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Waymo Starts To Eclipse Uber in Race To Self-Driving Taxis
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '18 at 02:33 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Uber barreled into autonomous driving out of fear that it could end up as the MySpace or Yahoo of ride-hailing, a company with early gargantuan success that stumbled as times changed. Waymo, the self-driving offshoot of Google parent Alphabet, has pursued its ambitions more cautiously, accumulating long years of research and testing before pursuing a plan to bring its technology to the public. From a report: Now, as Waymo scales up its self-driving taxi service, Uber's fear could be coming to pass. This week, as Uber continued to reel from a fatal self-driving accident in Arizona, Waymo confidently pushed forward -- landing a deal to build 20,000 self-driving luxury SUVs with Jaguar Land Rover on top of its plan for thousands of Chysler hybrid minivans. Within two years, it aims to have thousands of fully autonomous taxis -- with no backup drivers behind the wheel -- on the roads, starting in Phoenix where it is already giving test rides. The company predicts it will give 1 million robot-taxi rides a day by 2020. Waymo, the industry pioneer, logged millions of autonomous miles as it perfected self-driving technology. But over the years, engineers defected out of frustration that it was not commercializing the technology. Now with former auto executive John Krafcik at the helm, Waymo appears poised to launch a self-driving taxi service that could conceivably dominate that field, at least early on, the way Uber does now with human-driven cars.

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Ajit Pai Faces Heat Over Proposal To Take Away Poor People's Broadband Plans
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '18 at 01:02 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's if-you-can't-stand-the-heat-get-out-of-the-kitchen department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Democratic senators yesterday asked Ajit Pai to abandon a proposal that the senators say would take subsidized broadband plans away from "millions of Americans." The Federal Communications Commission chairman's plan for the Lifeline subsidy program would force most users of the program to find new providers. But such users could have trouble finding replacement plans or similar prices because Pai's proposal would prevent all telecom resellers from offering Lifeline-subsidized service. "Your proposal impacts over 70 percent of current Lifeline-recipient households by eliminating their wireless providers from the program, leaving less affordable and fewer Lifeline options, while making it more difficult for the companies trying to serve Lifeline customers," Senate Democrats wrote in the letter to Pai yesterday. "Instead of cutting the program, we should ensure Lifeline reaches more Americans in need of access to communication services." The letter was written by Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).

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EPA Prepares To Roll Back Rules Requiring Cars To Be Cleaner and More Efficient
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '18 at 01:02 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's next-up department:
Coral Davenport and Hiroko Tabuchi, reporting for The New York Times: The Trump administration is expected to launch an effort in coming days to weaken greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy standards for automobiles, handing a victory to car manufacturers and giving them ammunition to potentially roll back industry standards worldwide. The move -- which undercuts one of President Barack Obama's signature efforts to fight climate change -- would also propel the Trump administration toward a courtroom clash with California, which has vowed to stick with the stricter rules even if Washington rolls back federal standards. That fight could end up creating one set of rules for cars sold in California and the 12 states that follow its lead, and weaker rules for the rest of the states, in effect splitting the nation into two markets. Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is expected to frame the initiative as eliminating a regulatory burden on automakers that will result in more affordable trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles for buyers, according to people familiar with the plan. An E.P.A. spokeswoman confirmed that Mr. Pruitt had sent a draft of the 16-page plan to the White House for approval. Further reading: EPA to its employees: Ignore science when talking about climate change (ArsTechnica)

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AI Tool, Which Has Digested Nearly Every Reaction Ever Performed, Can Invent New Ways To Create Complex Molecules
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '18 at 11:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's moving-forward department:
An anonymous reader shares a research paper: Researchers have developed a 'deep learning' computer program that produces blueprints for the sequences of reactions needed to create small organic molecules, such as drug compounds. The pathways that the tool suggests look just as good on paper as those devised by human chemists. The tool is not the first software to wield AI instead of human skill and intuition. Yet chemists hail the development as a milestone, saying that it could speed up the process of drug discovery and make organic chemistry more efficient. "What we have seen here is that this kind of artificial intelligence can capture this expert knowledge," says Pablo Carbonell, who designs synthesis-predicting tools at the University of Manchester, UK, and was not involved in the work. He describes the effort as "a landmark paper." [...] Chemists have conventionally scoured lists of reactions recorded by others, and drawn on their own intuition to work out a step-by-step pathway to make a particular compound. They usually work backwards, starting with the molecule they want to create and then analysing which readily available reagents and sequences of reactions could be used to synthesize it -- a process known as retrosynthesis, which can take hours or even days of planning. The new AI tool, developed by Marwin Segler, an organic chemist and artificial-intelligence researcher at the University of Munster in Germany, and his colleagues, uses deep-learning neural networks to imbibe essentially all known single-step organic-chemistry reactions -- about 12.4 million of them. This enables it to predict the chemical reactions that can be used in any single step. The tool repeatedly applies these neural networks in planning a multi-step synthesis, deconstructing the desired molecule until it ends up with the available starting reagents.

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A Struggling Town Is Reviving Itself With... Geocaching
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '18 at 11:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: In the town of Wilberforce, Ontario, a quick detour from the main street will take you to a seven-foot-tall wooden fork that sits at the point where the road splits into two -- a literal fork in the road. Unfamiliar passers-by may think it's a joke. But to locals, this landmark goes by the name "Fork and Beans." It has a logbook hidden inside its frame and it's one of the more than 500 geocaches scattered around Wilberforce -- the "Geocaching Capital of Canada," as the town calls itself, and home of one of the most popular geocaching tours in the world. The rise of Pokemon Go in 2016 brought with it a surge of location-based outdoor games on mobile. Geocaching, which is akin to an outdoor scavenger hunt, uses GPS to locate hidden caches with logbooks inside and predates the latest crop of augmented reality games; it was a fixture of internet culture at the turn of the millenium. Geocachers use either an app or a GPS-enabled device to search for hidden containers (usually filled with something like a notebook) that are nearby or that they've sought out online. According to Geocaching HQ, a company that created one of the largest websites for the geocaching community in 2000, there are currently more than three million of these caches hidden in more than 190 countries around the world. For Wilberforce, geocaching is more than a game from back when a low-res dancing baby was the height of online entertainment. It's a growing industry, with new caches being hidden and special events organized every year, that is helping keep the town afloat amidst economic struggles.

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Amazon's Music Storage Service Will Remove MP3 Files on April 30
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '18 at 10:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's brace-for-impact department:
Amazon announced last year that it intends to shut down its dedicated cloud music locker. Now, the company has elaborated on its thinking. From a report: In an email to Amazon Music users, the company says uploaded songs will be removed from a user's library on April 30th, 2018. You can however keep any music in the cloud by proactively going to your Music Settings and clicking the "Keep my songs" button. Back in December, Amazon stopped letting users upload new tracks to Music Storage, which holds up to 250 songs for free. The company said at the time that by January 2019, users wouldn't be able to download or stream tracks they've uploaded to Music Storage, so it sounds like you'll still have many months between April and next January to get your music downloaded and onto a different storage platform or hard drive.

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Intel Files Patent For Energy-Efficient Bitcoin Mining Hardware
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '18 at 10:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Intel is exploring the creation of specialty hardware for mining the popular cryptocurrency Bitcoin, according to a U.S. patent application released Thursday. From a report: The patent, filed on Sept. 23, 2016, describes a Bitcoin mining hardware accelerator that may include a processor core with a hardware accelerator coupled with it. Bitcoin mining is the process of using powerful computer processors to record Bitcoin transactions on a public ledger, which is done by attempting to solve cryptographic puzzles. If the miner becomes the first to solve the puzzle and record the next transaction, it is rewarded with newly released Bitcoin. The high energy and equipment costs associated with mining have brought into question whether the activity can be profitable, especially as the price of Bitcoin has nose-dived in the past few months, as noted by Forbes. But that hasn't stopped people from hoarding equipment -- one report from Coherent Market Insights pegged the cryptocurrency mining market at $610 million in 2016 and expects it to grow to $38 billion by 2025. The current issues faced by miners also has propelled companies and individuals to find new technologies and methods for making mining more efficient.

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'GTA V' Character Doesn't Resemble Lindsay Lohan, Court Rules
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '18 at 09:02 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's don't-think-so department:
Actress Lindsay Lohan has failed in her latest attempt to sue the maker of the video game Grand Theft Auto V. From a report: While the court said in an opinion a computer generated image may be considered a "portrait" under current state civil rights law, "the artistic renderings are indistinct, satirical representations of the style, look, and persona of a modern, beach-going young woman that are not reasonably identifiable as the plaintiff." Lohan sued GTA V publisher Take-Two Interactive in 2014 over a NPC in the game called Lacey Jonas. Players encounter her while she's hiding in an alley from the paparazzi. She describes herself as an "actress slash singer" and the "voice of a generation." Artwork during the game's loading screens depict similar blonde women. One is wearing a red bikini and flashing a peace sign as she takes a selfie. Another wears a fedora and large sunglasses while being frisked by a female police officer. Lohan claimed developer Rockstar Games modelled the character and screens after her, using her "image, likeness, clothing, outfits, clothing line products, and ensemble in the form of hats, hairstyle, and sunglasses" without her permission.

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Microsoft Issues Out-Of-Band Security Update To Patch a Meltdown Patch It Released Earlier This Year
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '18 at 09:02 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's patch-ception department:
On Friday, Microsoft issued an out-of-band security update for 64-bit versions of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. From a report: The security update -- KB4100480 -- addresses a security bug discovered by a Swedish security expert earlier this week. The bug was caused by a patch meant to fix the Meltdown vulnerability but accidentally opened the kernel memory wide open. According to Ulf Frisk, Microsoft's January 2018 Meltdown patch (for CVE-2017-5754) allowed any app to extract or write content from/to the kernel memory. This all happened because the Meltdown patch accidentally flipped a bit that controlled access permissions to kernel memory. Frisk said that the March Patch Tuesday appears to have "fixed" the issue, as he was not able to interact with kernel memory.

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macOS 10.13.4 Enables Support for External GPU
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '18 at 07:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's noteworthy-additions department:
With the latest release of macOS High Sierra, Apple has officially delivered on a couple of items in the works since WWDC 2017 last June. macOS 10.13.4 brings the external GPU (eGPU) support that lets developers, VR users gamers and anyone else in need of some extra oomph to plug in a more powerful graphics card via Thunderbolt 3. From a report: While that may not make every underpowered laptop VR ready, it certainly makes staying macOS-only more palatable for some power users. Another notable addition is Business Chat in Messages for users in the US. Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and others have tweaked their services to enable customer service linkups and now Apple has its version available on the desktop. With it, you can interact with business representatives or even make purchases. Other tweaks include waiting for the user to select login fields before autofilling password information in Safari, a smoke cloud wallpaper that had previously been restricted to the iMac Pro and a Safari shortcut for jumping to the rightmost tab by pressing Command-9. Further reading: Gizmodo.

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Poor Grades Tied To Class Times That Don't Match Our Biological Clocks
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '18 at 07:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's more-evidence department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: It may be time to tailor students' class schedules to their natural biological rhythms, according to a new study from UC Berkeley and Northeastern Illinois University. Researchers tracked the personal daily online activity profiles of nearly 15,000 college students as they logged into campus servers. After sorting the students into "night owls," "daytime finches" and "morning larks" -- based on their activities on days they were not in class -- researchers compared their class times to their academic outcomes. Their findings, published today in the journal Scientific Reports, show that students whose circadian rhythms were out of sync with their class schedules -- say, night owls taking early morning courses -- received lower grades due to "social jet lag," a condition in which peak alertness times are at odds with work, school or other demands. "We found that the majority of students were being jet-lagged by their class times, which correlated very strongly with decreased academic performance," said study co-lead author Benjamin Smarr, a postdoctoral fellow who studies circadian rhythm disruptions in the lab of UC Berkeley psychology professor Lance Kriegsfeld.

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Coffee Requires Cancer Warning, California Judge Rules
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '18 at 06:22 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Scientists haven't rendered a verdict on whether coffee is good or bad for you but a California judge has. He says coffee sellers in the state should have to post cancer warnings. From a report: The culprit is a chemical produced in the bean roasting process that is a known carcinogen and has been at the heart of an eight-year legal struggle between a tiny nonprofit group and Big Coffee. The Council for Education and Research on Toxics wanted the coffee industry to remove acrylamide from its processing -- like potato chip makers did when it sued them years ago -- or disclose the danger in ominous warning signs or labels. The industry, led by Starbucks, said the level of the chemical in coffee isn't harmful and any risks are outweighed by benefits. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle said Wednesday that the coffee makers hadn't presented the proper grounds at trial to prevail.

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An Up-Close Look At the Parker Solar Probe -- the Spacecraft That Will Skim the Sun's Surface
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '18 at 06:22 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's up-close-and-personal department:
schwit1 shares a report from Ars Technica, offering an up-close look at the Parker Solar Probe: This summer, NASA will launch the Parker Solar Probe, an impressively heat-resistant spacecraft destined to glide closer to the surface of the Sun than any spacecraft before it. It will fly within about 6 million kilometers of the searing surface, more than seven times closer than earlier craft. If all goes to plan, the craft will be hurtling at 724,205 km per hour and have its one-of-a-kind heat shield perfectly facing the surface as it makes those closest approaches. In about seven years, it will complete 24 orbits around the Sun and pass by Venus seven times. All the while, the Parker probe will collect a constellation of data to help answer scientists' burning questions -- and solve some sizzling mysteries -- about the orb of hot plasma that lights up our Solar System. Namely, it will try to help us finally understand why the Sun's atmosphere is 300 times hotter than its surface, which itself is a balmy 5,727C. This fact defies basic physics and to this day is unexplained. One of the leading hypotheses to account for the heat shift comes from famed physicist Eugene Parker, after whom the probe is named. In the mid-1950s, Parker theorized that the Sun's super-heated corona could be explained by a complex system of plasma, magnetic fields, and energetic particles that spark solar explosions called "nanoflares." Scientists are thirsty for close-up data on those potential explosions as well as the cascade of energy called solar wind. With that data, they can put their hypotheses to the test. And in addition to helping us understand coronal heat, data on these sunny phenomena could help clear up poorly understood space weather, which can wreak havoc on satellites and power lines here on Earth.

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Scientists Explain the Sound of Knuckle Cracking
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '18 at 02:20 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's annoying-human-habits department:
"The BBC reports on something sure to impress your next date -- and possibly your last -- when you explain it," writes Slashdot reader dryriver. From the report: Scientists have turned their attention to investigating that most annoying of human habits -- the sound made when you crack your knuckles. The characteristic pop can be explained by three mathematical equations, say researchers in the US and France. Their model confirms the idea that the cracking sound is due to tiny bubbles collapsing in the fluid of the joint as the pressure changes. Surprisingly, perhaps, the phenomenon has been debated for around a century. Science student Vineeth Chandran Suja was cracking his knuckles in class in France when he decided to investigate.

"The first equation describes the pressure variations inside our joint when we crack our knuckles," he told BBC News. "The second equation is a well-known equation which describes the size variations of bubbles in response to pressure variations. And the third equation that we wrote down was coupling the size variation of the bubbles to ones that produce sounds." The equations make up a complete mathematical model that describes the sound of knuckle cracking, said Chandran Suja, who is now a postgraduate student at Stanford University in California. "When we crack our knuckles we're actually pulling apart our joints," he explained. "And when we do that the pressure goes down. Bubbles appear in the fluid, which is lubricating the joint -- the synovial fluid. "During the process of knuckle cracking there are pressure variations in the joint which causes the size of the bubbles to fluctuate extremely fast, and this leads to sound, which we associate with knuckle cracking.'' The study has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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FCC Authorizes SpaceX's Ambitious Satellite Internet Plans
Posted by News Fetcher on March 29 '18 at 11:42 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's always-connected department:
The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday approved an application by Elon Musk's SpaceX, allowing the aerospace company to provide broadband services using satellites in the U.S. and worldwide. "With this action, the Commission takes another step to increase high-speed broadband availability and competition in the United States," the FCC said in a statement. CNBC reports: This marks the first time the FCC has allowed a U.S.-licensed satellite constellation to provide broadband services through low-Earth orbit satellites. "We appreciate the FCC's thorough review and approval of SpaceX's constellation license. Although we still have much to do with this complex undertaking, this is an important step toward SpaceX building a next-generation satellite network that can link the globe with reliable and affordable broadband service, especially reaching those who are not yet connected," Gwynne Shotwell, President and Chief Operating Officer at SpaceX said in a statement. SpaceX will begin launching the constellation it dubbed "Starlink" in 2019. The system will be operational once at least 800 satellites are deployed. Starlink will offer broadband speeds comparable to fiber optic networks.The satellites would offer new direct to consumer wireless connections, rather the present system's redistribution of signals, transforming a traditionally high-cost, low reliability service.

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Top Facebook Executive Defended Data Collection In 2016 Memo, Warned That Facebook Could Get People Killed
Posted by News Fetcher on March 29 '18 at 07:42 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's growth-at-any-cost department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BuzzFeed: On June 18, 2016, one of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's most trusted lieutenants circulated an extraordinary memo weighing the costs of the company's relentless quest for growth. "We connect people. Period. That's why all the work we do in growth is justified. All the questionable contact importing practices. All the subtle language that helps people stay searchable by friends. All of the work we do to bring more communication in. The work we will likely have to do in China some day. All of it," VP Andrew "Boz" Bosworth wrote. "So we connect more people," he wrote in another section of the memo. "That can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs someone a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools." The explosive internal memo is titled "The Ugly," and has not been previously circulated outside the Silicon Valley social media giant.

< article continued at Slashdot's growth-at-any-cost department >

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Tesla Issues Its Largest Recall Ever Voluntarily Over Faulty Model S Steering
Posted by News Fetcher on March 29 '18 at 06:22 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's whoopsie-daisy department:
Tesla announced today that it is recalling 123,000 Model S vehicles around the world over a power steering issue. The company said via an email that it was a proactive move and none of the company's other vehicles are affected. The Verge reports: The automaker said 123,000 Model S vehicles built before April 2016 were affected. No injuries or crashes have been reported in connection with the problem. In the email, Tesla said it had, "observed excessive corrosion in the power steering bolts," but that the problem was most prevalent in colder climates where road salt is used. "If the bolts fail, the driver is still able to steer the car, but increased force is required due to loss or reduction of power assist," Tesla wrote in the email to customers. "This primarily makes the car harder to drive at low speeds and for parallel parking, but does not materially affect control at high speed, where only small steering wheel force is needed." Tesla said owners do not need to stop driving their cars if they haven't experienced any problems. The company said it would inform Model S owners when a retrofit, which is estimated to take an hour to install, is ready in their area.

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Facebook Begins 'Fact-Checking' Photos, Videos
Posted by News Fetcher on March 29 '18 at 06:22 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's it's-about-time department:
Facebook said today that it had begun "fact-checking" photos and videos to reduce the hoaxes and false news stories that have plagued the world's largest social media network. Reuters reports: The fact-checking began on Wednesday in France with assistance from the news organization AFP and will soon expand to more countries and partners, Tessa Lyons, a product manager at Facebook, said in a briefing with reporters. Lyons did not say what criteria Facebook or AFP would use to evaluate photos and videos, or how much a photo could be edited or doctored before it is ruled fake. The project is part of "efforts to fight false news around elections," she said. Facebook has tried other ways to stem the spread of fake news. It has used third-party fact-checkers to identify them, and then given such stories less prominence in the Facebook News Feed when people share links to them.

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Instagram Reenables GIF Sharing After GIPHY Promises No More Racism
Posted by News Fetcher on March 29 '18 at 05:02 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's under-review department:
Earlier this month, Instagram and Snapchat dropped their GIPHY integrations when a racial slur slipped into the company's online database. Now Instagram is bringing GIPHY Integration back after GIPHY confirmed it's reviewed its GIF library four times and will preemptively review any new GIFs it adds. Snapchat has yet to bring the service back. TechCrunch reports: "We've been in close contact with GIPHY throughout this process and we're confident that they have put measures in place to ensure that Instagram users have a good experience," an Instagram spokesperson told TechCrunch. GIPHY told TechCrunch in a statement: "To anyone who was affected: we're sorry. We take full responsibility for this recent event and under no circumstances does GIPHY condone or support this kind of content. We have also finished a full investigation into our content moderations systems and processes and have made specific changes to our process to ensure something like this does not happen again." The racial slur was spotted by a user in the UK around March 8th. "We've shared a censored version of the image below, but warning, it still includes graphic content that may be offensive to some users," reports TechCrunch.

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Google Removes 'Kodi' From Search Autocomplete In Anti-Piracy Effort
Posted by News Fetcher on March 29 '18 at 05:02 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's anti-piracy department:
Google has banned the term "Kodi" from the autocomplete feature of its search engine because it's "closely associated with copyright infringement." This means that the popular software and related suggestions won't appear unless users type out the full term. TorrentFreak reports: It turns out that Google has recently removed the term "Kodi" from its autocomplete results. While Kodi can be abused through pirate add-ons, the media player software itself is perfectly legal, which makes it an odd decision. Users who type in "Kod" get a list of suggestions including "Kodak" and "Kodiak," but not the much more popular search term Kodi. Similarly, when typing "addons for k" Google suggests addons for Kokotime and Krypton 17.6. While the latter is a Kodi version, the name of the media player itself doesn't come up as a suggestion. Once users type the full Kodi term and add a space, plenty of suggestions suddenly appear, which is similar to other banned terms. Ironically enough, the Kokotime app is frequently used by pirates as well. Also, the names of all of the pirate Kodi addons we checked still show up fine in the autosuggest feature. Unfortunately, Google doesn't document its autocomplete removal decisions, nor does it publish the full list of banned words. However, the search engine confirms that Kodi's piracy stigma is to blame here. In a statement to TorrentFreak, a Google spokesperson said: "Since 2011, we have been filtering certain terms closely associated with copyright infringement from Google Autocomplete. This action is consistent with that long-standing strategy."

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