By BeauHD from Slashdot's what's-yours-is-mine department
Late last month, HealthCare.gov suffered a data breach exposing 75,000 customers. Details were sparse at the time of the breach, but have now learned that hackers obtained "inappropriate access" to a number of broker and agent accounts, which "engaged in excessive searching" of the government's healthcare marketplace systems. TechCrunch reports: [The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)] didn't say how the attackers gained access to the accounts, but said it shut off the affected accounts "immediately." In a letter sent to affected customers this week (and buried on the Healthcare.gov website), CMS disclosed that sensitive personal data -- including partial Social Security numbers, immigration status and some tax information -- may have been taken. According to the letter, the data included name, date of birth, address, sex, and the last four digits of the Social Security number (SSN), if SSN was provided on the application. Other information could include expected income, tax filing status, family relationships, whether the applicant is a citizen or an immigrant, immigration document types and numbers, employer name, pregnancy status, health insurance status, and more. The government did say that no bank account information was stolen.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's never-a-contest department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Recode: To dozens of cities across the United States, Amazon's widely publicized search for a "second headquarters" looked like thousands of new jobs, up for grabs. To Pivot co-host Scott Galloway, it now looks like a "ruse." "I lease office space all the time for my businesses and I always tell my real estate agent, 'We can lease any office in the world as long as I can walk there from where I live,'" Galloway said on the latest episode. "Amazon is now talking about having three headquarters, Seattle, Crystal City and Long Island City. The Bezos's also own three homes, and the average distance from those three homes to a headquarters is 6.4 miles.
"This was never a contest," he added. "It was a con meant to induce ridiculous terms that they then took to the cites all along that they knew they were going to be in." In other words: By soliciting bids from lots of place where it was never going to move, Galloway alleges, Amazon was probably able to get more tax breaks from the pre-determined "winners." "I would bet, Kara, that when they pick two cities and they went to 2 and 3, they didn't say, 'Well, only half our headquarters is going there, so we're going to let you cut the tax subsidies and incentives in half,'" he explained. "This just has ill will written all over it, and I think people started to figure out what was going on ... It's the Olympics on steroids. A lot of high fives and ribbon cutting, and then 10 years later, we realize it was a bad idea."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's amazon-will-not-see-you-now department
In a new agreement between tech giants Amazon and Apple, shoppers will soon see a selection of the latest Apple products on Amazon.com. This is not good news for everyone. Motherboard: John Bumstead is a computer refurbisher who, every year, saves thousands of laptops from the shredder. He buys MacBooks en masse from electronics recyclers, fixes them, then sells them on Amazon Marketplace or wholesales them to vendors who do the same. Friday morning, Bumstead got an email from Amazon informing him that he'd no longer be allowed to sell Apple computers on the platform, thanks to a new agreement between Apple and Amazon that will only allow "authorized resellers" to sell Apple products. "As part of a new agreement with Apple, we are working with a select group of authorized resellers to offer an expanded selection of Apple and Beats products, including new releases, in Amazon's stores," the email says. "You are receiving this message because you are currently selling, or have previously sold, Apple or Beats products. Your existing offers for those products will soon be removed from Amazon's online store in the United States. Please contact Apple if you would like to apply to become an authorized reseller on Amazon." As the email notes, this is part of a new agreement between two of the largest companies in the world that will allow Amazon to sell new Apple products around the world; in exchange, Amazon agreed to let Apple pick-and-choose who is allowed to sell Apple products on the site.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department
SpaceX has been granted permission by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to set up a vast network of thousands of low Earth orbit communication satellites. But the company has been tight-lipped about the project, known as Starlink. Mark Handley, University College London built a simulator based on public details from the FCC filings to understand the latency properties of the network. New Scientist reports: Although Musk has said he wants more than half of all internet traffic to go through Starlink -- Handley's simulation suggests that the project will be most appealing to high-frequency traders at big banks, who might be willing to fork out large sums for dedicated, faster connections. To create the simulation, Handley took what information he could from SpaceX's public FCC filings and combined this with his knowledge of computer networks. Initially, Starlink will consist of 4425 satellites orbiting between 1100 and 1300 kilometres up, a greater number of active satellites than are currently in orbit. There is only one way to arrange this many in a configuration that minimises collisions, says Handley. So he is confident that his simulation reflects what SpaceX is going for. When sending an internet message via Starlink, a ground station will begin by using radio waves to talk to a satellite above it. Once in space, the message will be fired from satellite to satellite using lasers until it is above its destination. From there, it will be beamed down to the right ground station using radio waves again. Between distant places, this will allow messages to be sent about twice as fast as through the optical fibres on Earth that currently connect the internet, despite having to travel to space and back. This is because the speed of the signal in glass is slower than it is through space.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's pushing-the-limits department
Built from the bottom up, synthetic cells and other creations are starting to come together and could soon test the boundaries of life. From a report: Researchers have been trying to create artificial cells for more than 20 years -- piecing together biomolecules in just the right context to approximate different aspects of life. Although there are many such aspects, they generally fall into three categories: compartmentalization, or the separation of biomolecules in space; metabolism, the biochemistry that sustains life; and informational control, the storage and management of cellular instructions. The pace of work has been accelerating, thanks in part to recent advances in microfluidic technologies, which allow scientists to coordinate the movements of minuscule cellular components. Research groups have already determined ways of sculpting cell-like blobs into desired shapes; of creating rudimentary versions of cellular metabolism; and of transplanting hand-crafted genomes into living cells. But bringing all these elements together remains a challenge. [...] Research groups have made big strides recreating several aspects of cell-like life, especially in mimicking the membranes that surround cells and compartmentalize internal components. That's because organizing molecules is key to getting them to work together at the right time and place. Although you can open up a billion bacteria and pour the contents into a test tube, for example, the biological processes would not continue for long. Some components need to be kept apart, and others brought together. "To me, it's about the sociology of molecules," says Cees Dekker, a biophysicist also at Delft University of Technology. For the most part, this means organizing biomolecules on or within lipid membranes. Schwille and her team are expert membrane-wranglers. Starting about a decade ago, the team started adding Min proteins, which direct a bacterial cell's division machinery, to sheets of artificial membrane made of lipids. The Mins, the researchers found, would pop on and off the membranes and make them wave and swirl1. But when they added the Mins to 3D spheres of lipids, the structures burst like soap bubbles, says Schwille. Her group and others have overcome this problem using microfluidic techniques to construct cell-sized membrane containers, or liposomes, that can tolerate multiple insertions of proteins -- either into the membranes themselves or into the interior.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-things-work department
YouTube wants to recommend things people will like, and the clearest signal of that is whether other people liked them. From a report: Pew found that 64 percent of recommendations went to videos with more than a million views. The 50 videos that YouTube recommended most often had been viewed an average of 456 million times each. Popularity begets popularity, at least in the case of users (or bots, as here) that YouTube doesn't know much about. On the other hand, YouTube has said in previous work describing its algorithm that users like fresher content, all else being equal. But it takes time for a post to build huge numbers of views and signal to the algorithm that it's worth promoting. So, the challenge becomes how to recommend "new videos that users want to watch" when those videos are new to the system and low in views. (Finding fresh, potentially hot videos is important, YouTube researchers have written, for "propagating viral content.") Pew's research reflects this: About 5 percent of the recommendations went to videos with fewer than 50,000 views. The system learns from a video's early performance, and if it does well, views can grow rapidly. In one case, a highly recommended kids' video went from 34,000 views when Pew first encountered it in July to 30 million in August. The behavior of the system was explicable in a few other ways, too, especially as it adapted to making more clicks inside YouTube's system. First, as Pew's software made choices, the system selected longer videos. It's as if the software recognizes that the user is going to be around for a while, and starts to serve up longer fare. Second, it also began to recommend more popular videos regardless of how popular the starting video was.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's streaming-fragmentation department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Disney's new streaming service will be called Disney+ and launch in late 2019, CEO Bob Iger announced on the company's earnings call Thursday. The service will also feature new, original shows and movies, including original Marvel and Star Wars series. Marvel fan favorite character Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston, will get an original series on the Disney+ service. A prequel series to Star Wars movie "Rogue One" about the character Cassian Andor, portrayed by Diego Luna, will also call the service home.
Other original shows and movies include a rebooted version of The High School Musical franchise. It will also be a hub for animated content, including the next season of "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" and an new original animated series based on Pixar's "Monsters Inc." Exclusive movies include "Noel," a Christmas movie about Santa's daughter played by Anna Kendrick, and "Togo," a movie about the 1925 Nome Serum Run starring William DaFoe. Disney launched a placeholder website for Disney+ that shows off logos of brands like Pixar, National Geographic and Marvel. Last year, Disney announced that it would remove all its movies from Netflix in 2019 to entice consumers to use their own streaming offering. It also purchased Fox for $71.3 billion to bolster its library of content.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's better-late-than-never department
Vine's co-founder, Dom Hofmann, has been working on "a follow-up to Vine" for over a year and we now know what the successor will be called and when it will be ready for the masses. According to The Verge, the "proper sequel will be called Byte, and it's coming in spring 2019." From the report: Not much else is known about how Byte will work, but Hofmann says it is officially the project formerly known as v2, which had a publicized and transparent development process with dedicated fan forums for around six months starting last November. Hofmann postponed v2 indefinitely in May of this year, citing funding and logistic issues, as well as his day job running an immersive entertainment studio called Innerspace VR. Hofmann kept the forums open to keep discussion going, and it seems like he's now squared away some type of funding to get v2 off the ground as Byte. We'll likely hear more soon, but it's just a relief to hear it's actually happening and that the six-second videos that shaped modern internet culture could be coming back in a big way.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's more-the-merrier department
Microsoft has announced an agreement with Native Network to provide broadband internet access to nearly 73,500 people without service in rural communities in Montana and Washington. Great Falls Tribune reports: This is part of the Microsoft Airband Initiative, which aims to extend broadband access to 2 million people in unserved portions of rural America by July 4, 2022, officials said. Unused parts of the broadcast spectrum are used to help rural communities access the internet. Through the partnership, Native Network will provide affordable hybrid fixed wireless broadband internet access, including TV White Spaces, to tribes within Flathead Reservation in Montana as well as Lummi Nation and Swinomish Tribe in Washington. It will come to rural Americans through commercial partnerships and investment in digital skills training for people. Proceeds from Airband connectivity projects will be reinvested into the program to expand broadband to more rural areas, officials said. "Broadband is the electricity of the 21st century and is critical for farmers, small business owners, health care practitioners, educators and students to thrive in today's digital economy," Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a news release. "We are excited about the partnership with Native Network which will help close the digital divide in rural Montana and Washington, bringing access to approximately 73,500 people within and around the tribal communities."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's take-one-down-pass-it-around department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Scientific American: A stressed-out and traumatized father can leave scars in his children. New research suggests this happens because sperm "learn" paternal experiences via a mysterious mode of intercellular communication in which small blebs break off one cell and fuse with another. Carrying proteins, lipids and nucleic acids, these particles ejected from a cell act like a postal system that extends to all parts of the body, releasing little packages known as extracellular vesicles. Their contents seem carefully chosen. "The cargo inside the vesicle determines not just where it came from but where it's going and what it's doing when it gets there," says Tracy Bale, a neurobiologist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. To probe the inheritance of such changes at the cellular level, Bale and co-workers performed a series of mouse experiments.
In one set of experiments [Jennifer Chan, a former PhD student that was part of the study] stressed a group of male mice, let them mate and looked at stress responses in the pups. The clincher was a set of in vitro fertilization -- like experiments in which she collected sperm from a male mouse that had never experienced induced stress. Half his sperm went into a lab dish with vesicles previously exposed to stress hormones. The other half was cultured with vesicles that had no contact with stress hormones. Chan injected sperm cells from each batch into eggs from a non-stressed female, then implanted the fertilized eggs -- zygotes -- into the same foster mom. The pups from non-stressed zygotes developed normally. Pups from stress-exposed zygotes, however, showed the same abnormal stress response as those whose dads had experienced stress before mating. That showed extracellular vesicles act as the conduit for transmitting paternal stress signals to the offspring, Chan says.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's shockingly-natural department
Two AI anchors are joining China's state-run news agency Xinhua. "The two anchors, one that speaks in English and another in Chinese, have the likeness of some of Xinhua's human anchors, but their voices, facial expressions and mouth movements are synthesized and animated using deep learning techniques," reports Engadget. From the report: "AI anchors have officially become members of the Xinhua News Agency reporting team," the agency said. "They will work with other anchors to bring you authoritative, timely and accurate news information in both Chinese and English." China's South China Morning Post reports that the AI anchors are available through Xinhua's English and Chinese apps, its TV webpage and its WeChat public account. The technology behind the anchors is being provided by search engine company Sogou.
Xinhua says its AI anchors can deliver the news with the "same effect" as that of human reporters. But if you watch the video, that isn't exactly true. It's pretty clear you're watching a non-human anchor as the mouth movements and facial expressions aren't quite human-like, and the voice can come off as a little robotic.Read Replies (0)