By EditorDavid from Slashdot's feeling-Grinchy department
Google.org gives nonprofits roughly $100 million each year. But now the Register argues that festive giving "has become a 'Googlicious' sales push." Among other things, The Register criticizes the $30 million in grant funding that Google.org gave this Christmas "to nonprofits to bring phones, tablets, hardware and training to communities that can benefit from them most," some of which utilized the crowdfunding site DonorsChoose (which tacks a fee of at least $30 fee onto every donation). "The most critical learning resources that teachers need are often exercise books, pen and paper, but incentives built into the process steer educators to request and receive Google hardware, rather than humble classroom staples," claims the Register. theodp writes:
[O]ne can't help but wonder if Google.org's decision to award $18,130 to teachers at Timberland Charter Academy for Chromebooks to help make students "become 'Google'licious" while leaving another humbler $399 request from a teacher at the same school for basic school supplies -- pencils, paper, erasers, etc. -- unfunded is more aligned with Google's interests than the Christmas spirit. Google, The Register reminds readers, lowered its 2015 tax bill by $3.6 billion using the old Dutch Sandwich loophole trick, according to new regulatory filings in the Netherlands.
The article even criticizes the "Santa's Village" site at Google.org, which includes games like Code Boogie, plus a game about airport security at the North Pole. Their complaint is its "Season of Giving" game, which invites children to print out and color ornaments that represent charities -- including DonorsChoose.org. The article ends by quoting Slashdot reader theodp ("who documents the influence of Big Tech in education") as saying "Nothing says Christmas fun more than making ornaments to celebrate Google's pet causes..."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Alexa-crush-the-competition department
Six million homes already have an Amazon device with it Alexa voice assistant -- about 5% of all households. But Backchannel argues that Amazon is already dominating the race to become the operating system for future voice-activated devices, with Forrester tech analyst James McQuivey pointing out that "having microphones in your environment is a lot more convenient than pulling out your phone."
The Alexa-enabled Echo is a true unicorn, one of those rare products that arrives every few years and fundamentally changes the way we live... After years of false starts, voice interface will finally creep into the mainstream as more people purchase voice-enabled speakers and other gadgets, and as the tech that powers voice starts to improve.
Despite competition from Google Home, and a rumored "Home Hub" from Microsoft, Amazon "has a two-year jump on its competition, having first introduced the Echo speaker in November 2014," notes the article, adding that Amazon also "opened its platform early to third-party developers." (Alexa now has more than 5,000 "skills".) They argue that Amazon is already winning the war of the operating systems by familiarizing consumers with "a new computing interface -- a voice devoid of a screen -- that will eventually grow to be more ubiquitous and more useful than our smartphones... Soon, you'll speak your wants into the air -- anywhere -- and a woman's warm voice with a mid-Atlantic accent will talk back to you, ready to fulfill your commands."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's may-the-force-be-with-her department
!Best-known for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars trilogy and The Force Awakens, actress Carrie Fisher is recovering from a "cardiac event" Friday. An anonymous reader quotes ABC:
Her brother, Todd Fisher, told The Associated Press that she was "out of emergency" and stabilized at a Los Angeles hospital Friday afternoon... The 60-year-old "Star Wars" star experienced medical trouble during a flight from London and was treated by paramedics immediately upon landing in Los Angeles around noon Friday, according to reports citing unnamed sources.
Fisher reportedly remains in the intensive care unit while lots of celebrities are now wishing her a speedy recovery for Christmas, including Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, C-3PO actor Anthony Daniels, Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew, and Billy Dee Williams, as well as Star Trek actors William Shatner and George Takei. Many fans are using the hashtag #MayTheForceBeWithHer, and she's even receiving messages of support from the Twitter account set up for her therapy dog, Gary.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Christmas-gift-ideas department
An anonymous reader quotes CNN's report about an iPhone 7 "encased in solid gold, encrusted with diamonds and bearing the face of Donald Trump."
Priced around $151,000, it's just one example of the mind-blowing bling sold by Goldgenie, a store in the United Arab Emirates where the super rich do their shopping. "There are very wealthy, high-net-worth individuals all over the world and sometimes its very difficult to buy gifts for them because they have everything," said Frank Fernando, Goldgenie's managing director... But the phones are far from the most expensive item on sale. A gold-plated racing bike will set you back about $350,000.
If you're thinking no one would buy a $150,000 Trump phone, think again. In the last month, they've sold ten of them.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's talking-vs-unlocking department
"Any measure that weakens encryption works against the national interest," reports a bipartisan committee in the U.S. Congress. Mark Wilson quotes Beta News:
The Congressional Encryption Working Group (EWG) was set up in the wake of the Apple vs FBI case in which the FBI wanted to gain access to the encrypted contents of a shooter's iPhone. The group has just published its end-of-year report summarizing months of meetings, analysis and debate. The report makes four key observations, starting off with: "Any measure that weakens encryption works against the national interest".
This is certainly not a new argument against encryption backdoors for the likes of the FBI, but it is an important one... The group says: "Congress should not weaken this vital technology... Cryptography experts and information security professionals believe that it is exceedingly difficult and impractical, if not impossible, to devise and implement a system that gives law enforcement exceptional access to encrypted data without also compromising security against hackers, industrial spies, and other malicious actors...
The report recommends that instead, Congress "should foster cooperation between the law enforcement community and technology companies," adding "there is already substantial cooperation between the private sector and law enforcement." [PDF] It also suggests that analyzing the metadata from "our digital 'footprints'...could play a role in filling in the gap. The technology community leverages this information every day to improve services and target advertisements. There appears to be an opportunity for law enforcement to better leverage this information in criminal investigations."Read Replies (0)
Python 3.6 Released
Posted by News Fetcher on December 24 '16 at 08:31 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's batteries-included department
On Friday, more than a year after Python 3.5, core developers Elvis Pranskevichus and Yury Selivanov announced the release of version 3.6. An anonymous reader writes:
InfoWorld describes the changes as async in more places, speed and memory usage improvements, and pluggable support for JITs, tracers, and debuggers. "Python 3.6 also provides support for DTrace and SystemTap, brings a secrets module to the standard library [to generate authentication tokens], introduces new string and number formats, and adds type annotations for variables. It also gives us easier methods to customize the creation of subclasses."
You can read Slashdot's interview with Python creator Guido van Rossum from 2013. I also remember an interview this July where Perl creator Larry Wall called Python "a pretty okay first language, with a tendency towards style enforcement, monoculture, and group-think...more interested in giving you one adequate way to do something than it is in giving you a workshop that you, the programmer, get to choose the best tool from."
Anyone want to share their thoughts today about the future of Python?Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's emotionally-volatile department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The world's largest hedge fund is building a piece of software to automate the day-to-day management of the firm, including hiring, firing and other strategic decision-making. Bridgewater Associates has a team of software engineers working on the project at the request of billionaire founder Ray Dalio, who wants to ensure the company can run according to his vision even when he's not there, the Wall Street Journal reported. The firm, which manages $160 billion, created the team of programmers specializing in analytics and artificial intelligence, dubbed the Systematized Intelligence Lab, in early 2015. The unit is headed up by David Ferrucci, who previously led IBM's development of Watson, the supercomputer that beat humans at Jeopardy! in 2011. The company is already highly data-driven, with meetings recorded and staff asked to grade each other throughout the day using a ratings system called "dots." The Systematized Intelligence Lab has built a tool that incorporates these ratings into "Baseball Cards" that show employees' strengths and weaknesses. Another app, dubbed The Contract, gets staff to set goals they want to achieve and then tracks how effectively they follow through. These tools are early applications of PriOS, the over-arching management software that Dalio wants to make three-quarters of all management decisions within five years. The kinds of decisions PriOS could make include finding the right staff for particular job openings and ranking opposing perspectives from multiple team members when there's a disagreement about how to proceed. The machine will make the decisions, according to a set of principles laid out by Dalio about the company vision.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's with-our-powers-combined department
Earlier this week, General Motors announced a partnership with Boston-area startup WiTricity to develop wireless charging pads for electric vehicles. Their goal is to develop a wireless "charging pad" that can be installed beneath a layer of concrete or other garage flooring material so that cars would simply need to be parked over the pad to automatically start charging. Electrek reports: "The electric vehicle has been recognized as central to the future of mobility, and GM has been a leader, making EVs accessible to the broader market. The convenience of wireless charging will help accelerate adoption even further," said Alex Gruzen, CEO of WiTricity, about the alliance. "Wireless charging for EVs, based on industry standards, is inevitable as we move toward a future of self-driving and autonomous vehicles, and this project brings us one step closer to realizing our vision of a world powered wirelessly." GM agreed to allow WiTricity to conduct tests on a Chevrolet Volt hybrid vehicle, "to show how well it would work integrated into a real car," according to Gruzen. Witricity claims that their system can achieve over 90% efficiency, which would make it at least as efficient as a plug-in charger. "Wireless charging is a technology that our customers have told us they are interested in," GM's executive chief engineer of electrified vehicles, Pamela Fletcher, said. "By testing the WiTricity prototype system, we can ensure that wireless charging systems will comply with proposed industry standards, which benefits the entire industry and consumers." The company has high hopes for their product. Gruzen envisions a future in which EV owners can send autonomous cars to charging stations remotely, a future that would only be possible with wireless charging stations.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's forever-alone department
schwit1 quotes a report from The New York Times: Social isolation is a growing epidemic (Warning: may be paywalled; alternate source) -- one that's increasingly recognized as having dire physical, mental and emotional consequences. Since the 1980s, the percentage of American adults who say they're lonely has
doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent. About one-third of Americans older than 65 now
live alone, and half of those over 85 do. People in
poorer health -- especially those with mood disorders like anxiety and
depression -- are more likely to feel lonely. Those
without a college education are the least likely to have someone they can talk to about important personal matters. A wave of new research suggests social separation is bad for us. Individuals with less social connection have disrupted
sleep patterns, altered
immune systems, more inflammation and higher levels of
stress hormones. One recent study found that isolation increases the risk of heart disease by 29 percent and stroke by 32 percent. Another analysis that pooled data from 70 studies and 3.4 million people found that socially isolated individuals had a 30 percent higher risk of dying in the next seven years, and that this effect was largest in middle age. Loneliness can
accelerate cognitive decline in older adults, and isolated individuals are twice as likely to die prematurely as those with more robust social interactions. These effects start early:
Socially isolated children have significantly poorer health 20 years later, even after controlling for other factors. All told, loneliness is as important a risk factor for early death as
obesity and smoking.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-kid-on-the-block department
earlytime writes: Large scale account hacks such as the billion user Yahoo breach and targeted phishing hacks of gmail accounts during the U.S. election have made 2016 an infamous year for web security. Along comes U2F/web-security keys to address these issues at a critical time. Ars Technica reports that U2F keys "may be the world's best hope against account takeovers": "The Security Keys are based on Universal Second Factor, an open standard that's easy for end users to use and straightforward for engineers to stitch into hardware and websites. When plugged into a standard USB port, the keys provide a 'cryptographic assertion' that's just about impossible for attackers to guess or phish. Accounts can require that cryptographic key in addition to a normal user password when users log in. Google, Dropbox, GitHub, and other sites have already implemented the standard into their platforms. After more than two years of public implementation and internal study, Google security architects have declared Security Keys their preferred form of two-factor authentication. The architects based their assessment on the ease of using and deploying keys, the security it provided against phishing and other types of password attacks, and the lack of privacy trade-offs that accompany some other forms of two-factor authentication." The researchers wrote in a recently published report: "We have shipped support for Security Keys in the Chrome browser, have deployed it within Google's internal sign-in system, and have enabled Security Keys as an available second factor in Google's Web services. In this work, we demonstrate that Security Keys lead to both an increased level of security and user satisfaction as well as cheaper support cost."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's better-late-than-never department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: BitTorrent has now done for live video what it did for file downloads: invented peer-to-peer technology that moves the burden of data transfer from a centralized source to the crowd. Instead of cables and satellites, BitTorrent piggybacks on the internet bandwidth of its users. Since P2P live streaming is so much cheaper than traditional ways to deliver live content, BitTorrent could pay channel owners more for distribution per viewer. And BitTorrent can offer that content to viewers for free or much cheaper than a cable subscription. The transfer technology and the app that aggregates these channels are both called BitTorrent Live. Now, almost a year after the protocol's debut on smart TVs, and six months after it was supposed to arrive on iPhone, the BitTorrent Live app quietly became available on iOS this week. Until now it's only existed on Mac, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV -- much less popular platforms. And that's after being in development since 2009. The app features 15 channels, including NASA TV, France One, QVC Home and TWiT (This Week In Tech) that you can watch live. The latency is roughly 10 seconds, which could be faster than terrestrial cable, as well as systems like Sling TV that can delay content more than a minute. The problem right now is that BitTorrent Live has a pretty lackluster channel selection. It's still working on striking deals with more name-brand channels. It could offer some for pay-per-view, but cheaper than the same content on traditional TV due to the reduced broadcasting costs.Read Replies (0)