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Every Major Advertising Group Is Blasting Apple for Blocking Cookies in the Safari Browser

Thu, 14/09/2017 - 6:00pm
The biggest advertising organizations say Apple will "sabotage" the current economic model of the internet with plans to integrate cookie-blocking technology into the new version of Safari. Marty Swant, reporting for AdWeek: Six trade groups -- the Interactive Advertising Bureau, American Advertising Federation, the Association of National Advertisers, the 4A's and two others -- say they're "deeply concerned" with Apple's plans to release a version of the internet browser that overrides and replaces user cookie preferences with a set of Apple-controlled standards. The feature, which is called "Intelligent Tracking Prevention," limits how advertisers and websites can track users across the internet by putting in place a 24-hour limit on ad retargeting. In an open letter expected to be published this afternoon, the groups describe the new standards as "opaque and arbitrary," warning that the changes could affect the "infrastructure of the modern internet," which largely relies on consistent standards across websites. The groups say the feature also hurts user experience by making advertising more "generic and less timely and useful."

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Categories: Science

Apple Explains Face ID On-stage Failure

Thu, 14/09/2017 - 5:20pm
Apple has explained why its new facial recognition feature failed to unlock a handset at an on-stage demo (see around the 1:35:58 mark here) at the iPhone X's launch on Tuesday. From a report: The company blamed the Face ID glitch on a lockout mechanism triggered by staff members moving the device ahead of its unveil. Apple's software chief dealt with the hiccup by moving on to a back-up device, which worked as intended. But the hitch was widely reported. "People were handling the device for [the] stage demo ahead of time and didn't realise Face ID was trying to authenticate their face," an unnamed company representative is quoted as saying by Yahoo's David Pogue. "After failing a number of times, because they weren't Craig [Federighi], the iPhone did what it was designed to do, which was to require his passcode."

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Categories: Science

Cassini's Best Discoveries of Saturn and Its Moons

Thu, 14/09/2017 - 4:40pm
Loren Grush, writing for The Verge: Early tomorrow morning, NASA scientists will say goodbye to their Cassini spacecraft -- a hardy probe the size of a school bus that has been orbiting the Saturn system for the last 13 years. Launched in 1997, Cassini has spent a whopping 20 years in space, lasting through two mission extensions while going above and beyond what it was designed to do. But tomorrow, the probe will dive into Saturn's atmosphere, where it will break apart and cease operating. It's a sad time for the scientists who have worked on this mission for years, but also a triumphant one: Cassini leaves an impressive legacy of scientific discovery in its wake. Here's a nice video to go with it.

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Categories: Science

Union Power Is Putting Pressure on Silicon Valley's Tech Giants

Thu, 14/09/2017 - 4:00pm
An anonymous reader writes: Organized labor doesn't rack up a lot of wins these days, and Silicon Valley isn't most people's idea of a union hotbed. Nonetheless, in the past three years unions have organized 5,000 people who work on Valley campuses. Among others, they've unionized shuttle drivers at Apple, Tesla, Twitter, LinkedIn, EBay, Salesforce.com, Yahoo!, Cisco, and Facebook; security guards at Adobe, IBM, Cisco, and Facebook; and cafeteria workers at Cisco, Intel, and, earlier this summer, Facebook. The workers aren't technically employed by any of those companies. Like many businesses, Valley giants hire contractors that typically offer much less in the way of pay and benefits than the tech companies' direct employees get. Among other things, such arrangements help companies distance themselves from the way their cafeteria workers and security guards are treated, because somebody else is cutting the checks. Silicon Valley Rising, a coalition of unions and civil rights, community, and clergy groups heading the organizing campaign, says its successes have come largely from puncturing that veneer of plausible deniability. That means directing political pressure, media scrutiny, and protests toward the tech companies themselves. "Everybody knows that the contractors will do what the tech companies say, so we're focused on the big guys," says Ben Field, a co-founder of the coalition who heads the AFL-CIO's South Bay Labor Council. Labor leaders say their efforts have gotten some tech companies to cut ties with an anti-union contractor, intervene with others to ease unionization drives, and subsidize better pay for contract workers. "If you want to get people to buy your product, you don't want them to feel that buying your product is contributing to the evils of the world," says Silicon Valley Rising co-founder Derecka Mehrens, who directs Working Partnerships USA, a California nonprofit that advocates for workers. Tech companies have been image-conscious and closely watched of late, she says, and the coalition is "being opportunistic."

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Categories: Science

Two Ex-Googlers Want To Make Bodegas And Mom-And-Pop Corner Stores Obsolete

Thu, 14/09/2017 - 3:20pm
Elizabeth Segran, writing for FastCompany: While it sometimes feels like we do all of our shopping on the internet, government data shows that actually less than 10% of all retail transactions happen online. In a world where we get our groceries delivered in just two hours through Instacart or Amazon Fresh, the humble corner store -- or bodega, as they are known in New York and Los Angeles -- still performs a valuable function. No matter how organized you are, you're bound to run out of milk or diapers in the middle of the night and need to make a quick visit to your neighborhood retailer. Paul McDonald, who spent 13 years as a product manager at Google, wants to make this corner store a thing of the past. Today, he is launching a new concept called Bodega with his cofounder Ashwath Rajan, another Google veteran. Bodega sets up five-foot-wide pantry boxes filled with non-perishable items you might pick up at a convenience store. An app will allow you to unlock the box and cameras powered with computer vision will register what you've picked up, automatically charging your credit card. The entire process happens without a person actually manning the "store." Bodega's logo is a cat, a nod to the popular bodega cat meme on social media -- although if the duo gets their way, real felines won't have brick-and-mortar shops to saunter around and take naps in much longer. "The vision here is much bigger than the box itself," McDonald says. "Eventually, centralized shopping locations won't be necessary, because there will be 100,000 Bodegas spread out, with one always 100 feet away from you."

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Categories: Science

In a Highly Unusual Move, FTC Confirms It Is Investigating Equifax

Thu, 14/09/2017 - 2:40pm
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Thursday confirmed it is investigating Equifax's handling of a data breach affecting 143m Americans. "The FTC typically does not comment on ongoing investigations. However, in light of the intense public interest and the potential impact of this matter, I can confirm that FTC staff is investigating the Equifax data breach," said Peter Kaplan, the commission's acting director of public affairs. Washington Post reporter tweeted: "To put a finer point on it, this is really, really unusual -- the FTC hardly ever says anything about ongoing probes."

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Categories: Science

FTP Resources Will Be Marked Not Secure in Chrome Starting Later This Year

Thu, 14/09/2017 - 2:00pm
Google engineer Mike West writes: As part of our ongoing effort to accurately communicate the transport security status of a given page, we're planning to label resources delivered over the FTP protocol as "Not secure", beginning in Chrome 63 (sometime around December, 2017). We didn't include FTP in our original plan, but unfortunately its security properties are actually marginally worse than HTTP (delivered in plaintext without the potential of an HSTS-like upgrade). Given that FTP's usage is hovering around 0.0026% of top-level navigations over the last month, and the real risk to users presented by non-secure transport, labeling it as such seems appropriate. We'd encourage developers to follow the example of the linux kernel archives by migrating public-facing downloads (especially executables!) from FTP to HTTPS.

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Categories: Science

Silicon Valley Bosses Are Globalists, Not Libertarians

Thu, 14/09/2017 - 1:00pm
From a report via The Economist: In a recently published survey of 600 entrepreneurs and executives in Silicon Valley, conducted by David Broockman and Neil Malhotra of Stanford University and Gregory Ferenstein, a journalist, three-quarters of respondents said they supported Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election. But although technology-firm leaders hold views that in general hew much closer to Democratic positions than Republican ones, they are far from reliable partisan ideologues. As you might expect from captains of industry, Silicon Valley executives are much more likely to support free trade and to oppose government regulation of businesses than your average Democrat is. For example, just 30% of tech bosses believe that ride-hailing companies need to be regulated like the taxi industry, compared with 60% of Democrats. Given their combination of socially liberal attitudes and a preference for free markets, you might call Silicon Valley executives libertarians. However, libertarians generally advocate shrinking the state as a share of the economy, which technology bosses resolutely do not. When asked if they "would like to live in a society where government does nothing except provide national defense and police protection, so that people could be left alone to earn whatever they could," just 24% agreed. In contrast, 68% of Republican donors concurred with that statement. Moreover, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are just as likely to favor redistributive economic policies, such as universal health care and higher taxes on the rich, as an average Democrat is. The outlook of our new robot-building overlords is far more communitarian than, say, the doctrines of Ayn Rand.

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Categories: Science

GNOME 3.26 Released

Thu, 14/09/2017 - 10:00am
BrianFagioli shares a report from BetaNews: Today, GNOME 3.26 codenamed "Manchester" sees release. It is chock full of improvements, such as a much-needed refreshed settings menu, enhanced search, and color emoji! Yes, Linux users like using the silly symbols too! "System search has been improved for GNOME 3.26. Results have an updated layout which makes them easier to read and shows more items at once. Additionally, it's now possible to search for system actions, including power off, suspend, lock screen, log out, switch user and orientation lock. (Log out and switch user only appear if there's more than one user. Orientation lock is only available if the device supports automatic screen rotation.) These search features can be accessed in the usual way: click Activities and type into the search box, or simply press 'super' and start typing," says the GNOME Project. The full release notes are available here.

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Categories: Science

Japan Trials Driverless Cars In Bid To Keep Rural Elderly On the Move

Thu, 14/09/2017 - 7:00am
According to Reuters, Japan is starting to experiment with self-driving buses in rural communities such as Nishikata, 71 miles (115 km) north of the capital, Tokyo, where elderly residents struggle with fewer bus and taxi services as the population ages and shrinks. From the report: The swift advance of autonomous driving technology is prompting cities such as Paris and Singapore to experiment with such services, which could prove crucial in Japan, where populations are not only greying, but declining, in rural areas.Japan could launch self-driving services for remote communities by 2020, if the trials begun this month prove successful. The government plans to turn highway rest stops into hubs from which to ferry the elderly to medical, retail and banking services. In the initial trials of the firm's driverless six-seater Robot Shuttle, elderly residents of Nishikata, in Japan's Tochigi prefecture, were transferred between a service area and a municipal complex delivering healthcare services. The test also checked the vehicle's operational safety in road conditions ranging from puddles to fallen debris, and if those crossing its path would react to the warning it emits.

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Categories: Science

Climate Change Could Wipe Out a Third of Parasite Species, Study Finds

Thu, 14/09/2017 - 3:30am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled, alternative source): Recently, scientists carried out the first large-scale study of what climate change may do to the world's much-loathed parasites. The team came to a startling conclusion: as many as one in three parasite species may face extinction in the next century. As global warming raises the planet's temperature, the researchers found, many species will lose territory in which to survive. Some of their hosts will be lost, too. Researchers have begun carefully studying the roles that parasites play. They make up the majority of the biomass in some ecosystems, outweighing predators sharing their environments by a factor of 20 to 1. For decades, scientists who studied food webs drew lines between species -- between wildebeest and the grass they grazed on, for example, and between the wildebeest and the lions that ate them. In a major oversight, they didn't factor in the extent to which parasites feed on hosts. As it turns out, as much as 80 percent of the lines in a given food web are links to parasites. They are big players in the food supply. Some researchers had already investigated the fate of a few parasite species, but Colin J. Carlson, lead author of the study and a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues wanted to get a global view of the impact of climate change. Some kinds won't lose much in a warming world, the study found. For instance, thorny-headed worms are likely to be protected because their hosts, fish and birds, are common and widespread. But other types, such as fleas and tapeworms, may not be able to tolerate much change in temperature; many others infect only hosts that are facing extinction, as well. In all, roughly 30 percent of parasitic species could disappear, Mr. Carlson concluded. The impact of climate change will be as great or greater for these species as for any others studied so far. The study has been published in Science Advances.

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Categories: Science

Target's Sales Floors Are Switching From Apple To Android Devices

Thu, 14/09/2017 - 1:30am
After three years of Apple products, Target is moving to Android devices for stocking, pulling items, and other essential sales floor duties. Target first outfitted its employees with Apple products in 2014, replacing PDAs with iPod Touches. Gizmodo reports: In Fall of 2016, Target stores began testing the Zebra TC51, which runs Android 6.0 Mashmallow and was confirmed to Gizmodo as "the new MyDevices for store team members chainwide" by a company spokesperson over email. On Reddit's r/Target page and the unofficial employee forum The Breakroom, the new devices have been met with enthusiasm -- and plenty of jabs at the old iOS scanners. "The current iOS my devices we have all sorts of issues, connection issues, scanner issues, and tons more," one Breakroom poster complained. On Reddit, a former store manager wrote that "the iPod hardware they used as on the floor scanners for employees died quickly and there was no way of swapping in new batteries. There were many hardware issues that came about with the ipods." While a Target spokesperson confirmed the company will still purchase some products from Apple -- iPads for online order pickups, iPhones for managers -- the sales floor is switching to Android, and the company is staffing up on Android developers to port over all the internal software stores use.

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Categories: Science

Backdoor Found In WordPress Plugin With More Than 200,000 Installations

Thu, 14/09/2017 - 12:50am
According to Bleeping Computer, a WordPress plug that goes by the name Display Widgets has been used to install a backdoor on WordPress sites across the internet for the past two and a half months. While the WordPress.org team removed the plugin from the official WordPress Plugins repository, the plugin managed to be installed on more than 200,000 sites at the time of its removal. The good news is that the backdoor code was only found between Display Widgets version 2.6.1 (released June 30) and version 2.6.3 (released September 2), so it's unlikely everyone who installed the plugin is affected. WordPress.org staff members reportedly removed the plugin three times before for similar violations. Bleeping Computer has compiled a history of events in its report, put together with data aggregated from three different investigations by David Law, White Fir Design, and Wordfence. The report adds: The original Display Widgets is a plugin that allowed WordPress site owners to control which, how, and when WordPress widgets appear on their sites. Stephanie Wells of Strategy11 developed the plugin, but after switching her focus to a premium version of the plugin, she decided to sell the open source version to a new developer who would have had the time to cater to its userbase. A month after buying the plugin in May, its new owner released a first new version -- v2.6.0 -- on June 21.

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Categories: Science

iPhone 8 and iPhone X Will Support Fast Charging, But Only If You Buy a New USB-C Charger

Thu, 14/09/2017 - 12:10am
One little detail Apple didn't mention at its event in Cupertino, California yesterday was the fact that the new iPhones will support fast charging. According to the official tech specs page, the new iPhones can recharge up to 50 percent of their battery life in a 30-minute charge. The catch? You have to use a USB-C charger and Lightning cable (sold separately). 9to5Mac reports: iPhone 8 battery life is roughly equivalent to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. On a full charge, expect up to 12 hours of internet usage on iPhone 8 and iPhone X, with up to 13 hours on iPhone 8 Plus. With a 50% quick charge in 30 minutes, you are effectively gaining hours of additional battery life during the day, even if you only plug in for a short period. However, to take advantage of fast-charging, you cannot use the Lightning to USB-A cable that is bundled in the box. Fast charging requires a USB-C to Lightning cable and the USB-C wall charger. More specifically, one of three USB-C wall chargers. Apple sells 29W, 61W and 87W variants of its USB-C power adapters. Prices range from $49 to $79. Apple doesn't break out specific numbers on how each model affects charging times, it's not clear if the cheapest 29W model can achieve the advertised 50% recharge in 30 minutes.

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Categories: Science

Samsung Unveils New Electric Car Batteries For Up To 430 Miles of Range

Wed, 13/09/2017 - 11:30pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Electrek: At the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA Cars 2017) this week, Samsung's battery division, Samsung SDI, showcases a new "Multifunctional battery pack" solution to enable more range in electric vehicles as the Korean company tries to carve itself a bigger share of the growing automotive battery market. Most established automakers, like Nissan with the LEAF or even GM with the more recent Chevy Bolt EV, have been using large prismatic cells to build their electric vehicle battery packs. Tesla pioneered a different approach using thousands of individual smaller cylindrical li-ion battery cells in each pack. Earlier this year, Samsung unveiled its own '2170' battery cell to compete with Tesla/Panasonic. Now they are claiming that they can reach an impressive energy density by using those cells in new modules: "'Multifunctional battery pack' of Samsung SDI attracted the most attention. Its users can change the number of modules as they want as if they place books on a shelf. For example, if 20 modules are installed in a premium car, it can go 600 to 700 kilometers. If 10 to 12 modules are mounted on a regular sedan, it can run up to 300 kilometers. This pack is expected to catch the eyes of automakers, because they can design a car whose mileage may vary depending on how many modules of a single pack are installed."

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Categories: Science

Ford Disguised a Man As a Car Seat To Research Self-Driving

Wed, 13/09/2017 - 10:50pm
According to TechCrunch, Ford put a man in a car seat disguise so that a Ford Transit could masquerade as a true self-driving vehicle in order to evaluate how passers-by, other drivers on the road and cyclists reacted to sharing the road with an autonomous vehicle. From the report: The trial, conducted with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, also made use of a light bar mounted on the top of the windshield to provide communication about what the car was doing, including yielding, driving autonomously or accelerating from a full stop. The Transit Connect van used for the trial would indicate its behavior using signals including a slow white pulse for yielding, a rapid blinking for accelerating from a stop, and staying solid if it's actively in self-driving mode. The bar is positioned roughly where a driver's eye line would be, to try to catch the attention of those around it who would look in its direction.

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Categories: Science

Apple's 'Shoddy' Beats Headphones Get Slammed In Lawsuit

Wed, 13/09/2017 - 10:10pm
A lawsuit (PDF) filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Oakland, California, recounts the frustrations of five plaintiffs who found that Apple's Powerbeats 2 and Powerbeats 3 headphones did not perform as advertised. They are also claiming the company is refusing to honor warranty commitments to repair or replace the failed units. The Register reports: The complaint seeks $5,000,000 in damages and class action certification, in order to represent thousands of similarly afflicted Beats customers who are alleged to exist. "In widespread advertising and marketing campaigns, Apple touts that its costly Powerbeats (which retail for $199.95) are 'BUILT TO ENDURE' and are the 'BEST HEADPHONES FOR WORKING OUT,'" the complaint says. "But these costly headphones are neither 'built to endure' nor 'sweat & water resistant,' and certainly do not have a battery that lasts for six or twelve hours. Instead, these shoddy headphones contain a design defect that causes the battery life to diminish and eventually stop retaining a charge." The complaint attributes the shoddiness of Apple's Powerbeats headphones to cheap components. Citing an estimate in a recent Motley Fool article, the complaint contends that Apple's Beats Solo headphones cost $16.89 to make and retail for $199.95: a markup of more than 1,000 per cent. That figure actually comes from a Medium post by Avery Louie, from hardware prototyping biz Bolt.

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Categories: Science

Study Finds That Banning Trolls Works, To Some Degree

Wed, 13/09/2017 - 9:30pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: On October 5, 2015, facing mounting criticism about the hate groups proliferating on Reddit, the site banned a slew of offensive subreddits, including r/Coontown and r/fatpeoplehate, which targeted Black people and those with weight issues. But did banning these online groups from Reddit diminish hateful behavior overall, or did the hate just spread to other places? A new study from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Emory University, and University of Michigan examines just that, and uses data collected from 100 million Reddit posts that were created before and after the aforementioned subreddits were dissolved. Published in the journal ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction, the researchers conclude that the 2015 ban worked. More accounts than expected discontinued their use on the site, and accounts that stayed after the ban drastically reduced their hate speech. However, studies like this raise questions about the systemic issues facing the internet at large, and how our culture should deal with online hate speech. First, the researchers automatically extracted words from the banned subreddits to create a dataset that included hate speech and community-specific lingo. The researchers looked at the accounts of users who were active on those subreddits and compared their posting activity from before and after those offensive subreddits were banned. The team was able to monitor upticks or drops in the hate speech across Reddit and if that speech had "migrated" to other subreddits as a result.

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Categories: Science

EU Set To Demand Internet Firms Act Faster To Remove Illegal Content

Wed, 13/09/2017 - 8:50pm
Companies including Google, Facebook and Twitter could face European Union laws forcing them to be more proactive in removing illegal content if they do not do more to police what is available on the Internet. From a report: The European Union executive outlines in draft guidelines reviewed by Reuters how Internet firms should step up efforts with measures such as establishing trusted flaggers and taking voluntary measures to detect and remove illegal content. Proliferating illegal content, whether because it infringes copyright or incites terrorism, has sparked heated debate in Europe between those who want online platforms to do more to tackle it and those who fear it could impinge on free speech. The companies have significantly stepped up efforts to tackle the problem of late, agreeing to an EU code of conduct to remove hate speech within 24 hours and forming a global working group to combine their efforts remove terrorist content from their platforms.

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Categories: Science

Kaspersky Software Banned From US Government Systems Over Concerns About Russia

Wed, 13/09/2017 - 8:10pm
Mark Wilson writes: The Department of Homeland Security has told US government agencies to remove Kaspersky software from their systems. The directive was issued because of concerns about influence exerted over the company by the Russian government. Government agencies have been given three months to identify and start to remove Kaspersky's security products. Kaspersky has constantly denied connections to the Russian government, but the US is simply not willing to take the risk.

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Categories: Science