By EditorDavid from Slashdot's powering-down department
Some of the same podcasters who first extolled AirPods are now complaining about them, reports the Atlantic:
The battery can no longer hold a charge, they say, rendering them functionally useless. Apple bloggers agree: "AirPods are starting to show their age for early adopters," Zac Hall, an editor at 9to5Mac, wrote in a post in January, detailing how he frequently hears a low-battery warning in his AirPods now. Earlier this month, Apple Insider tested a pair of AirPods purchased in 2016 against a pair from 2018, and found that the older pair died after two hours and 16 minutes. "That's less than half the stated battery life for a new pair," the writer William Gallagher concluded. Desmond Hughes, who is 35 and lives in Newport News, Virginia, has noticed a similar thing about his own set: At first, their charge lasted five hours, but now they sometimes last only half an hour. He frequently listens to one while charging the other -- not optimal conditions for expensive headphones. He's now gearing up to plunk down more money on another pair....
The lithium-ion batteries that power AirPods are everywhere. One industry report forecast that sales would grow to $109.72 billion by 2026, from $36.2 billion in 2018. They charge faster, last longer, and pack more power into a small space than other types of batteries do. But they die faster, too, often after just a few years, because every time you charge them, they degrade a little. They can also catch fire or explode if they become damaged, so technology companies make them difficult, if not impossible, for consumers to replace themselves. The result: A lot of barely chargeable AirPods and wireless mice and Bluetooth speakers are ending up in the trash as consumers go through products -- even expensive ones -- faster than ever....
Of the 3.4 million tons of electronic waste generated in America in 2012 -- an 80 percent increase from 2000 -- just 29 percent was recycled.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's following-the-fixer department
Court documents unsealed Tuesday showed just how much information America's FBI was able to gather on Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen -- from both Google and Apple products. An anonymous reader quotes CNN:
Notably, the FBI made use of Cohen's use of Touch ID and Face ID on his Apple devices, which allow users to quickly log into iPhones and computers by scanning their face or fingerprint rather than typing in a password... But that gives law enforcement an additional means to access those devices. In one warrant application for Cohen, an FBI agent requested authorization "to press the fingers (including thumbs) of Cohen to the Touch ID sensors of the Subject Devices, or hold the Subject Devices in front of Cohen's face, for the purpose of attempting to unlock the Subject Devices via Touch ID or Face ID...."
One warrant requested not simply access to three of Cohen's Gmail accounts, as well as other email accounts, but also some of the wide array of information Google keeps for its users by default, including search history, web cookies associated with an account, device information, and a host of other metadata categories. One affidavit describes how the FBI narrowed down Cohen's temporary location at the Loews Regency Hotel in New York through his cell phone location data. Agents then used a "triggerfish" -- a reference to a stingray, or IMSI catcher, a suitcase-sized device that mimics a cell tower to convince a cell phone to connect and reveal its location...
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's war-of-the-white-hats department
A research duo who hacked a Tesla were the big winners at the annual Pwn2Own white hat security contest, reports ZDNet. "The duo earned $375,000 in prize money, of the total of $545,000 awarded during the whole three-day competition... They also get to keep the car."
Team Fluoroacetate -- made up of Amat Cama and Richard Zhu -- hacked the Tesla car via its browser. They used a JIT bug in the browser renderer process to execute code on the car's firmware and show a message on its entertainment system... Besides keeping the car, they also received a $35,000 reward. "In the coming days we will release a software update that addresses this research," a Tesla spokesperson told ZDNet today in regards to the Pwn2Own vulnerability.
Not coincidentally, Team Fluoroacetate also won the three-day contest after earning 36 "Master of Pwn" points for successful exploits in Apple Safari, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, VMware Workstation, and Windows 10... [R]esearchers also exploited vulnerabilities in Apple Safari, Microsoft Edge, VMware Workstation, Oracle Virtualbox, and Windows 10.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's taunting-Tesla department
In what may be his final year of technology predictions, columnist Robert X. Cringely argues "I can't say that we're going to see anything beyond more beta tests of self-driving cars in 2019... We simply aren't ready and probably won't be for years to come...."
"The problem isn't with the self-driving cars, it's with the cars that aren't self-driving, cars that are driven by idiots like me."
It will eventually happen. Once half the fleet has been replaced with cars that could be self-drivers if we allowed them to be, then there will be a huge financial incentive to get the other half off the street. This will be especially the case if climate change is still accelerating. I'm guessing that most cars from 2020-on could be self-driving with only a software upgrade, which is why Elon Musk is predicting Tesla will have full autonomy by the end of 2019. But notice that Elon isn't predicting Tesla will be allowed to have its cars drive themselves everywhere...
So why is the world talking so much about self-driving cars and full autonomy? Some of it is Tesla hype, some of it is marketing as the car companies try to get us to buy cars that will eventually be self-driving, but probably not until their second owners. And the other reason why we're talking so much about self-driving cars is because Uber is planning to go public later this year...an IPO that will go smoother if the driving public thinks autonomous cars are something that we'll be seeing soon. Uber has a labor problem. If it can spin a story that surly and expensive human drivers are soon to be replaced with electrons, that will be very reassuring to Wall Street. But as I explained, it also isn't true.
The world isn't yet ready -- something Uber and Tesla and all the others will suddenly admit in about a year (post-IPO).
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's I-spray-for-the-trees department
Long-time Slashdot reader memnock quotes Nature:
In the next month or so, orange trees across Florida will erupt in white blossoms, signalling the start of another citrus season. But this year, something different will be blowing in the winds. Farmers are preparing to spray their trees with hundreds of thousands of kilograms of two common antibiotics to combat citrus greening, a bacterial disease that has been killing Florida citrus trees for more than a decade.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the process of allowing growers to use streptomycin and oxytetracycline as routine treatments, spraying trees several times per year, beginning with the 'first flush' of leaves this spring. Growers in the state could end up using as much as 440,000 kilograms of the drugs. Although the compounds, which are both used in human medicine, have been sprayed on other crops in the past and applied in limited amounts to citrus groves, the scale of this application has researchers and public-health advocates alarmed....
There is little publicly available science on the long-term use of these drugs in crop settings... Critics are particularly galled because there is also little convincing evidence that spraying will keep the scourge at bay.
One Florida public radio station reports that environmental groups have delivered a petition with more than 45,000 signatures to the EPA, urging them to halt the expanded use of antibiotics.
"The fear is an increase in antibiotic-resistant diseases for humans."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's not-being-evil department
Google's Play Store made a bad mistake on Tuesday, long-time Slashdot reader sombragris writes:
KDE Connect, a project designed to enable seamless communcation and control between a desktop computer and a mobile phone, was suddenly removed from Android's Google Play store. According to a Twitter thread by Albert Vaca, KDE Connect's maintainer, the removal was allegedly because the app was in breach of Google's new SMS policy.
There's an exemption which applies to KDE Connect, but the maintainer was unable to contact anyone at Google to provide support. "There is simply no way to talk to a human being at @Google", he said.
Cintora also announced on Twitter that while trying to comply with the Play Store's new policy, he'd initially been stopped again by technical problems. "The @GooglePlay console gives me an internal error, so I can't upload the version without SMS support."
But on Thursday Cintora tweeted that KDE Connect "finally got approved, and SMS support is back in version 1.12.4, both on the Play Store and F-Droid!" Cintora credits this resolution partly to his Twitter thread, which got over half a million impressions.
Its last tweet now features a picture of a celebrating parrot.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's devils-in-the-details department
This weekend's annual LibrePlanet conference, hosted by the Free Software Foundation, prompted a new essay about "install fests" from Richard Stallman:
Install fests invite users to bring their computers so that experts can install GNU/Linux on them... The problem is that most computers can't run with a completely free GNU/Linux distro. They contain peripherals, or coprocessors, that won't operate unless the installed system contains some nonfree drivers or firmware... This presents the install fest with a dilemma. If it upholds the ideals of freedom, by installing only free software from 100%-free distros, partly-secret machines won't become entirely functional and the users that bring them will go away disappointed. However, if the install fest installs nonfree distros and nonfree software which make machines entirely function, it will fail to teach users to say no for freedom's sake. They may learn to like GNU/Linux, but they won't learn what the free software movement stands for.... In effect, the install fest makes the deal with the devil, on the user's behalf, behind a curtain so the user doesn't recognize that it is one.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's burning-chrome department
Esther Schindler (Slashdot reader #16,185) shared this story from Hewlett Packard's Enterprise blog:
Storage is a staple of both science and science fiction, and forms the basis, or a crucial component, of many a piece of speculative fiction... [H]ere are eight past visions of the storage future that either passed their error checks or succumbed to bit rot. Why store vast quantities of data on a device when you can just slap it into someone's head?
The article acknowledges that in many science fiction stories, data is simply preserved using such primitive technologies as "the written word" and "brute-force [human] memory," as well as ordinary real-world storage technologies like the server room in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, or basic non-cloud-based computers. But there's also wetware -- think "Johnny Mnemonic "-- and the data crystals in Babylon Five.
The article even acknowledges that time Batman beat Mr. Freeze by carving binary code into a wall, giving future generations the recipe for antifreeze.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's aftermath department
Several major ISPs in Australia temporarily blocked access to 8chan, along with "dozens" of web sites that hosted video of last week's mass shooting in Christchurch New Zealand, Ars Technica reports -- noting that the ISPs acted on their own in response to "community expectations."
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that 8chan founder Fredrick Brennan (who "cut ties" with the site in December) is now criticizing 8chan moderators for their slowness in removing posts inciting violence, including last week's post from the Christchurch shooter Brenton Tarrant:
Their reluctance to do so, along with the proliferation of posts on 8chan praising Tarrant's actions, have persuaded Brennan that the toxic, white-supremacist culture that lives on parts of the site could someday be linked to another mass shooting....
Brennan, 25 years old, expressed regret that the site had consumed so much of his life. "I didn't spend enough time making friends in real life," he said. High-school events and classes in upstate New York didn't matter to him at all. What mattered was the community of like-minded provocateurs, trolls, libertarians and conservative thinkers he discovered online as a boy and that formed his identity as a young man. "I just feel like I wasted too much time on this stuff," he said.
Washington Post reporter Drew Harwell (in a Post video) argues that 8chan "has grown from this central place for tech libertarians, trolls, just people looking to get a rise out of other people online, and it's really radicalized into this place of overt neo-Nazi, white supremacist, racist, sexist, anti-everything discourse...
"We haven't really reckoned with how to deal with the negative parts of easy and free and anonymous connectivity around the world, and there's no real good mechanism for solving a problem like that."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's searching-for-answers department
New York magazine's Intelligencer remembers last month's crash of a Boeing 767 carrying cargo for Amazon and the U.S. Postal Service -- and shares a new theory that its cause wasn't a suicidal pilot or an autopilot malfunction:
In online pilot discussion forums, a third idea has been gaining adherents: that the pilots succumbed to a phenomenon called somatogravic illusion, in which lateral acceleration due to engine thrust creates the sensation that one is tipping backward in one's seat. The effect is particularly strong when a plane is lightly loaded, as it would be at the end of a long flight when the fuel tanks are mostly empty, and in conditions of poor visibility, as Atlas Air 3591 was as it worked its way through bands of bad weather. The idea is that perhaps one of the pilots accidentally or in response to wind shear set the engines to full power, and then believed that the plane had become dangerously nose-high and so pushed forward on the controls. This would cause a low-g sensation that might have been so disorienting that by the time the plane came barreling out of the bottom of the clouds there wasn't enough time to pull out of the dive.
It has been speculated that this might have been the cause of another bizarre and officially unsolved accident from three years ago: Flydubai Flight 981, which crashed 2016 in Rostov-on-Don, Russia.... While it's still too early to draw any kind of conclusions about Atlas Air 3591, the possibility exists that a firm conclusion will never be drawn -- and if it is, the cause could turn out not to be a design flaw or software malfunction that can be rectified, but a basic shortcoming in human perception and psychology that cannot be fixed as long as humans are entrusted with the control of airplanes.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's when-a-stranger-calls department
"The fight against robocalls can even bring telecom rivals together," reports USA Today:
AT&T and Comcast said Wednesday that they can authenticate calls made between the two different phone providers' networks, a potential industry first and the latest in the long-running battle against spam calls... The system, which uses a method developed in recent years, verifies that a legitimate call is being made instead of one that has been spoofed by spammers, scammers or robocallers with a "digital signature." The recipient network then confirms the signature on its side. The companies said consumers will get a notification that a call is verified, but exactly what that will look like is not yet known.
Both AT&T and Comcast will roll out the system to home phone users later this year at no extra charge. AT&T also said it will introduce the feature to its mobile users this year... Other major wireless and traditional home voice providers have pledged support for the verification method, including Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, Charter, Cox and Vonage, with several announcing plans to roll out or test the feature in 2019.
The day Comcast and AT&T made their announcement, AT&T's CEO was giving a live interview that was interrupted by a robocall.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's remain-ing-online department
"More than 3 million people have signed a petition to cancel Brexit on the U.K. government's official petitions website -- so many that the website crashed multiple times," reports Time:
The petition had received some 600,000 signatures at a rate of 1,500 every 60 seconds before the site crashed at about 9 a.m. U.K. time on Thursday, the Guardian reported. By mid afternoon, the site was back online but suffering intermittent outages. There were 2 million signatures by Thursday evening and 3 million by midday Friday...
The U.K. government must now allow a debate on the petition's contents in parliament.
The Guardian notes that the CTO of company that built the petition site had bragged in a tweet Wednesday that the 1,000 signatures per minute was "Not too bad, but nowhere near crashing the site --you all need to try harder tomorrow."
By the next morning he had tweeted âoeWell done everyone -- the site crashed because calculating the trending count became too much of a load on the database."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's chopping-block department
Oracle "swung the layoff axe" Thursday, reports IEEE Spectrum, saying that the move "clear-cut teams of engineers."
The exact numbers of employees cut and their specific roles have not been reported by the company, but the layoffs are clearly significant. Fifty in Mexico, 50 in New Hampshire, 100 in India, at least that many in Silicon Valley -- the numbers, according to anecdotal reports on theLayoff.com and from internal chatter, are adding up quickly....
Oracle's layoff day started at 5 a.m. Pacific Time, when an email from Oracle executive vice president Don Johnson with the subject line "Organizational Restructuring" arrived in employee inboxes. The email informed staff members that, going forward, everything in the company would revolve around the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) operation... Then the email continued with a perky sentence that made some employees furious: "OCI's business is stronger than ever, and this team's future is bright." At approximately 10 a.m., I'm told, just five hours after that email, the layoffs began -- and according to anecdotal reports included significant cuts within at least part of that stronger-than-ever, bright-future cloud business.
Those affected were given 30 minutes to turn in company assets and leave the building, and were told that Friday (today) would their last official day. "The morning felt like a slaughter," one Oracle employee told me. "One person after another...." And, that employee said, the layoff process was handled very badly, with entire teams being ushered into conference rooms as groups and told that they no longer had jobs. This employee indicated that technical teams, particularly those involved in product development and focused on software development, data science, and engineering, seemed to take the biggest hit.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's positive-results department
A new study finds that states with bans on texting while driving saw an average 4% reduction in emergency department visits after motor vehicle crashes, an equivalent of 1,632 traffic-related emergency department visits per year. CNN reports: Researchers examined emergency department data across 16 US states between 2007 and 2014. The states were picked based on the availability of information regarding motor vehicle accident injuries for which emergency department treatment was needed. In the United States, 47 out of 50 states currently have laws restricting texting while driving. Of the 16 states researchers looked at in the study, all but one (Arizona) had one of these laws.
The states that had texting bans, regardless of the type or who it applied to, saw a 4% average reduction in emergency department visits, according to the results published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health. The states that chose to implement primary bans on all drivers saw an 8% reduction in crash-related injuries. Drivers of all ages, even those older 65, who are typically not known for texting while driving, saw reductions in the number of injuries following crashes.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's nothing-to-see-here department
Freshly Exhumed writes: Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has revealed that senior White House advisor Jared Kushner's lawyer admitted in December that his client "continues to use" WhatsApp to conduct official White House business. The chairman also said that a lawyer for Ivanka Trump and Mr. Kushner told the committee late last year that they additionally used private email accounts for official White House business in a way that may have violated federal records laws. Mr Kushner's lawyer, Abbe Lowell could not say whether his client used WhatsApp to share classified information. Regardless, Cummings says the communications raise questions about whether Kushner and other officials violated the Presidential Records Act, which requires the president and his staff "take all practical steps to file personal records separately from Presidential records." As for Ivanka's use of a personal email account to conduct official business, her lawyer says she sent the emails before she was briefed on the rules.
If you're not familiar with WhatsApp, here's what you should know about it: "As of January 2019, more than 1.5 billion users in over 180 countries use WhatsApp, created in 2009 as an alternative to text messaging," reports USA Today. "Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014 to make a bigger play in the rapidly-growing messaging market, along with its own Messenger platform, which also boasts 1.5 billion users." The service features end-to-end encryption, meaning the sender and recipient are the only ones who can view the messages.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-improved department
Earlier this month, Microsoft made the source code for its Windows calculator available on GitHub. This has spurred developers to add new features to the app, like a new graphing mode that will make its way to the official Windows Calculator app. The "Graphing Mode" is one of 30+ suggestions that open-source contributors have proposed so far. The ZDNet reports: As its name implies, Graphing Mode will allow users to create graphs based on mathematical equations, in a similar way to Matlab's (way more advanced) Plotting Mode. The feature was proposed by Microsoft engineer Dave Grochocki, also a member of the Windows Calculator team. In a GitHub issue Grochocki submitted to support his proposal, he argued that a graphing mode would help students learn algebra easier.
"High school algebra is the gateway to mathematics and all other disciplines of STEM," Grochocki said. "However, algebra is the single most failed course in high school, as well as the most failed course in community college." By adding a Graphing Mode to Windows Calculator, an app included with all Windows 10 versions, the Microsoft engineer hopes to provide students and teachers with a free tool to help schools across the world. "Physical graphing calculators can be expensive, software solutions require licenses and configuration by school IT departments, and online solutions are not always an option," he added. "Graphing capabilities in their daily tools are essential for students who are beginning to explore linear algebra as early as 8th grade. [...] At present, Windows Calculator does not currently have the needed functionality to meet the demands of students." There's no timeline for when the new graphing mode will arrive, but it should arrive soon.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sneaky-bastard department
schwit1 writes: Evaldas Rimasauskas, a Lithuanian citizen, concocted a brazen scheme that allowed him to bilk Facebook and Google out of more than $100 million. The crime defrauded Google of $23 million and Facebook of $99 million. Rimasauskas committed the crimes between 2013 to 2015, an indictment was issued in 2017, and he was formally indicted Wednesday in New York after he pleaded guilty to wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and three counts of money laundering. "As Evaldas Rimasauskas admitted today, he devised a blatant scheme to fleece U.S. companies out of over $100 million, and then siphoned those funds to bank accounts around the globe," said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman in a DoJ press release. How did he do it? The indictment reveals that he simply billed the companies for the amounts and they paid the bills. Rimasauskas was able to trick company employees into wiring the money to multiple bank accounts that he controlled and had set up in institutions in Cyprus, Lithuania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Latvia.Read Replies (0)