posted 9 days ago on slashdot
Sushma U N, writing for Quartz: American internet search giant Google has completed the rollout of one of the world's biggest public wifi projects in India. On June 07, Google said it now offers free high-speed public wifi at 400 railway stations in Asia's third-largest economy, in partnership with the government-owned Indian Railways and RailTel, which operates a fibre network along the country's massive network of train tracks. The company had announced the initiative back in 2015 during prime minister Narendra Modi's visit to its headquarters in Mountain View, California. The Mumbai Central station in India's financial capital was the first to get the facility in January 2016. Now, over 8 million people use the service, Google said in a blog post. "On average, people consume 350MB of data per session, roughly the size of a half-hour television episode, and over half of the people using Google Station engage in multiple online sessions a day," the company said.

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posted 9 days ago on slashdot
Yahoo Messenger is to be discontinued in just over a month. Yahoo owner Oath has announced that it is killing off its famous Messenger service on July 17. From a report: After this date, chatting will no longer be available, and users have just six months to download their chat histories. At the moment, there is no direct replacement for Yahoo Messenger, but users are being advised that they can request an invite for the beta version of the invite-only group messaging app Yahoo Squirrel. In an FAQ about the announcement, Yahoo addresses why the decision to shutter the service was taken. "We know we have many loyal fans who have used Yahoo Messenger since its beginning as one of the first chat apps of its kind. As the communications landscape continues to change over, we're focusing on building and introducing new, exciting communications tools that better fit consumer needs."

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posted 9 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: The Netherlands' first functional 3D-printed home will be ready to welcome occupants as early as next year. According to The Guardian's Daniel Boffey, the one-story, two-bedroom house is the first and smallest of five 3D-printed concrete homes set for construction in the Dutch city of Eindhoven. The five-year initiative, known as Project Milestone, aims to combat the country's shortage of skilled bricklayers and revitalize the architectural industry. Project Milestone emerged as a collaboration between the Eindhoven University of Technology, a global leader in 3D printing, and Dutch construction company Van Wijnen. Real estate manager Vesteda, materials company Saint Gobain-Weber Beamix and engineering firm Witteveen+Bos also contributed to the project.

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posted 9 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader shares a report: Late on a Monday morning the village of Zhangwei is quiet. Chickens scratch and cluck at the side of the road. Workers use wooden spades to spread grain on the highway to dry, using half its width so that traffic can still pass on the other side. Yet at the community centre at the village's heart, two objects hint at a feat of ultra-modern logistics about to unfold: a circle of green astroturf laid down in the central courtyard, and a billboard on the front of the building bearing the logo of JD.com, China's second-largest online retailer. A low whirr breaks the stillness as a spiky dot appears on the horizon. The drone arrives overhead with a roar, hovers for a moment, then lowers itself towards the green circle like a mantis, three sets of propellers churning the air into whorls of straw and dust. Slung beneath it is a red cardboard box branded with JD's cheery dog mascot. Just a few feet above the ground, the drone drops the box then zips back up into the sky and disappears. The spectacle is over in 20 seconds. It is a link in a new kind of logistics chain, the world's first operational drone-delivery programme. While Amazon, an American company, has put out numerous promotional videos on its drone-delivery plans, it will not start commercial operations until at least 2020. Meanwhile, JD.com has spent the past year building a real drone-delivery network covering 100 villages in rural China with 40 drones. Zhangwei currently receives a couple of drops each day, each box containing several packages ordered through JD's shopping app. Thanks to JD's drones, which operate autonomously with no human guidance but are monitored remotely, villagers in Zhangwei can expect delivery on the same day that they place an order, like urban shoppers in Beijing, New York or London.

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posted 9 days ago on slashdot
In 2010, Steve Jobs first introduced FaceTime and promised it would become an open industry standard that could be used by Apple's competitors -- not just Apple. Well, eight years later and that still hasn't happened. CNET's Sean Hollister provides a theory as to why that is: There's also an ongoing lawsuit to consider -- as Ars Technica documented in 2013, Apple was forced to majorly change how FaceTime works to avoid infringing on the patents of a company called VirnetX. Instead of letting phones communicate directly with each other, Apple added "relay servers" to help the phones connect. Presumably, someone would have to pay for those servers, and/or figure out a way for them to talk to Google or Microsoft or other third-party servers if FaceTime were going to be truly open. But that doesn't make a broken promise less frustrating. Particularly now that Apple could potentially fix annoying business video calls as well. A Skype-killing video chat service that worked on Mac, iOS *and* Windows, Android and the open web? That's something I bet companies would be happy to pay for, too.

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
New submitter Austerity Empowers writes: Amidst all the name calling and straw man arguments about the overall health of America, sometimes it helps to look at data from people who sacrificed everything based on their perception of reality. Whatever politics you subscribe to, the feeling of hopelessness is evidently real, and frightening. NBC News: "Suicide rates are up by 30 percent across the nation since 1999, federal health officials reported Thursday. And only about half the people who died by suicide had a known mental health condition, even though depression had been thought to be the major cause of suicide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. While many cases of mental illness may have been diagnosed, the CDC also noted that relationship stress, financial troubles and substance abuse were contributing to the trends."

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
According to The New York Times, the Department of Justice seized a New York Times reporter's phone and email records this year in an effort to probe the leaking of classified information, the first known instance of the DOJ going after a journalist's data under President Trump. The Hill reports: The Times reported Thursday that the DOJ seized years' worth of records from journalist Ali Watkins's time as a reporter at BuzzFeed News and Politico before she joined The Times in 2017 as a federal law enforcement reporter, according to the report Thursday. Watkins was alerted by a prosecutor in February that the DOJ had years of records and subscriber information from telecommunications companies such as Google and Verizon for two email accounts and a phone number belonging to her. Investigators did not receive the content of the records, according to The Times. The newspaper reported that it learned of the letter on Thursday.

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: While avoiding the worst dangers of climate change will likely require sucking carbon dioxide out of the sky, prominent scientists have long dismissed such technologies as far too expensive. But a detailed new analysis published today in the journal Joule finds that direct air capture may be practical after all. The study concludes it would cost between $94 and $232 per ton of captured carbon dioxide, if existing technologies were implemented on a commercial scale. One earlier estimate, published in Proceedings of the National Academies, put that figure at more than $1,000 (though the calculations were made on what's known as an avoided-cost basis, which would add about 10 percent to the new study's figures). Crucially, the lowest-cost design, optimized to produce and sell alternative fuels made from the captured carbon dioxide, could already be profitable with existing public policies in certain markets. The higher cost estimates are for plants that would deliver compressed carbon dioxide for permanent underground storage. David Keith, a Harvard physics professor and lead author of the paper, is also the founder of Carbon Engineering, "a Calgary-based startup that has spent the last nine years designing, refining, and testing a direct air capture pilot plant in Squamish, B.C.," reports MIT. "Carbon Engineering plans to combine the carbon captured at its plants with hydrogen to produce carbon-neutral synthetic fuels, a process the pilot facility has already been performing." The company has secured $30 million, but is seeking additional funds to build a larger facility that will begin selling fuels. CNBC notes that Carbon Engineering is owned by several private investors, including Bill Gates.

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
New submitter mesterha shares an "interesting article [from Vox] on how to optimize our use of electricity": Waste on the grid is the result of poor power quality, which can be ameliorated through digital control. Real-time measurement makes that possible. 3DFS technology, which the company conceives of as an "operating system for electricity," can not only track what's happening on the electricity sine wave from nanosecond to nanosecond, it can correct the sine wave from microsecond to microsecond, perfectly adapting it to the load it serves, eliminating waste." "They claim energy reduction of around 15% but anticipate their AI tuning can get eventually get 30%," writes Slashdot reader mesterha. "Seems too good to be true, but it has the support of publications like Popular Mechanics." [3DFS won one of Popular Mechanics' "breakthrough awards" in 2017.]

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: Security researchers have uncovered vulnerabilities affecting the firmware of the very popular Supermicro enterprise-line server products. These vulnerabilities affect both older and newer models of Supermicro products, but the vendor is working on addressing the issues. These vulnerabilities do not put the safety of Supermicro products at direct risk, as they can only be exploited via malicious software/code (aka malware) already running on a system. Nevertheless, exploiting these vulnerabilities allows the malware to obtain an almost permanent foothold on infected systems by gaining the ability to survive server OS reinstalls by hiding in the hardware's firmware. Technical details are available in an Eclypsium blog post, while a list of affected servers is available here.

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
The lower house of parliament in France has passed what it called a "detox" law for a younger generation increasingly addicted to screens. As a result, French school students will be banned from using mobile phones anywhere on school grounds starting in September. The Guardian reports: The new law bans phone-use by children in school playgrounds, at breaktimes and anywhere on school premises. Legislation passed in 2010 already states children should not use phones in class. During a parliamentary debate, lawmakers from Macron's La Republique En Marche party said banning phones in schools meant all children now had a legal "right to disconnect" from digital pressures during their school day. Some in Macron's party had initially sought to go even further, arguing that adults should set an example and the the ban should be extended to all staff in schools, making teachers surrender their phones on arrival each morning. But Macron's education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, brushed this aside, saying it wasn't necessary to extend the ban to teachers and staff.

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: According to a paywalled survey of 1,000 UK residents by anti-piracy outfit MUSO first spotted by Torrent Freak, 60 percent of those surveyed admitted that they had illegally streamed or downloaded music, film, or TV shows sometime in the past. But the study also showed that 83 percent of those questioned try to find the content they are looking for through above board services before trying anything else. And while the study found that 86 percent of survey takers subscribe to a streaming subscription service like Netflix, that total jumped to 91 percent among those that admit to piracy. The survey found that the top reason that users pirate is the content they were looking for wasn't legally available (34 percent) was too cumbersome or difficult to access (34 percent), or wasn't affordable (35 percent). "The entertainment industry tends to envisage piracy audiences as a criminal element, and writes them off as money lost -- but they are wrong to do so," MUSO executive Paul Briley said of the study's findings. "The reality is that the majority of people who have gone through the effort of finding and accessing such unlicensed content are, first and foremost, fans -- fans who are more often than not trying to get content legally if they can," Briley added.

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
According to an annual companywide survey, obtained by CNBC, Microsoft employees said they're less fairly paid in 2018 than they were in any of the past three years. When asked if "total compensation (base pay, bonus, equity) is competitive compared to similar jobs at other companies," only 61 percent said it was, down from 65 percent in 2017 and 67 percent each of the two prior years. From the report: Additionally, just 62 percent of the employees agreed that "people are rewarded according to their job performance," down from 63 percent last year and 64 percent in 2016. Those two questions received some of the lowest scores on the survey. The company said that 86 percent of Microsoft's employees participated. The results, shared by Chief People Officer Kathleen Hogan in April, are a further indication of the challenge that Microsoft and other tech companies face in hiring and retaining top talent. Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Washington, is just a few miles from Amazon's home and isn't far from the Seattle offices of Google, Facebook and a growing number of start-ups. Chief People Officer Kathleen Hogan said the company takes the issue "seriously," and that it will work to ensure a more balanced pay structure.

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
Earlier this month, we reported of a "cyber incident" that compromised the systems of Ticketfly, a large ticket distribution service. We have now learned that roughly 27 million user accounts were compromised during the attack. The information includes names, addresses, email addresses and phone numbers; thankfully, no credit/debit card info and passwords were stolen. Billboard reports: Ticketfly's website is fully back online a week after being targeted by what it describes as a "malicious cyber attack," though its mobile app for iOS remains offline "as we continue to prioritize bringing up the most critical parts of the platform first." Following the hack, the company rolled out a network of temporary venue and promoter websites so that events, including Riot Fest and Celebrate Brooklyn, could continue selling tickets. The "vast majority" of the temporary sites are now live, the firm said. All passwords for both ticket buyers and venue/promoter clients were reset following the hack, though they found no evidence that they were accessed. "It is possible, however, that hashed values of password credentials could have been accessed," the site warned. "Hashing is a way of scrambling a piece of data, making it generally incomprehensible."

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
The jobs market has reached what should be some kind of inflection point: there are now more openings than there are workers. From a report: April marked the second month in a row this historic event has occurred, and the gap is growing. According to the monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey released this week, there were just shy of 6.7 million open positions in April, the most recent month for which data are available. That represented an increase of 65,000 from March and is a record. The number of vacancies is pulling well ahead of the number the Bureau of Labor Statistics counts as unemployed. This year is the first time the level of the unemployed exceeded the jobs available since the BLS started tracking JOLTS numbers in 2000. As of April, the total workers looking and eligible for jobs fell to 6.35 million, a decrease from 6.58 million the previous month. The number fell further in May to 6.06 million, though there is no comparable JOLTS data for that month. Under normal circumstances, the mismatch would be creating a demand for higher wages. However, average hourly earnings rose just 2.7 percent annualized in May, up one-tenth of a point from April. Further reading: Why Nebraska has an amazing jobs market but nobody is moving there.

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
The so-called gig economy is actually slightly smaller than it used to be, according to a new Labor Department report released Thursday that chronicles the jobs market in the age of Uber. From a report: In May 2017, the Labor Department counted 5.9 million people, or 3.8% of workers, in what it calls contingent jobs, which are those that the workers don't expect to last or that workers call temporary. In 2005, the last time the government looked into the issue, there were 4.1% of workers who classified themselves this way. "Taken at face value, the results indicate that the role of non-traditional work arrangements in the U.S. economy has remained largely unchanged during the past 20 years, even as excitement and media coverage of the growth of the 'gig economy' has increased," said Brian Schaitkin, senior economist for The Conference Board.

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: Google, reeling from an employee protest over the use of artificial intelligence for military purposes, said Thursday that it would not use A.I. for weapons or for surveillance that violates human rights (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). But it will continue to work with governments and the military. The new rules were part of a set of principles Google unveiled relating to the use of artificial intelligence. In a company blog post, Sundar Pichai, the chief executive, laid out seven objectives for its A.I. technology, including "avoid creating or reinforcing unfair bias" and "be socially beneficial." Google also detailed applications of the technology that the company will not pursue, including A.I. for "weapons or other technologies whose principal purpose or implementation is to cause or directly facilitate injury to people" and "technologies that gather or use information for surveillance violating internationally accepted norms of human rights." But Google said it would continue to work with governments and military using A.I. in areas including cybersecurity, training and military recruitment. "We recognize that such powerful technology raises equally powerful questions about its use. How A.I. is developed and used will have a significant impact on society for many years to come," Mr. Pichai wrote.

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
Facebook has landed itself in yet another self-inflicted privacy debacle. As many as 14 million Facebook users who thought they were posting items that only their friends or smaller groups could see may have been posting that content to the entire world, the company said Thursday. From a report: Facebook's Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan wrote to TechCrunch in a statement: "We recently found a bug that automatically suggested posting publicly when some people were creating their Facebook posts. We have fixed this issue and starting today we are letting everyone affected know and asking them to review any posts they made during that time. To be clear, this bug did not impact anything people had posted before -- and they could still choose their audience just as they always have. We'd like to apologize for this mistake." The bug was active from May 18th to May 27th, with Facebook able start rolling out a fix on May 22nd. It happened because Facebook was building a 'featured items' option on your profile that highlights photos and other content.

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
A top financial regulator gave a strong warning this week that U.S. scrutiny of initial coin offerings is just getting started. From a report: Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton, speaking at a conference in New York, said companies raising money through digital-token sales shouldn't have any illusions that the government will treat them differently than firms participating in traditional stock offerings. He added that the market deserves close attention because the SEC has already seen examples of fraudsters fleeing the country after persuading U.S. investors to back their ICOs. "I am not going to change the way we approach the offering and trading of securities as a result of the fact that you put it in the form of a token," Clayton said at the Sandler O'Neill Global Exchange and Brokerage Conference. "I'm protecting the integrity of the market. The behavior we see in this is pretty bad. We've got guys with bags of cash headed to the border. That's not our securities market."

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
With net neutrality rules scheduled to be repealed on Monday, Senate Democrats are calling on House Speaker Paul Ryan to schedule a vote that could preserve the broadband regulations. From a report: The US Senate voted on May 16 to reverse the Federal Communications Commission's repeal of net neutrality rules, but a House vote -- and President Trump's signature -- is still needed. Today, the entire Senate Democratic Caucus wrote a letter to Ryan urging him to allow a vote on the House floor. "The rules that this resolution would restore were enacted by the FCC in 2015 to prevent broadband providers from blocking, slowing down, prioritizing, or otherwise unfairly discriminating against Internet traffic that flows across their networks," the letter said. "Without these protections, broadband providers can decide what content gets through to consumers at what speeds and could use this power to discriminate against their competitors or other content." The letter was spearheaded by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
NASA's veteran Curiosity rover has found complex organic matter buried and preserved in ancient sediments that formed a vast lake bed on Mars more than 3bn years ago. From a report: The discovery is the most compelling evidence yet that long before the planet became the parched world it is today, Martian lakes were a rich soup of carbon-based compounds that are necessary for life, at least as we know it. Researchers cannot tell how the organic material formed and so leave open the crucial question: are the compounds remnants of past organisms; the product of chemical reactions with rocks; or were they brought to Mars in comets or other falling debris that slammed into the surface? All look the same in the tests performed. But whatever the ultimate source of the material, if microbial life did find a foothold on Mars, the presence of organics meant it would not have gone hungry. "We know that on Earth microorganisms eat all sorts of organics. It's a valuable food source for them," said Jennifer Eigenbrode, a biogeochemist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. The Curiosity rover also discovered that methane on the red planet changes with the seasons. The Verge: Where the methane is coming from is still a mystery, but scientists have some ideas, including that microbes may be the source of the gas. Researchers at NASA and other US universities analyzed five years' worth of methane measurements Curiosity took at Gale Crater, where the rover landed in 2012. Curiosity detected background levels of methane of about 0.4 parts per billion, which is a tiny amount. (In comparison, Earth's atmosphere has about 1,800 parts per billion of methane.) Those levels of methane, however, were found to range from 0.2 to about 0.7 parts per billion, with concentrations peaking near the end of the summer in the northern hemisphere, according to a study published today in Science. This seasonal cycle repeated through time and could come from an underground reservoir of methane, the study says. Whether that reservoir is a sign that there is or was life on Mars, however, is impossible to say for now.

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
Internet use by Americans increased in 2017, fueled by a rise among people with lower incomes, a government report viewed on Wednesday by Reuters found. From a report: The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) also reported that for the first time tablets were more popular than desktop computers, and that more households had a mobile data plan than wired broadband service. The results were to be publicly released later on Wednesday. The survey results demonstrate the growing importance of the internet in everyday communication as the way consumers access content changes. Among Americans living in households with family incomes below $25,000 per year, the survey found internet use increased to 62 percent in 2017 from 57 percent in 2015, while households earning $100,000 or more showed no change at 86 percent. The gain of 13.5 million users was "driven by increased adoption among low-income families, seniors, African Americans, Hispanics, and other groups that have been less likely to go online," the agency said.

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
Another EU antitrust fine for Google is coming down the pipe in mid-July over allegations Google has used its Android mobile operating system to beat out rivals, Reuters reports. From a report: The European Commission has been investigating the case since 2015. It's another example of how the EU takes anti-competition violations far more seriously than the U.S. In June of last year, the EU slapped Google with a record $2.8 billion fine for anti-trust practices around its search product, which they said unfairly pushed consumers to use Google's Shopping platform. Sources told Reuters they expect this new fine to top that record.

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader shares a report: In the future, you could find yourself booking an Emirates flight without a real window seat. The airline has just unveiled a new first class suite on board its latest aircraft that features "virtual windows" instead of real ones. The President of Emirates, Tim Clarke, is hoping it will pave the way for removing all windows from future planes, which he says will make them lighter and faster. "What we may have [in the next 20 years] is aircraft that are, and I hate to say this to a number of passengers, windowless," he told the BBC. So there's no windows on the outside ... But Mr Clarke says on the inside there will be "a full display of windows," which will beam in the images from the outside. This will be done using fibre-optic camera technology. So, instead of being able to see directly outside, passengers will view images projected from outside the aircraft -- which is almost like the real thing.

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader shares a BBC report: Life savings have been stolen from TSB accounts by fraudsters "exploiting" the bank's IT problems, with 1,300 people losing money. On occasions, people were waiting on the phone for up to nine hours to report cases, the bank's boss Paul Pester has told MPs. He said that 70 times the normal level of fraud attacks were seen last month. The introduction of a new IT system in April left customers struggling to make transactions and see their balances. The bank said it would compensate customers in full for any fraud they suffered. The evidence came after the financial regulator confirmed that it was investigating TSB and criticised Mr Pester for an "optimistic view" of services after the meltdown.

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