years. A Citigroup executive told Bloomberg that better AI could reduce headcount at the bank by 30%. In the face of all this change, many companies publicly state that AI will eliminate some dull and repetitive jobs and make it possible for people to do higher-order work. However, as a prominent venture capitalist relayed to me recently on this topic: "most displaced call center workers don't become Java programmers." It is not only low-skilled jobs that are at risk. Gartner analysts recently reported that AI will eliminate 80% of project management tasks....
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's 24-hour-stories department
"Snapchat pioneered Stories, the popular feature where users create and share ephemeral posts that disappear within 24 hours," reports Business Insider. "And now, it's taking them everywhere." Users are now able to share their Stories on third-party partner apps like Tinder -- and Snap is also sharing its Bitmoji's with Venmo and Fitbit.
For 2.5 years, Snapchat foolishly tried to take the high road versus Facebook, with Evan Spiegel claiming "Our values are hard to copy". That inaction allowed Zuckerberg to accrue over 1 billion daily Stories users across Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook compared to Snapchat's 186 million total daily users. Meanwhile, the whole tech industry scrambled to build knock-offs of Snap's vision of an ephemeral, visual future.
But Snapchat's new strategy is a rallying call for the rest of the social web that's scared of being squashed beneath Facebook's boot. It rearranges the adage of "if you can't beat them, join them" into "to beat them, join us". As a unified front, Snap's partners get the infrastructure they need to focus on what differentiates them, while Snapchat gains the reach and entrenchment necessary to weather the war. Snapchat's plan is to let other apps embed the best parts of it rather than building their own half-rate copies. Why reinvent the wheel of Stories, Bitmoji, and ads when you can reuse the original?
A high-ranking Snap executive told me on background that this is indeed the strategy. If it's going to invent these products, and others want something similar, it's smarter to enable and partly control the Snapchatification than to try to ignore it. Otherwise, Facebook might be the one to platform-tize what Snap inspired everyone to want.
The article concludes that Snap "needs all the help it can get if the underdog is going to carve out a substantial and sustainable piece of social networking."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's in-the-chips department
jwhyche (Slashdot reader #6,192) tipped us off to some interesting speculation about AMD's upcoming Zen 2-based EPYC Rome server processors. "The new Epyc processor would be Gen 4 PCIe where Intel is still using Gen 3. Gen 4 PCIe features twice the bandwidth of the older Gen 3 specification."
And now Tom's Hardware reports:
While AMD has said that a single EPYC Rome processor could deliver up to 128 PCIe lanes, the company hasn't stated how many lanes two processors could deliver in a dual-socket server. According to ServeTheHome.com, there's a distinct possibility EPYC could feature up to 162 PCIe 4.0 lanes in a dual-socket configuration, which is 82 more lanes than Intel's dual-socket Cascade Lake Xeon servers. That even beats Intel's latest 56-core 112-thread Platinum 9200-series processors, which expose 80 PCIe lanes per dual-socket server.
Patrick Kennedy at ServeTheHome, a publication focused on high-performance computing, and RetiredEngineer on Twitter have both concluded that two Rome CPUs could support 160 PCIe 4.0 lanes. Kennedy even expects there will be an additional PCIe lane per CPU (meaning 129 in a single socket), bringing the total number of lanes in a dual-socket server up to 162, but with the caveat that this additional lane per socket could only be used for the baseboard management controller (or BMC), a vital component of server motherboards... If @RetiredEngineer and ServeTheHome did their math correctly, then Intel has even more serious competition than AMD has let on.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's unfriending department
After their Instagram accounts were hijacked, two different users say they contacted Instagram ten times -- and even proved their identity by submitting selfies -- but received no response.
And one Silicon Valley newspaper points out that If your account is hijacked at Instagram, Google, Facebook, or Twitter, "there's nobody to call... your options are limited to submitting an automated online form and hoping an actual human being gets back to you."
In his book "Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe," longtime Silicon Valley investor Roger McNamee criticized tech companies' approach to user service: "The customer service department is reserved for advertisers. Users are the product, at best, so there is no one for them to call." That's by design at most companies that offer free online services. In "I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59," a 2011 book by Douglas Edwards, he wrote that as Google was beginning to grow, co-founder Sergey Brin asked, "Why do we need to answer user email anyway?"
Problems have multiplied as the companies' user bases have skyrocketed. Instagram cited its scale (1 billion users, a spokeswoman pointed out) as one reason all user questions are routed first to an automated system. Facebook, Twitter and Google said they use a combination of humans and automation -- but mostly automation, and in Google's case, forums made up of other users -- to respond to users' concerns. A Google spokesman said the company focuses on making sure user accounts don't get hacked in the first place...
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's war-of-the-operating-systems department
This weekend SlashGear published "Reasons to Abandon Windows For Linux," making their case to "Windows users who are curious about the state of Linux for mainstream computing." It tries to enumerate specific reasons why Linux might be the better choice, arguing among other things that:
Updates on Linux are fast and "rarely call for a restart" -- and are also more complete. "Updates are typically downloaded through a 'Software Updater' application that not only checks for operating system patches, but also includes updates for the programs that you've installed from the repository." Windows "tries to serve a variety of markets...cramming in a scattered array of features" -- and along those lines, that Microsoft "has gradually implemented monetization schemes and methods for extracting user data." And yet you're still paying for that operating system, while Linux is less bloated and "free forever."
"Because less people use Linux, the platform is less targeted by malware and tends to be more secure than Windows"
The article also touches on a few other points (including battery life), and predicts that problems with Windows are "bound to get worse over time and will only present more of a case for making the switch to Linux."
Long-time Slashdot reader shanen shared the article, along with some new thoughts on why people really stay with Windows:
I think the main "excuse" is the perception of reliability, which is really laughable if you've actually read the EULA. Microsoft certainly doesn't have to help anyone at all. I would argue that Windows support is neither a bug nor a feature, but just a marketing ploy.
Their original submission suggests that maybe Linux needs to buttress the perception of its reliability with a better financial model -- possibly through a new kind of crowd funding which could also be extended to all open source software, or even to journalism).Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's please-hold department
"While lawmakers debate what to do about the roboscourge, engineers have cooked up some clever ways to make bots work for us, not against us," writes the Washington Post, taking a look at apps like the $4-per-month RoboKiller -- which offers malicious "answer bots":
They're voicemail messages that try to keep robots and human telemarketers on the line, listening to nonsense. Answer bot options range from Trump impersonators and extended coughing sessions to someone doing vocal exercises. Even better, RoboKiller will send you an often-hilarious recording of the interaction. (It only uses these recordings when itâ(TM)s very sure itâ(TM)s a spam call.)
Another service, called Jolly Roger, doesn't sell itself as a robocall blocker but takes this auto-generated annoyance idea a step further by actively trying to game the spammers' systems, such as when to press 1 to speak to a human. It calls this tech "artificial stupidity." It costs $11.88 per year.
It's possible you're better off not engaging with a robocall in the hopes the dialer with decide the line is dead. And it's also not clear how much these actually cost the people placing robocalls. But any time robocallers spend with your bot might be minutes they're not calling someone else, so you can think of it as community service.
I'm also not sure this does any good -- but the Post's article also includes a run-down of other robocall-blocking services available from both wireless carriers and independent companies. It recommends starting with the free YouMail app, which collates data from 10 million registered users to determine which calls to block -- and in addition, "tries to trick known robocallers into taking you off their lists by playing them the beep-beep-beep sound of a dead line."
If you live in America, you can also add your phone number to the Federal government's official "Do not call" registry. "It won't help much," writes the Post, "but it only takes 30 seconds so why not?"Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's I'm-feeling-lucky department
schwit1 quotes Tom's Hardware: The Electronic Privacy Information Center ("EPIC"), a civil liberties group based in Washington D.C., filed an amicus brief in the United States vs. Wilson case concerning Google scanning billions of users' files for unlawful content and then sending that information to law enforcement agencies.
EPIC alleges that law enforcement is using Google, a private entity, to bypass the Fourth Amendment, which requires due process and probable cause before "searching or seizing" someone's property.
As a private entity, Google doesn't have to abide by the Fourth Amendment as the government has to, so it can do those mass searches on its behalf and then give the government the results. The U.S. government has been increasingly using this strategy to bypass Fourth Amendment protections of U.S. citizens and to expand its warrantless surveillance operations further.
Google and a few other companies have "voluntarily" agreed to use a database of image hashes from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to help the agency find exploited children.
More than that, the companies would also give any information they have on the people who owned those images, given they are users of said companies' services and have shared the images through those services.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's water-world-domination department
The internet is commonly described as a cloud, writes the consumer policy expert and editor at BroadbandNow, but "In reality, it's a series of wet, fragile tubes, and Google is about to own an alarming number of them."
An anonymous reader quotes VentureBeat:
Google makes billions from its cloud platform. Now it's using those billions to buy up the internet itself -- or at least the submarine cables that make up the internet backbone. In February, the company announced its intention to move forward with the development of the Curie cable, a new undersea line stretching from California to Chile. It will be the first private intercontinental cable ever built by a major non-telecom company. And if you step back and just look at intracontinental cables, Google has fully financed a number of those already; it was one of the first companies to build a fully private submarine line.
Google isn't alone. Historically, cables have been owned by groups of private companies -- mostly telecom providers -- but 2016 saw the start of a massive submarine cable boom, and this time, the buyers are content providers. Corporations like Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon all seem to share Google's aspirations for bottom-of-the-ocean dominance... We're reaching the next stage of internet maturity; one where only large, incumbent players can truly win in media....
I've been watching this trend develop, being in the broadband space myself, and the recent movements are certainly concerning. Big tech's ownership of the internet backbone will have far-reaching, yet familiar, implications. It's the same old consumer tradeoff; more convenience for less control -- and less privacy... As we look to the future, we need to start asking ourselves what the internet is really going to look like whenever the content services that already command so much of our attention are in control of the internet backbone as well.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's patent-sharing-pending department
An anonymous reader quotes Reuters:
Japan's Toyota Motor Corp will offer free access to its hybrid-vehicle patents through 2030, it said on Wednesday, seeking to expand use of the lower-emission technology even as the global industry shifts toward fully electric cars. The pledge by one of the world's biggest automakers to share its closely guarded patents, the second time it has opened up a technology, is aimed at driving industry uptake of hybrids and fending off the challenge of all-battery electric vehicles (EVs).
Toyota said it would grant licenses on nearly 24,000 patents on technologies used in its Prius, the world's first mass-produced "green" car, and offer to supply competitors with components including motors, power converters and batteries used in its lower-emissions vehicles... Toyota's move to unlock its patents underlines its belief that hybrids are an effective alternative to all-battery EVs, given a fuel efficiency roughly double that of gasoline cars, lower cost and that they do not need charging infrastructure. Toyota vehicles account for more than 80 percent of the global hybrid vehicle market. "Toyota has realized that they made a mistake by protecting their hybrid technology for years. This prevented diffusion" said Janet Lewis, head of Asia transportation research at Macquarie Securities.
"Toyota on its own can't get key technology accepted, but if other companies use it, that offers the best chance of expansion," she added.
The article notes statistics from LMC Automotive that hybrid vehicles "account for around 3 percent of all vehicles sold globally, eclipsing the roughly 1.5 percent share of all-battery EVs."
Shigeki Terashi, Executive Vice President of Toyota, said, "we believe that now is the time for cooperation."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's robot-pot department
NJ Advance Media reports on "an Israeli and Maryland-based startup that claims to be able to quadruple the yield of traditional cannabis grows" -- using indoor, climate-controlled 40-inch-tall "grow fridges" that are tended by robots.
You see, despite the old cliche of "growing like a weed," cannabis has actually been something of a high-maintenance slacker when it comes to its cultivation... In shade, it provides far less seed and pollen. It's not tolerant of the cold, and does not reproduce well in drought. It's also very susceptible to fungal infections, so too much water leaves it vulnerable to pathogens... For years, the high price fetched by traditionally farmed cannabis and low cost of human labor conspired to make robotic farming uneconomical.
What else is inside the Seedo container besides the plants, gro-bots and soil? Nothing -- which is kind of the whole point: Seedo uses a patented, beyond-surgical grade filtration system that ionizes the air, making it deadly to bacteria, viruses and mold.... At $150,000 per Seedo container, the costs to achieve this are high, but cutting the usual 10 percent to 20 percent loss to disease of a traditionally farmed cannabis crop to disease to less than 5 percent, they rapidly become economical... A traditionally-farmed 1,000 square meter grow operation produces 600 kilograms of cannabis per year. But Levy says 16 Seedo containers (along with a Seedo robot to tend them) can fit into that same space, producing 2.4 tons of dry bud [2,177 kilograms]. And because they can be stacked 5 high, the same robotically farmed footprint can generate up to 12 tons [10,886 kilograms] of dry bud cannabis. "You can make a return on investment very fast," said Levy, whose backers now include include Daniel Birnbaum, the CEO of SodaStream International, acquired by Pepsi late last year for $3.2 billion.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's infinity-and-beyond department
"No Man's Sky is getting another large-scale update, and this one is different," writes GameSpot.
An anonymous reader quotes their report:
A "No Man's Sky VR" update is scheduled for this summer, which will add free support for PlayStation VR and Steam VR. Hello Games boasts that this is the entire game brought into VR rather than a separate mode. According to the announcement, this is the second major pillar to the Beyond expansion that Hello Games previously announced. The first pillar is a major overhaul to its online play, and a third pillar is yet to be announced...
Last year, No Man's Sky issued a large-scale update called Next, which overhauled many of the game's systems. It was such a major update that we named it one of the best expansions of 2018. Hello has subsequently been issuing regular updates, like the underwater Abyss expansion and tons of new biomes in the Visions expansion.
Watch the "official VR reveal trailer" on YouTube.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's job-references department
This week the BBC reported on teenaged "hackers dragged from a world of crime to fight for the other side" at "a fairly ordinary looking cyber-security company" in southwest England. Bruce66423 shared their report:
Bluescreen employs hackers the authorities have deemed worthy of a second chance, who pit their wits against some of the anonymous online criminals they used to see as brothers in arms... Bluescreen IT has a direct link with the police to find hackers in need of direction. These are young men who have been accused of serious crimes, but instead of being taken through the criminal justice system, they've been given a second chance. About 15 people work in the Security Operations Centre, a handful of whom have been referred to the company as hackers who aren't malicious in nature and are deemed capable of reform...
There's a relaxed atmosphere when you walk into the Security Operations Centre, but it's serious work. Three monitors on the wall detail which of Bluescreen's clients are being attacked, and how serious the threat is. The clients, mostly smaller and medium-sized businesses from around the South West, are given codenames like "Black Mamba" or "Green Starfish" -- usually a colour and an animal... Bluescreen sees itself as a place to develop young people, give them a second chance, and be a haven for those with nowhere else to go. "It makes me really proud when they achieve industry-recognised qualifications," said the company's chief operating officer, Richard Cashmore.
A 16-year-old named Jack stole personal information from about 1,000 people. Years later, when he was 19, "the police sent five squad cars, a tech team and a riot van to his home.... Another employee, Cameron, was arrested on his way to school when he was just 14 years old. "Officers from the National Crime Agency had planned the sting so that Cameron would be out of the house, and unable to destroy his hard drives in the event he heard them coming."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's sober-or-stationary department
Since 2008, a $65 million program has been designing a sophisticated new "ignition interlock" system that would only allows cars to start if it detects that the driver is sober, the Washington Post reports:
What's different -- perhaps even revolutionary -- is that the built-in ignition interlock would make an instantaneous and precise reading of every driver's blood alcohol content (BAC) level when the driver attempts to start the vehicle. Eventually, the device could become standard equipment, just like air bags. The device would take BAC samples in one of two ways. A breath-based system would gather a whiff of a driver's ambient breath. A touch-based system would analyze the touch of a driver's finger, perhaps from a vehicle's starter button or the steering wheel....
Officials behind the public-private effort to develop the technology -- known as the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) -- say the device will be ready for commercial fleets next year. Virginia's Department of Motor Vehicles became the first state agency to use it in its fleet last year, and a private company, James River Transportation, is road-testing them in its fleet of Ford Flex crossovers.... . Advocates say that if their work is successful, such a device -- which requires understanding complexities involving the science of biology, spectroscopy, electrical engineering, consumer behavior and even politics -- could save an estimated 10,000 lives a year.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's super-fungus department
A drug-resistant fungus called Candida auris "is quietly spreading across the globe," reports the New York Times:
Over the last five years, it has hit a neonatal unit in Venezuela, swept through a hospital in Spain, forced a prestigious British medical center to shut down its intensive care unit, and taken root in India, Pakistan and South Africa. Recently C. auris reached New York , New Jersey and Illinois, leading the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to add it to a list of germs deemed "urgent threats...."
In the United States, two million people contract resistant infections annually, and 23,000 die from them, according to the official CDC estimate. That number was based on 2010 figures; more recent estimates from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine put the death toll at 162,000. Worldwide fatalities from resistant infections are estimated at 700,000.... With bacteria and fungi alike, hospitals and local governments are reluctant to disclose outbreaks for fear of being seen as infection hubs.
Even the CDC, under its agreement with states, is not allowed to make public the location or name of hospitals involved in outbreaks. State governments have in many cases declined to publicly share information beyond acknowledging that they have had cases.... [A] hushed panic is playing out in hospitals around the world. Individual institutions and national, state and local governments have been reluctant to publicize outbreaks of resistant infections, arguing there is no point in scaring patients -- or prospective ones.
The Times reports that C. auris targets people with weakened immune systems (including babies and the elderly) -- and that 587 cases of C. auris have already been reported in the U.S., according to the CDC: 309 cases in New York, 104 in New Jersey, and 144 in Illinois. The CDC adds that half the patients who contract C. auris die within 90 days.
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