posted less than an hour ago on slashdot
A peer-reviewed study [PDF] of almost one million Android apps has revealed how data from smartphones are harvested and shared, with nearly 90 percent of apps set up to transfer information back to Google. From a report: Researchers at Oxford university analysed approximately a third of the apps available in Google's Play Store in 2017 and found that the median app could transfer data to 10 third parties, with one in five apps able to share data with more than 20. This year has seen unprecedented scrutiny over how websites use the data they collect from their users, but little attention has so far been paid to the sprawling and fast-growing world of smartphone apps. Reuben Binns, the computer scientist who led the project, said that because most apps have now moved to a "freemium" model, where they make revenues from advertising rather than sales, data sharing has spiralled out of control. Users, regulators and sometimes even the app developers and advertisers are unaware of the extent to which data flow from smartphones to digital advertising groups, data brokers and intermediaries that buy, sell and blend information, he said. "This industry was growing already on the webâ...âwhen smartphones came along, that was a new opportunity," he said. "It feels like this legitimate business model has gone completely out of control and created a kind of chaotic industry that is not understood by the people who are most affected by it."

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posted about 1 hour ago on slashdot
Like many people, Alex Stamos, former Facebook chief security officer, thinks tech platforms like Facebook and Google have too much power. But he doesn't agree with the calls to break them up. And he argues that the very people who say Facebook and Google are too powerful are giving them more power by insisting they do more to control hate speech and propaganda. From a report: "That's a dangerous path," he warns. If democratic countries make tech firms impose limits on free speech, so will autocratic ones. Before long, the technology will enable "machine-speed, real-time moderation of everything we say online." In attempting to rein in Big Tech, we risk creating Big Brother. So what's the solution? I spoke to Stamos at his Stanford office to find out. Technology Review: So is the disinformation/propaganda problem mostly solved? Stamos: In a free society, you will never eliminate that problem. I think the most important thing [in the US] is the advertising transparency. With or without any foreign interference, the parties, the campaigns, the PACs [political action committees] here in the US are divvying up the electorate into tiny little buckets, and that is a bad thing. Transparency is a good start. The next step we need is federal legislation to put a limit on ad targeting. There are thousands of companies in the internet advertising ecosystem. Facebook, Google, and Twitter are the only ones that have done anything, because they have gotten the most press coverage and the most pressure from politicians. So without legislation we're just going to push all of the attackers into the long tail of advertising, to companies that don't have dedicated teams looking for Russian disinformation groups. Technology Review: Facebook has been criticized over Russian political interference both in the US and in other countries, the genocide in Myanmar, and a lot of other things. Do you feel Facebook has fully grasped the extent of its influence and its responsibility? Stamos: I think the company certainly understands its impact. The hard part is solving it. Ninety percent of Facebook users live outside the United States. Well over half live in either non-free countries or democracies without protection for speech. One of the problems is coming up with solutions in these countries that don't immediately go to a very dark place [i.e., censorship]. Another is figuring out what issues to put engineering resources behind. No matter how big a company is, there are only a certain number of problems you [can tackle]. One of the problems that companies have had is that they're in a firefighting mode where they jump from emergency to emergency. So as they staff up that gets better, but we also need a more informed external discussion about the things we want the companies to focus on -- what are the problems that absolutely have to be solved, and what aren't. You mentioned a bunch of a problems that are actually very different, but people blur them all together. Technology Review: How do you regulate in a world in which tech is advancing so fast while regulation moves so slowly? How should a society set sensible limits on what tech companies do? Stamos: But right now, society is not asking for limits on what they do. It's asking that tech companies do more. And I think that's a dangerous path. In all of the problems you mentioned -- Russian disinformation, Myanmar -- what you're telling these companies is, "We want you to have more power to control what other people say and do." That's very dangerous, especially with the rise of machine learning. Five or ten years from now, there could be machine-learning systems that understand human languages as well as humans. We could end up with machine-speed, real-time moderation of everything we say online. So the powers we grant the tech companies right now are the powers those machines are going to have in five years.

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posted about 2 hours ago on slashdot
A new investigation uncovers a sophisticated ad fraud scheme involving more than 125 Android apps and websites, some of which were targeted at kids. From a report: Last April, Steven Schoen received an email from someone named Natalie Andrea who said she worked for a company called We Purchase Apps. She wanted to buy his Android app, Emoji Switcher. But right away, something seemed off. "I did a little bit of digging because I was a little sketched out because I couldn't really find even that the company existed," Schoen told BuzzFeed News. The We Purchase Apps website listed a location in New York, but the address appeared to be a residence. "And their phone number was British. It was just all over the place," Schoen said. It was all a bit weird, but nothing indicated he was about to see his app end up in the hands of an organization responsible for potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in ad fraud, and which has funneled money to a cabal of shell companies and people scattered across Israel, Serbia, Germany, Bulgaria, Malta, and elsewhere. Schoen had a Skype call with Andrea and her colleague, who said his name was Zac Ezra, but whose full name is Tzachi Ezrati. They agreed on a price and to pay Schoen up front in bitcoin. "I would say it was more than I had expected," Schoen said of the price. That helped convince him to sell. A similar scenario played out for five other app developers who told BuzzFeed News they sold their apps to We Purchase Apps or directly to Ezrati. (Ezrati told BuzzFeed News he was only hired to buy apps and had no idea what happened to them after they were acquired.) The Google Play store pages for these apps were soon changed to list four different companies as their developers, with addresses in Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Russia, giving the appearance that the apps now had different owners. But an investigation by BuzzFeed News reveals that these seemingly separate apps and companies are today part of a massive, sophisticated digital advertising fraud scheme involving more than 125 Android apps and websites connected to a network of front and shell companies in Cyprus, Malta, British Virgin Islands, Croatia, Bulgaria, and elsewhere. More than a dozen of the affected apps are targeted at kids or teens, and a person involved in the scheme estimates it has stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from brands whose ads were shown to bots instead of actual humans. (A full list of the apps, the websites, and their associated companies connected to the scheme can be found in this spreadsheet.) One way the fraudsters find apps for their scheme is to acquire legitimate apps through We Purchase Apps and transfer them to shell companies. They then capture the behavior of the app's human users and program a vast network of bots to mimic it, according to analysis from Protected Media, a cybersecurity and fraud detection firm that analyzed the apps and websites at BuzzFeed News' request. This means a significant portion of the millions of Android phone owners who downloaded these apps were secretly tracked as they scrolled and clicked inside the application. By copying actual user behavior in the apps, the fraudsters were able to generate fake traffic that bypassed major fraud detection systems. Response from Google.

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posted about 3 hours ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader shares a report: As the gig economy grows, the ratio of contract workers to regular employees in corporate America is shifting. Google, Facebook, Amazon, Uber and other Silicon Valley tech titans now employ thousands of contract workers to do a host of functions -- anything from sales and writing code to managing teams and testing products. This year at Google, contract workers outnumbered direct employees for the first time in the company's 20-year history. It's not only in Silicon Valley. The trend is on the rise as public companies look for ways to trim HR costs or hire in-demand skills in a tight labor market. The U.S. jobless rate dropped to 3.7 percent in September, the lowest since 1969, down from 3.9 percent in August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some 57.3 million Americans, or 36 percent of the workforce, are now freelancing, according to a 2017 report by Upwork. In San Mateo and Santa Clara counties alone, there are an estimated 39,000 workers who are contracted to tech companies, according to one estimate by University of California Santa Cruz researchers. Spokespersons at Facebook and Alphabet declined to disclose the number of contract workers they employ. A spokesperson at Alphabet cited two main reasons for hiring contract or temporary workers. One reason is when the company doesn't have or want to build out expertise in a particular area such as doctors, food service, customer support or shuttle bus drivers. Another reason is a need for temporary workers when there is a sudden spike in workload or to cover for an employee who is on leave.

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posted about 3 hours ago on slashdot
Chinese President Xi Jinping inaugurated China's latest mega-infrastructure project on Tuesday: The world's longest sea crossing. From a report: The 34.2-mile bridge and tunnel that have been almost a decade in the making for the first time connect the semi-autonomous cities of Hong Kong and Macau to the mainland Chinese city of Zhuhai by road. The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge spans the mouth of the Pearl River and significantly cuts the commuting time between the three cities. The previously four-hour drive between Zhuhai and Hong Kong will now take 45 minutes. One section of the crossing dives underwater into a 4.2 mile tunnel that creates a channel above for large cargo ship containers to pass through. The project came in over budget -- with Hong Kong alone investing $15 billion in it -- and delayed, as it was originally slate to open in 2016.

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posted about 4 hours ago on slashdot
Amazon is learning how hard it can be to move off of Oracle's database software. From a report: On Prime Day, while the e-retailer was dealing with a major website glitch that slowed sales, the company was also dealing with a technical problem in Ohio at one of its biggest warehouses, leading to thousands of delayed package deliveries, according to an internal report obtained by CNBC. The problem was in large part due to Amazon's migration from Oracle's database to its own technology, the documents show. The outage underscores the challenge Amazon faces as it looks to move completely off Oracle's database by 2020, and how difficult it is to re-create that level of reliability. It also shows that Oracle's database is more efficient in some aspects than Amazon's rival software, a point that Oracle will likely emphasize during this week's annual OpenWorld conference in San Francisco.

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posted about 5 hours ago on slashdot
As Apple continues to fight independent repair, Motorola has partnered with iFixit and pledged to support the right to repair movement. From a report: It is excellent news that Motorola has decided to make it as easy as possible for you to repair your phone. The company announced that it would begin selling replacement parts for all of its recent phones to customers, and it has partnered with iFixit to sell repair kits for phones like the Moto X, Z, G4, G5, and Droid Turbo 2. The kits come with tools, genuine Motorola-branded replacement parts, and instructions on how to fix your device. iFixit is currently selling replacement batteries, screens, and digitizer assemblies. "Motorola is setting an example for major manufacturers to embrace a more open attitude towards repair," iFixit wrote in a blog post announcing the partnership. "For fixers like us, this partnership is representative of a broader movement in support of our Right to Repair. It's proof that OEM manufacturers and independent repair can co-exist. Big business and social responsibility, and innovation and sustainability, don't need to be mutually exclusive."

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posted about 6 hours ago on slashdot
AmiMoJo writes: Richard Stallman has announced the GNU Kind Communication Guidelines, an effort "to start guiding people towards kinder communication." The Guidelines differ from a Code of Conduct in that it's trying to be proactive about kindness around free software development over being rules with possible actions when breaking them. These new GNU communication guidelines can be found at GNU.org along with Stallman's commentary. From the guidelines: A code of conduct states rules, with punishments for anyone that violates them. It is the heavy-handed way of teaching people to behave differently, and since it only comes into action when people do something against the rules, it doesn't try to teach people to do better than what the rules require. To be sure, the appointed maintainer(s) of a GNU package can, if necessary, tell a contributor to go away; but we do not want to need to have recourse to that. The idea of the GNU Kind Communication Guidelines is to start guiding people towards kinder communication at a point well before one would even think of saying, "You are breaking the rules." The way we do this, rather than ordering people to be kind or else, is try to help people learn to make their communication more kind. I hope that kind communication guidelines will provide a kinder and less strict way of leading a project's discussions to be calmer, more welcoming to all participants of good will, and more effective.

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posted about 6 hours ago on slashdot
Mozilla today launched Firefox 63 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. The release brings Enhanced Tracking Protection, performance improvements on Windows and macOS, search shortcuts, and Picture-In-Picture on Android. From a report: Firefox 63 for the desktop is available for download now on Firefox.com, and all existing users should be able to upgrade to it automatically. As always, the Android version is trickling out slowly on Google Play. According to Mozilla, Firefox has about 300 million active users. In other words, it's a major platform that web developers must consider. Firefox 63 for desktop brings support for Enhanced Tracking Protection. [...] Firefox 63's Enhanced Tracking Protection blocks cookies and storage access from third-party trackers, which Mozilla says targets the problem of cross-site tracking without breaking sites and impacting revenue streams like the original Tracking Protection. It does this by preventing known trackers from setting third-party cookies -- the primary method of tracking across sites -- but still gives you the option to block all known trackers (under Firefox Options/Preferences). [...] Search shortcuts essentially pins sites like Google and Amazon on the new tab page. When you click or tap them, you're redirected to Firefox's awesome bar, which automatically fills the corresponding keyword (@google or @amazon in this case) for the search engine. This way, you can type your query, hit enter, and get your search results without having to first load the Google or Amazon homepage. [...] The only major new feature for this Firefox for Android release is a picture-in-picture mode (Android Oreo and up). This means that if you're watching a video in full-screen, when you switch away from Firefox it will move the video into a small floating window, which you can tap to return to the full video player.

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posted about 7 hours ago on slashdot
"According to CNET, TechCrunch and others, the Trump administration reportedly wants tech giants to make it easy for workers to take leaves of absence to help the government modernize," writes Slashdot reader kimanaw. From a report: White House officials on Monday planned to meet with tech giants including Google, Microsoft, Amazon and IBM, to discuss ways to make it easier for employees to take leaves of absence to help with government projects, according to The Washington Post. The administration reportedly hopes tech industry workers will be able to help modernize state and federal agencies and tackle challenges such as upgrading the veterans' health care system. Attracting tech talent may prove difficult for the Trump administration, which hasn't always seen eye to eye with Silicon Valley on issues such as the president's ban on travel from predominantly Muslim countries. However, White House officials believe tech workers are willing to "put politics aside." "This event on Monday is not just about our efforts, it's about our successor, and their successor after that," said one unnamed official, according to the Post. The White House didn't respond to a request for comment.

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posted about 10 hours ago on slashdot
Mozilla is reportedly preparing to offer a VPN service for Firefox users to help protect them when surfing the web. According to Trusted Reviews, Mozilla has partnered with the ProtonVPN service, "with a new notification piping-up when the browser detects an unsecured connection, or in a scenario when VPN might be preferable to users." From the report: However, it appears Firefox users will have to pay for the privilege. Austrian site Soeren-hentzschel reports the premium VPN service will be $10 a month, which is what ProtonVPN charges its users. Users will receive a "Firefox Recommends" pop-up when browsing an unsecured wireless network. The pop-up says the VPN service will provide a "private and secure' internet connection. According to the reports, a subset of Firefox 62 users in the United States will begin receiving the pop-up from today. Mozilla will reportedly get a cut of any subscription fee handed over by users to access the VPN service. MSPowerUser points out that this will be the first advertised service that costs money for Firefox users.

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posted about 13 hours ago on slashdot
A bug in the Google News app for Android is reportedly causing the app to use up excessive amounts of background data, leading to overage charges. "According to dozens of posts on the Google News Help Forum, users have been experiencing this issue as early as June," reports The Verge. "The issue was verified and addressed by a Google News community manager in September, stating that the company was investigating and working toward a fix, but the issue is still ongoing." From the report: Verge reader Zach Dowdle emailed in with his experience, and screenshots of his app and Wi-Fi data usage: "The Google News app is randomly using a ridiculous amount of background data without users' knowledge. The app burned through over 12 gigs of data on my phone while I slept and my Wi-Fi had disconnected. It lead to $75 in overage charges." According to several users, the app burned through mobile data despite having "Download via Wi-Fi" turned on in the settings. In some extreme cases, the Google News app used up to 24GB of data, leading to overage charges of up to $385, users reported. So far, the only solutions seem to be disabling background data, and deleting the app altogether.

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posted about 17 hours ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes a report from PC Magazine: Intel is denying a new report that claims the chipmaker is abandoning its 10 nanometer manufacturing process following years of delays. "Media reports published today that Intel is ending work on the 10nm process are untrue," the company tweeted on Monday. Hours prior to the tweet, semiconductor news site SemiAccurate claimed that Intel was pulling the plug on the chip-making technology over the company's ongoing struggles to bring it to full production. Chips built with the 10nm process were originally slated to arrive in 2016, but the company has repeatedly pushed that launch date back. During Intel's last earnings call, executives said they now expect 10nm chips to officially drop during the 2019 holiday season. In response to SemiAccurate's report, Intel said it continues to make "good progress" on the 10nm technology. "Yields are improving consistent with the timeline we shared during our last earnings report," the chipmaker added in its tweet. The next-generation silicon will supposedly offer a 25 percent performance increase over 14nm-manufactured technology. The 10nm chips will also be able to run on 50 percent less power when clocked at the same performance of a 14nm processor. Intel will hold an earnings call on Thursday, so expect company executives to elaborate on 10nm's progress then.

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posted about 18 hours ago on slashdot
YouTube is creating a new Learning Fund program where it will invest $20 million toward education content. The announcement was made today by Malik Ducard, global head of learning. The Verge reports: Channels like TED-Ed, dedicated to educational Ted Talks, and Hank and John Green's Crash Course have already secured additional funding, according to YouTube's blog post. The company plans to invest in content from independent creators, like the Green brothers, as well as traditional news sources and educational organizations to broaden its content offering. YouTube's Learning Fund has a nice ring to it, but it isn't a philanthropic charity. An FAQ about the program states that "successful applicants must enter into a written agreement with YouTube. This agreement will contain more details about required deliverables, payment timelines, and other terms and conditions." Creators must maintain a minimum of 25,000 subscribers. Those applying to the program also don't need to have a degree or proper certification in their field, "but successful applicants will be required to demonstrate that they have expertise and/or that the content they produce is verified by an expert in the field."

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posted about 19 hours ago on slashdot
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Friday ordered the French transportation company Transdev to stop transporting schoolchildren in a self-driving vehicle in Florida. Ars Technica reports: Transdev's pilot project in Babcock Ranch, a planned community, was quite modest. On Fridays, Transdev's electric shuttle would take a group of elementary-aged children to school, then take them home later in the day. The vehicle had a safety driver on board. The route was short enough that kids walked or rode their bikes to school the other four days of the week, according to a spokeswoman for Babcock Ranch. "The shuttle travels at a top speed of 8mph, with the potential to reach speeds of 30mph once the necessary infrastructure is complete," an August press release stated. So why did the feds shut down this project while allowing lots of others to continue with minimal oversight? NHTSA points to two factors. One is that Transdev is a French company. Different countries have different safety standards, so vehicles designed overseas often can't be used in the U.S. without special permission from U.S. regulators. NHTSA granted Transdev a temporary importation authorization to test its driverless shuttle in the United States. "Transdev requested permission to use the shuttle for a specific demonstration project, not as a school bus," NHTSA said in its Friday statement. "Transdev failed to disclose or receive approval for this use." The other issue, of course, is that the project involves kids. For obvious reasons, federal regulators are going to be extra wary of testing experimental technology on schoolchildren.

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posted about 19 hours ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: [O]ne UK grassroots internet service provider is currently testing a data only SIM card that blocks any non-Tor traffic from leaving the phone at all, potentially providing a more robust way to use Tor while on the go. "This is about sticking a middle finger up to mobile filtering, mass surveillance," Gareth Llewelyn, founder of Brass Horn Communications, told Motherboard in an online chat. Brass Horn is a non-profit internet service provider with a focus on privacy and anti-surveillance services. Tor is a piece of software and a related network run by volunteers. When someone runs Tor on their computer or phone, it routes their traffic through multiple servers before reaching its final destination, such as a website. That way, the website owner can't tell who is visiting; only that someone is connecting from Tor. The most common way people access Tor is with the Tor Browser Bundle on desktop, or with the Orbot app on Android. But, in some cases, neither of these totally guarantee that all of your device's traffic will be routed through Tor. If you're using the Tor Browser Bundle on a laptop, and then go to use another piece of software, that app is probably not going to use Tor. The same might stand for Orbot running on older iterations of Android. Nathan Freitas, from The Guardian Project which maintains Orbot, said with newer versions of Android, you can lock down device traffic to only work if a specific VPN is activated, including Orbot's. This SIM card, however, is supposed to provide a more restricted solution in the event that other approaches don't quite work. The UK-exclusive SIM card requires that users create a new access point name on their device. It also requires Orbot to be installed and running on the device itself.

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posted about 20 hours ago on slashdot
Richard Branson is stepping down as chairman of Virgin Hyperloop One -- "the company that plans to build a supersonic transport system in the United Arab Emirates and other countries," reports Reuters. The reason is because the company needs a more actively involved leader. From the report: The Financial Times reported last week that Saudi Arabia had terminated a planned deal with Virgin Hyperloop One after Branson halted investment talks with Riyadh over the Jamal Khashoggi affair. "At this stage in the company's evolution, I feel it needs a more hands-on Chair, who can focus on the business and these opportunities," the statement quoted Branson as saying. "It will be difficult for me to fulfill that commitment as I already devote significant time to my philanthropic ventures and the many business within the Virgin Group."

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posted about 21 hours ago on slashdot
According to a press release posted today, Netflix is planning to raise $2 billion to help fund new content, including "content acquisitions, production and development, capital expenditures, investments, working capital and potential acquisitions and strategic transactions." TechCrunch reports: The funds will be raised in the form of senior unsecured notes, denominated in U.S. dollars and euros, it said. This debt offering is the sixth time in under four years that Netflix is raising $1 billion or more through bonds, noted Variety, which was among the first to report the news. As of September 30, Netflix's long-term debt had reached $8.34 billion, up 71% from $4.89 billion in the year ago quarter, it said during its last earnings, Variety's report also noted. Netflix recently explained during its Q3 2018 earnings that it needs to continue to invest in original programming in order to remain competitive. "Content companies such as WarnerMedia and Disney/Fox are moving to self-distribute their own content; tech firms like Apple, Amazon and others are investing in premium content to enhance their distribution platforms," the letter also stated. "Amid these massive competitors on both sides, plus traditional media firms, our job is to make Netflix stand out so that when consumers have free time, they choose to spend it with our service," it had said.

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posted about 21 hours ago on slashdot
Brendan Iribe, the co-founder and former CEO of Oculus, announced today that he is leaving Facebook. From a report: Iribe is leaving Facebook following some internal shake-ups in the company's virtual reality arm last week that saw the cancellation of the company's next generation "Rift 2" PC-powered virtual reality headset, which he had been leading development of, a source close to the matter told TechCrunch. Iribe and the Facebook executive team had "fundamentally different views on the future of Oculus that grew deeper over time," and Iribe wasn't interested in a "race to the bottom" in terms of performance, we are told.

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posted about 22 hours ago on slashdot
Over the weekend, seven-time winner Jonas Neubauer showed up at the Classic Tetris World Championship in Portland, Oregon like he has every year since it moved there in 2011. Instead of adding another championship to his name, he finished in second place this time, bested by 16-year-old Joseph Saelee who went on an amazing three-game tear. From a report: "The kid played with pure heart, the most clutch Tetris that we've seen from anyone," Neubauer said after the dust had settled. "He just really had the ability, had the natural ability, and let it shine as bright as he could in his first tournament. [It's] truly an honor to pass the torch to the new generation of Tetris players." The veteran stood on stage holding a silver trophy, his first since losing to Harry Hong in 2014, and the unlikely Saelee, tears still in his eyes, hoisted the gold to applause from the crowd at Sunday's Retro Game Expo crowd. Though Tetris came out on the NES in 1989, the Classic World Championship tournament as it exists today didn't get started until 2010 after the game's competitive scene spent most of the aughts trading strategies, high scores, and footage evidence throughout a scattered network of forums and websites. Now, top players from around the world compete annually at the Expo using the original game and controllers played on old CRTs to see who can get the highest score in individual head-to-head matchups.

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posted about 23 hours ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Andy Jassy, the CEO of Amazon Web Services, followed Apple's lead in calling the for the retraction of Bloomberg's story about spy chips being embedded in servers. "They offered no proof, story kept changing, and showed no interest in our answers unless we could validate their theories," Jassy wrote in a tweet on Monday. "Reporters got played or took liberties. Bloomberg should retract." Apple CEO Tim Cook told Buzzfeed on Friday that the scenario Bloomberg reported never happened and that the October story in Bloomberg Businessweek should be retracted. Bloomberg alleged data center hardware used by Apple and AWS, and provided by server company Super Micro, was under surveillance by the Chinese government, even though almost all the companies named in the report denied Bloomberg's claim. Bloomberg published a denial from AWS alongside its own report, and AWS refuted the report in a more strongly worded six-paragraph blog post entitled "Setting the Record Straight on Bloomberg Businessweek's Erroneous Article." Further reading is available via The Washington Post. "Sources tell the Erik Wemple Blog that the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and The Post have each sunk resources into confirming the story, only to come up empty-handed," the Washington Post reports. "(The Post did run a story summarizing Bloomberg's findings, along with various denials and official skepticism.) It behooves such outlets to dispatch entire teams to search for corroboration: If, indeed, it's true that China has embarked on this sort of attack, there will be a long tail of implications. No self-respecting news organization will want to be left out of those stories. 'Unlike software, hardware leaves behind a good trail of evidence. If somebody decides to go down that path, it means that they don't care about the consequences,' Stathakopoulos says.'"

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posted about 23 hours ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Undoubtedly in response to this politically motivated sort of claptrap, SQLite has released their own Code of Conduct. From the preamble: Having been encouraged by clients to adopt a written code of conduct, the SQLite developers elected to govern their interactions with each other, with their clients, and with the larger SQLite user community in accordance with the "instruments of good works" from chapter 4 of The Rule of St. Benedict. This code of conduct has proven its mettle in thousands of diverse communities for over 1,500 years, and has served as a baseline for many civil law codes since the time of Charlemagne. Not everyone has found SQLite's attempt informative or funny (though many did). A developer wrote, for instance, "So is the SQLite CoC thing a joke or not? If it's not a joke, f*ck this. If it is a joke, that's even worse. Your CoC should be taken seriously." A security researcher, chimed in, "This sort of stunt will make actual code of conduct discussions harder. It's not funny, helpful, or wise."

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
Brines suffused with the life-giving gas could offer hope for past and even present microbes on the Red Planet, according to a new study. From a report: New research suggests our neighboring world could hide enough oxygen in briny liquid water near its surface to support microbial life, opening up a wealth of potentially habitable regions across the entire planet. Although the findings do not directly measure the oxygen content of brines known to exist on the Red Planet, they constitute an important step toward determining where life could exist there today. Aerobic respiration, which relies on oxygen, is a key component of present-day life on Earth. In this process, cells take in oxygen and break it down to produce energy to drive metabolism. Mars's very low levels of atmospheric oxygen have led many scientists to dismiss the possibility of aerobic respiration there today, but the new research brings this possibility back into play. The study appears in the October 22 edition of Nature Geoscience. "Our work is calling for a complete revision for how we think about the potential for life on Mars, and the work oxygen can do, implying that if life ever existed on Mars it might have been breathing oxygen," says lead study author Vlada Stamenkovic, a researcher at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. "We have the potential now to understand the current habitability." Although Mars is today a freeze-dried desert, it possesses abundant reserves of subsurface water ice, as well as some amount of liquid water in the form of brines. The brines' high salt content lowers the temperature at which they freeze, allowing them to remain liquid even on Mars's frigid surface. In their new study, Stamenkovic and his colleagues coupled a model of how oxygen dissolves in brines with a model of the Martian climate. Their results revealed that pools of salty liquid at or just beneath the surface could capture the meager amounts of oxygen from the Red Planet's atmosphere, creating a reservoir that microbes might metabolically utilize. According to the research, Martian brines today could hold higher concentrations of oxygen than were present even on the early Earth -- which prior to about 2.4 billion years ago harbored only trace amounts of the gas in its air.

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
If it seems as though the app you deleted last week is suddenly popping up everywhere, it may not be mere coincidence. From a report: Companies that cater to app makers have found ways to game both iOS and Android, enabling them to figure out which users have uninstalled a given piece of software lately -- and making it easy to pelt the departed with ads aimed at winning them back. Adjust, AppsFlyer, MoEngage, Localytics, and CleverTap are among the companies that offer uninstall trackers, usually as part of a broader set of developer tools. Their customers include T-Mobile US, Spotify Technology, and Yelp. Critics say they're a fresh reason to reassess online privacy rights and limit what companies can do with user data. "Most tech companies are not giving people nuanced privacy choices, if they give them choices at all," says Jeremy Gillula, tech policy director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy advocate. Some providers say these tracking tools are meant to measure user reaction to app updates and other changes. Jude McColgan, chief executive officer of Boston's Localytics, says he hasn't seen clients use the technology to target former users with ads. Ehren Maedge, vice president for marketing and sales at MoEngage Inc. in San Francisco, says it's up to the app makers not to do so. "The dialogue is between our customers and their end users," he says. "If they violate users' trust, it's not going to go well for them." Adjust, AppsFlyer, and CleverTap didn't respond to requests for comment, nor did T-Mobile, Spotify, or Yelp. Uninstall tracking exploits a core element of Apple's and Google's mobile operating systems: push notifications. Developers have always been able to use so-called silent push notifications to ping installed apps at regular intervals without alerting the user -- to refresh an inbox or social media feed while the app is running in the background, for example. But if the app doesn't ping the developer back, the app is logged as uninstalled, and the uninstall tracking tools add those changes to the file associated with the given mobile device's unique advertising ID, details that make it easy to identify just who's holding the phone and advertise the app to them wherever they go.

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader shares a report: You can add another big name to the list of phone makers found cheating on benchmarks. UL Benchmarks has delisted Oppo's Find X and F7 phones from its 3DMark charts after testing from itself and news outlet Tech2 revealed that both devices were artificially ramping up processor performance when they detected the test by name. Oppo acknowledged that it always stepped things up when it detected "games or 3D Benchmarks that required high performance," but claimed that any app would run full bore if you tapped on the screen every few seconds to signal your actions. UL, however, rejected the justifications. It was clear that Oppo was looking for the benchmark by name and not the extra processing load involved, according to the outfit. Moreover, tapping wouldn't be an effective solution if Oppo treated apps equally -- you couldn't get consistent results. Further reading: Huawei Caught Cheating Performance Test For New Phones.

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