posted about 1 hour ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes Mike Melanson's "This Week in Programming" column: WebAssembly is a binary instruction format for a stack-based virtual machine and this week, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) dubbed it an official web standard and the fourth language for the Web that allows code to run in the browser, joining HTML, CSS and JavaScript... With this week's news, WebAssembly has officially reached version 1.0 and is supported in the browser engines for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Internet Explorer, and the Bytecode Alliance launched last month to help ensure "a WebAssembly ecosystem that is secure by default" and for bringing WebAssembly to outside-the-browser use. Of course, not everything is 100% rosy. As pointed out by an article in The Register, WebAssembly also brings with it an increased level of obfuscation of what exactly is going on, giving it an increased ability to perform some surreptitious actions. For example, they cite one study that "found 'over 50 percent of all sites using WebAssembly apply it for malicious deeds, such as [crypto] mining and obfuscation.'" Nonetheless, with WebAssembly gaining this designation by W3C, it is, indeed, time to pay closer attention to the newly nominated Web language standard.

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posted about 2 hours ago on slashdot
Chrome 79 is creating an issue with WebView (the Android component that allows apps to display content from the web), reports 9to5Google: On Friday morning, Android developers reliant on WebView and local storage began encountering an issue where their apps lost data after users updated to version 79 of WebView. Those affected took to Chromium's bug tracker, and have described the incident as a "catastrophe" and "major issue." To end users, it's as if apps were entirely reset and just downloaded for the first time. This includes saved data disappearing or being logged out. Given the level of system opacity, most will blame developers for a problem that's out of their hands. By that afternoon, Google engineers responded and isolated the issue to "profile layout changes" where "local storage was missed off the list of files migrated." A member of the Chromium team apologized Saturday morning, with the Chrome/WebView rollout halted after 50% of devices already received the update. At the highest priority level (P0), Google is currently "working on a solution that minimizes the data loss, and that can be rolled out safely." The last guidance for a patch is 5-7 days.

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posted about 3 hours ago on slashdot
Slashdot reader alaskana98 writes: In the February 2001 issue of Maximum PC, technical editor Will Smith described in his column what he would like to see in the "perfect set-top box". At a time when arguably the best 'PVR' experience was being provided by the first iterations of the Tivo (with no HDTV or LAN connectivity), Will's description of what a set-top box could and should be comes eerily close to what we now know as the Apple TV and other 'set-top' boxes such as Roku and Amazon Firestick... To be fair, not every feature on his list would come to pass. For example, he envisioned this device as essentially serving as the main "broadband router of a household, sharing your Internet connection with any networkable device in your house". Also, he envisions the media box as providing a "robust web experience" for the whole family, something that today's set-top boxes aren't especially good at (anyone remember WebTV?). Still, in wanting an "elusive magical box" that "will set on top of our HDTV's and do everything our computers, game consoles, and VCRs do, only better", he was prescient in his descriptions of what would eventually materialize as the Apple TV and other like-minded set-top boxes, impressive for a denizen of the year 2001. Are you impressed with Smith's predictive ability? Here's what he wrote... On networking: "My set-top box will have to have a high-speed broadband connection...sharing your Internet connection with any networkable device in your house via standard Ethernet, Wi-Fi compatible wireless Ethernet, Bluetooth". On gaming: "[W]ill include state-of-the-art 3D acceleration and gaming support" and "will include Bluetooth-style wireless connections for all your controllers". On media playback: "[W]ill also serve as a media store, handing the duties of both my high-def personal video recorder (HD-PVR) and digital audio jukebox". On device collaboration: "integrating the ability to automatically synchronize with Bluetooth-enabled" devices. [Though the original article says "PDAs"]

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posted about 4 hours ago on slashdot
"The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously Thursday to push a plan forward that would take away several channels of airwaves from automakers and local governments that have been planning to build out a communication network for cars and surrounding smart infrastructure," writes Consumer Reports, in an article shared by McGruber. "The 5-0 commission vote indicated how much ground the auto industry has lost in protecting the airwaves that have been reserved since 1999 as a so-called safety spectrum." The industry and some state and local governments have been counting on it to deliver vehicle-to-everything communications, or V2X, that could improve safety and also help in the development of self-driving-car technology... The FCC plan would all but kill an approach to V2X that relies on short-range radio, called DSRC, that has been deployed by local governments at some 100 test sites around the country, safety advocates say. That could mean hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded local investments into smart traffic lights and other smart road technology would be wasted, according to state officials. The FCC plan would divide 75 MHz of the safety spectrum between WiFi and auto safety applications. The FCC proposal allocates 20 MHz for a newer V2X technology, known as C-V2X, and leaves 10 MHz for either C-V2X or DSRC. All five FCC commissioners spoke about the vast economic potential of more airwaves dedicated to WiFi, and said not enough had happened with the V2X technology to continue to set aside so much spectrum for its exclusive use. Republican Commissioner Michael O'Rielly said some opponents of the FCC plan might say the move puts vehicle safety in jeopardy or will lead to increased fatalities. "That is pure gibberish," O'Rielly said at the hearing. "Everyone on this dais wants our families, friends, neighbors, countrymen, and countrywomen to be safe when traveling in motor vehicles. DSRC hasn't come anywhere close to fruition." Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said other countries were dedicating less than 75 MHz to V2X applications, and the 10 MHz that could be available for DSRC in the FCC plan matches what Japan is doing. The article concludes that the commission "will collect and analyze public comments over the next several months before any plan becomes final. "But the comments of the commissioners and FCC staff left little doubt about the direction the agency is moving in.

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posted about 5 hours ago on slashdot
Long-time Slashdot reader shanen writes: If you don't watch YouTube, then more power to you, but if you do watch it, then I bet you have noticed more and more intrusive and noisy and much longer ads along with frequent reminders that you can pay up and make the noise go away. Feels like extortion to me and I'm not going to pay a blackmailer. But someone must be paying up. Is it you? Or do you even know anyone who is paying? The original submission also shares shanen's argument that Google is exploiting copyright loopholes to monetize other people's copyrighted content. "It wouldn't even matter how much pirate video is uploaded to YouTube if the Google didn't make it easy to find... If the Google actually wanted to stop the piracy, the algorithm is obvious... The famous content has famous keywords and the searches for those keywords can be whitelisted. Pirate results can be disappeared and replaced with results that belong to the actual creator with legitimate exceptions for fair use." (But instead, the argument goes, they're just asking you for money to remove their ads on that content...) That's shanen's opinion -- but what's yours? And would you pay to subscribe to YouTube?

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posted about 6 hours ago on slashdot
The creators of Vim have released a game called "Killersheep" to show off two new features in Vim 8.2. "Before I did the keynote at VimConf 2018 I asked plugin developers what they wanted from Vim," reads the announcement at Vim.org. "The result was a very long list of requested features. The top two items were clear: Popup windows and text properties." After more than a year of development the new features are now ready for the Vim crowds. Popup windows make it possible to show messages, function prototypes, code snippets and anything else on top of the text being edited. They open and close quickly and can be highlighted in many ways... This was no small effort. Although the existing window support could be used, popup windows are different enough to require a lot of extra logic. Especially to update the screen efficiently. Also to make it easy for plugin writers to use them; you don't need to tell Vim exactly where to show one, just give a reference point and the text to display, Vim will figure out the size and where the popup fits best. Text properties can be used for something as simple as highlighting a text snippet or something as complicated as using an external parser to locate syntax items and highlight them asynchronously. This can be used instead of the pattern based syntax highlighting. A text property sticks with the text, also when inserting a word before it. And this is done efficiently by storing the properties with the text.

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posted about 8 hours ago on slashdot
harrymcc writes: In the late 1990s, lots of people were concerned that the Y2K bug could lead to power outages, financial collapse, riots, and worse when the clock rolled over to January 1, 2000. Hundreds of books about the problem and suggestions on how to respond (quit your job, move to the country, stockpile food) not only capitalized on this fear but helped to spread it. Over at Fast Company, I marked the 20th anniversary of the "crisis" with a retrospective on the survival guides and what we can learn from them. The article calls them "an eternally useful guide to how not to give people advice about technology and its role in their lives... They provided a brief layperson's guide to the origins of the problem, and then segued into nightmare scenarios." They had scary titles like Time Bomb 2000 and The Millennium Meltdown. Their covers featured grim declarations such as "The illusion of social stability is about to be shattered... and nothing can stop it" and garish artwork of the earth aflame and bombs tumbling toward skylines. Inside, they told readers that the bug could lead to a decade or more of calamity, and advised them to stockpile food, cash, and (sometimes) weapons. There were hundreds of these books from publishers large and small, some produced by people who turned the topic into mini-media empires... Spoiler alert: When January 1, 2000, rolled around, nothing terrible happened. By then, techies had spent years patching up creaky code so it could deal with 21st-century dates, and the billions invested in the effort paid off. Some problems did crop up, but even alarming-sounding ones -- such as glitches at nuclear power plants -- were minor and resolvable. On December 31st, 1999, Roblimo posted a call for comments from Slashdot readers, writing "This thread ought to make an interesting chronicle of Y2K events -- or non-events, as the case may be." But NBC had even filmed a made-for-TV Y2K disaster movie (which Jon Katz called "profoundly stupid and irresponsible.") And one survivalist videotape even featured an ominous narration by Leonard Nimoy.

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posted about 12 hours ago on slashdot
"A new generation of reactors will start producing power in the next few years," writes Wired, addingi that "They're comparatively tiny -- and may be key to hitting our climate goals." For the last 20 years, the future of nuclear power has stood in a high bay laboratory tucked away on the Oregon State University campus in the western part of the state. Operated by NuScale Power, an Oregon-based energy startup, this prototype reactor represents a new chapter in the conflict-ridden, politically bedeviled saga of nuclear power plants. NuScale's reactor won't need massive cooling towers or sprawling emergency zones. It can be built in a factory and shipped to any location, no matter how remote. Extensive simulations suggest it can handle almost any emergency without a meltdown. One reason is that it barely uses any nuclear fuel, at least compared with existing reactors. It's also a fraction of the size of its predecessors.... Perhaps most importantly, small modular reactors can take advantage of several cooling and safety mechanisms unavailable to their big brothers, which all but guarantees they won't become the next Chernobyl... Yet this small reactor can crank out 60 megawatts of energy, which is about one-tenth the smallest operational reactor in the U.S. today.... But small reactors will still need to prove they can be cost-competitive, says Steve Fetter, a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland. With the price of renewables like wind and solar rapidly falling and ample natural gas available, smaller, svelter reactors may never find their niche. Especially if a prime motivator is climate change, whose pace is exceeding that of regulatory approvals. "I am skeptical of the ability to license advanced nuclear reactors and deploy them on a scale that would make a difference for climate change," adds Fetter. "But I think it's worth exploring because they're a centralized form of carbon-free electricity and we don't have a lot of those available." At least in the US, it might be the only way nuclear power gets another chance. NuScale Power has already secured permission to build its first 12-reactor plant at the Idaho National Laboratory, supplying power to Western states "as soon as 2026," according to the article. And they're not the only company pursuing smaller nuclear plants. "Earlier this month, a secretive nuclear startup called Oklo unveiled Aurora, its 1.5-megawatt microreactor, and announced it had received a permit from the Department of Energy to build its first one at the Idaho National Lab."

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posted about 16 hours ago on slashdot
DevNull127 writes: A video report from NBC News profiles "Springboard to Opportunities," an advocacy group for affordable housing residents that's now also testing $1,000-a-month payments (privately-funded) for 20 women in Mississsippi chosen at random. One senior-living aid making $10.31 an hour says the grants represent "a little freedom". She's using the money to pay down debt — and to visit the father in Pennsylvania who she hasn't seen in 20 years. Meanwhile, CBS MoneyWatch checked in on one of the 14 people picked to receive $1,000 a month for an entire year in the "Freedom Dividend Pilot Program" of U.S. presidential candidate Andrew Yang. "Sure, there's going to be outliers that take advantage of any situation," says Chad Dzizek. "But most people are just trying to get by. Having extra money in hand would only help move that process along. And I don't see myself slacking off anymore. If anything, I'm going to be more aggressive in tackling my goals because it's that much more available." That article adds that Yang, a former tech entrepreneur, "sees this as a way to reduce poverty and income inequality, especially as computers increasingly replace people in the workplace." Although the program has already run into at least one hitch. Following the program's announcement in September, the former chairman of the Federal Elections Commission told CBS News that the program appears to violate "personal use" campaign finance laws since the funds come from Yang's campaign and not his own pocket. Others, however, have argued that the program could be classified as an advertisement for the campaign. The Yang campaign declined to comment. Business Insider also has an update on the Basic Income plan of Michael Tubbs, the 28-year-old mayor of Stockton, California, where 125 people making less than $46,000 a year are now being given $500 a month. "In October, Stockton released the first set of data about how the program was faring. Most participants, initial results showed, were using their stipends to buy groceries and pay their bills. "Tubbs told Business Insider that these preliminary findings gave him even more confidence that basic income would benefit his city -- and could even serve as a national solution to income inequality... Stockton's basic-income experiment is designed to last for 18 months, so there are still about eight to go. If the pilot is successful, Tubbs said, the city will consider expanding the program."

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posted about 18 hours ago on slashdot
"If you're systematically stealing money from a bank vault, it may not be a good idea to post the evidence on your social media pages," reports CNN: A bank employee in Charlotte, North Carolina, allegedly stole $88,000 from the bank's vault, according to a release from the United States Attorney's Office Western District of North Carolina. And he wasn't bashful about advertising to his social media followers the life of luxury he was funding.... Henderson's numerous Facebook and Instagram photos depict him posing with stacks of cash, and the U.S. Attorney's Office says he used the money to make a $20,000 down payment on a new Mercedes-Benz.... According to details from the indictment contained in the release, Henderson allegedly took bank customers' cash deposits out of the bank vault for months. Many of those times, he deposited money into an ATM near the bank where he worked, according to the release. "I make it look easy but this shyt really a PROCESS," he wrote in one Facebook post, part of a string in which he talked about building his "brand." That post, showed him him holding a stack of money and smoking a cigarette. Henderson is now facing up to 30 years in prison. Which bank? According to the Charlotte Observer, it was Wells Fargo.

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posted about 20 hours ago on slashdot
Long-time Slashdot reader 140Mandak262Jamuna brings news of a triumph for a Tesla power project in South Australia: about 900 residential rooftop solar panels, coupled with storage batteries, "all linked up to central control, to form what they are calling a 'Virtual Power Plant.'" Nothing virtual about it, distributed power plant would have been a better name. That project, designed to link 50,000 homes and their solar panels, is just 2% complete. About 1000 homes. That 2% complete project had enough juice and control to step in, detect the frequency drop, increase power from the batteries and save the day. But does this have implications for the future? "The opportunity for Virtual Power Plants to reach a large scale will benefit all energy users through added competition to deliver services at reducing prices," says the executive general manager of emerging markets and services for the Australian Energy Market Operator (in the linked-to article above from Teslarati). The original submission from 140Mandak262Jamuna argues this could be a game-changer for renewable energy: This is unprecedented. The electric utilities have been government-sanctioned monopolies for over a century, protected from competition... The battery bank will stabilize the grid so well, there will be no surge pricing for peaker power plants... At present the Return-on-Investment comparison between solar/wind storage versus gas turbine power plants include the surge pricing benefit in favor of the gas power plants. It will be gone.

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posted about 21 hours ago on slashdot
McGruber writes: In a reply to a Twitter post, Raspberry Pi Foundation's CEO Eben Upton announced that they have sold their thirty-millionth Raspberry Pi. "We don't get sales returns from our licensees until month end," Upton acknowledged in a later tweet, but "at the end of November, we were at 29.8Mu, with a monthly run rate of 500-600ku..."

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posted about 21 hours ago on slashdot
PC Magazine's "tech nerd" Whitson Gordon writes that "Once you start using a smart speaker to set reminders, play the news, or turn the lights on, it's hard to go back." But if you want the convenience of voice control without the data-collecting tech giant behind the scenes, an open-source project called Mycroft is a great alternative. And you can run it right on a Raspberry Pi. Mycroft is a free, open-source voice assistant designed to run on Linux-based devices... Mycroft has been around for quite a few years, but it's recently gained a bit more notoriety thanks to privacy concerns surrounding data collection at Amazon and Google. Unlike those assistants, Mycroft only collects data if you opt in during setup. And for the users who do opt in, Mycroft promises never to sell your data to advertisers or third parties -- instead, it only uses it to help developers improve the product. Mycroft even uses the privacy-focused DuckDuckGo as its search engine instead of Google when you ask for information. Mycroft makes its own smart speaker called the Mark I, though it's currently sold out with a new Mark II (video here) on the way. However, since the project is open-source, you can install Mycroft on just about any Linux machine, including the Raspberry Pi (thanks to a pre-made build called Picroft). Using Mycroft on the Pi is free, but you can also subscribe to a $1.99-per-month plan to help support its development -- you'll even get a few goodies, like other voices that sound more lifelike than the default robotic voice.

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posted about 22 hours ago on slashdot
Long-time Slashdot reader SonicSpike quotes Defense News: The U.S. Air Force's top civilian and a key member of Congress agreed Saturday on the need to declassify a large amount of information about America's military space programs to both intimidate foes and encourage support among the public. "Declassifying some of what is currently held in secure vaults would be a good idea," Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett said during a panel at the Reagan National Defense Forum. "You would have to be careful about what we declassify, but there is much more classified than what needs to be." Fellow panelist Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., said he met with the secretary earlier in the week to discuss that very issue, calling the information on space programs "overwhelmingly classified." For Rogers, that overclassification is one of the reasons it's been so difficult for him and others to build support both in the public and with other members of Congress for a Space Force, a sixth branch of the military under the Air Force uniquely focused on space as a war-fighting domain.... "I don't think that can happen until we see significant declassification of what we're doing in space and what China and Russia are doing, and how space is in their day-to-day lives." Barrett also argued that America's way of life "is more dependent on space than any other nation's. And our capability in space was predominantly built at a time when we thought space was a benign environment."

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posted about 23 hours ago on slashdot
Long-time Slashdot reader fahrbot-bot quotes Live Science: When you touch a hot surface, you're feeling movement. If you press your hand against a mug of tea, warmth spreads through your fingers. That's the sensation of billions of atoms banging together. Tiny vibrations carry thermal energy from the water to the mug and then into your skin as one molecule knocks into the next, sending it careening into a third -- and so on down the line. Heat can also cross space as waves of radiation, but without radiation, it needs stuff to pass through -- molecules to bang into other molecules. Vacuums have no 'stuff' in them, so they tend to trap heat. In Earth's orbit, for example, one of the biggest engineering challenges is figuring out how to cool down a rocket ship. But now, researchers have shown that, on microscopic scales, this isn't really true. In a new paper published Dec. 11 in the journal Nature, physicists showed that little vibrations of heat can cross hundreds of nanometers of empty space. Their experiment exploited an uncanny feature of the quantum vacuum: It isn't really empty at all.

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
Last weekend saw the death of Rene Auberjonois at age 79, writes Variety. schwit1 quotes their report: Auberjonois was a prolific television actor, appearing as Paul Lewiston in 71 episodes of 'Boston Legal' and as Clayton Runnymede Endicott III in ABC's long-running sitcom 'Benson.' He played Odo in 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,' and carried that role into video games, voicing the same role in 'Harbinger' and 'The Fallen.' He appeared in the movie 'MASH' as Father Mulcahy in the first of several collaborations with Robert Altman. Other film credits include Roy Balgey in 1976's 'King Kong' and Reverend Oliver in 'The Patriot,' as well as parts in 'McCabe & Mrs. Miller,' 'Eyes of Laura Mars' and 'Walker.' He also played the French chef in Disney's The Little Mermaid -- a role which Rene reenacted live at the end of this video where he discussed his friendship with William Shatner. And this week ET shared footage of Rene thoughtfully reflecting after filming the last episode of Deep Space Nine.

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
"Facebook said Thursday it will commit $130 million to support the efforts of its independent oversight board," reports the Bay Area Newsgroup -- though the group won't be in place (or its members announced) until sometime in 2020. An anonymous reader quotes their report: In a company blog post, Brent Harris, Facebook's director of governance and global affairs, said the company has been going through the process of creating "a new organization with independent oversight over how Facebook makes decisions on content" since Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg outlined his vision for the board in November 2018. In September of this year, Facebook gave some details about how it was selecting board members, and set up a site where anyone could make a recommendation for a board member... The premise behind the board's creation is that it will be able to make final decisions regarding if content, including ads and video, should be displayed on Facebook, and will also have the power to overrule Zuckerberg on such matters. Facebook, as a company, and users can submit cases to the board, and Facebook will be have to make public any recommendations it reaches.

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
Anticipating next week's release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, 20 fans are already camping out in front of Hollywood's TCL Chinese Theatre, reports Cinema Blend: The tight-knit group of fans have brought along their sleeping bags, tents and Star Wars pajamas to the location for 20 years (since 1999's The Phantom Menace) to get ready for the release of another Star Wars movie. They pass the time by playing games, working on Star Wars LEGO sets and raising awareness for the Starlight Children's Foundation. Check out one camper's update on Twitter. He's been hanging out in Hollywood for four days and is prepared to wait six more... The superfans have set up a Death Star rug over handprints of iconic celebrities and are playing a game of Sabacc... [A] little over 100 more are expected to join them in the coming days. The stars of The Rise of Skywalker are expected to walk a red carpet close by on Monday when the world premiere takes place. One fan hopes Disney invites the campers into the screening as the studio did back in 2015 when The Force Awakens premiered.

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
In 30 minutes an exclusive clip from the yet-to-be-released Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will premier in the videogame Fortnite. An anonymous reader quotes the Verge: We've known about the clip premiere since last week, but Epic disclosed some more concrete details Thursday night at the Game Awards. The studio says it'll open the gates of its virtual world starting at 1:30 p.m. EST. The clip will start airing at the Risky Reels drive-in movie theater at 2 p.m. EST. Speaking with Game Awards host Geoff Keighley yesterday, Epic's worldwide creative director Donald Mustard hinted that there would be some sort of involvement from director J.J. Abrams. We don't know if that means a live pre-show, or perhaps the director himself will intro the clip before it airs. Fortnite is also offering skins of Star Wars characters Rey and Finn, according to the article, with Mustard envisioning Fortnite as a world where all intellectual property "can live together." The Verge also predicts that the clip will eventually be available elsewhere online, while Business Insider believes "countless" Fortnite players will stream the event live on YouTube and Twitch. Meanwhile, J. J. Abrams has also asked Lucasfilm to release the original Star Wars trilogy in its original pre-Special Edition format, according to Nerdist.com, but "I've been told that, for reasons that I quite don't understand, that that's not necessarily possible."

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
Sloane Ryan is a 37-year-old woman who runs the Special Projects Team at Bark, a child-safety tech company selling a $9-a-month software that monitors text messages for bullying, threats of violence, depression, and sexual predators. "In 2018 alone, Bark alerted the FBI to 99 child predators. In 2019? That number is more than 300 -- and counting." Bark had wanted a way to depict the problem to the public without using actual conversations -- so Ryan began posing as an underage minor on Instagram. Over the past nine months, I've been 15-year-old Libby and 16-year-old Kait and 14-year-old Ava. I've been a studious sophomore contemplating bangs and a lacrosse player being raised by her aunt and an excitable junior eager for prom.... At the beginning of the week, on the very first night as [11-year-old] "Bailey" two new messages came in within 52 seconds of publishing a photo. We sat mouths agape as the numbers pinged up on the screen -- 2, 3, 7, 15 messages from adult men over the course of two hours. Half of them could be charged with transfer of obscene content to a minor. That night, I had taken a breather and sat with my head in my hands. The second half of the article includes examples of particularly graphic conversations with what the perpetrators think are an 11-year-old girl instead of the 37-year-old woman who's investigating them. "I exit the conversation with @ XXXastrolifer to see another nine requests pending... Over the course of one week, over 52 men reached out to an 11-year-old girl." Ryan also says they've formed "continuous working relationships" with law enforcement agencies, and "We've seen arrests and sentencings. We've provided testimony in court and invaluable information to investigations." Now they're using the conversations they've collected to train artificial intelligence algorithms to better detect sexual predators automatically.

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: In what has become a holiday tradition of sorts, Google is again rewarding teachers who steer kids to Google Hour of Code lessons with $100 gift codes. "When teachers in grades 2-8 complete the Google CS First activity 'Code Your Hero' with at least 20 of their students and fill out our Classroom Rewards form," explains the DonorsChoose Help Center, "they'll receive a $100 DonorsChoose.org gift code." According to the posted FAQ, that might work out to be about $2.50 or less per child-hour. ("We estimate that this can take up to 2 hours of class time"). For this year's Computer Science Education Week, Google has also enlisted the help of the ever-likable Chance the Rapper to get its CS First coding curriculum into classrooms, and provided a $250,000 Google.org grant to support the SocialWorks (Chance's nonprofit) and Chicago Public Schools' CS4All initiatives.

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
"YouTube channels posing as American news outlets racked up millions of views on false and inflammatory videos over several months this year," reports CNN. "All with the help of YouTube's recommendation engine." Many of the accounts, which mostly used footage from CNN, but also employed some video from Fox News, exploited a YouTube feature that automatically creates channels on certain topics. Those topic channels are then automatically populated by videos related to the topic -- including, in this case, blatant misinformation. YouTube has now shut down many of the accounts. YouTube's own algorithms also recommended videos from the channels to American users who watched videos about U.S. politics. That the channels could achieve such virality -- one channel was viewed more than two million times over one weekend in October -- raises questions about YouTube's preparedness for tackling misinformation on its platform just weeks before the Iowa caucuses and points to the continuing challenge platforms face as people try to game their systems.... Responding to the findings on Thursday, a CNN spokesperson said YouTube needs to take responsibility. "When accounts were deleted or banned, they were able to spin up new accounts within hours," added Plasticity, a natural language processing and AI startup which analyzed the data and identified at least 25 different accounts which YouTube then shut down. "The tactics they used to game the YouTube algorithm were executed perfectly. They knew what they were doing."

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
Public facial recognition terminals in China can be fooled with just a mask, as some recent experiments have shown. The Verge reports: An AI company, Kneron, shared a video with The Verge of tests it ran at facial recognition terminals in China where it appeared to fool the systems. Kneron asked us not to publish the video, so we will describe what we saw -- and it looked pretty convincing. In two examples, a tester approaches AliPay and WeChat terminals at shops in China while wearing a 3D mask of his face, and the facial recognition system identifies the mask as his face, allowing the purchase. In another example, the same person feeds his ID card into a train station turnstile while wearing his mask, and the turnstile's facial recognition system accepts the mask as his face. There are definitely limitations to this type of test, though. The video only shows one person making attempts with their mask, and it's unclear if that one mask worked in every single attempt, or if another mask would work for each one of these tests as well. It's also worth noting that none of the systems were relying entirely on facial recognition for identification. Both the AliPay and WeChat terminals required the person to enter digits of the phone number associated with their identity, and at the train station, you have to present a physical ID card before the facial recognition system even starts scanning. Also, you might hope another human would intervene if a person pulled out a mask of another human's face while trying to pay for groceries?

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
In an exclusive interview with Gamespot, Partner Director of Program Management for Team Xbox Jason Ronald revealed a new feature of the Xbox Series X: the ability to suspend and resume multiple games at once. Wccftech highlights what Ronald said: [From Gamespot]: "Today, we have the capability of instantly resuming the last game that you were playing. Why can't you do that for multiple games? Many players choose to play multiple games at the same time, being able to instantly jump right back where I was, those are things that we can do with the platform level to make the gaming experience better. It's really about ensuring there's less waiting and more time playing because that's ultimately what we all want to do with the consoles and with the services that we have." For his part, Phil Spencer (Head of Gaming at Microsoft) wanted to highlight the goal to enhance the player's immersive factor thanks to the high refresh rate (the Xbox Series X supports up to 120 frames per second) and reduced input latency: "So when we talk about things like refresh rate and we talk about input latency, this is all about the most immersive experience game designers can create, where the visuals are stunning, my ability to get into the experience [is] very timely, it's as great as it's ever been with the I/O speeds and the load times we're going to see, and the input and the ability for just my control and activation of my character or of the game itself becomes a subconscious thing and not something that I think about."

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
Iwastheone shares a report from Astronomy.com: Astronomers have discovered 19 more galaxies missing their dark matter. Instead of dark matter, these strange galaxies are mainly filled with regular matter, like the protons, neutrons, and electrons that make up everything we're familiar with. The new find, published November 26 in Nature Astronomy, bolsters the controversial recent discovery of two other galaxies without dark matter. The mysterious substance accounts for most matter in the universe, and it's thought to be the primary component of all galaxies -- as well as the main driver of galaxy formation in the first place. So, finding so many galaxies without the exotic matter suggests astronomers are missing something major about how galaxies form and evolve. "This result is very hard to explain using the standard galaxy formation model," said lead author Qi Guo of the Chinese Academy of Science in a press release, "and thus encourages people to revisit the nature of dark matter." The latest batch of galaxies missing dark matter was discovered when Guo and her team explored the nature of 324 dwarf galaxies using data from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. With this data, they followed in the footsteps of Rubin and Ford, studying how fast hydrogen gas rotates around each galaxy. They also calculated how much normal matter -- in the form of both gas and stars -- they contained. After crunching the numbers, Guo and her colleagues determined that, of the 324 dwarf galaxies they investigated, 19 of them contain enough visible matter to solely explain the motions of the galaxies' hydrogen. In other words, a lot of dark matter seems to be missing from these galaxies.

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