Tech News Feed

Facebook Launches a Petition Feature

SlashDot - Sun, 2019-01-20 14:00
Tomorrow Facebook will encounter a slew of fresh complexities with the launch of Community Actions, its News Feed petition feature. From a report: Community Actions could unite neighbors to request change from their local and national elected officials and government agencies. But it could also provide vocal interest groups a bully pulpit from which to pressure politicians and bureaucrats with their fringe agendas. Community Actions embodies the central challenge facing Facebook. Every tool it designs for positive expression and connectivity can be subverted for polarization and misinformation. Facebook's membership has swelled into such a ripe target for exploitation that it draws out the worst of humanity. You can imagine misuses like "Crack down on [minority group]" that are offensive or even dangerous but some see as legitimate. The question is whether Facebook puts in the forethought and aftercare to safeguard its new tools with proper policy and moderation. Otherwise each new feature is another liability. Community Actions start to roll out to the US tomorrow after several weeks of testing in a couple of markets. Users can add a title, description, and image to their Community Action, and tag relevant government agencies and officials who'll be notified. The goal is to make the Community Action go viral and get people to hit the "Support" button. Community Actions have their own discussion feed where people can leave comments, create fundraisers, and organize Facebook Events or Call Your Rep campaigns. Facebook displays the numbers of supporters behind a Community Action, but you'll only be able to see the names of those you're friends with or that are Pages or public figures.

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The best USB-C MacBook and laptop chargers

Engadget - Sun, 2019-01-20 14:00
By Nick Guy This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter's independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and Engadget may earn affiliate commission. Read the full USB-C MacBook and laptop chargers guide...

Netflix Says It's More Scared of Fortnite and YouTube Than Disney and Amazon

SlashDot - Sun, 2019-01-20 12:35
An anonymous reader shares a report: It's not Disney's new streaming video service or HBO or Amazon that Netflix is worried about, the company said this week in its letter to shareholders. Netflix estimates it has already earned about 10 percent of all U.S. television screen time. The company also shared viewership statistics for some of its exclusives, boasting that "Bird Box" netted 80 million viewers in its first four weeks on Netflix, while "You" will get about 40 million over the same period. Instead, it's newer forms of entertainment -- such as Fortnite and Google's YouTube -- that got shout-outs in the company's letter as stronger competitors. "Our focus is not on Disney+, Amazon or others, but on how we can improve our experience for others," Netflix said in its shareholder letter. "We compete with (and lose to) Fortnite more than HBO. When YouTube went down globally for a few minutes in October, our viewing and signups spiked for that time." Further reading: Netflix's Biggest Competition Isn't Sleep -- It's YouTube.

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After Math: Watch out now!

Engadget - Sun, 2019-01-20 12:30
You'd think that the week after CES would bring at least a brief lull in the firehose that is tech news, but you'd be wrong. Google's paying $40 million for Fossil's smartwatch tech; LG's holding a huge sale for last year's most expensive sets ahead...

A Look at the Amount of Time Smartphone Vendors Have Taken To Roll out Major Android Updates To Their Handsets, and How Things Are Beginning To Improve

SlashDot - Sun, 2019-01-20 11:30
Most Android smartphone vendors have been notorious for the time they take to roll out the newest Android OS updates to their respective handsets. To tackle this, Google in 2017 announced Project Treble, which bypasses some middlemen in delivering new updates to consumers. With Project Treble now supported by all Android phone makers, in theory updates should roll out to us faster than before. To test this, news blog AndroidAuthority looked at the data to see where things stand. From the report: On average, Nougat updates took about 192 days to reach key devices, while Oreo was slightly faster at 170. Android Pie updates hit devices much faster, averaging just 118 days from Google's launch to significant OEM rollout. That's a significant improvement, though we're still waiting on updates from LG and HTC, which could drag this average back up. Most manufacturers are faster at providing updates now, but a few are slower. Huawei, Samsung, and Xiaomi were noticeably quicker this time around, bringing updates to key devices before the end of 2018. OnePlus and Sony were especially fast, but they've always been speedier than most. Disappointingly, Motorola has rolled out updates to its flagship Z series slower over the last few years.

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Facebook backs an independent AI ethics research center

Engadget - Sun, 2019-01-20 11:00
Facebook is just as interested as its peers in fostering ethical AI. The social network has teamed up with the Technical University of Munich to back the formation of an independent AI ethics research center. The plainly titled Institute for Ethics...

Oracle Systematically Underpaid Thousands of Women, Lawsuit Says

SlashDot - Sun, 2019-01-20 10:30
Thousands of women were systematically underpaid at Oracle, one of Silicon Valley's largest corporations, according to a new motion in a class-action complaint that details claims of pervasive wage discrimination. From a report: A motion filed in California on Friday said attorneys seek to represent more than 4,200 women and alleged that female employees were paid on average $13,000 less per year than men doing similar work. An analysis of payroll data found disparities with an "extraordinarily high degree of statistical significance," the complaint said. Women made 3.8% less in base salaries on average than men in the same job categories, 13.2% less in bonuses, and 33.1% less in stock value, it alleges. The civil rights suit comes as the tech industries faces increased scrutiny of gender and racial discrimination, including sexual misconduct, unequal pay and biased workplaces. The case against Oracle, which is headquartered in Redwood Shores and provides cloud computing services to companies across the globe, resembles high-profile litigation against Google, which has also faced repeated claims of systematic wage discrimination.

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Apple gets first crack at documentaries from Ron Howard

Engadget - Sun, 2019-01-20 09:29
Apple may have more than a few documentaries on tap for its upcoming streaming video service. Variety has learned that Apple has a "first-look" deal with Imagine Documentaries, the production company from Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. The move will...

Tron's CEO Wants To Use Blockchain Games and BitTorrent To Decentralize the Internet

SlashDot - Sun, 2019-01-20 09:25
From a report: Last summer, Justin Sun, the 28-year-old CEO of Tron acquired BitTorrent, the 15-year-old file-sharing company that is one of the biggest decentralized networks in existence for $140 million. He wanted to take advantage of blockchain, the decentralized ledger that is both secure and transparent, and combine it with the decentralized file-sharing app, offering crypto rewards to those who share their computers for file sharing. And this week, Sun appeared on stage with former basketball star Kobe Bryant at the NiTron Summit, which drew more than 1,000 attendees. Tron has also created a $100 million fund to convince game developers to make games that use Tron's protocol and its TRX cryptocurrency. The promise is to create a crypto network that is both fast -- at 2,000 transactions per second -- and reliable. I interviewed Sun backstage at the NiTron Summit, where he said he wanted his company to become the major blockchain platform that could one day be the decentralized alternative to the centralized internet networks of Google, Facebook, and Apple. But to make that happen, Sun has to get mainstream people like the 100 million BitTorrent users to trust cryptocurrency, even after a coin market slide that has wiped out billions in value, including taking Tron's TRX market value down from near $20 billion to $1.6 billion today.

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VW may extend diesel-scrapping incentives to all of Germany - Roadshow

CNET News - Sun, 2019-01-20 08:00
Some incentives are currently limited to Germany's most polluted cities.

Ask Slashdot: Why Are Scientists Constantly Surprised By What They Discover?

SlashDot - Sun, 2019-01-20 06:34
Slashdot reader dryriver asks about "the sheer number of times scientists consider something to be 'scientifically impossible', are badly disproven by some kind of new finding or discovery a few years later, and then express 'surprise' that 'X is indeed possible'." If you do a Google News search for the keywords "scientists were surprised" or similar, a huge number of science-related news articles contains a passage about "scientists being surprised" by what they discovered. There seems to be a great disparity between the mindset of inventors -- who always try to MAKE new things become possible -- and the mindset of many scientists, who seem unable or unwilling to consider that what "science holds to be true today" may not turn out to be quite so true tomorrow. Here's the question: Why do many scientists, having knowledge of the fact that surprises in science happen all the time, continually express "surprise" when they find something unusual? If surprises in scientific research are so common, why are scientists still "surprised" by "surprise findings"? "The surprising stuff is what we hear about, and there has to be some reason why it is surprising," argues gurps_npc in response to the original submission. "A common answer is that current state of science thinks the surprising stuff was impossible." "The whole premise is flawed," counters long-time reader Martin+S. "Natural skepticism is an essential component of science." And long-time reader UnknownSoldier supplies a one-word answer: "Ego." But how would you answer the question? Share your best thoughts in the comments. Why are scientists constantly surprised by what they discover?

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2020 Toyota Supra vs. BMW Z4, Chevrolet Corvette, Ford Mustang and Nissan 370Z - Roadshow

CNET News - Sun, 2019-01-20 05:00
How does Toyota's resurrected icon compare with other sports car legends?

Hitman convicted thanks to fitness watch location data

Engadget - Sun, 2019-01-20 04:34
An alleged hitman has learned hard lessons about the the value of GPS data on fitness watches. A Liverpool jury has found Mark Fellows guilty of the 2015 murder of mob boss Paul Massey in part thanks to location info from the accused's Garmin Foreru...

Google Criticized Over Its Handling of the End of Google+

SlashDot - Sun, 2019-01-20 03:34
Long-time Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein shares his report on how Google is handling the end of its Google+ service. He's describing it as "a boot to the head: when you know that Google just doesn't care any more" about users "who have become 'inconvenient' to their new business models." We already know about Google's incredible user trust failure in announcing dates for this process. First it was August. Then suddenly it was April. The G+ APIs (which vast numbers of web sites -- including mine -- made the mistake of deeply embedding into their sites), we're told will start "intermittently failing" (whatever that actually means) later this month. It gets much worse though. While Google has tools for users to download their own G+ postings for preservation, they have as far as I know provided nothing to help loyal G+ users maintain their social contacts... As far as Google is concerned, when G+ dies, all of your linkages to your G+ friends are gone forever. You can in theory try to reach out to each one and try to get their email addresses, but private messages on G+ have always been hit or miss... And with only a few months left until Google pulls the plug on G+, I sure as hell wouldn't still be soliciting for new G+ users! Yep -- believe it or not -- Google at this time is STILL soliciting for unsuspecting users to sign up for new G+ accounts, without any apparent warnings that you're signing up for a service that is already officially the walking dead! Perhaps this shows most vividly how Google today seems to just not give a damn about users who aren't in their target demographics of the moment. Or maybe it's just laziness. I'd be more upset about this if I actually used Google+ -- but has Google been unfair to the users who do? "[T]he way in which they've handled the announcements and ongoing process of sunsetting a service much beloved by many Google users has been nothing short of atrocious," Weinstein writes, "and has not shown respect for Google's users overall."

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SNL pits Trump against Congress on Deal or No Deal: Shutdown Edition - CNET

CNET News - Sun, 2019-01-20 02:04
Maybe the president's game-show past will let him end the shutdown this way

Is California's PG&E The First Climate Change Bankruptcy?

SlashDot - Sun, 2019-01-20 00:34
"California's largest power company intends to file for bankruptcy as it faces tens of billions of dollars in potential liability following massive wildfires that devastated parts of the state over the last two years," reports the Washington Post. Calling it "a climate change casualty," one Forbes contributor notes that PG&E's stock has now lost 90% of its mid-October value after a giant November wildfire, adding that "Future investors will look back on these three months as a turning point, and wonder why the effects of climate change on the economic underpinnings to our society were not more widely recognized at the time." Climate scientists may equivocate about the degree to which Global Warming is contributing to these fires until more detailed research is complete, but for an investor who is used to making decisions based on incomplete or ambiguous information, the warning signs are flashing red... there is no doubt in my mind that Global Warming's thumb rests on the scale of PG&E's decision to declare bankruptcy. And the Wall Street Journal is already describing it as "the first climate-change bankruptcy, probably not the last," noting that it was a prolonged drought that "dried out much of the state and decimated forests, dramatically increasing the risk of fire." "This is a fairly new development," said Bruce Usher, a professor at Columbia University's business school who teaches a course on climate and finance. "If you are not already considering extreme weather and other climatic events as one of many risk factors affecting business today, you are not doing your job"... In less than a decade, PG&E, which serves 16 million customers, saw the risk of catastrophic wildfires multiply greatly in its vast service area, which stretches from the Oregon border south to Bakersfield. Weather patterns that had been typical for Southern California -- such as the hot, dry Santa Ana winds that sweep across the region in autumn, stoking fires -- were now appearing hundreds of miles to the north. "The Santa Ana fire condition is now a Northern California fire reality, " said Ken Pimlott, who retired last month as director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire. "In a perfect world, we would like to see all [of PG&E's] equipment upgraded, all of the vegetation removed from their lines. But I don't know anybody overnight who is going to catch up." PG&E scrambled to reduce fire risks by shoring up power lines and trimming millions of trees. But the company's equipment kept setting fires -- about 1,550 between mid-2014 through 2017, or more than one a day, according to data it filed with the state. The global business community is recognizing the risks it faces from climate change. This week, a World Economic Forum survey of global business and thought leaders found extreme weather and other climate-related issues as top risks both by likelihood and impact. Other factors besides climate change may also have pushed PG&E towards bankruptcy, according to the article. They're required by California state regulations to provide electrical service to the thousands of people moving into the state's forested areas, yet "an unusual California state law, known as 'inverse condemnation,' made PG&E liable if its equipment started a fire, regardless of whether it was negligent." In declaring bankruptcy, PG&E cited an estimated $30 billion in liabilities -- plus 750 lawsuits from wildfires potentially caused by its power lines.

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GoFundMe launches campaign for government workers hit by shutdown

Engadget - Sat, 2019-01-19 23:15
People have frequently used GoFundMe to lend a helping hand to others in need of some help, but the site itself is getting involved in light of the US government shutdown. The company has teamed up with Deepak Chopra to launch a donation campaign fo...

Showtime offers a peek at Desus and Mero's talk show

Engadget - Sat, 2019-01-19 21:40
How will podcasters Desus and Mero handle a late-night talk show on Showtime? You now have a slightly better idea. Showtime has posted a teaser for Desus & Mero that has the duo shopping for set decorations ahead of their February 21st premiere...

Mark Zuckerberg's Mentor 'Shocked and Disappointed' -- But He Has a Plan

SlashDot - Sat, 2019-01-19 21:34
Early Facebook investor Roger McNamee published a scathing 3,000-word article adapted from his new book Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe. Here's just one example of what's left him "shocked and disappointed": Facebook (along with Google and Twitter) has undercut the free press from two directions: it has eroded the economics of journalism and then overwhelmed it with disinformation. On Facebook, information and disinformation look the same; the only difference is that disinformation generates more revenue, so it gets better treatment.... At Facebook's scale -- or Google's -- there is no way to avoid influencing the lives of users and the future of nations. Recent history suggests that the threat to democracy is real. The efforts to date by Facebook, Google and Twitter to protect future elections may be sincere, but there is no reason to think they will do anything more than start a game of whack-a-mole with those who choose to interfere. Only fundamental changes to business models can reduce the risk to democracy. Google and Facebook "are artificially profitable because they do not pay for the damage they cause," McNamee argues, adding that some medical researchers "have raised alarms noting that we have allowed unsupervised psychological experiments on millions of people." But what's unique is he's offering specific suggestions to fix it. "I want to set limits on the markets in which monopoly-class players like Facebook, Google and Amazon can operate. The economy would benefit from breaking them up. A first step would be to prevent acquisitions, as well as cross subsidies and data sharing among products within each platform." "Another important regulatory opportunity is data portability, such that users can move everything of value from one platform to another. This would help enable startups to overcome an otherwise insurmountable barrier to adoption." "Given that social media is practically a public utility, I think it is worth considering more aggressive strategies, including government subsidies." "There need to be versions of Facebook News Feed and all search results that are free of manipulation." "I would like to address privacy with a new model of authentication for website access that permits websites to gather only the minimum amount of data required for each transaction.... it would store private data on the device, not in the cloud. Apple has embraced this model, offering its customers valuable privacy and security advantages over Android." "No one should be able to use a user's data in any way without explicit, prior consent. Third-party audits of algorithms, comparable to what exists now for financial statements, would create the transparency necessary to limit undesirable consequences." "There should be limits on what kind of data can be collected, such that users can limit data collection or choose privacy. This needs to be done immediately, before new products like Alexa and Google Home reach mass adoption."

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Amazon adds remastered 'Baywatch' to Prime Video on January 20th

Engadget - Sat, 2019-01-19 20:06
If you're feeling nostalgic for the 90s, Prime Video may have something you can binge on. Amazon is adding Baywatch -- yes, the classic TV series and not Dwayne Johnson's flick -- to its lineup for US, Canada and Australia. You'll even be able to enj...