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The Father of Mobile Computing Is Not Impressed

Fri, 15/09/2017 - 4:45pm
harrymcc writes: Starting in the late 1960s, Alan Kay envisioned a powerful portable computer that would be a revolutionary learning device, then built some of the necessary tech at Xerox PARC and elsewhere. Today, his ideas are all around us -- but Kay is distinctly unimpressed with the iPhone, iPad, and other modern devices, which he says encourage passivity rather than creativity. Brian Merchant talked to the computing pioneer for a wide-ranging interview on FastCompany. An excerpt from the interview: Google has been around for a long time now. I bitched at [Google] for years: Why the fuck can't we type in a question and get a decent answer? There's all sorts of pre-processing you can do with the computing we have now to put a lot more semantics in there, and look at the shit you're retrieving. And by the way, the stuff that isn't popular -- which is probably what most people need to read, if the thing even knew what the question is -- is buried [in Google search results], and most people won't go past a couple of results or clicks.

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Categories: Science

Many Machine Learning Studies Don't Actually Show Anything Meaningful, But They Spread Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt

Fri, 15/09/2017 - 4:02pm
Michael Byrne, writing for the Outline: Here's what you need to know about every way-cool and-or way-creepy machine learning study that has ever been or will ever be published: Anything that can be represented in some fashion by patterns within data -- any abstract-able thing that exists in the objective world, from online restaurant reviews to geopolitics -- can be "predicted" by machine learning models given sufficient historical data. At the heart of nearly every foaming news article starting with the words "AI knows ..." is some machine learning paper exploiting this basic realization. "AI knows if you have skin cancer." "AI beats doctors at predicting heart attacks." "AI predicts future crime." "AI knows how many calories are in that cookie." There is no real magic behind these findings. The findings themselves are often taken as profound simply for having way-cool concepts like deep learning and artificial intelligence and neural networks attached to them, rather than because they are offering some great insight or utility -- which most of the time, they are not.

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Categories: Science

Canada's Challenge Is Keeping Techies, BlackBerry Inventor Says

Fri, 15/09/2017 - 3:21pm
The former chief executive officer of BlackBerry added his voice to the chorus of people saying that Canada's main economic hurdle is keeping technology talent. From a report: "The biggest challenge as a country is retaining and recruiting the best people to build industries in Canada and not lose them to other jurisdictions," Mike Lazaridis, who left BlackBerry in 2013, said Thursday at the Waterloo Innovation Summit. Canada is pushing to become a technological leader as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tries to shift away from a commodities-driven economy by increasing funding for technology and offering fast-track visas to highly skilled workers. Cities like Ottawa, the capital, have stepped up recruitment efforts targeting expats in the U.S., while Toronto and its surrounding cities submitted a regional bid Wednesday for Amazon.com's second headquarters. The BlackBerry inventor sees Canada as at the forefront of the development of quantum computers, technology that could transform the world by allowing computers to operate much faster and on larger data sets than ever before.

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Categories: Science

Cassini's Saturn Mission Goes Out In A Blaze Of Glory

Fri, 15/09/2017 - 2:41pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: Controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory sent a final command Friday morning to the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn. Not long after, accounting for the vast distance the message traveled, the order was received, putting the craft into a suicidal swan dive, plummeting into the ringed planet's atmosphere. Flight Director Julie Webster called "loss of signal" at about 7:55 a.m. ET, followed by Project Manager Earl Maize announcing "end of mission" as the spacecraft began to break up in Saturn's atmosphere. "Congratulations to you all," Maize announced to applause. "It's been an incredible mission, incredible spacecraft, and you're all an incredible team." With Cassini running on empty and no gas station for about a billion miles, NASA decided to go out Thelma & Louise-style. But rather than careen into a canyon, the plucky probe took a final plunge into the object of its obsession. Just how obsessed? Its 13-year mission to explore the strange world of Saturn went on nearly a decade longer than planned. It completed 293 orbits of the planet, snapped 400,000 photos, collected 600 gigabytes of data, discovered at least seven new moons, descending into the famed rings and sent its Huygens lander to a successful 2005 touchdown on the surface of yet another moon, Titan. Also read: Cassini's Best Discoveries of Saturn and Its Moons.

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Categories: Science

Bitcoin Plummets Below $3,000 on Rising China Worries

Fri, 15/09/2017 - 2:00pm
Bitcoin dropped below $3,000 on Friday as the cryptocurrency extended a brutal eight-day sell-off that has reduced its value against the dollar by a third. Financial Times reports: The currency traded as low as $2,972, marking a 36 per cent fall from bitcoin's close on September 7, and a collapse of 40 per cent from the highs struck earlier this month. The latest bout of selling came after BTCChina, one of the country's biggest bitcoin exchanges, said it would halt trading at the end of the month. Focus has now shifted to the communist country's other two big exchanges: OKCoin and Huobi. Alternative source.

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Categories: Science

Trump Blocks China-Backed Takeover of US Chip Maker 'Lattice Semi'

Fri, 15/09/2017 - 1:00pm
MountainLogic shares a report from CNN: President Trump has stopped the takeover of an American chip maker by a private equity firm with ties to China. The deal, which would have seen China-backed Canyon Bridge Capital Partners acquire Lattice Semiconductors, was blocked over national security concerns. "Today, consistent with the administration's commitment to take all actions necessary to ensure the protection of U.S. national security, the president issued an order prohibiting the acquisition," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement Wednesday. The national security risk included "the potential transfer of intellectual property" to the Chinese-backed company and the "Chinese government's role in supporting this transaction," according to Mnuchin's statement. Those are sensitive matters: the Trump administration launched an investigation last month into whether China is unfairly getting hold of American technology and intellectual property. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., which reviews deals that could result in a foreign entity taking control of an American company, had previously recommended halting the deal. Lattice CEO Darin G. Billerbeck called the outcome "disappointing" and called the proposed acquisition "an excellent deal" for Lattice and for "expanding the opportunity to keep jobs in America." According to CNN, Lattice currently employs 300 people in Oregon -- and Canyon Bridge has committed to adding 350 more if the takeover deal went through.

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Categories: Science

First Ever Malvertising Campaign Uses JavaScript To Mine Cryptocurrencies In Your Browser

Fri, 15/09/2017 - 10:00am
An anonymous reader writes from a report via Bleeping Computer: Malware authors are using JavaScript code delivered via malvertising campaigns to mine different cryptocurrencies inside people's browsers (mostly Monero), without their knowledge. The way crooks pulled this off was by using an online advertising company that allows them to deploy ads with custom JavaScript code. The JavaScript code is a modified version of MineCrunch (also known as Web Miner), a script released in 2014 that can mine cryptocurrencies using JavaScript code executed inside the browser. Cryptocurrency mining operations are notoriously resource-intensive and tend to slow down a user's computer. To avoid raising suspicion, crooks delivered malicious ads mainly on video streaming and browser-based gaming sites (currently mostly Ukrainian and Russian sites). Both types of sites use lots of resources, and users wouldn't get suspicious when their computer slowed down while accessing the site. Furthermore, users tend to linger more on browser games and video streaming services, allowing the mining script to do its job and generate profits for the crooks.

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Categories: Science

Researchers Find Antidepressants Increase Risk of Death

Fri, 15/09/2017 - 7:00am
Artem Tashkinov shares a report from Medical Xpress: Antidepressant medications, most commonly prescribed to reduce depression and anxiety, increase the risk of death, according to new findings by a McMaster-led team of researchers. It's widely known that brain serotonin affects mood, and that most commonly used antidepressant treatment for depression blocks the absorption of serotonin by neurons. It is less widely known, though, that all the major organs of the body -- the heart, kidneys, lungs, liver -- use serotonin from the bloodstream. Antidepressants block the absorption of serotonin in these organs as well, and the researchers warn that antidepressants could increase the risk of death by preventing multiple organs from functioning properly. Interestingly, the news about antidepressants is not all bad. The researchers found that antidepressants are not harmful for people with cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. This makes sense since these antidepressants have blood-thinning effects that are useful in treating such disorders. Unfortunately, this also means that for most people who are in otherwise good cardiovascular health, antidepressants tend to be harmful. The study has been published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.

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Categories: Science

Facebook Enabled Advertisers To Reach 'Jew Haters'

Fri, 15/09/2017 - 3:30am
ProPublica is reporting that Facebook "enabled advertisers to direct their pitches to the news feeds of almost 2,300 people who expressed interest in the topics of 'Jew hater,' 'How to burn jews,' or, 'History of why jews ruin the world.'" The organization even went so far as to test these ad categories by paying $30 to target those groups with three "promoted posts" -- in which a ProPublica article or post was displayed in their news feeds. Facebook reportedly approved all three ads within 15 minutes. From the report: After we contacted Facebook, it removed the anti-Semitic categories -- which were created by an algorithm rather than by people -- and said it would explore ways to fix the problem, such as limiting the number of categories available or scrutinizing them before they are displayed to buyers. In all likelihood, the ad categories that we spotted were automatically generated because people had listed those anti-Semitic themes on their Facebook profiles as an interest, an employer or a "field of study." Facebook's algorithm automatically transforms people's declared interests into advertising categories. [ProPublica provides a screenshot of their ad buying process on the company's advertising portal.] "There are times where content is surfaced on our platform that violates our standards," said Rob Leathern, product management director at Facebook. "In this case, we've removed the associated targeting fields in question. We know we have more work to do, so we're also building new guardrails in our product and review processes to prevent other issues like this from happening in the future."

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Categories: Science

Wisconsin State Legislature Signs Off On $3 Billion Foxconn Incentive Package

Fri, 15/09/2017 - 1:25am
On Thursday, legislators in the state of Wisconsin approved a nearly $3 billion incentive package for the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer, Foxconn, in exchange for it investing approximately $10 billion in the state and building a factory that could employ up to 13,000 workers. The legislation is now headed to Republican Governor Scott Walker's desk, where he is expected to give it his seal of approval. VentureBeat reports: The bill passed the Wisconsin State Assembly on a 64-31 vote, after previously passing the state senate on a 20-13 vote. The move signals the start of what will likely be an important experiment in just how much generous incentive packages can do to help create new tech hubs. Governor Walker has said that the Foxconn factory â" the company's first in the United States -- will help transform Wisconsin into "Wisconn Valley." While on a trade mission this week to Japan and South Korea, Governor Walker told reporters that many of the companies he met with on the trip were already "every interested in how they could come to Wisconsin and partner for that new ecosystem." However, there are still a few details that need to be finalized before Foxconn can start breaking ground -- most notably, where the company will build the factory. The factory was set to be built in either Kenosha or Racine County, Wisconsin, before Kenosha dropped out of the running earlier this week.

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Categories: Science

Spain Fines Facebook Over Tracking Users Without Consent

Fri, 15/09/2017 - 12:45am
Spain's Data Protection Authority has issued a 1.2 million euro fine against Facebook after it found three instances when the company collected data without informing users, as required by European Union privacy laws. Tom's Hardware reports: The AEPD found multiple issues with how Facebook gathered data on Spanish users. One of the issues was that Facebook collects data on ideology, sex, and religious beliefs, as well as personal tastes and web surfing habits without informing the users about how that data will be used. A second issue was that Facebook wasn't obtaining specific and informed consent from the users because the data it was offering them about the collection was not sufficiently clear. The company has been tracking both users and non-users of the service through the Like button across the web without informing them about this sort of tracking, nor about what it plans to do with the data. The company has said that the collection is done for advertising purposes before, but some purposes remain secret, according to the Spanish Data Protection Authority. The AEPD said this sort of collection doesn't comply with the EU's data protection regulations. Finally, the AEPD also noticed that Facebook has not been completely purging the data about users who had already deleted their accounts and that Facebook was making use of accounts' data that have been deleted for more than 17 months. Considering the data that has remained behind is no longer useful for the purpose for which it was collected, the agency considered this another serious infringement of EU privacy laws.

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Categories: Science

KDE Plasma 5.11 Beta Released

Fri, 15/09/2017 - 12:05am
JRiddell writes: The original and best linux desktop has a new version, KDE Plasma 5.11 beta is out. UI improvements include a redesigned System Settings and notification history. Privacy improvements include Plasma Vault, which helps you store your files securely. Progress on Wayland support continues with many people now using it as their daily setup. The full changelog can be viewed here.

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Categories: Science

ISPs Claim a Privacy Law Would Weaken Online Security, Increase Pop-Ups

Thu, 14/09/2017 - 11:20pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The country's biggest Internet service providers and advertising industry lobby groups are fighting to stop a proposed California law that would protect the privacy of broadband customers. AT&T, Comcast, Charter, Frontier, Sprint, Verizon, and some broadband lobby groups urged California state senators to vote against the proposed law in a letter Tuesday. The bill would require Internet service providers to obtain customers' permission before they use, share, or sell the customers' Web browsing and application usage histories. California lawmakers could vote on the bill Friday of this week, essentially replicating federal rules that were blocked by the Republican-controlled Congress and President Trump before they could be implemented. The text and status of the California bill, AB 375, are available here. The letter claims that the bill would "lead to recurring pop-ops to consumers that would be desensitizing and give opportunities to hackers" and "prevent Internet providers from using information they have long relied upon to prevent cybersecurity attacks and improve their service." The Electronic Frontier Foundation picked apart these claims in a post yesterday. The proposed law won't prevent ISPs from taking security measures because the bill "explicitly says that Internet providers can use customer's personal information (including things like IP addresses and traffic records) 'to protect the rights or property of the BIAS [Broadband Internet Access Service] provider, or to protect users of the BIAS and other BIAS providers from fraudulent, abusive, or unlawful use of the service,'" EFF Senior Staff Technologist Jeremy Gillula wrote.

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Categories: Science

Apple's A11 Bionic Chip In iPhone 8 and iPhone X Smokes Android Handsets In Early Benchmarks

Thu, 14/09/2017 - 10:40pm
MojoKid writes: Many of the new releases of Apple's iPhone bring with it a new A-series SoC (System on Chip) and Apple is keeping that tradition with the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X. Each of those handsets sports a custom ARM-based A11 Bionic processor with six cores -- four high performance cores and two power efficiency cores. The two power efficiency cores will perform the bulk medial chores to maintain battery life, which Apple says will be 2 hours longer than the iPhone 7. However, for heavier workloads, the chip is capable of not only firing up its four high performance cores, but also all six cores simultaneously. If early leaked benchmarks are any indication, the A11 Bionic is going to be a benchmark-busting beast of a chip. A set of just-posted Geekbench scores reinforces that notion. Just prior to Apple announcing its newest iPhone models, Geekbench's database was updated with a new entry for an "iPhone 10,5" which we assume to be the iPhone X. Based on the scores recorded, in this one benchmark at least, the A11 CPU powering the iPhone X appears to be 50 to 70 percent faster than any Android handset on the market currently, even those powered by the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 835.

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Categories: Science

PSA: Google Will Delete Your Android Backups If Your Device Is Inactive For Two Months

Thu, 14/09/2017 - 10:00pm
New submitter Vernon Chan writes: It was discovered that Google will automatically schedule to delete your Android device backups if it is inactive for more than two months. The issue was discovered by a Reddit user after his Nexus 6P was sent for a refund claim. He was using an old iPhone while he waited for an Android replacement device. When he glanced at his Google Drive Backup folder, he freaked out when he noticed his Nexus 6P backup was missing. He then stumbled upon this Google Drive help document regarding backup expirations: "Your backup will remain as long as you use your device. If you don't use your device for 2 weeks, you may see an expiration date below your backup. For instance: 'Expires in 54 days.'" Once a backup is deleted, there is zero chance for recovery.

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Categories: Science

Hyperloop One Reveals 10 Strongest Potential Hyperloop Routes In the World

Thu, 14/09/2017 - 9:20pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Hyperloop One wants to build a real, working Hyperloop -- but it'll need strong partners to make it a reality, across both industry and government. That's why, in part, it held a global competition requesting proposals for routes around the world. The winners of that competition have now been announced, and the resulting routes span the U.S., the U.K, Mexico, India and Canada. Hyperloop One has assessed each proposal from hundreds of teams who applied from around the world, examining the potential of each from the perspective of infrastructure, technology, regulatory environment and transportation concerns. As a result, it identified the strongest candidates [with four routes in the U.S., two routes in the U.K., one route in Mexico, two routes in India, and one route in Canada.] The next step for each of these winning teams will be a validation process conducted with Hyperloop One to do some in-depth analysis on each route, establishing things like ridership forecast and building a fully fleshed out business case for each. Hyperloop One will be hosting workshops in each of the above countries to help with this process, and to meet with stakeholders and help establish necessary partnerships. Overall, Hyperloop One points out that these winning teams represent a combined population of almost 150 million people, with routes that would link up 53 urban centers around the world and span a total distance of 4,121 miles).

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Categories: Science

You Are Already Living Inside a Computer

Thu, 14/09/2017 - 8:40pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: Think about the computing systems you use every day. All of them represent attempts to simulate something else. Like how Turing's original thinking machine (PDF) strived to pass as a man or woman, a computer tries to pass, in a way, as another thing. As a calculator, for example, or a ledger, or a typewriter, or a telephone, or a camera, or a storefront, or a cafe. After a while, successful simulated machines displace and overtake the machines they originally imitated. The word processor is no longer just a simulated typewriter or secretary, but a first-order tool for producing written materials of all kinds. Eventually, if they thrive, simulated machines become just machines. Today, computation overall is doing this. There's not much work and play left that computers don't handle. And so, the computer is splitting from its origins as a means of symbol manipulation for productive and creative ends, and becoming an activity in its own right. Today, people don't seek out computers in order to get things done; they do the things that let them use computers.

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Categories: Science

Bitcoin Exchange BTCChina Says To Stop Trading, Sparking Further Slide

Thu, 14/09/2017 - 8:05pm
Several Slashdot readers have shared this Reuters story: Chinese bitcoin exchange BTCChina said on Thursday that it would stop all trading from Sept. 30, setting off a further slide in the value of the cryptocurrency that left it over 30 percent away from the record highs it hit earlier in the month. China has boomed as a cryptocurrency trading location in recent years, as investors and speculators flocked to domestic exchanges that formerly allowed users to conduct trades for free, boosting demand. But that has prompted regulators in the country to crack down on the cryptocurrency sector, in a bid to stamp out potential financial risks as consumers pile into a highly risky and speculative market that has seen unprecedented growth this year. Just hours after BTCChina announced its closure, Chinese news outlet Yicai reported that the country plans to shut down all bitcoin exchanges by the end of September, citing financial sources in Shanghai.

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Categories: Science

We're Eating Plastics From Our Own Dirty Laundry

Thu, 14/09/2017 - 7:22pm
Every time you wash your fleece jacket or other synthetic clothing, microscopic synthetic fibres are released and end up in our food supply and drinking water. From a report: These microfibres are so small -- visible only under a microscope -- that they bypass municipal filtration systems and are consumed by fish and other marine life. A team of women from Waterloo, Ontario is looking to solve that problem. They've designed something that looks a lot like a dryer sheet for your laundry machine. You'd be able to drop this reusable sheet, called PolyGone, into the laundry machine with your dirty clothes. It attracts and traps the microfibres so they can be recycled. They presented their work at the annual AquaHacking conference at the University of Waterloo on Wednesday. "With these fibres entering our food system and ending up on our plates, we are essentially eating polluted laundry," said co-founder Lauren Smith at the conference. The event saw five teams, including hers, compete for tens of thousands of dollars and entry into several local incubators and accelerator centres. Smith has a Masters degree in sustainability management from UW, specializing in water.

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Categories: Science

Google Hit With Gender Pay Discrimination Lawsuit

Thu, 14/09/2017 - 6:43pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: Three female former Google employees have filed a lawsuit against the search giant alleging gender-based pay discrimination, as the Associated Press reported. The former employees, Kelly Ellis, Holly Pease and Kelli Wisuri, all left the company after being put on career paths within the company that they say would pay them less than their male counterparts.

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Categories: Science