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Smartphone Shipment Forecast Cut To 1.35 Billion For 2019 as Uncertainty Prevails
Posted by News Fetcher on June 07 '19 at 10:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's Uncertainty-Prevails department:
Research firm Canalys: Canalys released its updated global smartphone forecasts on 28 May 2019. The latest numbers show that smartphone shipments will reach 1.35 billion units in 2019, a year-on-year decline of 3.1%. Due to the many uncertainties surrounding the US/China trade talks, the US Executive Order signed on 15 May and subsequent developments, Canalys has lowered its forecasts to reflect an uncertain future. Canalys' base assumption is that restrictions will be imposed stringently on Huawei, once the 90-day reprieve expires, having a significant impact on its ability to roll-out new devices in the short term, especially outside of China. Canalys anticipates that Huawei is taking steps to mitigate the effect of component and service supply issues, but its overseas potential will be hampered for some time. The US and China may eventually reach a trade deal to alleviate the pressure on Huawei, but if and when this will happen is far from clear.

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Walmart Will Stock Your Fridge With Groceries While You're Not Home
Posted by News Fetcher on June 07 '19 at 10:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
A new service from Walmart will bring groceries straight from the store to your refrigerator. All that's needed is trust. From a report: As part of Walmart's new InHome Delivery service, the retailer's workers will deliver groceries right into a home or garage refrigerator, the company said Friday. Customers don't have to be home during deliveries. Walmart customers will be able to select the InHome option and a delivery date when ordering groceries online. An employee will then pick up the items at the store, deliver them to the house and place items that require cold storage in the refrigerator, Walmart said. To offer access to the home, customers will need to have a smart device that allows one-time entry. As for concerns over having strangers in the home, Walmart said employees will be equipped with a wearable camera that can be viewed live or accessed at a later time. Deliveries will be made by employees who've worked at the local store for at least a year.

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NASA To Open International Space Station To Tourists
Posted by News Fetcher on June 07 '19 at 08:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's wow department:
NASA is to allow tourists to visit the International Space Station from 2020, priced at $35,000 per night. From a report: The US space agency said it would open the orbiting station to tourism and other business ventures. There will be up to two short private astronaut missions per year, said Robyn Gatens, the deputy director of the ISS. NASA said that private astronauts would be permitted to travel to the ISS for up to 30 days, travelling on US spacecraft. "NASA is opening the International Space Station to commercial opportunities and marketing these opportunities as we've never done before," chief financial officer Jeff DeWit said in New York. NASA said that private commercial entities would be responsible for determining crew composition and ensuring that the private astronauts meet the medical and training requirements for spaceflight. The two companies hired by NASA are Elon Musk's SpaceX, which will use its Dragon capsule, and Boeing, which is building a spacecraft called the Starliner.

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Facebook Suspends App Pre-installs on Huawei Phones
Posted by News Fetcher on June 07 '19 at 07:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's further-crackdown department:
Facebook is no longer allowing pre-installation of its apps on Huawei phones, the latest blow for the Chinese tech giant as it struggles to keep its business afloat in the face of a U.S. ban on its purchase of American parts and software. From a report: Customers who already have Huawei phones will still be able to use its apps and receive updates, Facebook told Reuters. But new Huawei phones will no longer be able to have Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram apps pre-installed. Smartphone vendors often enter business deals to pre-install popular apps such as Facebook. Apps including Twitter and Booking.com also come pre-installed on Huawei phones in many markets. Twitter declined to comment and Booking did not respond to a request.

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Google Warns of US National Security Risks From Huawei Ban
Posted by News Fetcher on June 07 '19 at 07:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Google has warned the Trump administration it risks compromising US national security if it pushes ahead with sweeping export restrictions on Huawei [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source], as the technology group seeks to continue doing business with the blacklisted Chinese company. Financial Times: Senior executives at Google are pushing US officials to exempt it from a ban on exports to Huawei without a licence approved by Washington, according to three people briefed on the conversations. The Trump administration announced the ban after the US-China trade talks collapsed, prompting protests from some of the biggest US technology companies who fear they could get hurt in the fallout.

Google in particular is concerned it would not be allowed to update its Android operating system on Huawei's smartphones, which it argues would prompt the Chinese company to develop its own version of the software. Google argues a Huawei-modified version of Android would be more susceptible to being hacked, according to people briefed on its lobbying efforts. Huawei has said it would be able to develop its own operating system "very quickly."

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EverQuest's Long, Strange 20-Year Trip Still Has No End in Sight
Posted by News Fetcher on June 07 '19 at 06:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's blast-from-the-past department:
The world has immensely changed since 1999, when a company in Southern California launched an online game called EverQuest that would go on to serve as the model for many more titles to come in the massively multiplayer online RPG (MMORPG) space. And unlike many games that sought to replace it over the years, this one is still going strong.

ArsTechnica has a long-form piece on the old game, its journey and what it has evolved into now. An excerpt from the story: This sword-and-sorcery-based game was developed by a small company, 989 Studios, but it eventually reached its pinnacle under Sony Online Entertainment after SOE acquired that studio roughly a year after the game's launch. Today, EQ marches on with a dedicated player base and another developer, Daybreak Games, at the helm. I've been a dedicated player since the early days, and others like me would likely acknowledge the game peaked early. A variety of factors have whittled down the once-mighty player base since: many just simply walked away, either busy with life or quit because it took up too much time. The impact of World of Warcraft over time is also undeniable.

But while it's no longer a leading game in the MMO space by any stretch (WoW does hold that title), today's EQ retains a small but dedicated fanbase whose members complain as much as they praise it. And in an era where most games have a shelf life of four to six months, EQ has officially spanned four presidential administrations largely off that kind of support. [...] The game still has a trickle of new players, according to Longdale, but it's understandably hard to attract a whole new generation of young players to a DirectX 9 game with 15-year-old player models and a broken Z-axis (that's correct, you can't go straight up and down in EQ like in WoW) where solo play is darn near impossible.

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Model Aircraft Pilots Angry Over Drone Laws
Posted by News Fetcher on June 07 '19 at 06:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's flying-emotions department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: People who fly model aircraft are angry that proposed drone rules could damage their much-loved hobby. They argue they should not be classed as drone pilots. The new laws are intended to make airspace safer amid increasing drone use. The British Model Flying Association (BMFA) met the Aviation Minister Baroness Vere this week to discuss its concerns. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is currently consulting on proposals for a drone registration scheme that is due to become law in November. It has received 6,000 responses from BMFA members. David Phipps, chief executive of BMFA, said the proposed rules, which would see all pilots of unmanned aerial vehicles required to register, pay for a license and take competency tests every three years are "disproportionate" for model-aircraft flyers.

"We have established an excellent safety record that surpasses commercial aviation over a century of flying. European laws grant special recognition to model flying, saying it should be treated differently but the UK has not done this." He acknowledged that while "some" would regard the proposed registration fee of 16.50 pounds as "not a lot of money", it still represented "a barrier to entry" especially for young people getting involved in the hobby. He added that plans for a safety test "which will be answering a few questions on the CAA's website" were far less rigorous than his organization's own safety tests. He worried that many of his members would simply ignore the new rules and "go under the radar." "It is becoming more and more obvious that we as aero modelers are being targeted because of the commercial value of the airspace that we occupy," said Cliff Evans, a model aircraft hobbyist who's unhappy with the new proposals. "I and all other modelers that I know find this offensive and unnecessary."

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Researchers Propose Solar Methanol Island Using Ocean CO2
Posted by News Fetcher on June 07 '19 at 02:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's creative-thinking department:
A PNAS paper published this week outlines a plan to establish 70 islands of solar panels, each 328 feet in diameter, that sends electricity to a hard-hulled ship that acts as an oceanic factory. "This factory uses desalinization and electrolysis equipment to extract hydrogen gas (H2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) from the surrounding ocean water," reports Ars Technica. "It then uses these products to create methanol, a liquid fuel that can be added into, or substituted for, transportation fuels. Every so often, a ship comes to offload the methanol and take it to a supply center on land." From the report: The researchers estimated that we would need approximately 170,000 of these solar island systems to be able to produce enough green methanol to replace all fossil fuels used in long-haul transportation. While that seems like a lot, it's theoretically possible, even if we restrict these systems to ocean expanses where waves don't reach more than seven feet high and there's enough sunlight to meet the system's yearly average need.

Still, the authors admit that this is just the description of a possible prototype: whether it's practical to build or not will depend on the cost of the technology that supports the system, as well as the cost of competing forms of energy used in transportation. Cleaning and maintaining this equipment in a marine environment is also a concern, and the researchers admit that there may be room for alternate setups (like making another fuel instead of methanol) that might make more economic sense. For now, though, it's a compelling idea to avoid additional fossil fuel extraction that is within reach using existing technology.

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NASA's Mars Helicopter Passes Another Flight Test
Posted by News Fetcher on June 06 '19 at 11:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's testing-testing-1-2-3 department:
The autonomous rotorcraft NASA is planning to integrate with the agency's Mars 2020 rover mission has successfully passed another round of important tests. The Verge reports: Earlier this year, JPL conducted tests of the helicopter in "a simulated Martian environment" that put the helicopter through temperatures as low as minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit and flew it in a vacuum chamber that simulated Martian air -- it was also attached to a "motorized lanyard" to help simulate Martian gravity. Some of the testing was to ensure that the Mars Helicopter could survive the conditions it would experience during an actual rocket launch. The Mars Helicopter is now back at JPL, where it will has already had a new solar panel installed. NASA says that it isn't putting any science instruments on the helicopter beyond a camera, but that instead it's a "technology demonstrator" to prove that it's possible to remotely fly a Martian drone from Earth.

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Congress Scraps Provision To Restrict IRS From Competing With TurboTax
Posted by News Fetcher on June 06 '19 at 08:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's nice-try-but-we're-not-intuit department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ProPublica: Congressional leaders are planning to scrap a provision of an IRS reform bill making permanent the Free File deal between the government and private tax filing companies, torpedoing a long-sought goal by industry giant Intuit, the maker of TurboTax. The development, first reported by Politico Pro and confirmed to ProPublica by a House Republican staffer, comes two months after an outcry sparked by our story on the Free File provision in a bill called the Taxpayer First Act.

The bill, which has bipartisan support and contains a range of provisions including restrictions on the private debt collection of unpaid taxes, passed the House in April but stalled in the Senate. Under the Free File program, the industry promises to offer a no-fee option to most Americans and in return the IRS pledges not to develop its own free, online filing service. Such an IRS program would threaten the industry's profits. Only a small percentage of eligible Americans use the Free File options, and many are instead steered to paid products by the industry. The new bill, without the Free File provision, could be introduced today and voted on in the House as soon as next week, according to Politico. The Free File program will continue as before and will not be codified into law.

"The current deal expires in 2021," reports ProPublica. "The IRS said in May that it was launching an internal review of the program, following our stories on how Intuit, H&R Block and other companies deliberately hid their Free File editions from search engines, making it harder for taxpayers to find them."

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Training a Single AI Model Can Emit As Much Carbon As Five Cars In Their Lifetimes
Posted by News Fetcher on June 06 '19 at 06:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's environmental-impact department:
In a new paper, researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, performed a life cycle assessment for training several common large AI models. They found that the process can emit more than 626,000 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent -- nearly five times the lifetime emissions of the average American car (and that includes manufacture of the car itself). MIT Technology Review reports: The researchers looked at four models in the field that have been responsible for the biggest leaps in performance: the Transformer, ELMo, BERT, and GPT-2. They trained each on a single GPU for up to a day to measure its power draw. They then used the number of training hours listed in the model's original papers to calculate the total energy consumed over the complete training process. That number was converted into pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent based on the average energy mix in the US, which closely matches the energy mix used by Amazon's AWS, the largest cloud services provider.

< article continued at Slashdot's environmental-impact department >

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Google's Co-Founder Is Building a Gargantuan $150 Million Blimp
Posted by News Fetcher on June 06 '19 at 06:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's traveling-in-style department:
We first earned that Google co-founder Sergey Brin was secretly building a "massive airship" inside of Hangar 2 at the NASA Ames Research Center back in 2017, but few details on the project have emerged since. Now, according to a report from the Telegraph, progress on the project appears to be picking up as Brin is currently soliciting aerospace engineers to work on his blimp from a hangar in Mountain View, California. From a report: At 656 feet in length, the massive craft is expected to be the largest of its kind in the world upon completion, and it's reportedly costing Brin upwards of $150 million to construct. Some of that money will presumably go toward paying the $28 per hour salary and pension benefits Brin is offering entry level engineers to work on the project, according to the Telegraph piece, which notes that the job listing also requires that applicants be "comfortable working outdoors."

As for why Brin wants to build this massive blimp, sources with knowledge of the project told The Guardian in 2017 that the Google billionaire plans to use craft as an intercontinental "air yacht," ferrying his friends and family around the globe in style. The blimp will also find use on the other end of the privilege spectrum, according to those sources, who told the newspaper that Brin envisions using it to deliver supplies and food to remote locations on humanitarian missions.

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The Man Whose Bizarre Tank Designs Made the D-Day Victory Possible
Posted by News Fetcher on June 06 '19 at 04:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's forgotten-heroes department:
dryriver writes: In 1942, Allied troops tried to invade a French port at Dieppe. The troop landing was a disaster -- within 10 hours, 60% of the 6,000 allied troops that landed were dead, and all 28 tanks that were supposed to support the troops had been picked off by mines and anti-tank weapons. The Allies realized that conventional tank designs were next to useless when landing on heavily fortified sandy beaches. A British army commander named Percy Hobart had the solution. Over two years, he designed completely new and unconventional tanks like the Churchill AVRE, Sherman Crab and and Churchill Fascine that were custom-made to storm a mined beach defended by an enemy army.

Commander Hobart had initially fallen out of favor, been retired early from the British army for his "unconventional thinking" and demoted, humiliatingly, to guarding his home village in Britain. When he managed to set up a meeting with Winston Churchill, Churchill reinstated Hobart, and Hobart went on to design some of the strangest looking beach lading tanks anyone had seen at that time. Hobart's tanks carried everything from flamethrowers intended to frighten German soldiers into surrendering to fascines (essentially a huge bundle of sticks) that could be dropped to allow other tanks to drive over deep ditches and trenches, to huge mortars firing shells the size of dustbins that were designed to blow holes into seawalls and concrete fortifications. The tank designs performed as Hobart had intended, and the D-Day victory would not have been possible without them. A man who had once demoted to Corporal and retired for rubbing the British army brass the wrong way went on to make D-Day winnable for the Allied forces.

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Apple Is Still Trying To Sue the Owner of an Independent iPhone Repair Shop
Posted by News Fetcher on June 06 '19 at 04:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's David-and-Goliath department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Despite initially losing the case last year, Apple is continuing its legal pursuit against the owner of a small, independent iPhone repair shop in Norway. Apple is attempting to hold the repair shop owner liable for importing what it says are counterfeit iPhone screens into his home country of Norway. Last year, Apple sued Henrik Huseby, the owner of an independent smartphone repair shop called PCKompaniet in the town of Ski, Norway. Apple sent Huseby a letter notifying him that a shipment of 63 iPhone 6 and 6S screens had been seized by Norwegian customs, and said that he must pay the company $3,566 and admit wrongdoing to avoid being sued. Huseby refused, Apple sued him, and the case went to court.

< article continued at Slashdot's David-and-Goliath department >

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Alan Turing Receives a (Late) Obituary From the NYT
Posted by News Fetcher on June 06 '19 at 03:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's remembering-one-of-the-greatest-in-the-field department:
"In recent years, The New York Times has been publishing obituaries of people long dead but who nevertheless would have been deserving of one when they died," writes Slashdot reader necro81. "They call it their 'Overlooked' series. Today, their overlooked figure is British mathematician and prototype computer scientist Alan Turing." Here's an excerpt from the obituary: His genius embraced the first visions of modern computing and produced seminal insights into what became known as "artificial intelligence." As one of the most influential code breakers of World War II, his cryptology yielded intelligence believed to have hastened the Allied victory. But, at his death several years later, much of his secretive wartime accomplishments remained classified, far from public view in a nation seized by the security concerns of the Cold War. Instead, by the narrow standards of his day, his reputation was sullied.

On June 7, 1954, Alan Turing, a British mathematician who has since been acknowledged as one the most innovative and powerful thinkers of the 20th century -- sometimes called the progenitor of modern computing -- died as a criminal, having been convicted under Victorian laws as a homosexual and forced to endure chemical castration. Britain didn't take its first steps toward decriminalizing homosexuality until 1967. Only in 2009 did the government apologize for his treatment. [...] A coroner determined that he had died of cyanide poisoning and that he had taken his own life "while the balance of his mind was disturbed."

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Google To 'Stop Supporting' Google Trips For Android
Posted by News Fetcher on June 06 '19 at 03:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's another-one-bites-the-dust department:
The Google Trips app is headed into the sunset as functionality is integrated into Google's other services. 9to5Google reports: Our APK Insight of Google Trips for Android today reveals an upcoming "goodbye" message that will prompt users about the sunsetting. Google already implied in May that a shutdown for the dedicated was coming as part of an evolution. We now know specifics, like how Google will "stop supporting" the app. Trips will encourages users to find "favorite features" in other services like the new Travel website that features a Material Theme, and the Google Search app. Full feature parity -- namely offline capabilities and maps -- will likely make their way to Google Maps, which is set to add trip bundles over the coming months.

The "learn more" page has been spotted by XDA with Google noting that support "will end on August 5, 2019." According to the help document, notes from Trips will be coming to the Google Travel website, while Google Maps trip reservations will be located in Your places-Upcoming reservations. However, version 1.14 leaves some ambiguity on whether the app will stop working for existing users that already have it installed. A pair of strings -- one of which is in past tense -- implies that Trips could continue to function, but that some features will break in the future. As of today, this sunset prompt is not yet live in Google Trips for Android or iOS, and the apps are still available to download.

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The Clever Cryptography Behind Apple's 'Find My' Feature
Posted by News Fetcher on June 06 '19 at 02:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's behind-the-scenes department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica, written by Wired's . Andy Greenberg: In upcoming versions of iOS and macOS, the new Find My feature will broadcast Bluetooth signals from Apple devices even when they're offline, allowing nearby Apple devices to relay their location to the cloud. That should help you locate your stolen laptop even when it's sleeping in a thief's bag. And it turns out that Apple's elaborate encryption scheme is also designed not only to prevent interlopers from identifying or tracking an iDevice from its Bluetooth signal, but also to keep Apple itself from learning device locations, even as it allows you to pinpoint yours.

In a background phone call with WIRED following its keynote, Apple broke down that privacy element, explaining how its "encrypted and anonymous" system avoids leaking your location data willy nilly, even as your devices broadcast a Bluetooth signal explicitly designed to let you track your device. The solution to that paradox, it turns out, is a trick that requires you to own at least two Apple devices. Each one emits a constantly changing key that nearby Apple devices use to encrypt and upload your geolocation data, such that only the other Apple device you own possesses the key to decrypt those locations. That system would obviate the threat of marketers or other snoops tracking Apple device Bluetooth signals, allowing them to build their own histories of every user's location. In fact, Find My's cryptography goes one step further than that, denying even Apple itself the ability to learn a user's locations based on their Bluetooth beacons. That would represent a privacy improvement over Apple's older tools like Find My iPhone and Find Friends, which don't offer such safeguards against Apple learning your location.

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Google To Buy Data Analytics Company For $2.6 Billion Despite New Antitrust Scrutiny
Posted by News Fetcher on June 06 '19 at 02:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's big-shark,-small-shark department:
Just as government officials step up their antitrust scrutiny of the American tech giants, Google had a surprising announcement on Thursday: It is buying another company. From a report: Google said it planned to buy the data analytics company Looker for $2.6 billion [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source] in a bid to catch up to rivals in the business of cloud computing. The transaction, which is subject to government approval, will be an immediate test for regulators.

"A few years ago, this deal would have been waved through without much scrutiny," said Paul Gallant, a tech analyst with Cowen who focuses on regulatory issues. "We're in a different world today, and there might well be some buyer's remorse from regulators on prior tech deals like this." A primary argument against the tech giants' power is their history of gaining size by acquiring other companies, and some politicians have suggested breaking up corporations like Google and Facebook.

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Germany: Backdoor Found in Four Smartphone Models; 20,000 Users Infected
Posted by News Fetcher on June 06 '19 at 12:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: The German Federal Office for Information Security (or the Bundesamt fur Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik -- BSI) has issued security alerts today warning about dangerous backdoor malware found embedded in the firmware of at least four smartphone models sold in the country. Impacted models include the Doogee BL7000, the M-Horse Pure 1, the Keecoo P11, and the VKworld Mix Plus (malware present in the firmware, but inactive). All four are low-end Android smartphones. The BSI said the phones' firmware contained a backdoor trojan named Andr/Xgen2-CY.

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Amazon's Home Surveillance Company Is Putting Suspected Petty Thieves in its Advertisements
Posted by News Fetcher on June 06 '19 at 12:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's topsy-turvy-world department:
Amazon's home surveillance company Ring is using video captured by its doorbell cameras in Facebook advertisements that ask users to identify and call the cops on a woman whom local police say is a suspected thief. From a report: In the video, the woman's face is clearly visible and there is no obvious criminal activity taking place. The Facebook post shows her passing between two cars. She pulls the door handle of one of the cars, but it is locked. The video freezes on a still of the woman's face from two different angles: "If you recognize this woman, please contact the Mountain View Police Department ... please share with your neighbors," text superimposed on the video says. In a post alongside the video, Ring urges residents of Mountain View, California to contact the police department if they recognize her.

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