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Scientists Find Life In 'Mars-Like' Chilean Desert
Posted by News Fetcher on February 27 '18 at 11:20 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's extra-terrestrial department:
An anonymous reader writes: In 1938, CBS radio aired Orson Welles' dramatization of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds ; the broadcast was livened up by periodic "news bulletins" reporting strange activity on Mars and in New Jersey. There may or may have not been men on Mars at the time, and later opinions also differ on whether the broadcast caused widespread panic across the U.S. Eighty years later, scientists are again claiming to have found evidence on earth of Martian life. Well, not exactly Martian life... Washington State University reports: "For the first time, researchers have seen life rebounding in the world's driest desert, demonstrating that it could also be lurking in the soils of Mars. Led by Washington State University planetary scientist Dirk Schulze-Makuch, an international team studied the driest corner of South America's Atacama Desert, where decades pass without any rain. Scientists have long wondered whether microbes in the soil of this hyperarid environment, the most similar place on Earth to the Martian surface, are permanent residents or merely dying vestiges of life, blown in by the weather. Billions of years ago, Mars had small oceans and lakes where early lifeforms may have thrived. As the planet dried up and grew colder, these organisms could have evolved many of the adaptations lifeforms in the Atacama soil use to survive on Earth, Schulze-Makuch said. 'We know there is water frozen in the Martian soil and recent research strongly suggests nightly snowfalls and other increased moisture events near the surface,' he said. 'If life ever evolved on Mars, our research suggests it could have found a subsurface niche beneath today's severely hyper-arid surface.'" The study has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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US House Passes Bill To Penalize Websites For Sex Trafficking
Posted by News Fetcher on February 27 '18 at 08:40 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's modern-day-slavery department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Thomson Reuters Foundation News: The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed legislation to make it easier to penalize operators of websites that facilitate online sex trafficking, chipping away at a bedrock legal shield for the technology industry. The bill's passage marks one of the most concrete actions in recent years from the U.S. Congress to tighten regulation of internet firms, which have drawn heavy scrutiny from lawmakers in both parties over the past year due to an array of concerns regarding the size and influence of their platforms. The House passed the measure 388-25. It still needs to pass the U.S. Senate, where similar legislation has already gained substantial support, and then be signed by President Donald Trump before it can become law.

Several major internet companies, including Alphabet Inc's Google and Facebook Inc, had been reluctant to support any congressional effort to dent what is known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a decades-old law that protects them from liability for the activities of their users. But facing political pressure, the internet industry slowly warmed to a proposal that gained traction in the Senate last year, and eventually endorsed it after it gained sizable bipartisan support. The legislation is a result of years of law-enforcement lobbying for a crackdown on the online classified site backpage.com, which is used for sex advertising. It would make it easier for states and sex-trafficking victims to sue social media networks, advertisers and others that fail to keep exploitative material off their platforms.

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Facebook Silently Enables Facial Recognition Abilities For Users Outside EU, Canada
Posted by News Fetcher on February 27 '18 at 06:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's heads-up department:
Facebook is now informing users around the world that it's rolling out facial recognition features. Users in the European Union and Canada will not be notified because laws restrict this type of activity in those areas. Neowin reports: With the new tools, you'll be able to find photos that you're in but haven't been tagged in; they'll help you protect yourself against strangers using your photo; and Facebook will be able to tell people with visual impairments who's in their photos and videos. By default, Facebook warns that this feature is enabled but can be switched off at any time; additionally, the firm says it may add new capabilities at any time. In its initial statement, Facebook said the following about the impersonation protections it was introducing: "We want people to feel confident when they post pictures of themselves on Facebook so we'll soon begin using face recognition technology to let people know when someone else uploads a photo of them as their profile picture. We're doing this to prevent people from impersonating others on Facebook."

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Nokia, Vodafone To Bring 4G To the Moon
Posted by News Fetcher on February 27 '18 at 06:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's first-of-its-kind department:
According to Reuters, the moon will get its first mobile phone network next year, enabling high-definition streaming from the landscape back to earth. "Vodafone Germany, network equipment maker Nokia and carmaker Audi said on Tuesday they were working together to support the mission, 50 years after the first NASA astronauts walked on the moon." From the report: Vodafone said it had appointed Nokia as its technology partner to develop a space-grade network which would be a small piece of hardware weighing less than a bag of sugar. The companies are working with Berlin-based company PTScientists on the project, with a launch scheduled in 2019 from Cape Canaveral on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, Vodafone said. One executive involved said the decision to build a 4G network rather than a state-of-the-art 5G network was taken because the next generation networks remain in the testing and trial stage and are not stable enough to ensure they would work from the lunar surface.

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Amazon Buys Smart Doorbell Maker Ring For a Reported $1 Billion
Posted by News Fetcher on February 27 '18 at 04:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's market-disruption department:
hyperclocker shares a report from CNBC: Amazon is buying smart doorbell maker Ring, a deal that will allow the company to expand its home security and in-house delivery services. In an email statement to CNBC, Ring's spokesperson confirmed the deal, saying: "We'll be able to achieve even more by partnering with an inventive, customer-centric company like Amazon. We look forward to being a part of the Amazon team as we work toward our vision for safer neighborhoods." Amazon is expected to keep Ring as an independent business, much like it has with its other acquisitions, like Zappos and Twitch, according to GeekWire, which earlier reported details of the deal. Financial details of the move were not disclosed, but Reuters reported it could be worth more than $1 billion, making it one of the largest acquisitions in Amazon's history.

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New Apple Patent Imagines an OLED Screen As a Keyboard For MacBooks
Posted by News Fetcher on February 27 '18 at 04:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's two-is-better-than-one department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The United States Patent and Trademark Office has granted Apple a patent titled "dual display equipment with enhanced visibility and suppressed reflections." The documentation for what is patent number 9,904,502 outlines a device that would use a second display as a dynamic keyboard. Two implementations of this design are described in the patent application, according to Patently Apple. The first utilizes a permanent hinge, while the second allows the screen to be removed and used separately, along the lines of Microsoft's Surface Pro range and other two-in-one computers. The patent documentation makes it clear that the implementation is not intended as an accessory that would allow two iPads to be paired together, with one serving as the keyboard. Additionally, illustrations associated with the application explicitly state that one screen is an OLED display, while the other is an LCD. A double-display set-up could provide easy access to a different keyboard layout language, context-sensitive controls, or even a large sketching surface to use in conjunction with something like an Apple Pencil. However, that flexibility would come at the cost of the traditional typing experience offered by a mechanical keyboard.

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Google Releases Info On 2.4 Million 'Right To Be Forgotten' Requests
Posted by News Fetcher on February 27 '18 at 03:22 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's transparency-report department:
According to Google's latest transparency report, the company has received 2.4 million "right to be forgotten" requests since 2014, most of which came from private individuals. Engadget reports: Europe's biggest court passed the right to be forgotten law in 2014, compelling the tech titan to remove personal info from its search engine upon request. In the report, Google has revealed that it complied with 43.3 percent of all the requests it's gotten and has also detailed the nature of those takedown pleas. France, Germany and the UK apparently generated 51 percent of all the URL delisting appeals. Overall, 89 percent of the takedown pleas came from private individuals: Non-government figures such as celebrities submitted 41,213 of the URLs in Google's pile, while politicians and government officials submitted 33,937. As Gizmodo noted, though, there's a small group of law firms and reputation management services submitting numerous pleas, suggesting the rise of reputation-fixing business in the region.

Out of those 2.4 million requests, 19.1 percent are directory URLs, while news websites and social networks only make up 17.6 and 11.6 percent of them. Majority of the URLs submitted for removal are random online destinations that don't fall under any of the previous categories. As for the takedown's reasons, it looks 18.1 percent of the submissions want their professional info scrubbed, 7.7 percent want info they previously posted online themselves to be removed and 6.1 percent want their crimes hidden from search.

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Net Neutrality Repeal Will Get a Senate Vote In the Spring, Democrats Say
Posted by News Fetcher on February 27 '18 at 03:22 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's saga-continues department:
Congressional Democrats today introduced legislation that would prevent the repeal of net neutrality rules, but they still need more support from Republicans in order to pass the measure. According to Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), they will force a vote on the Senate version of the resolution sometime this spring. Ars Technica reports: Democrats have been promising to introduce a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution ever since the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal its net neutrality rules in December. But lawmakers had to wait for the FCC's repeal order to be published in the Federal Register, which only happened last week. The CRA resolution would nullify the FCC's repeal order, allowing net neutrality rules that were passed in 2015 to remain in place. The resolution has public support from 50 out of 100 senators (all Democrats, all Independents, and one Republican), putting it one vote shy of passage in the Senate.

"The grassroots movement to reinstate net neutrality is growing by the day, and we will get that one more vote needed to pass my CRA resolution," Markey said. "I urge my Republican colleagues to join the overwhelming majority of Americans who support a free and open Internet. The Internet is for all -- the students, teachers, innovators, hard-working families, small businesses, and activists, not just Verizon, Charter, AT&T, and Comcast and corporate interests."

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Bill Gates: Cryptocurrency Is 'Rare Technology That Has Caused Deaths In a Fairly Direct Way'
Posted by News Fetcher on February 27 '18 at 02:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's super-risky department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: During a recent "Ask Me Anything" session on Reddit, the Microsoft co-founder said that the main feature of cryptocurrencies is the anonymity they provide to buyers, and Gates thinks that can actually be harmful. "The government's ability to find money laundering and tax evasion and terrorist funding is a good thing," he wrote. "Right now, cryptocurrencies are used for buying fentanyl and other drugs, so it is a rare technology that has caused deaths in a fairly direct way." When a Reddit user pointed out that plain cash can also be used for illicit activities, Gates said that crypto stands out because it can be easier to use. "Yes -- anonymous cash is used for these kinds of things, but you have to be physically present to transfer it, which makes things like kidnapping payments more difficult," he wrote. Gates also warned that the wave of speculation surrounding cryptocurrencies is "super risky for those who go long."

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ESRB Introducing 'In-Game Purchases' Label in Response To Loot Box Controversy
Posted by News Fetcher on February 27 '18 at 02:01 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's taking-a-stand department:
The Entertainment Software Rating Board will begin labeling video games that contain in-game purchases, a response to lawmakers who have noticed the outcry over so-called loot crate systems and have signaled a willingness to legislate them. From a report: The labeling will "be applied to games with in-game offers to purchase digital goods or premiums with real world currency," the ESRB said in a news release this morning, "including but not limited to bonus levels, skins, surprise items (such as item packs, loot boxes, mystery awards), music, virtual coins and other forms of in-game currency, subscriptions, season passes and upgrades (e.g., to disable ads)." The label will appear separate from the familiar ESRB rating label (T-for-Teen, M-for-Mature, etc.) and not inside it. Additionally, the ESRB has begun an awareness campaign meant to highlight the controls available to parents whose households have a video game console.

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Microbes Found in Earth's Deep Ocean Might Grow on Saturn's Moon Enceladus
Posted by News Fetcher on February 27 '18 at 12:42 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's the-search-continues department:
Life as we know it needs three things: energy, water and chemistry. Saturn's icy moon Enceladus has them all, as NASA spacecraft Cassini confirmed in the final years of its mission to that planet. From a report: Scientists have successfully cultivated a few of these tiny organisms in the lab under the same conditions that are thought to exist on the distant moon, opening up the possibility that life might be lurking under the world's surface. Enceladus is one of the most intriguing places in the Solar System since it has many crucial ingredients needed for life to thrive. For one, it has lots of water. NASA's Cassini spacecraft -- which explored the Saturn system from 2004 to 2017 -- found that plumes of gas and particles erupt from the south pole of Enceladus, and these geysers stem from a global liquid water ocean underneath the moon's crust. Scientists think that there may be hot vents in this ocean, too -- cracks in the sea floor where heated rock mingles with the frigid waters. This mixing of hot and cold material seems to be creating a soup of chemical compounds that might support life.

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Supreme Court Wrestles With Microsoft Data Privacy Fight
Posted by News Fetcher on February 27 '18 at 12:42 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department:
Supreme Court justices on Tuesday wrestled with Microsoft's dispute with the U.S. Justice Department over whether prosecutors can force technology companies to hand over data stored overseas, with some signaling support for the government and others urging Congress to pass a law to resolve the issue. From a report: Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, both conservatives, hinted during an hour-long argument in the case at support for the Justice Department's stance that because Microsoft is based in the United States it was obligated to turn over data sought by prosecutors in a U.S. warrant. As the nine justices grappled with the technological complexities of email data storage, liberals Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor questioned whether the court needed to act in the data privacy case in light of Congress now considering bipartisan legislation that would resolve the legal issue. A ruling is due by the end of June.

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China To Crack Down on Cryptocurrency Trading Loophole
Posted by News Fetcher on February 27 '18 at 11:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's further-crackdown department:
China is opening a new front in its battle against cryptocurrencies, targeting platforms that allow the nation's investors to trade digital assets on overseas exchanges, Bloomberg reported Tuesday citing people familiar with the matter said. From a report: Regulators are planning to scrutinize the Chinese bank and online-payment accounts of businesses and individuals suspected of facilitating trades on offshore cryptocurrency venues, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private. The accounts' owners could have their assets frozen or be blocked from the domestic financial system, the people said. The measures are designed to cut off one of the few remaining avenues for Chinese citizens to buy digital assets. While the country was once home to the world's most active cryptocurrency exchanges, authorities banned the venues last year and have since moved to block access to platforms that offer exchange-like services.

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Forget Learning To Code, Bosses Value Collaboration and Communication
Posted by News Fetcher on February 27 '18 at 11:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's what's-hot-these-days department:
The top priority for developing talent is to train for soft skills, according to LinkedIn's 2018 Workplace Learning Report which surveyed more than 4,000 professionals. From a report: The report found that while automation is requiring workers to maintain technical fluency across roles, the rise of machine-led tasks makes it necessary for them to do what machines can't, which is to be adaptable, critical thinkers who can lead and communicate well.

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After Rising For 100 Years, Electricity Demand is Flat
Posted by News Fetcher on February 27 '18 at 10:03 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: The US electricity sector is in a period of unprecedented change and turmoil. Renewable energy prices are falling like crazy. Natural gas production continues its extraordinary surge. Coal, the golden child of the current administration, is headed down the tubes. In all that bedlam, it's easy to lose sight of an equally important (if less sexy) trend: Demand for electricity is stagnant. Thanks to a combination of greater energy efficiency, outsourcing of heavy industry, and customers generating their own power on site, demand for utility power has been flat for 10 years, and most forecasts expect it to stay that way. The die was cast around 1998, when GDP growth and electricity demand growth became "decoupled." This historic shift has wreaked havoc in the utility industry in ways large and small, visible and obscure. Some of that havoc is high-profile and headline-making, as in the recent requests from utilities (and attempts by the Trump administration) to bail out large coal and nuclear plants.

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German Cities Can Ban Diesel Cars, Court Rules
Posted by News Fetcher on February 27 '18 at 10:03 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
A German court has ruled that cities in Germany are allowed to enact bans on diesel vehicles, Reuters reports. It's unlikely that bans will magically appear across the country overnight, but not everyone in the country is happy about this decision. From a report: Environmentalists might be happy about the possibility of banning some of the road's dirtiest cars, but owners and right-leaning groups are not. Reuters reports that some politicians believe this decision could disenfranchise a large swath of car owners across the country, many of whom likely can't afford to immediately replace a vehicle.

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California Scraps Safety Driver Rules for Self-Driving Cars
Posted by News Fetcher on February 27 '18 at 08:40 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
California regulators have given the green light to truly driverless cars. From a report: The state's Department of Motor Vehicles said Monday that it was eliminating a requirement for autonomous vehicles to have a person in the driver's seat to take over in the event of an emergency. The new rule goes into effect on April 2. California has given 50 companies a license to test self-driving vehicles in the state. The new rules also require companies to be able to operate the vehicle remotely -- a bit like a flying military drone -- and communicate with law enforcement and other drivers when something goes wrong. The changes signal a step toward the wider deployment of autonomous vehicles. One of the main economic benefits praised by proponents of driverless vehicles is that they will not be limited by human boundaries and can do things like operate 24 hours in a row without a drop-off in alertness or attentiveness. Taking the human out of the front seat is an important psychological and logistical step before truly driverless cars can hit the road. "This is a major step forward for autonomous technology in California," said Jean Shiomoto, director of California's D.M.V. "Safety is our top concern and we are ready to begin working with manufacturers that are prepared to test fully driverless vehicles in California."

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Relying on Renewables Alone Significantly Inflates the Cost of Overhauling Energy
Posted by News Fetcher on February 27 '18 at 08:40 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
A growing number of US cities and states have proposed or even passed legislation that would require producing all electricity from renewable energy sources like solar and wind within a few decades. That might sound like a great idea. But a growing body of evidence shows it's not. From a report: It increasingly appears that insisting on 100 percent renewable sources -- and disdaining others that don't produce greenhouse gases, such as nuclear power and fossil-fuel plants with carbon-capture technology -- is wastefully expensive and needlessly difficult. In the latest piece of evidence, a study published in Energy & Environmental Science determined that solar and wind energy alone could reliably meet about 80 percent of recent US annual electricity demand, but massive investments in energy storage and transmission would be needed to avoid major blackouts. Pushing to meet 100 percent of demand with these resources would require building a huge number of additional wind and solar farms -- or expanding electricity storage to an extent that would be prohibitively expensive at current prices. Or some of both.

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Code.org Celebrates 5th Anniversary, Success In Changing K-12 Education Policy
Posted by News Fetcher on February 27 '18 at 08:40 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
theodp writes: It's exactly five years since Code.org launched with the video What Most Schools Don't Teach ," noted Code.org in a Monday blog post entitled Dedicating Our 5 year Anniversary to our Partners. "Since then, tens of millions of students have begun learning computer science, hundreds of thousands of schools have begun teaching CS, tens of thousands of teachers have attended workshops to introduce CS in their classrooms, hundreds of school districts have added CS to their curriculum, and forty U.S. states and 25 countries have announced policies and plans to support CS in schools [...] We should start by thanking our amazing donors, particularly Amazon [$10+ million], Facebook [$10+ million], Google [$3+ million], Infosys [$10+ million], and Microsoft [$10+ million]. Whether it's corporate funders, foundations, or individual donors, without your generous funding, we wouldn't exist [...] Changing education policies in forty states wouldn't be possible without the help of Microsoft, College Board, Amazon, and every partner in the Code.org Advocacy Coalition [...] We're particularly fortunate and proud to have had the vocal support of Bill Gates [$4+ million] and Mark Zuckerberg [$1+ million] since day one." Hey, it takes a corporate village to raise a CS-savvy child!

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Microsoft Updates Guideline on Windows Driver Security
Posted by News Fetcher on February 27 '18 at 08:40 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft has released an updated guide on driver security. This new guide offers advice that developers could use to ensure Windows drivers are secured against basic attacks and preventable flaws. The new guide -- also available as a one-document PDF -- is authored by Microsoft's Don Marshall and comes to replace an older help page. [...] While the driver security checklist is a must-read for any software developer and not just driver authors, the guide on assessing "threat modeling for drivers" is also something that software engineers should take a peek at.

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