By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
An anonymous reader shares a report: A Canadian biologist planted the seed of the idea more than a decade ago, but many plant biologists regarded it as heretical -- plants lack the nervous systems that enable animals to recognize kin, so how can they know their relatives? But with a series of recent findings, the notion that plants really do care for their most genetically close peers -- in a quiet, plant-y way -- is taking root.
. Some species constrain how far their roots spread, others change how many flowers they produce, and a few tilt or shift their leaves to minimize shading of neighboring plants, favoring related individuals.
"We need to recognize that plants not only sense whether it's light or dark or if they've been touched, but also whom they are interacting with," says Susan Dudley, a plant evolutionary ecologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, whose early plant kin recognition studies sparked the interest of many scientists. Beyond broadening views of plant behavior, the new work may have a practical side. In September 2018, a team in China reported that rice planted with kin grows better, a finding that suggested family ties can be exploited to improve crop yields. "It seems anytime anyone looks for it, they find a kin effect," says Andre Kessler, a chemical ecologist at Cornell University.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's privacy-woes department
A stolen cache of personal information belonging to nearly 1,000 German politicians -- including outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel -- has been leaked, according to a report published Thursday. From a report: The information includes everything from phone numbers and credit card details to private messages with family members, German media said. The hack has impacted national, regional and EU politicians from all major parties except for members of the far-right Alternative for Germany (Alternative fur Deutschland, or AfD) party. Journalists, musicians, comedians and activists were also targeted. There is currently no indication of who was behind the attack, but the hacker or hackers leaked information for more than a month on Twitter before the media picked it up.
The scale of the hack was first reported by RBB, leading Justice Minister Katarina Barley to call it a "serious attack" Friday morning. "The people behind this want to damage confidence in our democracy and institutions," Barley said. The federal office for information security (BSI) said Friday it was investigating, adding that government networks had not been affected.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's new-trends department
In 2018, Best Buy decided to stop selling CDs, with the change partly brought on by record labels' increasing reluctance to even issue them. Both choices are symptoms as well as causes of a seemingly inevitable trend: Buying music is now going out of style nearly as fast as streaming music is rising. From a report: In 2018, album sales fell 18.2 percent from the previous year and song sales fell 28.8 percent, according to U.S. year-end report figures from data company BuzzAngle, which tracks music consumption. Meanwhile, total on-demand music streams, including both audio and video, shot up 35.4 percent. Audio on-demand streams set a new record high in 2018 of 534.6 billion streams, which is up 42 percent from 2017's 376.9 billion streams.
It's tricky to compare the specific unit numbers of sales to streams --since such a comparison would be pitting continuous playback of a certain piece of music against a one-time purchase of it -- but certain other milestones in the consumption market can help highlight just how much streaming is replacing physical sales and downloads in America. For instance: Even though total song downloads are still in the hundreds of millions, they're coming down in scale at the top. In 2018, there was not a single song that broke 1 million sales -- compared to 14 songs that reached that figure in 2017, 36 in 2016 and 60 in 2015. At the 2 million sales mark, two songs took that trophy in 2017, while five claimed it in 2016 and 16 songs made it in 2015, throwing the modest figures of this year's sales into even sharper relief.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's first-of-its-kind department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Washington could become the first state to embrace another funerary practice by making it legal to compost the dead. The method is called "recomposing" and claims to be cheaper and more environmentally friendly than traditional burial or cremation. It involves rapidly decomposing a body and converting the remains into soil. That nutrient-rich material can then be used to grow trees, flowers, and other new life. The alternative practice hinges on a bill that state senator Jamie Pedersen plans to introduce next month, according to NBC. It would legalize recomposing in Washington where burial and cremation are currently the only acceptable ways to dispose of human remains. A public-benefit corporation, Recompose, is responsible for the actual composting. "The transformation of human to soil happens inside our reusable, hexagonal recomposition vessels," Recompose states in an FAQ. "When the process has finished, families will be able to take home some of the soil created, while gardens on-site will remind us that all of life is interconnected."
"The process utilizes a 5-foot-by-10-foot pod full of organic 'tinder' such as straw and wood chips," reports Motherboard. "Thermophilic or heat-loving microbes then metabolize the remains, maintaining an internal temperature of 131 degrees Fahrenheit within the vessel. The entire ritual takes one month, and produces a cubic yard of compost, according to Recompose." Non-organic materials such as artificial hips will be screened for and recycled, and people will certain illnesses may be ineligible since some pathogens may be resistant to the composting process.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sounds-cooler-than-it-is department
The L3 protection level of Google's Widevine DRM technology has been cracked by a British security researcher who can now decrypt content transferred via DRM-protected multimedia streams. ZDNet's Catalin Cimpanu notes that while this "sounds very cool," it's not likely to fuel a massive piracy wave because "the hack works only against Widevine L3 streams, and not L2 and L1, which are the ones that carry high-quality audio and video content." From the report: Google designed its Widevine DRM technology to work on three data protection levels --L1, L2, and L3-- each usable in various scenarios. According to Google's docs, the differences between the three protection levels is as follows:
L1 - all content processing and cryptography operations are handled inside a CPU that supports a Trusted Execution Environment (TEE).
L2 - only cryptography operations are handled inside a TEE.
L3 - content processing and cryptography operations are (intentionally) handled outside of a TEE, or the device doesn't support a TEE
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's technology-to-the-rescue department
Conservation nonprofit Resolve is using AI-equipped cameras to act as remote park rangers and help spot wildlife poachers before they kill endangered animals. "Today, Resolve announced a new custom-made device called TrailGuard AI, which uses Intel-made vision chips to identify animals and humans that wander into view," reports The Verge. "The cameras will be placed on access trails used by poachers, automatically alerting park rangers who can check up on any suspicious activity." From the report: TrailGuard AI builds on past work by Resolve to create remote cameras to aid conservation. However, early devices were bulky, had limited battery life, and were unsophisticated, sending images to rangers every time their motion sensors were tripped. This resulted in lots of false positives, as the cameras would be triggered by non-events, such as the wind shaking tree branches. The new device, by comparison, is no thicker than a human index finger, has a battery life of a year and a half, and can reliably identify humans, animals, and vehicles. The chip used by Resolve is Intel's Movidius Myriad 2 VPU (or vision processing unit), which is the same technology that powered Google's automatic Clips camera.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's food-for-thought department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: There's a big molecule, a protein, inside the leaves of most plants. It's called Rubisco, which is short for an actual chemical name that's very long and hard to remember. Rubisco has one job. It picks up carbon dioxide from the air, and it uses the carbon to make sugar molecules. It gets the energy to do this from the sun. This is photosynthesis, the process by which plants use sunlight to make food, a foundation of life on Earth. "But it has what we like to call one fatal flaw," Amanda Cavanagh, a biologist and post-doctoral researcher at the University of Illinois, says. Unfortunately, Rubisco isn't picky enough about what it grabs from the air. It also picks up oxygen. "When it does that, it makes a toxic compound, so the plant has to detoxify it."
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's solar-and-wind-complementarity department
According to new research from Rice University, Texas has enough natural patterns of wind and sun to operate without coal. "Scientists found that between wind energy from West Texas and the Gulf Coast, and solar energy across the state, Texas could meet a significant portion of its electricity demand from renewable power without extensive battery storage," reports Houston Chronicle. "The reason: These sources generate power at different times of day, meaning that coordinating them could replace production from coal-fired plants." From the report: Texas is the largest producer of wind energy in the United States, generating about 18 percent of its electricity from wind. Most of the state's wind turbines are located in West Texas, where the wind blows the strongest at night and in the early spring, when demand is low. The resource, however, can be complemented by turbines on the Gulf Coast, where wind produces the most electricity on late afternoons in the summer, when power demand is the highest. Solar energy, a small, but rapidly growing segment of the state's energy mix, also has the advantage of generating power when it is needed most -- hot, sunny summer afternoons.
In the summer, Gulf Coast wind generation could overtake West Texas wind capacity from about 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. when sea breezes kick in, Rice research showed. From about 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., solar power average capacity also could exceed wind generation in West Texas, which increases as evening turns to night. In the winter, winds in West Texas strengthen and generation increases, dropping off about 9 a.m., when solar energy begins to ramp up. "It's all a matter of timing," said Dan Woodfin, senior director of system operations at the state's grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. Weather, however, remains unpredictable. Texas would still need battery storage and natural gas-fired power plants to fill in gaps when, for example, winds might slacken earlier than expected.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's second-year-running department
For the second year in a row, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai will not be attending the annual Consumer Electronics Show. According to Politico Pro, Pai and Commissioner Brendan Carr are canceling their appearances at CES as a consequence of the ongoing partial government shutdown. Last year, Pai canceled due to death threats he received in the aftermath of the net neutrality rollback, which occurred just weeks prior to the conference. The Verge reports: Carr was expected to attend a roundtable session with Federal Trade Commission Commissioner Rebecca Slaughter to discuss regulatory and policy issues involving 5G, privacy and accessibly, along with other topics. Both events have been removed from the CES schedule, but organizers have yet to respond to requests for comment. As of Thursday afternoon, non-essential FCC employees were furloughed and âoemostâ operations were suspended as Congress battles it out over a funding package for the upcoming fiscal year. While the agency is shut down, consumer complaints will not be heard, consumer protection enforcement actions will be ceased, and licensing services will end until new funding is approved. CES 2018 begins on January 8th and runs through the 11th. Pai was scheduled to speak on opening day at 1:30PM PST.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's behind-the-scenes department
hmckee writes: OSNews was offline for a few days for upgrades. It is now back up with a message that indicates they encountered a data breach and considered going offline for good due to maintenance and financial difficulties. "Our best guess is that someone was able to exploit a vulnerability in old, unmaintained code in the site's content management system, and made off with at least some user data, which may be as little as a few user records or, at worst, our entire database," writes Publisher David Adams. "Your email addresses were in there, and the encryption on the passwords wasn't up to modern standards (unsalted SHA1). [...] Other than potential spam, though, we're not aware of any other nefarious use of your data, we don't store much beyond email addresses and passwords..." David goes on to cite poor advertising revenues and a lack of time for reasons to throw in the towel and go offline permanently.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's lie-through-your-teeth department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A new lawsuit filed against Comcast details an extensive list of lies the cable company allegedly told customers in order to hide the full cost of service. Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson sued Comcast in Hennepin County District Court on December 21, seeking refunds for all customers who were harmed by Comcast's alleged violations of the state's Prevention of Consumer Fraud Act and Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The complaint alleges, among other things, that Comcast reps falsely told customers that the company's "Regional Sports Network (RSN)" and "Broadcast TV" fees were mandated by the government and not controlled by Comcast itself. These two fees, which are not included in Comcast's advertised rates, have gone up steadily and now total $18.25 a month.
Comcast has responded to some lawsuits -- including this one -- by saying that the company had already stopped the practices that triggered the court actions. But Minnesota says that Comcast's lies about the sports and broadcast fees continued into 2017, which is after Comcast knew about identical allegations raised in a separate class action complaint filed in 2016. (That case was settled out of court.) When contacted by Ars, a Comcast spokesperson yesterday said that "our policy is to be very clear to our customers about the broadcast TV and RSN fees and [tell them] that these are not government-mandated fees." But employees make mistakes, the Comcast spokesperson said. "Employees may go off script and incorrectly characterize things, but that is not in line with our policy because [the broadcast TV and sports charges] are not government-mandated fees," Comcast said. According to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, Comcast agreed in November to pay $700,000 in refunds "and cancel debts for more than 20,000 Massachusetts customers" to settle allegations that it used deceptive advertising to promote long-term cable contracts.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Still using your ex-roommates cable credentials to watch "Game of Thrones?" That may soon be getting a lot harder, thanks to new efforts to crack down on password sharing for pay TV and online video services. One of these efforts, launched by London-based Synamedia ahead of next week's Consumer Electronics Show (CES), even uses artificial intelligence to uncover notorious password sharers. Credentials Sharing Insight, as the new service is being called, targets both casual password sharing as well as criminal enterprises looking to resell pay TV login information. However, the focus clearly is on friends and family taking their generosity a bit too far, explained Symanedia chief product officer Jean-Marc Racine in an interview with Variety this week.
[...] Most services have tried to curtail password sharing by limiting the number of simultaneous streams, with little else to go by to identify abuse. "Today, you are in the dark," he said. Synamedia's solution on the other hand digs through lots of data to cluster users based on their streaming behavior. This can include user's physical location (someone streaming from both coasts at the same time) as well as general usage patterns (someone streaming 24/7). The company can even take a look at the specific content streamed by a user to identify unusual patterns. Based on these clues, Synamedia trains models to score users on a scale of 1 to 10, indicating whether they are likely sharing their passwords or not.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's a-lot-of-work-ahead department
Rather than serving up platitudes about innovation, the man charged with saving former unicorn Evernote says his priority this year is addressing the long list of user complaints. From a report: Despite some progress, Evernote continued to struggle last year, cutting 15 percent of its staff and losing many top executives.So what doesn't work? Lots of stuff, much of it very basic, new CEO Ian Small says: "Frankly, it's a bit disingenuous for me to try to get our most dedicated users all fired up about inventing the future of Evernote when exactly those same people are the ones who know best that sync doesn't always work right. Or that Evernote on Windows is a bit tired, and is missing features that are found on the Mac version. Or that each version of Evernote seems to work slightly differently, and exhibits its own unique collection of bugs and undesirable behaviors. Or that Evernote on mobile devices sometimes feels like a pared-down version of a powerful desktop app, instead of a mobile-first view into a powerful cloud-enabled productivity environment." Small says these problems have lingered for years and were well-known, but he didn't want to get into why they weren't fixed sooner. Instead, he promises the main focus of 2019 will be dealing with these and numerous other issues.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's in-the-aftermath department
Throughout 2018, researchers inside and outside Intel continued to find exploitable weaknesses related to Meltdown and Spectre class of "speculative execution" vulnerabilities. Fixing many of them takes not just software patches, but conceptually rethinking how processors are made. From a report: At the center of these efforts for Intel is STORM, the company's strategic offensive research and mitigation group, a team of hackers from around the world tasked with heading off next-generation security threats. Reacting to speculative execution vulnerabilities in particular has taken extensive collaboration among product development teams, legacy architecture groups, outreach and communications departments to coordinate response, and security-focused research groups at Intel. STORM has been at the heart of the technical side. "With Meltdown and Spectre we were very aggressive with how we approached this problem," says Dhinesh Manoharan, who heads Intel's offensive security research division, which includes STORM. "The amount of products that we needed to deal with and address and the pace in which we did this -- we set a really high bar."
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By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
On Wednesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook issued a dire warning to his investors. Apple, the world's first trillion dollar company, lowered its revenue forecast for the first time since 2002, thanks primarily to China, he said. But there was at least one more issue at play.
Motherboard: The lengthy letter cites, specifically, that people are buying fewer iPhones because they are repairing their old ones. Apple has long fought efforts that would make iPhones easier to repair: It has lobbied against right to repair efforts in several states, doesn't sell iPhone replacement parts, sued an independent repair professional in Norway, worked with Amazon to get iPhone and MacBook refurbishers kicked off Amazon Marketplace, and has deals with electronics recyclers that require them to shred iPhones and MacBooks (as opposed to allowing them to be refurbished.) The Department of Homeland Security, meanwhile, has seized iPhone replacement parts from prominent right to repair activists in the United States.
[...] Apple has never clearly articulated why it doesn't want people to fix their own iPhones or to have independent experts repair them. It has previously said that iPhones are "too complex" for users to repair them, even though replacing a battery is pretty easy and is done by average users all the time. But the fact that repair hurts Apple's bottom line came out in Cook's official communication with shareholders, who he is legally obligated to tell the truth to.Read Replies (0)