By msmash from Slashdot's PSA department
Dropbox has quietly removed unlimited device linking for free accounts, meaning that unless you upgrade to one of its paid plans, which start at $8.25 per month, you will be restricted to three devices for a single account. From a report: The change was rolled out earlier this month, though it's worth noting that those who had linked more than three devices prior to March 2019 won't be directly affected. However, anyone who already exceeds the new limit will be impacted at some point, as they won't be able to add any more devices to their account in the future, and if they upgrade to a new phone, tablet, or computer, the three device limit will catch up with them.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's pushing-the-limits department
Pi just got bigger. Google's Compute Engine has calculated the most digits of pi ever, setting a new world record. From a report: Emma Haruka Iwao, who works in high performance computing and programming language communities at Google, used infrastructure powered by Google Cloud to calculate 31.4 trillion digits of pi. The previous world record was set by Peter Trueb in 2016, who calculated the digits of pi to 22.4 trillion digits. This is the first time that a publicly available cloud software has been used for a pi calculation of this magnitude.
Iwao became fascinated by pi when she learned about it in math class at school. At university, one of her professors, Daisuke Takahashi, was the record holder for the most-calculated digits of pi using a supercomputer. Now, y-cruncher is the software of choice for pi enthusiasts. Created in 2009, y-cruncher is designed to compute mathematical constants like pi to trillions of digits. "You need a pretty big computer to break the world record," says Iwao. "But you can't just do this with a computer from a hardware store, so people have previously built custom machines." In September of 2018, Iwao started to consider how the process of calculating even more digits of pi would work technically. Something which came up quickly was the amount of data that would be necessary to carry out the calculations, and store them -- 170 terabytes of data, which wouldn't be easily hosted by a piece of hardware. Rather than building a whole new machine Iwao used Google Cloud.
Iwao used 25 virtual machines to carry out those calculations. "But instead of clicking that virtual machine button 25 times, I automated it," she explains. "You can do it in a couple of minutes, but if you needed that many computers, it could take days just to get the next ones set up." Iwao ran y-cruncher on those 25 virtual machines, continuously, for 121 days.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's poor-business-practices department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: Federal prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation into data deals Facebook struck with some of the world's largest technology companies (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source), intensifying scrutiny of the social media giant's business practices as it seeks to rebound from a year of scandal and setbacks. A grand jury in New York has subpoenaed records from at least two prominent makers of smartphones and other devices, according to two people who were familiar with the requests and who insisted on anonymity to discuss confidential legal matters. Both companies had entered into partnerships with Facebook, gaining broad access to the personal information of hundreds of millions of its users. The companies were among more than 150, including Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Sony, that had cut sharing deals with the world's dominant social media platform. The agreements, previously reported in The New York Times, let the companies see users' friends, contact information and other data, sometimes without consent. Facebook has phased out most of the partnerships over the past two years. "We are cooperating with investigators and take those probes seriously," a Facebook spokesman said in a statement. "We've provided public testimony, answered questions and pledged that we will continue to do so."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's spontaneous-time-reversal department
fahrbot-bot shares a report from Phys.Org: Researchers from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology teamed up with colleagues from the U.S. and Switzerland and returned the state of a quantum computer a fraction of a second into the past. They also calculated the probability that an electron in empty interstellar space will spontaneously travel back into its recent past. The study is published in Scientific Reports.
Quantum physicists from MIPT decided to check if time could spontaneously reverse itself at least for an individual particle and for a tiny fraction of a second. That is, instead of colliding billiard balls, they examined a solitary electron in empty interstellar space. "Suppose the electron is localized when we begin observing it. This means that we're pretty sure about its position in space. The laws of quantum mechanics prevent us from knowing it with absolute precision, but we can outline a small region where the electron is localized," says study co-author Andrey Lebedev from MIPT and ETH Zurich. The physicist explains that the evolution of the electron state is governed by Schrodinger's equation. Although it makes no distinction between the future and the past, the region of space containing the electron will spread out very quickly. That is, the system tends to become more chaotic. The uncertainty of the electron's position is growing. This is analogous to the increasing disorder in a large-scale system -- such as a billiard table -- due to the second law of thermodynamics.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's contrary-to-popular-belief department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: I've had one desire since I was born; to see my body ripped and torn. The lyrics of death metal band Bloodbath's cannibalism-themed track, Eaten, do not leave much to the imagination. But neither this song -- nor the gruesome lyrics of others of the genre -- inspire violence. That is the conclusion of Macquarie University's music lab, which used the track in a psychological test. It revealed that death metal fans are not "desensitized" to violent imagery. The findings are published in the Royal Society journal Open Science. How do scientists test people's sensitivity to violence? With a classic psychological experiment that probes people's subconscious responses; and by recruiting death metal fans to take part. The test involved asking 32 fans and 48 non-fans listen to death metal or to pop whilst looking at some pretty unpleasant images.
Lead researcher Yanan Sun explained that the aim of the experiment was to measure how much participants' brains noticed violent scenes, and to compare how their sensitivity was affected by the musical accompaniment. To test the impact of different types of music, they also used a track they deemed to be the opposite of Eaten. "We used 'Happy' by Pharrell Williams as a [comparison]," said Dr Sun. Each participant was played Happy or Eaten through headphones, while they were shown a pair of images -- one to each eye. One image showed a violent scene, such as someone being attacked in a street. The other showed something innocuous -- a group of people walking down that same street, for example. "If fans of violent music were desensitized to violence, which is what a lot of parent groups, religious groups and censorship boards are worried about, then they wouldn't show this same bias. "But the fans showed the very same bias towards processing these violent images as those who were not fans of this music."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's getting-with-the-times department
New Mexico's state House of Representatives passed the "Energy Transition Act" on Tuesday, where it's expected to be signed quickly by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. The bill "commits the state to getting 100 percent of its energy from carbon-free sources by 2045," reports Ars Technica. From the report: The bill includes interim goals mandating that 50 percent of the state's energy mix be renewable by 2030 and 80 percent of the energy mix be renewable by 2040. The state currently buys no nuclear power, which is not renewable but qualifies as a zero-carbon energy source. The bill passed yesterday does not require that 100 percent of the state's energy be renewable by 2045; it just specifies that no electricity come from a carbon-emitting source.
New Mexico is unique among these states because it is a relatively coal-heavy state, generating 1.5 gigawatts of coal-fired electricity as of November 2018. Last month, the state's Public Service Company of New Mexico had slated its 847MW San Juan coal plant for shut down by 2022, but a New York hedge fund called Acme Equities swooped in with an offer to buy the 46-year-old plant. According to Power Magazine, Acme intends to retrofit the plant with carbon capture and sequestration technology. If the deal goes through, Acme would use the captured carbon in enhanced oil recovery, where carbon is forced into older or weak oil wells to improve the pressure of the well and extract more oil. But with the passage of this bill, Acme's offer may not stand. New Mexico In Depth writes that the bill puts "$30 million toward the clean-up of the [San Juan] coal-fired power plant and the mine that supplies it and $40 million toward economic diversification efforts in that corner of the state and support for affected power plant employees and miners."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's growing-influence department
Amazon lobbied more government entities last year than any other public U.S. company, covering issues like healthcare, transportation, defense, and labor regulation. "Across 2018, Amazon contacted 40 different federal entities on 21 different general issue areas," reports Fortune, citing a report from Axios. "The only tech giant to lobby on more issues than Amazon was Google's Alphabet." From the report: In terms of money spent, Amazon's $14.4 million is topped only by Alphabet's $21 million, says Bloomberg. While the tech industry overall spent less than half of the $280 million from pharmaceutical and healthcare products companies in Washington, Amazon has increased spending 460% since 2012, growing quickly within its trade. According to Axios, Amazon lobbied on self-driving car and drone issues, hinting at new methods of delivery. It supported a law allowing pharmacists to tell patients when using their insurance is actually more expensive, aiding Amazon's new investment in PillPack. It also covered the labeling of bioengineered food and a pilot program allowing online shoppers to use the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program -- signs of Amazon's emerging grocery business.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's waste-of-time-and-money department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Tom's Guide: Austrian antivirus-testing lab AV-Comparatives tested 250 antivirus apps in Google Play against 2,000 malware samples. They found that only 80 of the apps could stop even a minimal amount of malware. "Less than one in 10 of the apps tested defended against all 2,000 malicious apps, while over two-thirds failed to reach a block rate of even 30 percent," the lab said in a press release. To make sure you're protecting your Android device properly, stick to apps from well-known antivirus companies. Basically, AV-Comparatives said, most Android antivirus apps are phony, and many of them seemed to have been created only to display ads or promote a developer's career. "The main purpose of these apps seems to be generating easy revenue for their developers, rather than actually protecting their users," the AV-Comparatives report said.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
Smart TV manufacturer Vizio has formed a partnership with nine media and advertising companies to develop an industry standard that will allow smart TVs to target advertisements to specific households, the companies said this week. From a report: The consortium includes major TV networks like Comcast Corp's NBCUniversal and CBS, as well as advertising technology companies like AT&T's Xandr. Addressable advertising, or targeting viewers on the household level based on their interests, has long been the goal of TV marketers. But TVs lack cookies that internet browsers use to allow ads to follow people around the web. [...] The consortium of companies, dubbed Project OAR, or Open Addressable Ready, hopes to define the technical standards for TV programmers and platforms to deliver addressable advertising on smart TVs, which are WiFi-enabled TVs with apps for services like Netflix Inc and Hulu, by the end of this year, McAfee said. Further reading: In January this year, Bill Baxter, chief technology officer of Vizio, spoke about business of data collection in an interview. He said: It's about post-purchase monetization of the TV. This is a cutthroat industry. It's a 6-percent margin industry, right? I mean, you know it's pretty ruthless. You could say it's self-inflicted, or you could say there's a greater strategy going on here, and there is. The greater strategy is I really don't need to make money off of the TV. I need to cover my cost. And then I need to make money off those TVs. They live in households for 6.9 years -- the average lifetime of a Vizio TV is 6.9 years. You would probably be amazed at the number of people come up to me saying, "I love Vizio TVs, I have one" and it's 11 years old. I'm like, "Dude, that's not even full HD, that's 720p." But they do last a long time and our strategy -- you've seen this with all of our software upgrades including AirPlay 2 and HomeKit -- is that we want to make things backward compatible to those TVs. So we're continuing to invest in those older TVs to bring them up to feature level comparison with the new TVs when there's no hardware limitation that would otherwise prevent that.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's problem-solved department
Researchers at Google, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and the University of California Santa Barbara has solved one of the biggest limitations with quantum computing: all the control and readout circuits of quantum computer systems must be at room temperature, while their superconducting qubits live in a cryogenic enclosure at less than 1 kelvin. "For today's sub-100-qubit systems, there's enough space for specialized RF cabling to come in and out of the enclosure," reports IEEE Spectrum. "But to scale up to the million-qubit systems needed to do really cool stuff, there just won't be enough room." At the IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco last month, the researchers reported making a key control circuit in CMOS that will work at cryogenic temperatures. They described it as "a high-performance, low-power pulse modulator needed to program the qubits." From the report: "The current approach is OK for now," says Joseph Bardin, a University of Massachusetts at Amherst associate professor of electrical and computer engineering who designed the IC while on sabbatical at Google. "But it's not scalable to a million qubits." For Google's 72-qubit quantum processor there are already 168 coaxial cables going into the refrigerator and connecting to the 10-millikelvin quantum processor. The pulse modulator IC Bardin worked on is used to encode quantum states on a qubit in order to execute a program. Quantum computers get their parallelizing power because qubits don't have to be just 0 or 1, like the bits in an ordinary computer. Instead, they can be a mix of those states. The pulse modulator uses a specific set of RF frequencies to produce that mix.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's out-in-the-open department
eatmorekix shares a report from Motherboard: Glocom, a front company for the government of North Korea that sells sanctioned equipment, isn't giving up. In 2017, before YouTube quietly removed Glocom's channel, the company was advertising missile navigation and other military products on the video platform. But Glocom has returned. It setup a new channel, and also had a presence on Twitter, until Motherboard flagged Glocom's accounts to social media companies. The news not only signals the perseverance of parts of the North Korean's money-making enterprises, but also a slice of the content moderation issues that tech platforms constantly face. Glocom "is using them as platforms to market sanctions violating products," Shea Cotton, research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, and who has a particular focus on North Korea, told Motherboard in an email. A United Nations report says that Glocom is run by North Korean intelligence agents, even though it pitches itself as a Malaysian company. Cotton said "this company continues to operate openly. Most DPRK [Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea] fronts, when exposed, usually fold or at the very least shut down and move their operations to another country and re-open under a new name. This one hasn't done that. We've seen them try to create this spin off brand called 'FACOM' and sell a few of their products under it but as you've seen their main brand is still thriving apparently."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's it's-here department
Google said today it is rolling out the first beta version of Android Q, the newest version of its mobile operating system. The company will roll out a stable version of Android Q later this year. From a report: The first beta includes a preview SDK for developers with system images for the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, and the official Android Emulator. This is the fourth year running that Google has released the first developer preview of the next Android version in March -- Android N (later named Android Nougat), Android O (Android Oreo), and Android P (Android Pie). For the past two years, Google did not use the Android Beta Program, which lets you get early Android builds via over-their-air updates on select devices.
That changes with Android Q -- Google is making the first preview available as a beta, not just as a developer preview. That signals that it is ready for early adopters to try, in addition to developers. As before, this preview version will be referred to as Android Q until Google picks a name starting with that letter.Read Replies (0)