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Texting Is 25 Years Old
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '17 at 10:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's looking-back department:
Readers share a report: The first text message was sent on Dec. 3, 1992, by British engineer Neil Papworth to Richard Jarvis, an executive at British telecom Vodafone. Typed out on a PC, it was sent to Jarvis's Orbitel 901, a mobile phone that would take up most of your laptop backpack. Although Papworth is credited with sending the first text message, he's not the so-called father of SMS. That honor falls on Matti Makkonen, who initially suggested the idea back in 1984 at a telecommunications conference. But texting didn't take off over night. First it had to be incorporated into the then-budding GSM standard. Today, about 97 percent of smartphone owners use text messaging, according to Pew Research, and along the way, a new set of sub-languages based on abbreviations and keyboard-based imagery has evolved.

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People Have Spent Over $1M Buying Virtual Cats on the Ethereum Blockchain
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '17 at 09:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's another-fad department:
Launched a few days ago, CryptoKitties is essentially like an digital version of Pokemon cards but based on the Ethereum blockchain. And like most viral sensations that catch on in the tech world, it's blowing up fast. From a report, shared by an anonymous reader: Built by Vancouver and San Francisco-based design studio AxiomZen, the game is the latest fad in the world of cryptocurrency and probably soon tech in general. People are spending a crazy amount of real money on the game. So far about $1.3M has been transacted, with multiple kittens selling for ~50 ETH (around $23,000) and the "genesis" kitten being sold for a record ~246 ETH (around $113,000). This third party site tracks the largest purchases made to date on the game. And like any good viral sensation prices are rising and fluctuating fast. Right now it will cost you about .03 ETH, or $12 to buy the least expensive kitten in the game. So now we have people using Ether, an asset with arguably little tangible utility -- to purchase an asset with unarguably zero tangible utility. Welcome to the internet in 2017.

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Facebook Launches New Messenger App for Young Kids -- What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '17 at 09:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's watch-out department:
More than one billion people use Facebook's Messenger app to communicate every month. Now the social juggernaut is going after the younger audience. On Monday, it announced Messenger Kids, a standalone mobile app designed for children age 13 and under. From a report: The app, Messenger Kids, is a messaging service that gives parents authority over who their kids can chat with. Once a parent adds someone to their child's contact list through the main Facebook app, kids can video chat as well as send photos, videos, and texts, or pick something from "a library of kid-appropriate and specially chosen GIFs, frames, stickers, masks, and drawing tools," according to Facebook's announcement post. [...] A Facebook spokesperson said in an email to Gizmodo, "We've built automated systems that can detect things like nudity, violence, and child exploitative imagery to help limit that content from being shared on Messenger Kids. We also have blocking and reporting mechanisms, and have a dedicated team of human reviewers that review all content that is reported."

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Why 'Shark Tank' Investor Kevin O'Leary Refuses To Spend $2.50 On a Cup of Coffee
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '17 at 07:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's measured-approach department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Kevin O'Leary has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in small businesses over the course of his tenure as a star and investor on ABC's "Shark Tank." But there is one business to which he refuses to fork over his hard-earned dollars: coffee shops. "Do I pay $2.50 for a coffee? Never, never, never do I do that," O'Leary tells CNBC Make It. "That is such a waste of money for something that costs 20 cents. I never buy a frape-latte-blah-blah-blah-woof-woof-woof for $2.50." Instead, he makes it at home. "I drink coffee, one cup every morning," he explains. "It costs about 18 cents to make it, and I invest the rest." That idea -- saving small sums and investing continually -- is central to O'Leary's personal finance advice. "The truth is, there is a lot of crap you don't need," he explains.

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From the Arctic's Melting Ice, an Unexpected Digital Hub
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '17 at 07:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's breadth-of-fresh-air department:
Cecilia Kang, reporting for the New York Times: This is one of the most remote towns in the United States, a small gravel spit on the northwest coast of Alaska, more than 3,700 miles from New York City. Icy seas surround it on three sides, leaving only an unpaved path to the mainland. Getting here from Anchorage, about 700 miles away, requires two flights. Roads do not connect the two places. Basics like milk and bread are delivered by air, and gas is brought in by barge during the summer. Needless to say, this is not the sort of place you expect to be a hub of the high-tech digital world. But in a surprising, and bittersweet, side effect of global warming -- and of the global economy -- one of the fastest internet connections in America is arriving in Point Hope, giving the 700 or so residents their first taste of broadband speed. The new connection is part of an ambitious effort by Quintillion, a five-year old company based in Anchorage, to take advantage of the melting sea ice to build a faster digital link between London and Tokyo. High-speed internet cables snake under the world's oceans, tying continents together and allowing email and other bits of digital data sent from Japan to arrive quickly in Britain. Until recently, those lines mostly bypassed the Arctic, where the ice blocked access to the ships that lay the cable. But as the ice has receded, new passageways have emerged, creating a more direct path for the cable -- over the earth's northern end through places like the Chukchi Sea -- and helping those emails move even move quickly. Quintillion is one of the companies laying the new cable, and Point Hope is one of the places along its route.

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Apple Snafu Means Updating To macOS 10.13.1 Could Reactivate Root Access Bug
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '17 at 06:30 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's here-we-go-again department:
Mark Wilson writes: A few days ago, a serious security flaw with macOS High Sierra came to light. It was discovered that it was possible to log into the 'root' account without entering a password, and -- although the company seemed to have been alerted to the issue a couple of weeks back -- praise was heaped on Apple for pushing a fix out of the door quickly. But calm those celebrations. It now transpires that the bug fix has a bug of its own. Upgrade to macOS 10.13.1 and you could well find that the patch is undone. Slow hand clap.

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Should Apple Share iPhone X Face Data With App Developers?
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '17 at 03:50 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's two-faced department:
The Washington Post ran a technology column asking what happens "when the face-mapping tech that powers the iPhone X's cutesy 'Animoji' starts being used for creepier purposes." It's not just that the iPhone X scans 30,000 points on your face to make a 3D model. Though Apple stores that data securely on the phone, instead of sending it to its servers over the Internet, "Apple just started sharing your face with lots of apps." Although their columnist praises Apple's own commitment to privacy, "I also think Apple rushed into sharing face maps with app makers that may not share its commitment, and it isn't being paranoid enough about the minefield it just entered." "I think we should be quite worried," said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union. "The chances we are going to see mischief around facial data is pretty high -- if not today, then soon -- if not on Apple then on Android." Apple's face tech sets some good precedents -- and some bad ones... Less noticed was how the iPhone lets other apps now tap into two eerie views from the so-called TrueDepth camera. There's a wireframe representation of your face and a live read-out of 52 unique micro-movements in your eyelids, mouth and other features. Apps can store that data on their own computers.
To see for yourself, use an iPhone X to download an app called MeasureKit. It exposes the face data Apple makes available. The app's maker, Rinat Khanov, tells me he's already planning to add a feature that lets you export a model of your face so you can 3D print a mini-me. "Holy cow, why is this data available to any developer that just agrees to a bunch of contracts?" said Fatemeh Khatibloo, an analyst at Forrester Research.

"From years of covering tech, I've learned this much," the article concludes. "Given the opportunity to be creepy, someone will take it."

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Silicon Valley Billionaires Award $22 Million in 'Breakthrough Prizes'
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '17 at 01:11 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's picking-up-prize-money department:
An anonymous reader quote The Guardian:
The most glitzy event on the scientific calendar took place on Sunday night when the Breakthrough Foundation gave away $22 million in prizes to dozens of physicists, biologists and mathematicians at a ceremony in Silicon Valley. The winners this year include five researchers who won $3 million each for their work on cell biology, plant science and neurodegenerative diseases, two mathematicians, and a team of 27 physicists who mapped the primordial light that warmed the universe moments after the big bang 13.8 billion years ago. Now in their sixth year, the Breakthrough prizes are backed by Yuri Milner, a Silicon Valley tech investor, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and his wife Priscilla Chan, Anne Wojcicki from the DNA testing company 23andMe, and Google's Sergey Brin. Launched by Milner in 2012, the awards aim to make rock stars of scientists and raise their profile in the public consciousness. The annual ceremony at Nasa's Ames Research Center in California provides a rare opportunity for some of the world's leading minds to rub shoulders with celebrities, who this year included Morgan Freeman as host, fellow actors Kerry Washington and Mila Kunis, and Miss USA 2017 Kara McCullough...
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Two Stars Collided And Solved Half of Astronomy's Problems. Now What?
Posted by News Fetcher on December 03 '17 at 10:30 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's good-morning-star-slam department:
"It's hard to overstate the enormous leap forward that astronomy took on August 17, 2017," reports an article shared by schwit1:
On that day, astronomers bore witness to the titanic collision of two neutron stars, the densest things in the universe besides black holes. In the collision's wake, astronomers answered multiple major questions that have dominated their field for a generation. They solved the origin of gamma-ray bursts, mysterious jets of hardcore radiation that could potentially roast Earth. They glimpsed the forging of heavy metals, like gold and platinum. They measured the rate at which the expansion of the universe is accelerating. They caught light at the same time as gravitational waves, confirmation that waves move at the speed of light. And there was more, and there is much more yet to come from this discovery... "Now it's a question of, do we have the right instrumentation for doing all the follow-up work?" said Edo Berger, an astronomer at Harvard who studies explosive cosmic events. "Do we have the right telescopes? What's going to happen when we have not just one event, but one a month, or one a week -- how do we deal with that flood...?"
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Elon Musk Trolls the Media With a Clip From 'Spaceballs'
Posted by News Fetcher on December 03 '17 at 07:50 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's 1-2-3-4-5 department:
An anonymous reader writes
Elon Musk is having fun on Twitter, where he's either promoting the new line of $20 "Boring Company" hats or trolling the media. "To preserve the transcendent majesty & specialness of The Boring Company cap, we are capping cap orders at 50,000 caps," Musk tweeted Sunday, adding "Almost there ..." Responding to a user who asked, "Is this really how you're funding the boring company??" Musk answered "Yes."

An hour later he tweeted that "Every 5000th buyer of our boringly boring hat will get a free hat signed by the delivery guy. That special hat delivery will take place deep within the real, but fictional (of course), tunnel we are building under LA while you drive the giant machine blindfolded. This will actually happen."

And then hours later, Musk shared a fresh insight into his thought process. "The *real* money comes from merchandising," he tweeted, adding "I learned it from this documentary," sharing a video titled "merchandising" which, on closer inspection, turned out to be a clip from the 1987 comedy "Spaceballs" starring Mel Brooks.

Ironically, George Lucas had only blessed Mel Brooks' parody of Star Wars with one condition: that no Space Balls action figure merchandise ever be produced.

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How 'Grinch Bots' Are Ruining Online Christmas Shopping
Posted by News Fetcher on December 03 '17 at 05:12 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's stealing-Christmas department:
Yes, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer actually called them "Grinch bots." From the New York Post:
The senator said as soon as a retailer puts a hard-to-get toy -- like Barbie's Dreamhouse or Nintendo game systems -- for sale on a website, a bot can snatch it up even before a kid's parents finish entering their credit card information... "Bots come in and buy up all the toys and then charge ludicrous prices amidst the holiday shopping bustle," the New York Democrat said on Sunday... For example, Schumer said, the popular Fingerlings -- a set of interactive baby monkey figurines that usually sell for around $15 -- are being snagged by the scalping software and resold on secondary websites for as much as $1,000 a pop...

In December 2016, Congress passed the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act, which Schumer sponsored, to crack down on their use to buy concert tickets, but the measure doesn't apply to other consumer products. He wants that law expanded but knows that won't happen in time for this holiday season. In the meantime, Schumer wants the National Retail Federation and the Retail Industry Leaders Association to block the bots and lead the effort to stop them from buying toys at fair retail prices and then reselling them at outrageous markups.

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Google's AI Built an AI that Outperforms Any Made By Humans
Posted by News Fetcher on December 03 '17 at 03:52 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's rise-of-the-machine-learning department:
schwit1 quotes ScienceAlert: In May 2017, researchers at Google Brain announced the creation of AutoML, an artificial intelligence (AI) that's capable of generating its own AIs. More recently, they decided to present AutoML with its biggest challenge to date, and the AI that can build AI created a 'child' that outperformed all of its human-made counterparts... For this particular child AI, which the researchers called NASNet, the task was recognising objects -- people, cars, traffic lights, handbags, backpacks, etc. -- in a video in real-time. AutoML would evaluate NASNet's performance and use that information to improve its child AI, repeating the process thousands of times.
When tested on the ImageNet image classification and COCO object detection data sets NASNet was 82.7 percent accurate at predicting images on ImageNet's validation set. This is 1.2 percent better than any previously published results, and the system is also 4 percent more efficient, with a 43.1 percent mean Average Precision (mAP).

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Should Teachers Get $100 For Steering Kids To Google's 'Hour of Code' Lesson?
Posted by News Fetcher on December 03 '17 at 03:51 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's whatever-happened-to-apples? department:
Tomorrow's "Hour of Code" kick-off event features Melinda Gates, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, and "multiple state governors," reports theodp -- who has some concerns.
With Microsoft boasting that nearly 70 million of its Minecraft Hour of Code sessions have been launched, and tech companies pushing coding and their products into classrooms, it's probably no surprise that the 2017 Hour of Code -- organized by tech-bankrolled Code.org -- seems to have presented a too-hard-to-resist branding opportunity for Google, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon. And, in what might evoke memories of Dollars for Doctors, some teachers will even be rewarded for steering their kids to Google's Hour of Code lesson. "Thanks to our friends at Google," explains crowdfunding website DonorsChoose.org, "4th-8th grade public school teachers who engage their students in a 'Create your own Google logo' Hour of Code activity can earn a $100 DonorsChoose.org gift code -- and have the opportunity to receive one of five other grand prizes (including $5,000 in DonorsChoose.org credits for your school!)."

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Dell Begins Offering Laptops With Intel's 'Management Engine' Disabled
Posted by News Fetcher on December 03 '17 at 02:32 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's mismanagement-engine department:
An anonymous reader quotes Liliputing.com
Linux computer vendor System76 announced this week that it will roll out a firmware update to disable Intel Management Engine on laptops sold in the past few years. Purism will also disable Intel Management Engine on computers it sells moving forward. Those two computer companies are pretty small players in the multi-billion dollar PC industry. But it turns out one of the world's largest PC companies is also offering customers the option of buying a computer with Intel Management Engine disabled. At least three Dell computers can be configured with an "Intel vPro -- ME Inoperable, Custom Order" option, although you'll have to pay a little extra for those configurations... While Intel doesn't officially provide an option to disable its Management Engine, independent security researchers have discovered methods for doing that and we're starting to see PC makers make use of those methods.
The option appears to be available on most of Dell's Latitude laptops (from the 12- to 15-inch screens), including the 7480, 5480, and 5580 and the Latitude 14 5000 Series (as well as several "Rugged" and "Rugged Extreme" models).

Dell is charging anywhere from $20.92 to $40 to disable Intel's Management Engine.

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'24 Pull Requests' Suggests Contributing Code For Christmas
Posted by News Fetcher on December 03 '17 at 01:11 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Merry-coding-to-all department:
An anonymous reader writes:
"On December 1st, 24 Pull Requests will be opening its virtual doors once again, asking you to give the gift of a pull request to an open source project in need," writes UK-based software developer Andrew Nesbitt -- noting that last year the site registered more than 16,000 pull requests. "And they're not all by programmers. Often the contribution with the most impact might be an improvement to technical documentation, some tests, or even better -- guidance for other contributors."

This year they're even touting "24 Pull Requests hack events," happening around the world from Lexington, Kentucky to Torino, Italy. (Last year 80 people showed up for an event in London.) "You don't have to hack alone this Christmas!" suggests the site, also inviting local communities and geek meetups (as well as open source-loving companies) to host their own events. Contributing to open source projects can also beef up your CV (for when you're applying for your next job), the site points out, and "Even small contributions can be really valuable to a project."
"You've been benefiting from the use of open source projects all year. Now is the time to say thanks to the maintainers of those projects, and a little birdy tells me that they love receiving pull requests!"

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StartCom Will Stop Issuing Certificates, Revoking Them All in 2020
Posted by News Fetcher on December 03 '17 at 11:48 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's un-cert-ainty department:
thegarbz writes: Startcom, a certificate authority which as we covered previously has been distrusted by Mozilla, by Google, and recently also by Microsoft, has announced that it will cease trading as a Certificate Authority. While their website currently shows no indication that their certificates have any problems, a news posting has announced their intentions to stop providing certificates as of January 2018, and to revoke all remaining certificates in 2020.

The original submission also says StartCom sent an email to all their former customers -- including customers of their free StartSSL certificates -- announcing their intentions.

As you are surely aware, the browser makers distrusted StartCom around a year ago and therefore all the end entity certificates newly issued by StartCom are not trusted by default in browsers.

The browsers imposed some conditions in order for the certificates to be re-accepted. While StartCom believes that these conditions have been met, it appears there are still certain difficulties forthcoming. Considering this situation, the owners of StartCom have decided to terminate the company as a Certification Authority as mentioned in Startcoms website.

StartCom will stop issuing new certificates starting from January 1st, 2018 and will provide only CRL and OCSP services for two more years.
StartCom would like to thank you for your support during this difficult time.

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PHP Now Supports Argon2 Next-Generation Password Hashing Algorithm
Posted by News Fetcher on December 03 '17 at 11:48 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's expanding-encryption department:
An anonymous reader quotes Bleeping Computer: PHP got a whole lot more secure this week with the release of the 7.2 branch, a version that improves and modernizes the language's support for cryptography and password hashing algorithms. Of all changes, the most significant is, by far, the support for Argon2, a password hashing algorithm developed in the early 2010s. Back in 2015, Argon2 beat 23 other algorithms to win the Password Hashing Competition, and is now in the midst of becoming a universally recognized Internet standard at the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the reward for winning the contest. The algorithm is currently considered to be superior to Bcrypt, today's most widely used password hashing function, in terms of both security and cost-effectiveness, and is also slated to become a favorite among cryptocurrencies, as it can also handle proof-of-work operations. The other major change in PHP 7.2 was the removal of the old Mcrypt cryptographic library from the PHP core and the addition of Libsodium, a more modern alternative.

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R.I.P., Cape Wind
Posted by News Fetcher on December 03 '17 at 10:24 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's dying-breezes department:
schwit1 quotes the Boston Globe: What a long, slow death it has been for Massachusetts's first proposed offshore wind farm. But now, its proponents are finally pulling the plug. While others in the energy industry considered the Cape Wind project dead, developer Jim Gordon didn't quit after losing power contracts he needed for financing in early 2015, or after state regulators yanked permission for a power line connection last year. Another big blow came later in 2016 when Cape Wind foes worked their magic on Beacon Hill. They successfully lobbied lawmakers to prevent Cape Wind from benefitting from a major energy bill, one that requires utilities to buy large amounts of offshore wind. This was exactly the kind of legislation Gordon needed. But he wasn't being allowed at the party... We're embarking on a new era. Wind turbines are on their way for deeper waters, south of Martha's Vineyard. They won't be Gordon's. But at least he can take some credit, in his defeat, for being a pioneer.

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Can Researchers Detect Irregular Heart Rhythms with the Apple Watch?
Posted by News Fetcher on December 03 '17 at 09:05 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's watch-ing-your-health department:
An anonymous reader quotes USA Today:

Might wearing an Apple Watch save you from a stroke or cardio problem? Apple is careful not to make that direct claim. But the company, in collaboration with Stanford University School of Medicine, launched the Apple Heart Study app on Thursday that uses the heart rate sensor inside the Apple Watch to collect data on irregular heart rhythms... If an irregular heart rhythm is detected, participants in the study will be notified through the Apple Watch and on their iPhones. Should that occur, you'll be offered a free consultation with a study doctor, and possibly an electrocardiogram patch for additional monitoring...
A participant in the study merely has to download the app and wear the watch... The way Apple explains it, a sensor inside the watch uses green LED lights flashing hundreds of times per second and light-sensitive photodiodes to detect the amount of blood flowing through the wrist. The sensor has an optical design that gathers signals from four distinct points on the wrist. Using software algorithms, the Apple Watch can isolate heart rhythms from other noise, and identify an irregular heart rhythm.

The FDA has also approved the first personal electrocardiogram accessory for the Apple Watch, according to TechNewsWorld. "The KardiaBand" also detects and records atrial fibrillation that can lead to strokes or other heart problems. "The user simply touches an integrated sensor, and the results are then displayed on the face of the Apple Watch."

An irregular, bloodflow-disrupting heartbeat is the top cause of strokes, which kill 130,000 people every year just in the U.S. -- in many case before they've experienced any symptoms.

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Your Brain 'Blinks' When Your Attention Shifts, Researchers Discover
Posted by News Fetcher on December 03 '17 at 07:36 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's I'm-sorry,-what? department:
Science_afficionado quotes Vanderbilt University's Research News:
When your attention shifts from one place to another, your brain blinks. The blinks are momentary unconscious gaps in visual perception and came as a surprise to the team of Vanderbilt psychologists who discovered the phenomenon while studying the benefits of attention...
The research was conducted with macaque monkeys that were trained to shift their attention among different objects on a display screen while the researchers monitored the pattern of neuron activity taking place in their brains... By combining advanced recording techniques that simultaneously track large numbers of neurons with sophisticated computational analyses, the researchers discovered that the activity of the neurons in the visual cortex were momentarily disrupted when the game required the animals to shift their attention. They also traced the source of the disruptions to parts of the brain involved in guiding attention, not back to the eyes.

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