By BeauHD from Slashdot's location-data-giants department
nj_peeps shares an excerpt from a report via Wired: [Foursquare cofounder Dennis Crowley says the company is working on a new game.] Think Candyland, but instead of fantasy locations like Lollipop Woods, the game's virtual board includes place categories associated with New York City neighborhoods. There's a Midtown Bar, a Downtown Movie Theatre, Brooklyn Coffeeshop, Uptown Park, and so on. As in Candyland, you move your game piece forward by drawing cards. But in Crowley's version, the cards are the habits and locations of real people whose data has been turned into literal pawns in the game. Foursquare knows where their phones are in real time, because it powers many widely used apps, from Twitter and Uber to TripAdvisor and AccuWeather. These people aren't playing Crowley's game, but their real-world movements animate it: If one of them goes into a bar in midtown, for example, the person playing the game would get a Midtown Bar card.
Ask someone about Foursquare and they'll probably think of the once-hyped social media company, known for gamifying mobile check-ins and giving recommendations. But the Foursquare of today is a location-data giant. During an interview with NBC in November, the company's CEO, Jeff Glueck, said that only Facebook and Google rival Foursquare in terms of location-data precision. You might think you don't use Foursquare, but chances are you do. Foursquare's technology powers the geofilters in Snapchat, tagged tweets on Twitter; it's in Uber, Apple Maps, Airbnb, WeChat, and Samsung phones, to name a few.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's life-changing-tech department
Scientists have developed an "acoustic meta-material" that can catch certain frequencies passing through the air and reflect them back toward their source. When a loudspeaker was placed into one end of a PVC pipe with a 3D-printed ring of the metamaterial, the ring "cut 94% of the sound blasting from the speaker, enough to make it inaudible to the human ear," reports Fast Company. From the report: Typical acoustic paneling works differently, absorbing sound and turning the vibrations into heat. But what's particularly trippy is that this muffler is completely open. Air and light can travel through it -- just sound cannot. The implications for architecture and interior design are remarkable, because these metamaterials could be applied to the built environment in many different ways. For instance, they could be stacked to build soundproof yet transparent walls. Cubicles will never be the same.
The researchers also believe that HVAC systems could be fitted with these silencers, and drones could have their turbines muted with such rings. Even in MRI machines, which can be harrowingly loud for patients trapped in a small space, could be quieted. There's really no limit to the possibilities, but it does sound like these silencers will need to be tailored to circumstance. "The idea is that we can now mathematically design an object that can blocks the sounds of anything," says Boston University professor Xin Zhang, in a press release. You can see a demo of the noise cancellation device here.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's eliminate-the-middleman department
Google's latest speech recognition works entirely offline, eliminating the delay that many other voice assistants have to return your query. "The delay occurs because your voice, or some data derived from it anyway, has to travel from your phone to the servers of whoever operates the service, where it is analyzed and sent back a short time later," reports TechCrunch. "This can take anywhere from a handful of milliseconds to multiple entire seconds (what a nightmare!), or longer if your packets get lost in the ether." The only major downside with Google's new system is its limited availability. As of right now, it's only available to people with a Pixel smartphone. From the report: Why not just do the voice recognition on the device? There's nothing these companies would like more, but turning voice into text on the order of milliseconds takes quite a bit of computing power. It's not just about hearing a sound and writing a word -- understanding what someone is saying word by word involves a whole lot of context about language and intention. Your phone could do it, for sure, but it wouldn't be much faster than sending it off to the cloud, and it would eat up your battery. But steady advancements in the field have made it plausible to do so, and Google's latest product makes it available to anyone with a Pixel.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's unexpected-announcements department
Microsoft has announced a form of DirectX 12 that will support Windows 7. "Now before you get too excited, this is currently only enabled for World of Warcraft; and indeed it's not slated to be a general-purpose solution like DX12 on Win10," reports AnandTech. "Instead, Microsoft has stated that they are working with a few other developers to bring their DX12 games/backends to Windows 7 as well. As a consumer it's great to see them supporting their product ten years after it launched, but with the entire OS being put out to pasture in nine months, it seems like an odd time to be dedicating resources to bringing it new features." From the report: For some background, Microsoft's latest DirectX API was created to remove some of the CPU bottlenecks for gaming by allowing for developers to use low-level programming conventions to shift some of the pressure points away from the CPU. This was a response to single-threaded CPU performance plateauing, making complex graphical workloads increasingly CPU-bounded. There's many advantages to using this API over traditional DX11, especially for threading and draw calls. But, Microsoft made the decision long ago to only support DirectX 12 on Windows 10, with its WDDM 2.0 driver stack.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-improved department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Google today launched Chrome 73 for Windows, Mac, and Linux. The release includes support for hardware media keys, PWAs and dark mode on Mac, and the usual slew of developer features. You can update to the latest version now using Chrome's built-in updater or download it directly from google.com/chrome. Chrome 73 supports Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) on macOS. These apps install and behave like native apps (they don't show the address bar or tabs). Google killed off Chrome apps last year and has been focusing on PWAs ever since. Adding Mac support means Chrome now supports PWAs on all desktop and mobile platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, Chrome OS, Android, and iOS. Chrome now also supports dark mode on Apple's macOS; dark mode for Windows is on the way, the team promises. The VentureBeat report includes a long list of developer features included in this release, as well as all the security fixes found by external researchers. Chrome 73 implements a total of 60 security fixes.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cash-cow department
Barclays internet analyst Ross Sandler says the new cryptocurrency that Facebook is working on could be part of a multibillion-dollar revenue opportunity. "Sandler forecasted as much as $19 billion in additional revenue by 2021 from 'Facebook Coin,'" reports CNBC. "Conservatively, the firm sees a base-case of an incremental $3 billion in revenue from a successful cryptocurrency implementation. 'Merely establishing this revenue stream starts to change the story for Facebook shares in our view,' Sandler said." From the report: Facebook is reportedly developing a cryptocurrency for global payments that will be tied to the value of traditional currencies and available to use through its messenger "WhatsApp," according to Bloomberg and The New York Times. Facebook has not publicly commented on the reports. Price volatility has been one major roadblock to bitcoin's widespread adoption as an everyday payment option. But Facebook's digital currency, a "stable coin," would likely be less attractive to speculators because of its fixed price tied to a currency like the U.S. dollar.
"Any attempt to build out revenue streams outside of advertising, especially those that don't abuse user privacy are likely to be well-received by Facebook's shareholders," Sandler said. Barclays based its Facebook revenue estimates off of Google's digital distribution service, which is also the official app store for Android's operating system. "Google Play," as it's called, generates $6 in "net" revenue per user now. Facebook could see a "similar cadence," across its nearly 3 billion users in 2021. A Facebook virtual currency would allow for more premium content to find its way back to Facebook, Sandler said, as companies re-establish themselves on the social network as a strategic partner.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's CTRL-+-Z department
Microsoft is reportedly working on a new functionality that will automatically remove botched updates from Windows 10 to fix startup issues and other bugs preventing the PC from booting. "The support document was quietly published a couple of hours ago and for some reasons, Microsoft has also blocked the search engines from crawling or indexing the page," reports Windows Latest. "In the document, Microsoft explains that Windows may automatically install updates in order to keep your device secure and smooth." From the report: Due to various reasons, including software and driver compatibility issues, Windows Updates are vulnerable to mistakes and hardware errors. In some cases, Windows Update may fail to install. After installing a recent update, if your PC experience startup failures and automatic recovery attempts are unsuccessful, Windows may try to resolve the failure by uninstalling recently installed updates. In this case, users may receive a notification with the following message: "We removed some recently installed updates to recover your device from a startup failure."
Microsoft says that Windows will also automatically block the problematic updates from installing automatically for the next 30 days. During these 30 days, Microsoft and its partners will investigate the failure and attempt to fix the issues. When the issues are fixed, Windows will again try to install the updates. Users still have the freedom to reinstall the updates. If you believe that the update should not be removed, you can manually reinstall the driver or quality updates which were uninstalled earlier.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's fearing-the-unknown department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Inverse: Fearing unknown health risks, members of the City Council in Portland, Oregon, will vote Wednesday to oppose the rollout of 5G wireless networks. In a proposed resolution, Mayor Ted Wheeler, along with Commissioners Chloe Eudaly and Amanda Fritz, write that there's evidence suggesting wireless networks can cause health problems -- including cancer. They express concern that the Federal Communications Commission has not conducted enough research to demonstrate that 5G networks are safe, while at the same time prohibiting state and local governments from passing their own regulations on telecommunications technology. And while Wheeler, Eudaly, and Fritz are correct about the FCC's power to dictate how state and local governments manage wireless networks, the connection between 5G networks and cancer is a lot more complicated than they say it is.
"There is evidence to suggest that exposure to radio frequency emissions generated by wireless technologies could contribute to adverse health conditions such as cancer," reads the proposed resolution. This evidence comes from a large-scale study conducted by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The final results of this study, published in November 2018, showed a strong association between the type of radiation used for mobile phone signals and certain types of cancerous tumors in lab rats. But that's where the situation gets tough. The NTP study, which took place over 10 years and involved exposing more than 7,000 rats and mice to radio-frequency radiation, focused on signals used by wireless technology under the 2G and 3G standards. It's nearly impossible to say whether these results will apply to 5G hardware.
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By msmash from Slashdot's severe-consequences department
An international group of researchers who have been examining the source code for an internet voting system that Switzerland plans to roll out this year have found a critical flaw in the code that would allow someone to alter votes without detection. New submitter eatmorekix shares a report: The cryptographic backdoor exists in a part of the system that is supposed to verify that all of the ballots and votes counted in an election are the same ones that voters cast. But the flaw could allow someone to swap out all of the legitimate ballots and replace them with fraudulent ones, all without detection. "The vulnerability is astonishing," said Matthew Green, who teaches cryptography at Johns Hopkins University and did not do the research but read the researchers' report. "In normal elections, there is no single person who could undetectably defraud the entire election. But in this system they built, there is a party who could do that."
The researchers provided their findings last week to Swiss Post, the country's national postal service, which developed the system with the Barcelona-based company Scytl. Swiss Post said in a statement the researchers provided Motherboard and that the Swiss Post plans to publish online on Tuesday, that the researchers were correct in their findings and that it had asked Scytl to fix the issue. It also downplayed the vulnerability, however, saying that to exploit it, an attacker would need control over Swiss Postâ(TM)s secured IT infrastructure "as well as help from several insiders with specialist knowledge of Swiss Post or the cantons."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Chicken companies spent decades breeding birds to grow rapidly and develop large breast muscles. Now the industry is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to deal with the consequences ranging from squishy fillets known as "spaghetti meat," because they pull apart easily, to leathery ones known as "woody breast." [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source.] The abnormalities pose no food safety risk, researchers and industry officials say. They are suspected side effects of genetic selection that now allows meat companies to raise a 6.3-pound bird in 47 days, roughly twice as fast as 50 years ago, according to the National Chicken Council.
That efficiency drive has helped U.S. meat giants such as Tyson Foods, Pilgrim's Pride, Perdue Farms and Sanderson Farms produce a record 42 billion pounds of chicken nuggets, tenders and other products in 2018. Now, it's adding an estimated $200 million or more in annual industry expenses to identify and divert breast fillets that are too tough, too squishy or too striped with bands of white tissue to sell in restaurants or grocery stores, according to researchers at the University of Arkansas.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's Massive-College-Admissions-Scandal department
Federal prosecutors charged dozens of people on Tuesday in a major college admission scandal that involved wealthy parents, including Hollywood celebrities and prominent business leaders, paying bribes to get their children into elite American universities. From a report: Federal officials have charged dozens of well-heeled parents, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, in what the Justice Department says was a multimillion-dollar scheme to cheat college admissions standards. The parents allegedly paid a consultant who then fabricated academic and athletic credentials and arranged bribes to help get their children into prestigious universities. "We're talking about deception and fraud -- fake test scores, fake credentials, fake photographs, bribed college officials," said Andrew Lelling, the U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts.
Lelling said 33 parents "paid enormous sums" to ensure their children got into schools such as Stanford and Yale, sending money to entities controlled by a man named William Rick Singer in return for falsifying records and obtaining false scores on important tests such as the SAT and ACT. Describing how Singer worked to present his clients' children as elite athletes, Lelling said, "In many instances, Singer helped parents take staged photographs of their children engaged in particular sports. Other times, Singer and his associates used stock photos that they pulled off the Internet -- sometimes Photoshopping the face of the child onto the picture of the athlete" and submitting it to desirable schools.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Amazon's Echo-branded smart speakers have attracted millions of fans with their ability to play music and respond to queries spoken from across the room. But almost four years after inviting outside developers to write apps for Alexa, Amazon's voice system has yet to offer a transformative new experience. From a report: Surveys show most people use their smart speakers to listen to tunes or make relatively simple requests -- "Alexa, set a timer for 30 minutes" -- while more complicated tasks prompt them to give up and reach for their smartphone. Developers had less trouble creating hits for previous generations of technology.
Think Angry Birds or Pokemon Go on the iPhone, or, decades ago, spreadsheets on the first Windows computers. Amazon counts some 80,000 "skills" -- its name for apps -- in its marketplace. It seems impressive, but at this point in their development, Apple's App Store and the Google Play Store each boasted more than 550,000 applications and minted fortunes for many successful developers. "This platform is almost four years old, and you can't point me to one single killer app," says Mark Einhorn, who created a well-reviewed Alexa game that lets users operate a simulated lemonade stand and is one of 10 developers interviewed for this story.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's major-collaborative-push department
It also announced that the GraphQL Foundation is collaborating with Joint Development Foundation to encourage "contributions, stewardship, and a shared investment from a broad group in vendor-neutral events, documentation, tools, and support for the data query language."Read Replies (0)