By EditorDavid from Slashdot's digging-Mars department
"The 'mole' aboard NASA's InSight Mars lander has encountered stiff resistance on its first subsurface sojourn beneath the surface of the Red Planet," reports Space.com:
In a major mission milestone, InSight's Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument burrowed underground for the first time on Feb. 28. After 400 hammer blows over the course of four hours, the instrument apparently got between 7 inches and 19.7 inches (18 to 50 centimeters) beneath the red dirt -- but obstacles slowed its progress, mission team members said...
The $850 million InSight lander -- whose name is short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport -- touched down on Nov. 26. The spacecraft aims to map the Red Planet's interior in unprecedented detail. It will do this primarily by characterizing "marsquakes" and other vibrations with a suite of supersensitive seismometers, which was built by a consortium led by the French space agency CNES; and measuring subsurface heat flow with HP3, which DLR provided.
"I'm digging Mars!" announced NASA's official Twitter feed for the InSight robotic lander, adding "My self-hammering mole has started burrowing in, and my team is poring over the data..."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's I,-predict department
For 22 years technology writer Robert X. Cringely has been making predictions for the year to come -- but this year may be his last. So at age 66, he's promising his 2019 predictions will also "take a look out several years...because I sense the tech industry about to enter an unprecedented correction."
And last week he unveiled his first prediction -- that Apple under Tim Cook "emulates GE under Jack Welch.... Jack Welch took GE into financial services in 1981, transforming the company and increasing its market cap by 4000 percent over his 20 years. "
Tim Cook has already started in 2019 along the same path forged by GE's Jack Welch back in 1981. This strategic shift started to show just this week with Apple directly financing iPhone sales in China and announcing an Apple credit card with Goldman Sachs... Look for Apple to start financing lots of things in 2019. Remember your car dealer would rather lend you money than have you pay cash for that ride because financing is its own profit center. So iPhone prices will continue to rise, but iPhone payments will probably decline as Apple cuts out middle men and efficiently sucks-up that aspect of the phone supply chain. This is how Apple will arrest iPhone market share declines -- by assisting sales and making even more money in the process.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's French-revolutions department
France's Finance Minister has drafted a new law to tax internet giants, reports Reuters:
A three percent tax on the French revenue of large internet companies could yield 500 million euros [$568 million U.S. dollars or £429 million] per year, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Sunday. Le Maire told Le Parisien newspaper the tax is aimed at companies with worldwide digital revenue of at least 750 million and French revenue of more than 25 million euros.
He said the tax would target some 30 companies, mostly American, but also Chinese, German, Spanish and British, as well as one French firm and several firms with French origins that have been bought by foreign companies. The paper listed Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple (the four so-called "GAFA" companies) but also Uber, Airbnb, Booking and French online advertising specialist Criteo as targets. "A taxation system for the 21st century has to built on what has value today, and that is data," Le Maire said. He added it is also a matter of fiscal justice, as the digital giants pay some 14 percentage points less tax than European small-and-medium sized companies.
The draft law will be presented to the cabinet on Wednesday, and then presented to France's parliament, Reuters reports.
"The tax would also target the sales of personal data for advertising purposes."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's super-chargers department
"For anyone who thought that there was too much Tesla news this weekend, I've got some bad news for you," writes long-time Slashdot reader Rei, sharing new information gleaned from a series of tweets.
"Elon Musk just announced the unveiling of the Model Y SUV on March 14th at Tesla's LA Design Studio."
A surprising number of details were revealed, including non-falcon doors, a similar appearance to the Model 3, and pricing about 10% more than a Model 3, with slightly lower range, due to the increased mass and cross section.
The unveiling will not include the Tesla pickup truck; that will be later this year. Model Y is to share 75% of its hardware with Model 3 to simplify the development process, with volume production targeted for late 2020, and initial production in early 2020. Musk also stated: "First public Tesla V3.0 Supercharger Station goes live Wed 8pm" (V3 is the much awaited new generation of higher power, cheaper to operate Superchargers).
"Personally, I'm most excited by the Tesla Truck," Musk posted on Twitter. "Maybe it will be too futuristic for most people, but I love it."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's digital-downloads department
An anonymous reader quotes BGR:
Sales from individual song downloads have unsurprisingly been falling with no end in sight, thanks to the convenience of streaming options like Spotify and Apple Music. A new report, though, makes clear just how few people there are these days who will buy individual digital songs -- there are so few of them, in fact, that they were outnumbered in 2018 by people who went old-school and bought actual compact discs and vinyl records.
According to the Recording Industry Association of America, total download sales in 2018 -- for which iTunes led the pack -- dropped almost 30%, to a little more than $1 billion. Purchases of full album downloads likewise fell, by 25%. To put that in context, download sales represented more than 40% of the music industry's revenue back in 2013. Last year? About 11%.
Meanwhile, that drop in sales has resulted in a lop-sided reality that harkens back to the pre-iTunes days. Sales of physical media including CDs and vinyl, according to the RIAA's new report, were down 23 percent but totaled $1.15 billion, thus edging out digital download sales. Another interesting takeaway from the new report: Music fans bought almost $420 million worth of vinyl in 2018, which Cult of Mac notes in a piece today is almost as much as people spent buying album downloads from iTunes last year.
The RIAA reports that "virtually all the revenue growth" for 2018 came from streaming music platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and Tidal, which last year collectively added 1 million new subscribers every single month, and now have a record number of more than 50 million subscribers.
"By the way, don't be fooled into reading something positive about CDs from the title of this post," adds BGR. "While physical media sales were down 23%, CD sales themselves slipped 34% for the year to $698 million. That's the first time CD yearly revenue has come in below $1 billion since 1986."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's finite-resources department
"The attention economy is dying, and it's not pretty," argues the Verge, adding "there is only so much time in the day to pay attention to things, and we as a society have reached the limit..."
"The base assumption that the whole edifice is built on is becoming unstable, because what happens when society's attention is entirely monopolized?
A recent report put out by the media and technology research firm Midia underscores that point: "[E]ngagement has declined throughout the sector, suggesting that the attention economy has peaked. Consumers simply do not have any more free time to allocate to new attention seeking digital entertainment propositions, which means they have to start prioritising between them." The trend, they write, has persisted for a while, and only now promises a revenue slowdown -- as told through disappointing quarterly results from a few of the major games publishers. "Arguably sooner than most of the games industry would have thought." As Midia researcher Karol Severin says, "competition within the attention economy is now more intense than ever before."
The problem is attention doesn't scale. There is only so much time in the day to be advertised to; ads themselves are becoming less effective, because they're now everywhere. When was the last time you consumed something that wasn't trying to sell you something, or harvest your personal data to sell you things better?
The article also argues that a "substantial portion" of the attention economy has been captured by the videogame Fortnite. "Last month, Netflix mentioned in its 2018 earnings report that 'we compete with (and lose to) Fortnite more than HBO'...
"That Netflix is even acknowledging Fortnite as a competitor is important, because it means that digital media companies are beginning to concede that growth isn't infinite, and are shifting their ambitions in response."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's brain-drain department
"Deep, non-REM sleep helps people's brains to wash away toxic proteins and waste, a new study found, reinforcing the link between sleep deprivation, aging and Alzheimer's disease," reports U.S. News & World Report.
Or, as Discover magazine puts it, "Getting enough deep sleep might be the key to preventing dementia."
The discovery reinforces how critical quality sleep is for brain health and suggests sleep therapies might curb the advance of memory-robbing ailments, like Alzheimer's disease... Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) churns through a system of brain tunnels piped in the spaces between brain cells and blood vessels. Scientists call it the glymphatic system. This system circulates nutrients like glucose, the brain's primary energy source, and washes away potentially toxic waste. And it may be the reason why animals even need sleep. The system takes out the brain's trash when we're asleep, and it shuts down when we're awake.
Maiken Nedergaard, a neurologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, who led the new research, and her team were curious if the system works best and clears more waste -- like Alzheimer's causing beta amyloid plaque -- when animals are in deep sleep. To find out, the researchers used six different anesthetics to put mice into deep sleep. Then they tracked cerebrospinal fluid as it flowed into the brain. As the mice slept, the researchers watched the rodents' brain activity on an electroencephalograph, or EEG, and recorded the animals' blood pressures and heart and respiratory rates. Mice anesthetized with a combination of two drugs, ketamine and xylazine, showed the strongest deep sleep brain waves and these brain waves predicted CSF flow into the brain, the researchers found.
The lead researcher now argues that focusing on sleep in the early stages of dementia "might be able to slow progression of the disease."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's calling-out-Call-of-Duty department
This week the Washington Post shared the story of 20-year-old Sam Haberern, who was playing Call of Duty on his Xbox when the other players "started asking him whether he had ever testified in court or murdered anyone."
"They said they were from Maryland and that they were going to come and kill me," he said. By then it was 3 a.m., and Haberern decided to quit. One of the gamers in the party then sent him a message via Xbox Live. It contained his home address. Next his house phone rang, then his mother's cellphone. A message appeared on his TV screen from one of the party members -- it was asking why he didn't answer... Haberern contacted Microsoft, which makes Xbox, via its website and reported what happened. Unsatisfied with that process, he then typed a Reddit post, which would go viral, asking what recourse was available to him. The varied and ultimately unsatisfying answers centered on a common theme: There was no good solution.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's company-you-keep department
Help Net Security shared an interesting statistic from the 2019 Webroot Threat Report.
40 percent of malicious URLs were found on good domains. Legitimate websites are frequently compromised to host malicious content. To protect users, cybersecurity solutions need URL-level visibility or, when unavailable, domain-level metrics, that accurately represent the dangers.
The report also found that while Google was the single most impersonated brand in phishing, 77% of all phishing attacks impersonated financial institutions. (The good news? After 12 months of security awareness training, end users were 70% less likely to fall for phishing attacks.)
And Windows 10 devices were "at least twice as secure as those running Windows 7. Webroot has seen a relatively steady decline in malware on Windows 10 machines for both consumer and business."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's battle-of-BritBox department
"The BBC, the UK's national broadcaster, and ITV, the biggest private player in the UK market, are in the 'concluding phase of talks' to create a rival to Netflix," writes Slashdot reader AmiMoJo.
The BBC's director general Tony Hall said the aim was to launch the "BritBox" rival to Netflix in the UK the second half of 2019. Neither organisation would say how the services would be priced, but Lord Hall said it would be "competitive". There are reports it could cost £5 a month.
A similar service, also called BritBox, is already available in the US and has amassed 500,000 subscribers.
Their announcement promises "an unrivalled collection of British boxsets and original series, on demand, all in one place." Diginomica writes that "the more cynical among us" might call it "a knee-jerk reaction to Netflix," adding "the BBC has a bad case of Netflix envy."
They ask where this would leave future BBC-Netflix joint productions -- and whether BBC content would be removed from both Netflix and Amazon. But they also believe that if there is a threat to Netflix, it's the upcoming Disney+ streaming service with original Star Wars content scheduled to launch in late 2019.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's sad-news department
An anonymous reader quotes the San Francisco Chronicle:
Tristan O'Tierney, a co-founder of San Francisco payments company Square, died Feb. 23 in Ocala, Fla., of causes related to addiction, his family said. He was 35...
His family is awaiting an official cause of death from officials. "I do know that it was in relation to his addiction," [his mother] Pamela Tierney said. "I know he got to the hospital, he couldn't breathe and they couldn't revive him." O'Tierney was in a three-month rehabilitation program in Ocala and had been battling addiction for three years, Tierney said. O'Tierney openly discussed his struggles with addiction on social media. "As some of you may know, I've been battling with addiction for these past few years," he wrote in September in a now-deleted Instagram post that he also shared on Twitter. "With some success. A lot of failure too though."
Bloomberg remembers him as a former engineer at Yahoo and Apple who was hired to develop Square's original mobile payment app in 2009, then stayed on until 2013.
"In addition his parents, O'Tierney is survived by his three-old-year daughter, according to an obituary on the website for the funeral home."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's leaning-in department
"Facebook threatened to pull investment projects from Europe and Canada if lobbying demands from COO Sheryl Sandberg were not met," reports Business Insider, adding "Canada buckled immediately."
And that's just the beginning. The Observer reports:
Facebook has targeted politicians around the world -- including the former UK chancellor, George Osborne -- promising investments and incentives while seeking to pressure them into lobbying on Facebook's behalf against data privacy legislation, an explosive new leak of internal Facebook documents has revealed. The documents, which have been seen by the Observer and Computer Weekly, reveal a secretive global lobbying operation targeting hundreds of legislators and regulators in an attempt to procure influence across the world, including in the UK, US, Canada, India, Vietnam, Argentina, Brazil, Malaysia and all 28 states of the EU...
The documents appear to emanate from a court case against Facebook by the app developer Six4Three in California, and reveal that Sandberg considered European data protection legislation a "critical" threat to the company. A memo written after the Davos economic summit in 2013 quotes Sandberg describing the "uphill battle" the company faced in Europe on the "data and privacy front" and its "critical" efforts to head off "overly prescriptive new laws...." John Naughton, a Cambridge academic and Observer writer who studies the democratic implications of digital technology, said the leak was "explosive" in the way it revealed the "vassalage" of the Irish state to the big tech companies. Ireland had welcomed the companies, he noted, but became "caught between a rock and a hard place... Its leading politicians apparently saw themselves as covert lobbyists for a data monster."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's renewable-fossil-fuel department
"Scientists have managed to turn CO2 from a gas back into solid 'coal'," reports The Independent, "in a breakthrough which could potentially help remove the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere."
Long-time Slashdot reader bbsguru shared their report:
The research team led by RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, developed a new technique using a liquid metal electrolysis method which efficiently converts CO2 from a gas into solid particles of carbon. Published in the journal Nature Communications, the authors say their technology offers an alternative pathway for "safely and permanently" removing CO2 from the atmosphere....
RMIT researcher Dr Torben Daeneke said: "While we can't literally turn back time, turning carbon dioxide back into coal and burying it back in the ground is a bit like rewinding the emissions clock...." Lead author, Dr Dorna Esrafilzadeh said the carbon produced by the technique could also be used as an electrode.
"A side benefit of the process is that the carbon can hold electrical charge, becoming a supercapacitor, so it could potentially be used as a component in future vehicles," she said. "The process also produces synthetic fuel as a by-product, which could also have industrial applications."
More coverage from Fast Company, Science magazine, and the CBC.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's not-so-great-firewall department
Long-time Slashdot reader retroworks shared this EFF article:
Although relatively little news gets out of Xinjiang to the rest of the world, we've known for over a year that China has been testing facial-recognition tracking and alert systems across Xinjiang and mandating the collection of biometric data -- including DNA samples, voice samples, fingerprints, and iris scans -- from all residents between the ages of 12 and 65... Earlier this month, security researcher Victor Gevers found and disclosed an exposed database live-tracking the locations of about 2.6 million residents of Xinjiang, China, offering a window into what a digital surveillance state looks like in the 21st century...
Over a period of 24 hours, 6.7 million individual GPS coordinates were streamed to and collected by the database, linking individuals to various public camera streams and identification checkpoints associated with location tags such as "hotel," "mosque," and "police station." The GPS coordinates were all located within Xinjiang. This database is owned by the company SenseNets, a private AI company advertising facial recognition and crowd analysis technologies. A couple of days later, Gevers reported a second open database tracking the movement of millions of cars and pedestrians. Violations like jaywalking, speeding, and going through a red-light are detected, trigger the camera to take a photo, and ping a WeChat API, presumably to try and tie the event to an identity.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's letting-someone-else-drive department
Tesla's now taking orders for Model 3's with a "full self-driving capability" -- meaning "automatic driving on city streets." CNN reports that experts on self-driving technology "say CEO Elon Musk is playing fast and loose with definitions, overselling the technology and potentially creating safety issues."
Experts say Tesla's "full self-driving" feature is really a partial self-driving feature that handles minor driving tasks such as keeping pace with other cars on a highway and still requires diligent human oversight. To most autonomous vehicle experts, "full self-driving" means a car in which a person could safely fall asleep behind the wheel, and the steering wheel and pedals aren't even needed...
Dean Pomerleau, of Carnegie Mellon University, who in 1995 drove a minivan that steered itself across the country, told CNN Business he has "grave concerns" about Tesla's practices on autonomous driving. "Claiming its vehicles will soon be 'feature complete' for full self-driving is one more step in the unconscionable practices that Tesla is already engaged in with Autopilot -- overselling its capabilities and reliability when marketing its vehicles and then blaming the driver for not reading the manual and paying constant attention when the technology inevitably fails," Pomerleau said.
CNN notes a 2018 study which found that 71% of drivers believe they could already purchase a self-driving car today -- despite the fact that currently there are no such fully-autonomous vehicles. "Experts warn that this lack of understanding could be deadly as humans may put too much trust in systems like Tesla's, leading to crashes...."
"A Tesla spokeswoman declined to comment on details around the automatic driving option, and pointed CNN Business to fine print on Tesla's order page that tells buyers the currently enabled features require 'active' driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Dear-Tech-Company department
"Technology hasn't fallen short of its promise. Tech companies have," argues Evan Selinger, a philosophy professor at Rochester Institute of Technology, reporting on a new "collaborative video response to IBM's Dear Tech Ad" (which was aired during last week's telecast of the Oscar's). Earlier Selinger wrote:
[IBM's] infantilizing ad depicts technology as if it were an autonomous person, a benevolent Santa Claus figure that can give great products to all the good little girls and boys if they ask politely.... It all sounds nice. But the message obscures the fact that technology hasn't fallen short of its promise. It's recalcitrant tech companies that need to change. That includes IBM....
IBM isn't alone in this sunny disingenuousness. Its competitors also give lip service to listening to our hopes and dreams while shutting down criticism that's voiced to make things better... A commercial like this one can't avoid being an empty marketing pitch when it represents a contested concept as a clear and unambiguous wish that technology can magically grant just as easily as Santa can satisfy a request for a new smartphone.
So a team of tech critics including Joy Buolamwini of the MIT Media Lab "created an alternative to IBM's ad. It's a provocative, line-by-line, video counterstatement" -- not "Dear Tech," but "Dear Tech Company."
Here are some of its more provocative quotes:Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's two-thumbs-down department
"Amazon has apparently started removing anti-vaccine documentaries from its Amazon Prime Video streaming service," reports CNN:
The move came days after a CNN Business report highlighted the anti-vaccine content available on the site, and hours after Rep. Adam Schiff wrote an open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, saying he is concerned "that Amazon is surfacing and recommending" anti-vaccination books and movies....
Amazon did not respond to questions about why the films are no longer available on Prime Video.
However, while some anti-vaccine videos are gone from the Prime streaming service, a number of anti-vaccine books were still available for purchase on Amazon.com when CNN Business reviewed search results on Friday afternoon, and some were still being offered for free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers... Amazon also had not removed some anti-vaccine books that CNN Business had previously reported on, which users searching the site could mistake for offering neutral information accepted by the public health community.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's we-need-to-stalk department
Long-time Slashdot reader dryriver sees it like this:
Lets say that I follow a person named John D. around for days without permission, make note of what John D. does and where he buys with timestamps accurate to the second without John D. knowing it is happening, analyze what kind of personality traits John D. has, enter that data into an electronic database where it is stored forever, and also make the data purchaseable to any third party who is interested.
Would I be breaking the law if John D. has not given me explicit permission to do this? Very likely. If this is the case for "meatspace data gathering", how can websites justify gathering information about visitors, and selling that information to third parties?
How would you answer this question? Attempt your own best explantions in the comments. How is your country balancing the need for online privacy with actual laws governing what can and can't be collected?
How is it even legal for web sites to gather and sell users' data?Read Replies (0)