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Google is Essentially Building an Anti-Amazon Alliance, and Target is the Latest To Join
Posted by News Fetcher on October 13 '17 at 01:23 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's fighting-back department:
Google and the country's biggest brick-and-mortar retailers have one main problem in common: Amazon. Now both sides are acting like they are serious about working together to do something about it. From a report: On Thursday, Target and Google announced that they are expanding what was a years-old delivery partnership from a small experiment in a handful of cities to the entire continental U.S. The expansion will allow Target to become a retail partner in Google's voice-shopping initiative, which lets owners of the Google Home "smart" speaker order items through voice commands like owners of the Echo can do from Amazon. The announcement comes seven weeks after Walmart inked a similar deal with Google to offer hundreds of thousands of products through the service. Other big-box retailers like Home Depot are also on board. Voice commerce was the core of these recent announcements, and it may someday become popular for types of shopping like reordering household staples. But that's not what is most interesting here to me. Instead, it's the promise that Target is also beginning to work with Google "to create innovative digital experiences using ... other cutting-edge technologies to elevate Target's strength in style areas such as home, apparel and beauty."

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Why China is Winning the Clean Energy Race
Posted by News Fetcher on October 13 '17 at 01:23 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's fight-for-pride department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: U.S. politicians have been warning for years that America couldn't let China win the clean energy race. That's exactly what has happened, with the trends most stark in electric cars, solar and nuclear energy. Why it matters: Building for the last decade, these trends have accelerated in the last couple of years. Politicians and business leaders said America's dominance in this space would bring jobs to the U.S. and security to our clean-energy resources, and now both of those goals are at risk. Why China is doing this: It needs to literally energize its 1.4 billion people, both how they travel and how they power their homes. Its leadership feels compelled to do it in a cleaner way than the U.S. did. Air pollution is at dangerously high levels across many of China's cities. People are seeing and feeling health repercussions of China's dependence on fossil fuel-fired cars and power plants in an acute way. Traditional air pollution, not climate change, is a big driver.

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IT Admin Trashes Railroad Company's Network Before He Leaves
Posted by News Fetcher on October 13 '17 at 12:03 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's stranger-things department:
Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: A federal jury in Minneapolis, Minnesota found a local man guilty of intentionally damaging his former employer's network before leaving the company. The man's name is Christopher Victor Grupe, 46, and from September 2013 until December 2015 he worked as an IT professional for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), a transcontinental railroad based in Alberta, Canada. Things went sideways in December 2015 when CPR suspended Grupe for 12 days for yelling and using inadequate language with his boss. When the man returned to work following his suspension on December 15, management told Grupe they were going to fire him for insubordination. According to court documents obtained by Bleeping Computer, Grupe asked management to resign, effective immediately. He promised to come back the following days and return company property such as his laptop, remote access device, and access badges. He did return the items, as promised, but not before taking the laptop for a last spin inside CPR's network. Court documents show Grupe accessed the company's switches and removed admin accounts, changed passwords for other admin accounts, and deleted log files. When done, Grupe wiped his laptop and returned it to CPR's Minnesota office on December 17, two days after he resigned.

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SWIFT Says Hackers Still Targeting Bank Messaging System
Posted by News Fetcher on October 13 '17 at 12:03 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department:
Hackers continue to target the SWIFT bank messaging system, though security controls instituted after last year's $81 million heist at Bangladesh's central bank have helped thwart many of those attempts, a senior SWIFT official told Reuters. From the report: "Attempts continue," said Stephen Gilderdale, head of SWIFT's Customer Security Programme, in a phone interview. "That is what we expected. We didn't expect the adversaries to suddenly disappear." SWIFT spokeswoman Natasha de Teran told Reuters that the attackers had attempted to hack into computers that banks use to access the organization's proprietary network, then create fraudulent messages to send over the SWIFT system. "We have no indication that our network and core messaging services have been compromised," she said. The disclosure underscores that banks remain at risk of cyber attacks targeting computers used to access SWIFT almost two years after the February 2016 theft from a Bangladesh Bank account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

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Qualcomm Seeks China iPhone Ban, Escalating Apple Legal Fight
Posted by News Fetcher on October 13 '17 at 10:43 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department:
Qualcomm filed lawsuits in China seeking to ban the sale and manufacture of iPhones in the country, the chipmaker's biggest shot at Apple so far in a sprawling and bitter legal fight. From a report: The San Diego-based company aims to inflict pain on Apple in the world's largest market for smartphones and cut off production in a country where most iPhones are made. The product provides almost two-thirds of Apple's revenue. Qualcomm filed the suits in a Beijing intellectual property court claiming patent infringement and seeking injunctive relief, according to Christine Trimble, a company spokeswoman. "Apple employs technologies invented by Qualcomm without paying for them," Trimble said. An Apple spokesman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday. Qualcomm's suits are based on three non-standard essential patents, it said. They cover power management and a touch-screen technology called Force Touch that Apple uses in current iPhones, Qualcomm said. The inventions "are a few examples of the many Qualcomm technologies that Apple uses to improve its devices and increase its profits," Trimble said. The company made the filings at the Beijing court on Sept. 29. The court has not yet made them public.

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This Is the Week Wall Street Went Nuts Over Cryptocurrencies
Posted by News Fetcher on October 13 '17 at 10:43 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's growing-trend department:
Wall Street banks that weren't already on the bitcoin bandwagon appear to be piling on, or least eyeing seats, after the cryptocurrency surged to all-time highs this week on the way to $6,000. From a report: Analysts are working to keep up with demand from clients for information. UBS and Citigroup published extensive explainers on blockchain technology, while senior executives at JPMorgan Chase warmed to the cryptocurrency during the bank's third-quarter earnings call. The digital currency has risen more than fivefold after trading at less than $1,000 as recently as December, breaking the $5,000 mark this week and already targeting the next thousand-dollar level. Throughout its rise, the cryptocurrency shrugged off tighter regulations, feuding factions and warnings from the likes of JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon of fraud and an eventual price collapse.

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Does the Rise of AI Precede the End of Code?
Posted by News Fetcher on October 13 '17 at 09:23 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
An anonymous reader shares an article: It's difficult to know what's in store for the future of AI but let's tackle the most looming question first: are engineering jobs threatened? As anticlimactic as it may be, the answer is entirely dependent on what timeframe you are talking about. In the next decade? No, entirely unlikely. Eventually? Most definitely. The kicker is that engineers never truly know how the computer is able to accomplish these tasks. In many ways, the neural operations of the AI system are a black box. Programmers, therefore, become the AI coaches. They coach cars to self-drive, coach computers to recognise faces in photos, coach your smartphone to detect handwriting on a check in order to deposit electronically, and so on. In fact, the possibilities of AI and machine learning are limitless. The capabilities of AI through machine learning are wondrous, magnificent... and not going away. Attempts to apply artificial intelligence to programming tasks have resulted in further developments in knowledge and automated reasoning. Therefore, programmers must redefine their roles. Essentially, software development jobs will not become obsolete anytime soon but instead require more collaboration between humans and computers. For one, there will be an increased need for engineers to create, test and research AI systems. AI and machine learning will not be advanced enough to automate and dominate everything for a long time, so engineers will remain the technological handmaidens.

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Google Bombs Are Our New Normal
Posted by News Fetcher on October 13 '17 at 09:23 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
mirandakatz writes: Tech companies' worst crises used to come in the form of pranks like Google bombs: Users figured out how to game search results, such as when a search for "miserable failure" turned up links to information about then-president George W. Bush. Today, in the era of fake news and Russian interference, that's basically our new normal -- but as Karen Wickre, a former communications lead at companies like Google and Twitter, points out, tech companies' approaches to dealing with the new breed of crises haven't evolved much since the age of Google bombs. Wickre suggests a new, collaborative approach that she dubs the "Federation," writing that "No single company, no matter how massive and wealthy, can hire its way out of a steady gusher of bad information or false and manipulative ads...The era of the edge case -- the exception, the outlier—is over. Welcome to our time, where trouble is forever brewing."

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Someone Is Trying to Knock the Dark Web Drug Trade Offline
Posted by News Fetcher on October 13 '17 at 08:03 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's new-wrinkle department:
Joseph Cox, reporting for the Daily Beast: The dark web -- a pack of websites that hides their physical location with special software -- is always a precarious place, with the FBI shutting down massive criminal networks, or competing sites hacking one another. Now, someone is trying to take the four largest drug marketplaces offline, seemingly by flooding them with a torrent of traffic. These sites offer a mail-order service for pretty much any drug a customer could imagine, from LSD to varieties of heroin. As of at least Friday morning, several marketplaces were inaccessible or could only be visited from backup website addresses, and at the time of publication are still facing problems. It's not totally clear who is behind the outages, but the downtime has disrupted the dark-web community somewhat. "We are facing a DDoS attack atm [at the moment] and I guess many other markets as well," a Reddit moderator for the site dubbed Wall Street, one of the affected marketplaces, told The Daily Beast.

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Real Moviegoers Don't Care About Rotten Tomatoes
Posted by News Fetcher on October 13 '17 at 08:03 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's difference-in-views department:
In a recent essay published on the Hollywood Reporter, Martin Scorsese inveighs against two conjoined trends -- the widespread reporting of box-office results and the grading of movies by consumers on CinemaScore and by critics on Rotten Tomatoes -- and blames it for "a tone that is hostile to serious filmmakers." In particular, he contends that this hostile environment is worsening "as film criticism written by passionately engaged people with actual knowledge of film history has gradually faded from the scene." Richard Brody, a movie critic at the New Yorker, thinks Scorsese is missing the mark. He writes: I think that film criticism is, over all, better than ever, because, with its new Internet-centrism, it's more democratic than ever and many of the critics who write largely online are more film-curious than ever. Anyone who is active on so-called Film Twitter -- who sees links by critics, mainly younger critics, to his or her work -- can't help but be impressed by the knowledge, the curiosity, and the sensibility of many of them. Their tastes tend to be broader and more daring than those of many senior critics on more established publications. And, even if readers of the wider press aren't reading these more obscure critics, the critics whom general readers read are often reading those young critics (and if they're not, it shows). This is, of course, not universally so, any more than it ever was. The Internet is democratic in all directions -- it's also available to writers of lesser knowledge, duller taste, and dubious agendas, and it may be their work that's advertised most loudly -- but the younger generation of critics is present online and there for the finding. [...] What Scorsese doesn't exactly say, but what, I think, marks a generation gap in movie thinking that his essay reflects, is the appearance of an increasing divide between artistically ambitious films and Hollywood films -- the gap between the top box-office films and the award winners. For filmmakers ready to work on lower budgets, the gap is irrelevant. The filmmakers whose conceptions tend toward the spectacular are the ones whose styles may, literally, be cramped by shrinking budgets -- filmmakers such as Scorsese and Wes Anderson, whose work has both an original and elaborate sense of style and a grand historical reach.

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Twitter Is Crawling With Bots and Lacks Incentive To Expel Them
Posted by News Fetcher on October 13 '17 at 06:43 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's other-side department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: On Wednesday, the exterior of Twitter's San Francisco headquarters bore an eerie message: "Ban Russian Bots." Someone -- the company doesn't know who -- projected the demand onto the side of its building. Bots, or automated software programs, can be programmed to periodically send out messages on the internet. Now Twitter is scrambling to explain how bots controlled by Russian meddlers may have been used to impact the 2016 president election. Twitter was designed to be friendly to bots. They can help advertisers quickly spread their messages and respond to customer service complaints. Research from the University of Southern California and Indiana University shows that 9 to 15 percent of active Twitter accounts are bots. Many innocuously tweet headlines, the weather or Netflix releases. After the election, there was little discussion inside the company about whether the platform may have been misused, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because it is private. But the ubiquity and usefulness of bots did come up. At one point, there were talks about whether Twitter should put a marking on bot accounts, so that users would know they were automated, one of the people said. Yet most of the conversation after the election focused on whether Trump's tweets violated Twitter's policies, the person said.

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Recordings of the Sounds Heard In the Cuban US Embassy Attacks Released
Posted by News Fetcher on October 13 '17 at 06:43 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's dangerous-sounds department:
New submitter chrissfoot shares a report from The Associated Press: The Associated Press has obtained a recording of what some U.S. Embassy workers heard in Havana in a series of unnerving incidents later deemed to be deliberate attacks. The recording, released Thursday by the AP, is the first disseminated publicly of the many taken in Cuba of mysterious sounds that led investigators initially to suspect a sonic weapon. The recordings themselves are not believed to be dangerous to those who listen. Sound experts and physicians say they know of no sound that can cause physical damage when played for short durations at normal levels through standard equipment like a cellphone or computer. What device produced the original sound remains unknown. Americans affected in Havana reported the sounds hit them at extreme volumes. You can listen to the "Dangerous Sound" here via YouTube.

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Researcher Turns HDD Into Rudimentary Microphone
Posted by News Fetcher on October 13 '17 at 05:23 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's inside-voices department:
An anonymous reader writes from Bleeping Computer: Speaking at a security conference, researcher Alfredo Ortega has revealed that you can use your hard disk drive (HDD) as a rudimentary microphone to pick up nearby sounds. This is possible because of how hard drives are designed to work. Sounds or nearby vibrations are nothing more than mechanical waves that cause HDD platters to vibrate. By design, a hard drive cannot read or write information to an HDD platter that moves under vibrations, so the hard drive must wait for the oscillation to stop before carrying out any actions. Because modern operating systems come with utilities that measure HDD operations up to nanosecond accuracy, Ortega realized that he could use these tools to measure delays in HDD operations. The longer the delay, the louder the sound or the intense the vibration that causes it. These read-write delays allowed the researcher to reconstruct sound or vibration waves picked up by the HDD platters. A video demo is here. "It's not accurate yet to pick up conversations," Ortega told Bleeping Computer in a private conversation. "However, there is research that can recover voice data from very low-quality signals using pattern recognition. I didn't have time to replicate the pattern-recognition portion of that research into mine. However, it's certainly applicable." Furthermore, the researcher also used sound to attack hard drives. Ortega played a 130Hz tone to make an HDD stop responding to commands. "The Linux kernel disconnected it entirely after 120 seconds," he said. There's a video of this demo on YouTube.

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World's First 'Negative Emissions' Plant Has Begun Operation
Posted by News Fetcher on October 13 '17 at 04:03 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's water-into-wine department:
In an effort to reduce the 40 trillion kg of carbon dioxide humans produce each year, three companies have been working to build machines that can capture the gas directly from the air. One such machine in Iceland has begun operation. Quartz reports: Climeworks just proved the cynics wrong. On Oct. 11, at a geothermal power plant in Iceland, the startup inaugurated the first system that does direct air capture and verifiably achieves negative carbon emissions. Although it's still at pilot scale -- capturing only 50 metric tons CO2 from the air each year, about the same emitted by a single U.S. household -- it's the first system to take CO2 in the air and convert the emissions into stone, thus ensuring they don't escape back into the atmosphere for the next millions of years. Climeworks and Global Thermostat have piloted systems in which they coat plastics and ceramics, respectively, with an amine, a type of chemical that can absorb CO2. Carbon Engineering uses a liquid system, with calcium oxide and water. The companies say it's too early in the development of these technologies to predict what costs will be at scale.

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Octopuses Show Scientists How To Hide Machines in Plain Sight
Posted by News Fetcher on October 13 '17 at 02:43 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-to-train-your-dragon department:
If you want to learn the art of camouflage look no further than octopuses. Just watch this
famous video that shows a diver slowly swimming up to a clump of rock and seaweed, only for part of that clump to turn white, open its eye, and jet away, squirting ink behind it. Materials scientists and engineers have fallen under the octopuses' spell. From a report: Scientists have engineered a material that can transform from a 2D sheet to a 3D shape, adjusting its texture to blend in with its surroundings, per a new study published today in Science. They mimicked the abilities of an octopus, which can change both shape and color to camouflage. This is a first step toward developing soft robots that can hide in plain sight, robotics expert Cecilia Laschi writes of the research. Robots that can camouflage may one day be used in natural environments to study animals more closely than ever before or in military operations to avoid detection, she writes.

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The Real Inside Story of How Commodore Failed
Posted by News Fetcher on October 13 '17 at 01:24 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's what's-inside department:
dryriver writes: Everybody who was into computers in the 1980s and 1990s remembers Commodore producing amazingly innovative, capable and popular multimedia and gaming computers one moment, and disappearing off the face of the earth the next, leaving only PCs and Macs standing. Much has been written about what went wrong with Commodore over the years, but always by outsiders looking in -- journalists, tech writers, not people who were on the inside. In a 34 minute long Youtube interview that surfaced on October 9th, former Commodore UK Managing Director David John Pleasance and Trevor Dickinson of A-EON Technology talk very frankly about how Commodore really failed, and just how crazy bad and preventable the business and tech decisions that killed Commodore were, from firing all Amiga engineers for no discernible reason, to hiring 40 IBM engineers who didn't understand multimedia computing, to not licensing the then-valuable Commodore Business Machines (CBM) brand to PC makers to generate an extra revenue stream, to one new manager suddenly deciding to manufacture in the Philippines -- a place where the man had a lady mistress apparently. The interview is a truly eye-opening preview of an upcoming book David John Pleasance is writing called Commodore: The Inside Story . The book will, for the first time, chronicle the fall of Commodore from the insider perspective of an actual Commodore Managing Director.

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Here To Zero: The Real Inside Story of How Commodore Failed
Posted by News Fetcher on October 13 '17 at 12:00 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's what's-inside department:
dryriver writes: Everybody who was into computers in the 1980s and 1990s remembers Commodore producing amazingly innovative, capable and popular multimedia and gaming computers one moment, and disappearing off the face of the earth the next, leaving only PCs and Macs standing. Much has been written about what went wrong with Commodore over the years, but always by outsiders looking in -- journalists, tech writers, not people who were on the inside. In a 34 minute long Youtube interview that surfaced on October 9th, former Commodore UK Managing Director David John Pleasance and Trevor Dickinson of A-EON Technology talk very frankly about how Commodore really failed, and just how crazy bad and preventable the business and tech decisions that killed Commodore were, from firing all Amiga engineers for no discernible reason, to hiring 40 IBM engineers who didn't understand multimedia computing, to not licensing the then-valuable Commodore Business Machines (CBM) brand to PC makers to generate an extra revenue stream, to one new manager suddenly deciding to manufacture in the Philippines -- a place where the man had a lady mistress apparently. The interview is a truly eye-opening preview of an upcoming book David John Pleasance is writing called Commodore: The Inside Story . The book will, for the first time, chronicle the fall of Commodore from the insider perspective of an actual Commodore Managing Director.

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FDA Advisers Endorse Gene Therapy To Treat Form of Blindness
Posted by News Fetcher on October 12 '17 at 08:03 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's first-of-its-kind department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBS News: A panel of U.S. health advisers has endorsed an experimental approach to treating inherited blindness, setting the stage for the likely approval of an innovative new genetic medicine. A panel of experts to the Food and Drug Administration voted unanimously in favor of Spark Therapeutics' injectable therapy, which aims to improve vision in patients with a rare mutation that gradually destroys normal vision. The vote amounts to a recommendation to approve the therapy. According to Spark Therapeutics' website, inherited retinal diseases are a group of rare blinding conditions caused by one of more than 220 genes. Some living with these diseases experience a gradual loss of vision, while others may be born without the ability to see or lose their vision in infancy or early childhood. Genetic testing is the only way to verify the exact gene mutation that is the underlying cause of the disease.

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Google Is Really Good At Design
Posted by News Fetcher on October 12 '17 at 06:43 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's changing-times department:
Joshua Topolsky, writing for The Outline: The stuff Google showed off on October 4 was brazenly designed and strangely, invitingly touchable. These gadgets were soft, colorful... delightful? They looked human, but like something future humans had made; people who'd gotten righteously drunk with aliens. You could imagine them in your living room, your den, your bedroom. Your teleportation chamber. A fuzzy little donut you can have a conversation with. A VR headset in stunning pink. A phone with playful pops of color and an interface that seems to presage what you want, when you want it. It's weird. It's subtle. It's... good. It's Google? It's Google.

It was only a few years ago that Google was actually something of a laughing stock when it came to design. As an aggressively engineer-led company, the Mountain View behemoth's early efforts, particularly with its mobile software and devices, focused not on beauty, elegance, or simplicity, but rather concentrated on flexibility, iteration, and scale. These are useful priorities for a utilitarian search engine, but didn't translate well to many of the company's other products. Design -- the mysterious intersection of art and communication -- was a second-class citizen at Google, subordinate to The Data. That much was clear from the top down.

< article continued at Slashdot's changing-times department >

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Driverless Cars Are Giving Engineers a Fuel Economy Headache
Posted by News Fetcher on October 12 '17 at 05:23 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's converging-technologies department:
schwit1 shares a report from Bloomberg: Judging from General Motors' test cars and Elon Musk's predictions, the world is headed toward a future that's both driverless and all-electric. In reality, autonomy and battery power could end up being at odds. That's because self-driving technology is a huge power drain. Some of today's prototypes for fully autonomous systems consume two to four kilowatts of electricity -- the equivalent of having 50 to 100 laptops continuously running in the trunk, according to BorgWarner Inc. The supplier of vehicle propulsion systems expects the first autonomous cars -- likely robotaxis that are constantly on the road -- will be too energy-hungry to run on battery power alone. A fully autonomous subcompact car like a Honda Fit, for example, will get 54.6 miles to the gallon in 2025 in the best-case scenario, more than 5 miles below the U.S. emissions target, according to BorgWarner. A small pickup or SUV would be at 45.8 mpg, versus a target of 50. Engineers don't have much time to resolve this, as companies are planning to deploy their first fully self-driving cars in the next couple of years. One way for automakers to meet the power-hungry needs of self-driving systems will be to use gasoline-electric hybrid models rather than purely electric cars, said Mary Gustanski, chief technology officer of supplier Delphi Automotive Plc's powertrain business.

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