posted 10 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes a report from National Geographic: A new study published in the Nature Ecology and Evolution journal found that when some plants are under attack from hungry herbivores, they emit defenses that make themselves incredibly foul-tasting to caterpillars, which spurs the caterpillars to eat each other. "Plants can defend themselves so much that they food-stress the herbivore, and then the herbivores determine that rather than have plants on their menu, they should have caterpillars at the top of their menu," said John Orrock, the author of the study and a researcher in the Department of Zoology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Orrock and his research team sprayed tomato plants with methyl jasmonate -- a substance plants produce in response to environmental stresses -- to trigger the plants' defense mechanisms. This chemical allowed the plant to change its chemistry, which made it less appetizing to the beet armyworm caterpillars that were placed on a treated plant. This phenomenon has been documented in a variety of plants, and research has suggested that plants can sense when surrounding plants are under attack, which can spur the production of methyl jasmonate in entire communities of plants.

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
Research suggests that people who drink coffee have a lower risk of dying from a host of causes, including heart disease, stroke and liver disease. "The connection, revealed in two large studies, was found to hold regardless of whether the coffee was caffeinated or not, with the higher among those who drank more cups of coffee a day," reports The Guardian. From the report: The first study looked at coffee consumption among more than 185,000 white and non-white participants, recruited in the early 1990s and followed up for an average of over 16 years. The results revealed that drinking one cup of coffee a day was linked to a 12% lower risk of death at any age, from any cause while those drinking two or three cups a day had an 18% lower risk, with the association not linked to ethnicity. The second study -- the largest of its kind -- involved more than 450,000 participants, recruited between 1992 and 2000 across ten European countries, who were again followed for just over 16 years on average. After a range of factors including age, smoking status, physical activity and education were taken into account, those who drank three or more cups a day were found to have a 18% lower risk of death for men, and a 8% lower risk of death for women at any age, compared with those who didn't drink the brew. The benefits were found to hold regardless of the country, although coffee drinking was not linked to a lower risk of death for all types of cancer. The study also looked at a subset of 14,800 participants, finding that coffee-drinkers had better results on many biological markers including liver enzymes and glucose control. But experts warn that the two studies, both published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, do not show that drinking coffee was behind the overall lower risk, pointing out that it could be that coffee drinkers are healthier in various ways or that those who are unwell drink less coffee.

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
theodp writes: Back in ye olde days of the information superhighway," begins Clive Thompson in It's Time to Make Code More Tinker-Friendly, "curious newbies had an easy way to see how websites worked: View Source." But no more. "Websites have evolved into complex, full-featured apps," laments Thompson. "Click View Source on Google.com and behold the slurry of incomprehensible Javascript. This increasingly worries old-guard coders. If the web no longer has a simple on-ramp, it could easily discourage curious amateurs." What the world needs now, Thompson argues, are "new tools that let everyone see, understand, and remix today's web. We need, in other words, to reboot the culture of View Source." Thompson cites Fog Creek Software's Glitch, Chris Coyier's CodePen, and Google's TensorFlow Playground as examples of efforts that embrace the spirit of View Source and help people recombine code in useful ways. Any other suggestions?

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Recode: Someday soon, more U.S. households will be subscribers of Amazon Prime than cable or satellite TV, according to recent estimates of Amazon's popular shipping and entertainment service. According to estimates from Morningstar, nearly 79 million U.S. households now have an Amazon Prime membership*, up from around 66 million at the end of last year. That compares to a projected 90 million U.S. households that will pay for cable or satellite TV this year, according to S&P Global. According to these estimates, more U.S. households may have an Amazon Prime subscription than a pay TV subscription as soon as next year. The implication here is not that Amazon's Prime Video service is more popular than TV; the main reason most people subscribe to Amazon Prime is still the fast delivery of products.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
According to a new Pew Research Center study, 41 percent of adults said they have experienced harassment online, and 66 percent of people said they've seen it happen to others. What's the most common form of online harassment? According to the study, it's offensive name-calling. TechCrunch reports: It's worth noting that while men are slightly more likely than women to be harassed online (44 percent versus 37 percent), women are more likely to be sexually harassed online. For example, 53 percent of women surveyed reported receiving explicit images they did not request. Unsurprisingly, social media is where people are most likely to experience online harassment, with 58 percent of those harassed saying the most recent incident happened on a social media platform. Also unsurprising is the fact that more than half of people harassed don't know the person harassing them. Pew also explored "emergent" forms of online harassment, like doxing (posting someone's personal information online without consent), trolling (intentionally trying to provoke or upset someone), hacking (illegally accessing someone's accounts) and swatting (when you call 911 for a fake emergency and have the police show up at that person's house). "While many Americans are not aware of these behaviors, they have all been used to escalate abuse online," the report states.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
Western Digital won a temporary U.S. court order on Tuesday saying that Toshiba must allow Western Digital's employees to access databases and chip samples as part of a joint venture with Toshiba around flash memory chip plants in Japan. Reuters reports: Toshiba is scrambling to sell its flash memory business and Western Digital is among the bidders. In a sign of high tensions around the deal, Toshiba threatened to lock Western Digital out of shared databases and quit sending chip samples. Western Digital sued Toshiba in San Francisco County Superior Court saying that its joint venture with Toshiba means Toshiba must get its consent for a sale. It asked the court for two separate orders: An injunction to stop the sale, and a temporary restraining order forcing Toshiba to give its workers access to shared databases. A judge granted the temporary order for access to the shared databases Tuesday and set a further hearing on July 28.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
Longtime Slashdot reader ewhac writes: Bruce Dawson recently posted a deep-dive into an annoyance that Windows 10 was inflicting on him -- namely, every time he built Chrome, his extremely beefy 24-core (48-thread) rig would begin stuttering, with the mouse frequently becoming stuck for a little over one second. This would be unsurprising if all cores were pegged at 100%, but overall CPU usage was barely hitting 50%. So he started digging out the debugging tools and doing performance traces on Windows itself. He eventually discovered that the function NtGdiCloseProcess(), responsible for Windows process exit and teardown, appears to serialize through a single lock, each pass through taking about 200S each. So if you have a job that creates and destroys a lot of processes very quickly (like building a large application such as Chrome), you're going to get hit in the face with this. Moreover, the problem gets worse the more cores you have. The issue apparently doesn't exist in Windows 7. Microsoft has been informed of the issue and they are allegedly investigating.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Internal company emails obtained by Bloomberg Businessweek show that Kaspersky Lab has maintained a much closer working relationship with Russia's main intelligence agency, the FSB, than it has publicly admitted. It has developed security technology at the spy agency's behest and worked on joint projects the CEO knew would be embarrassing if made public. The previously unreported emails, from October 2009, are from a thread between Eugene Kaspersky and senior staff. In Russian, Kaspersky outlines a project undertaken in secret a year earlier "per a big request on the Lubyanka side," a reference to the FSB offices. Kaspersky Lab confirmed the emails are authentic. The software that the CEO was referring to had the stated purpose of protecting clients, including the Russian government, from distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, but its scope went further. Kaspersky Lab would also cooperate with internet hosting companies to locate bad actors and block their attacks, while assisting with "active countermeasures," a capability so sensitive that Kaspersky advised his staff to keep it secret. In this case, Kaspersky may have been referring to something even more rare in the security world. A person familiar with the company's anti-DDoS system says it's made up of two parts. The first consists of traditional defensive techniques, including rerouting malicious traffic to servers that can harmlessly absorb it. The second part is more unusual: Kaspersky provides the FSB with real-time intelligence on the hackers' location and sends experts to accompany the FSB and Russian police when they conduct raids. That's what Kaspersky was referring to in the emails, says the person familiar with the system. They weren't just hacking the hackers; they were banging down the doors. Kaspersky Lab has issued a statement in response to Bloomberg's report. It reads in part: "Regardless of how the facts are misconstrued to fit in with a hypothetical, false theory, Kaspersky Lab, and its executives, do not have inappropriate ties with any government. The company does regularly work with governments and law enforcement agencies around the world with the sole purpose of fighting cybercrime. In the internal communications referenced within the recent article, the facts are once again either being misinterpreted or manipulated to fit the agenda of certain individuals desperately wanting there to be inappropriate ties between the company, its CEO and the Russian government, but no matter what communication they claim to have, the facts clearly remain there is no evidence because no such inappropriate ties exist."

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
From a new report: As humanity starts packing for a trip to Mars, NASA scientists are studying what not to bring along for the journey. In short, leave the fungus at home. NASA researchers created a closed habitat -- similar to where humans would have to live to survive long space travel or on a new planet -- and looked at fungi and how they grew, publishing their findings in the journal Microbiome. Fungi are "extremophiles" that can survive in the harshest conditions, but in the closed environment of a space station, they can wreak havoc. To see exactly what kind of fungi might colonize astronauts while they colonize Mars, researchers set up an Inflatable Lunar/Mars Analog Habitat, which simulates the closed environment of the International Space Station. They found that certain kinds of fungi increased in number while humans were living inside the habitat, and the weakened immune systems that come with living in a bubble make people more vulnerable to fungi.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
MojoKid writes: Intel announced its new Xeon Scalable processor family based on the 14nm Skylake-SP microarchitecture a few weeks back, though today marks the official launch of the platform. Not only do these processors feature a new microarchitecture, but Intel has also revamped the naming convention and arrangement of the Xeon product stack, branding them with Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze model families. Intel Xeon Scalable series processors feature core counts ranging from 4 to 28, with varied frequencies and cache configurations. Workstation processors and lower-core count server chips top out in the 3.2GHz -- 3.6GHz range, while the higher-core count products typically fall in the 2GHz -- 2.7GHz range. Six memory channels are supported and the chips have 48 lanes of integrated PCIe 3.0 connectivity. Power envelopes range all the way from 70W on up to 205W. The Xeon Scalable series also introduces new security, virtualization, and storage-related features, more memory bandwidth, support for AVX-512 extensions, a mesh interconnect, and enhanced hardware controlled power management, among a host of other architectural improvements. Testing of a 2P Xeon Platinum 8176 system, sporting 56 physical cores / 112 threads shows significantly increased performance and bandwidth, with only moderately higher power consumption versus a previous-gen 2P Xeon E5-2679 v4-based system.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A handful of Twitter users, backed by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, sued President Donald Trump on Tuesday, claiming their constitutional rights are being violated because the president has blocked them from his @realDonaldTrump handle. The suit claims that Trump's Twitter feed is a public forum and an official voice of the president. Excluding people from reading or replying to his tweets -- especially because they tweeted critical comments -- amounts to a First Amendment breach, according to the lawsuit. "The @realDonaldTrump account is a kind of digital town hall in which the president and his aides use the tweet function to communicate news and information to the public, and members of the public use the reply function to respond to the president and his aides and exchange views with one another," according to the lawsuit (PDF) filed in New York federal court. "Defendants' viewpoint-based blocking of the Individual Plaintiffs from the @realDonaldTrump account infringes the Individual Plaintiffs' First Amendment rights. It imposes an unconstitutional restriction on their participation in a designated public forum," the suit says. "It imposes an unconstitutional restriction on their right to access statements that Defendants are otherwise making available to the public at large. It also imposes an unconstitutional restriction on their right to petition the government for redress of grievances."

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
Google has paid researchers and academics who have worked on projects that support the company's positions in battles with regulators, a report in The Wall Street Journal (paywalled) said on Tuesday. From a report: Google's practice might not sound all that different from lobbying, but The Wall Street Journal revealed that some of the professors, including a Paul Heald from the University of Illinois, didn't disclose Google's payments. Heald is one of "more than a dozen" such professors who accepted money from Google, according to The Wall Street Journal. Google has reason to try to get as many folks on its side as it can. The company has faced almost constant scrutiny for its business practices, most recently a record antitrust fine of $2.7 billion in the European Union. Tens of thousands of dollars to professors here and there could have helped it avoid that fine, and others.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader shares a report: The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published the latest edition of its "Who has your back" privacy report. This is the seventh report from the digital rights group, and this year it criticizes both WhatsApp and Amazon for having policies that "fall short of other similar technology companies." Four big telecom companies -- AT&T, Comcast, T-Mobile, and Verizon -- performed very poorly, while at the other end of the scale Adobe, Credo, Dropbox, Lyft, Pinterest, Sonic, Uber, Wickr, and WordPress were all praised. In all, the report rates 26 technology companies in five key areas relating to privacy and government data requests: "Follows industry-wide best practices," "Tells users about government data requests," "Promises not to sell out users," "Stands up to NSL gag orders" and "Pro-user public policy: Reform 702." While the report points out that some progress has been made, generally speaking, in the technology world, AT&T, Comcast, T-Mobile, and Verizon were all awarded a single star out of a possible five. Amazon and WhatsApp both scored just two out of five, leading the Electronic Freedom Foundation to say: "We urge both Amazon and WhatsApp to improve their policies in the coming year so they match the standards of other major online services."

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
Karl Bode, writing for TechDirt: You'd be hard pressed to find a bigger enemy of net neutrality than the fine folks at AT&T. The company has a history of all manner of anti-competitive assaults on the open and competitive internet, from blocking customer access to Apple FaceTime unless users subscribed to more expensive plans, to exempting its own content from arbitrary and unnecessary usage caps while penalizing streaming competitors. AT&T also played a starring role in ensuring the FCC's 2010 net neutrality rules were flimsy garbage, and sued to overturn the agency's tougher, 2015 rules. So it's with a combination of amusement and awe to see the company's top lobbying and policy head, Bob Quinn, pen a missive over at the AT&T website proudly proclaiming the company will be joining tomorrow's "day of action protest" in support of keeping the existing rules intact. According to Quinn, the company still opposes the FCC's popular 2015 consumer protections, but wanted to participate in the protest because that's just how much the sweethearts at AT&T adore the open internet.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
From a TechCrunch report: Messaging is the center of mobile, and Facebook wants ads in front of all those eyes. After seeing "promising results from Australia and Thailand," Facebook Messenger is expanding its display ad beta test that lets businesses buy space between your chat threads. Later this month, a small percentage of users will start seeing ads in the Messenger app's home tab. Facebook tells TechCrunch that where these ads appear in the inbox "depends on how many threads a user has, the size of their phone's physical screen and the pixel density of the display." Over the next month, Facebook will gradually roll out Messenger ads to all advertisers globally. They'll have the ability to buy through the Ads Manager or Power Editor, with Messenger becoming one of the automatic placements for Facebook ads alongside the main Facebook app, Instagram and the Audience Network of other apps and sites. Ads aren't targeted by what people write in messages, and instead use the same Facebook targeting, measurement tools and minimum 50 percent pixels in view standard for viewability.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
Calibri, a font that was created in 2004 and made default option on PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, and WordPad by Microsoft in 2007, is currently sitting at the center of a corruption investigation involving Pakistan's Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif. From a report: Accused of illegally profiting from his position since the 1990s, Sharif is now under investigation by the Joint Investigative Team -- a collective of Pakistani police, military, and financial regulators -- after a treasure trove of evidence surfaced with 2016's release of The Panama Papers. In a report obtained by Al Jazeera, investigators recommended a case be filed in the National Accountability Court after concluding there were "significant gap[s]" in Sharif's ability to account for his familial assets. [...] Sharif contends that neither he, nor his family, profited from his position of power, a denial that came under scrutiny today after his daughter and political heir apparent, Maryam Nawaz, produced documents from 2006 that prove her father's innocence. Unfortunately for the Nawaz family, type experts today confirmed the documents were written in Calibri, a font that wasn't available until 2007.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
Reader BrianFagioli writes: Today, Fedora 26 sheds its pre-release status and becomes available for download as a stable release. GNOME fans are in for a big treat, as version 3.24 is default. If you stick to stable Fedora releases, this will be your first time experiencing that version of the desktop environment since it was released in March. Also new is LibreOffice 5.3, which is an indispensable suite for productivity. If you still use mp3 music files I've moved onto streaming), support should be baked in for both encoding and decoding. "The latest version of Fedora's desktop-focused edition provides new tools and features for general users as well as developers. GNOME 3.24 is offered with Fedora 26 Workstation, which includes a host of updated functionality including Night Light, an application that subtly changes screen color based on time of day to reduce effect on sleep patterns, and LibreOffice 5.3, the latest update to the popular open source office productivity suite. For developers, GNOME 3.24 provides matured versions of Builder and Flatpak to make application development for a variety of systems, including Rust and Meson, easier across the board," says the Fedora Project.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
From a report: Microsoft is killing off Windows Phone 8.1 support today, more than three years after the company first introduced the update. The end of support marks an end to the Windows Phone era, and the millions of devices still running the operating system. While most have accepted that the death of Windows Phone occurred more than a year ago, AdDuplex estimates that nearly 80 percent of all Windows-powered phones are still running Windows Phone 7, Windows Phone 8, or Windows Phone 8.1. All of these handsets are now officially unsupported, and only 20 percent of all Windows phones are running the latest Windows 10 Mobile OS.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
"Millionaire" online businesses selling on ecommerce site Ebay have jumped 50 percent in key international markets Britain and Germany in the last four years, despite currency swings that have slowed growth outside the United States. From a report: Fresh data published on Tuesday by Ebay shows the number of million euro businesses selling on Ebay grew to 1,095 from 731 in Germany last year since 2013 while million pound-plus businesses rose to 663 from 443 in Britain over the same time period. Ebay's two big European markets were collectively responsible for 30 percent of Ebay's total net revenue of nearly $9 billion last year, although reported revenue in both markets dipped amid currency declines against the U.S. dollar. Two examples in the north of England are MusicMagpie.co.uk, which buys used CDs, DVDs and electronics from consumers for resale on Ebay in more than 140 countries, and cycling accessory seller MaxGear, now a 3.5 million pound ($4.51 million) a year business. While the company founded 22 years ago started out as an online auction site for consumers to trade second-hand goods, 80 percent of merchandise now sold via Ebay is new, largely fixed-price items, the company reported in the first quarter of 2017.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader shares a report: The co-founder of a Silicon Valley investment firm said it is "not my job to make you all feel good" in a long email to staff and investors. Jonathan Teo from Binary Capital was responding to negative press coverage about the firm following allegations of sexual harassment by his co-founder Justin Caldbeck. He added that he was "tired and indignant," and raged against "whiners" who demanded his attention. Mr Teo has already offered to resign. He did so after Mr Caldbeck left the firm in June. "I'm incredibly sorry," Mr Caldbeck tweeted when the news broke last month. Mr Caldbeck's actions were one of several sexism scandals to rock Silicon Valley in recent months. They include a damning report into the work culture inside ride-hailing firm Uber, and the resignation of venture capitalist Dave McClure, who admitted "inexcusable behaviour" towards "multiple women."

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
Researchers in China have teleported a photon from the ground to a satellite orbiting more than 500 kilometers above. From a report: Last year, a Long March 2D rocket took off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi Desert carrying a satellite called Micius, named after an ancient Chinese philosopher who died in 391 B.C. The rocket placed Micius in a Sun-synchronous orbit so that it passes over the same point on Earth at the same time each day. Micius is a highly sensitive photon receiver that can detect the quantum states of single photons fired from the ground. That's important because it should allow scientists to test the technological building blocks for various quantum feats such as entanglement, cryptography, and teleportation. Today, the Micius team announced the results of its first experiments. The team created the first satellite-to-ground quantum network, in the process smashing the record for the longest distance over which entanglement has been measured. And they've used this quantum network to teleport the first object from the ground to orbit. Teleportation has become a standard operation in quantum optics labs around the world. The technique relies on the strange phenomenon of entanglement. This occurs when two quantum objects, such as photons, form at the same instant and point in space and so share the same existence. In technical terms, they are described by the same wave function.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
Microsoft on Tuesday announced a new campaign to try to "eliminate" the gap in high-speed internet access in the country's hardest-to-reach areas -- an effort called the Rural Airband Initiative, which will set an ambitious target of bringing better broadband to two million Americans within the next five years. From a report: The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant plans to start its efforts in 12 states, offering seed money -- Microsoft wouldn't specify the amount -- to local telecom providers that are trying to improve internet access through means like "white spaces," which are the invisible, wireless radio airwaves that aren't already owned by broadcasters. From Microsoft point of view, this approach -- aimed at delivering speedy wireless internet -- is the best way to improve connectivity in parts of the country that broadband providers long have ignored, given the prohibitive costs of building and sustaining networks there. By Microsoft's count, more than 23 million Americans in rural areas currently lack high-speed internet access, despite billions of dollars in federal investment. But the company emphasized that it is not looking to become a telecom provider -- it's only providing capital to local firms -- and does not seek to profit from the endeavor. Through revenue-sharing agreements, Microsoft instead plans to invest any money it raises in additional projects in other states where internet access is lacking.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: The news industry is to band together to seek a limited antitrust exemption from Congress in an effort to fend off growing competition from Facebook and Google. Traditional competitors including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, as well as a host of smaller print and online publications, will temporarily set aside their differences this week and appeal to federal lawmakers to let them negotiate collectively with the technology giants to safeguard the industry. Antitrust laws traditionally prevent companies from forming such an alliance which could see them becoming over-dominant in a particular sector. However, the media companies will be hoping that Congress will look favorably on a temporary exemption, particularly giving the recent clampdown on the technology industry which saw Google slapped with a $2.7 billion antitrust fine. The campaign is led by newspaper industry trade group News Media Alliance and it is intended to help the industry collaborate in order to regain market share from Facebook and Google, which have been swooping in on newspapers' distribution and advertising revenues. The two companies currently command 70 percent of the $73 billion digital advertising industry in the U.S., according to new research from the Pew Research Centre. Meanwhile, U.S. newspaper ad revenue in 2016 was $18 billion from $50 billion a decade ago.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
New submitter evolutionary shares a report from The Register: Concerns have been raised over a British judge's use of his personal email address to send out a ruling in a family court case, which contained sensitive personal information. The Register has seen evidence that the judge in question used two personal accounts to send out a draft ruling and final ruling: one using a domain owned by his son and another email account associated with iCloud. The use of personal email seems highly unusual - with all government departments subject to the mandatory guidance for securing government email. [One legal expert, who asked not to be named, told The Register that the judge's behavior raised a number of issues such as a possible breach of mandatory standards, and "may pose a risk to the organization he works for and those he interacts with outside the organization." evolutionary adds: "The article doesn't specify the tone suggests emails sent were unencrypted."

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
As we near the launch of the next iPhone, rumors are swirling about what it may feature. One of the most recent reports comes from developer and blogger John Gruber, who claims the iPhone 8 will have a starting price of around $1200. 9to5Mac reports: He last week said that he believed that what we've been referring to as the iPhone 8 would be called the iPhone Pro and that he actually hoped it would be really expensive: "I hope the iPhone Pro starts at $1500 or higher. I'd like to see what Apple can do in a phone with a higher price." As you might imagine, that generated quite a bit of discussion. Gruber has backed down somewhat from this position, and is now suggesting a starting point of around $1200: "$1,500 as a starting price is probably way too high. But I think $1,200 is quite likely as the starting price, with the high-end model at $1,300 or $1,400." His argument is effectively that Apple is constrained in what it can do in a phone because any technology included in the phone has to be available in huge volumes. If it were willing to sell fewer at a higher price, then it would have more options. There has been speculation that Gruber may have been tipped by Apple, and using his posts to prepare the ground for what would otherwise be a severe case of sticker shock. But Gruber denied this. If Apple does launch the iPhone 8 with a 4-figure price tag, would you buy it?

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