Tech News Feed

After Math: Hello from the auto show

Engadget - Sun, 2017-12-03 11:00
With Thanksgiving already in the rearview and New Years still on the horizon, you know what time it is: it's auto show season! Engadget just wrapped up a week of reporting from the Los Angeles auto show and have plenty of posts to show for it. Volvo...

Turf's up! Guy fixing football field is Twitter's new hero - CNET

CNET News - Sun, 2017-12-03 10:49
If you had majored in turf-grass management (which is a real thing), this is your Super Bowl.

Your Brain 'Blinks' When Your Attention Shifts, Researchers Discover

SlashDot - Sun, 2017-12-03 10:11
Science_afficionado quotes Vanderbilt University's Research News: When your attention shifts from one place to another, your brain blinks. The blinks are momentary unconscious gaps in visual perception and came as a surprise to the team of Vanderbilt psychologists who discovered the phenomenon while studying the benefits of attention... The research was conducted with macaque monkeys that were trained to shift their attention among different objects on a display screen while the researchers monitored the pattern of neuron activity taking place in their brains... By combining advanced recording techniques that simultaneously track large numbers of neurons with sophisticated computational analyses, the researchers discovered that the activity of the neurons in the visual cortex were momentarily disrupted when the game required the animals to shift their attention. They also traced the source of the disruptions to parts of the brain involved in guiding attention, not back to the eyes.

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Neil Young's huge online music archive opens to the public

Engadget - Sun, 2017-12-03 09:59
Neil Young has been talking up his giant online archive for ages, but he's finally ready to deliver on his promises. The veteran Canadian rocker has launched the simply-titled Neil Young Archives, a website that includes all the media he has produce...

Ben Heck's Atari 'Dragster' speed run test rig

Engadget - Sun, 2017-12-03 08:30
Even computer games have their own world records, and one of the oldest uncontested ones is the fastest time for Atari Dragster, at 5.51 seconds. But how legitimate is this speed? Ben is tasked with using RAM analysis and a microcontroller to c...

Nobel Prize-Winning Economist Says Bitcoin 'Ought to be Outlawed'

SlashDot - Sun, 2017-12-03 08:04
Bitcoin "is drawing harsh criticism from Wall Street investment firms," writes Slashdot reader rmdingler -- and even from some prominent economists. CNN reports: The harshest assessment came from Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, who said that bitcoin "ought to be outlawed. Bitcoin is successful only because of its potential for circumvention," he told Bloomberg TV. "It doesn't serve any socially useful function." Robert Shiller, who won a Nobel for his work on bubbles, said the currency appeals to some investors because it has an "anti-government, anti-regulation feel. It's such a wonderful story," he said at a conference in Lithuania, according to Bloomberg. "If it were only true." Wall Street titans were getting in on the action, too. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein told Bloomberg that the currency serves as "a vehicle for perpetrating fraud." Billionaire investor Carl Icahn said on CNBC that it "seems like a bubble." The digital currency previously attracted the derision of JPMorgan boss Jamie Dimon, who called it a "fraud" that would "eventually blow up." Warren Buffett has warned of a "real bubble." Wednesday the price of bitcoin shot past $11,000 -- just ten days after rising past $8,000.

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It's still weird to make mobile payments in the US. Here's why - CNET

CNET News - Sun, 2017-12-03 08:00
The future of America's payment system still feels half-broken. But a trip over to the UK showed how much better things could be.

7 kitchen appliances that will make you give cooking a try - CNET

CNET News - Sun, 2017-12-03 08:00
Intimidated in the kitchen? These small appliances and gadgets will help calm your nerves.

We put ’Elon’s Musk’ to the smell test - CNET

CNET News - Sun, 2017-12-03 08:00
This isn’t the reaction we expected.

Is Open Source Innovation Now All About Vendor On-Ramps?

SlashDot - Sun, 2017-12-03 03:59
InfoWorld published an interesting essay from Matt Asay, former COO at Canonical (and an emeritus board member of the Open Source Initiative), about innovation from the big public cloud vendors, which "even when open-sourced, doesn't really help the community at large... All this innovation is available to buy; none of it is available to build. Not for mere mortals, anyway." Google in particular has figured out how to both open-source code in a useful way and make it pay. As Server Density CEO David Mytton has underlined, Google hopes to "standardize machine learning on a single framework and API," namely TensorFlow, then supplement it "with a service that can [manage] it all for you more efficiently and with less operational overhead," namely Google Cloud. By open-sourcing TensorFlow and backing it with machine-learning-heavy Google Cloud, Google has open-sourced a great on-ramp to future revenue. My question: why not do this with the rest of its code? The simple answer is "Because it's a lot of work." That is, Google could open-source everything tomorrow without any damage to its revenue, but the code itself would provide other providers and enterprises only limited ability to increase their revenue unless Google did all the necessary prep work to make it useful to mere mortals not running superhuman Google infrastructure. This is the trick that AWS, Microsoft, and Google are all racing to figure out today. Not open source, per se, because that's the easy table stakes. No, the AWS/Microsoft Azure/Google Cloud trio are figuring out how to turn their innovations into open source on-ramps to their proprietary services. Companies used to lock up their code to sell it. Today, it's the opposite: They need to open it up to make their ability to operate the code at scale more valuable. For them.

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Netflix cancels YouTube star Miranda Sings' show after two seasons

Engadget - Sun, 2017-12-03 01:01
YouTube stardom is no guarantee of success on other streaming services, it appears. Netflix has dropped Miranda Sings' Haters Back Off after two seasons, marking a short run for the first YouTuber to land a scripted series. It's not certain exactly...

Massive Financial Aid Data Breach Proves Stanford Lied For Years To MBAs

SlashDot - Sat, 2017-12-02 23:54
14 terabytes of "highly confidential" data about 5,120 financial aid applications over seven years were exposed in a breach at Stanford's Graduate School of Business -- proving that the school "misled thousands of applicants and donors about the way it distributes fellowship aid and financial assistance to its MBA students," reports Poets&Quants. The information was unearthed by a current MBA student, Adam Allcock, in February of this year from a shared network directory accessible to any student, faculty member or staffer of the business school. In the same month, on Feb. 23, the student reported the breach to Jack Edwards, director of financial aid, and the records were removed within an hour of his meeting with Edwards. Allcock, however, says he spent 1,500 hours analyzing the data and compiling an 88-page report on it... Allcock's discovery that more money is being used by Stanford to entice the best students with financial backgrounds suggests an admissions strategy that helps the school achieve the highest starting compensation packages of any MBA program in the world. That is largely because prior work experience in finance is generally required to land jobs in the most lucrative finance fields in private equity, venture capital and hedge funds. Half the school's students are awarded financial aid, and though Stanford always insisted it was awarded based only on need, the report concluded the school had been "lying to their faces" for more than a decade, also identifying evidece of "systemic biases against international students." Besides the embarrassing exposure of their financial aid policies, there's another obvious lesson, writes Slashdot reader twentysixV. "It's actually way too easy for users to improperly secure their files in a shared file system, especially if the users aren't particularly familiar with security settings." Especially since Friday the university also reported another university-wide file-sharing platform had exposed "a variety of information from several campus offices, including Clery Act reports of sexual violence and some confidential student disciplinary information from six to 10 years ago."

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Ex-NSA worker pleads guilty to taking data involved in Russian hack

Engadget - Sat, 2017-12-02 22:03
The NSA hasn't been having the best week when it comes to security, but it's getting at least some closure. A former employee, now known as Nghia Pho, has pleaded guilty to bringing home classified data that was later stolen in a hack linked to Russ...

'App Truthers' Question the Accuracy of the Domino's Pizza Tracker

SlashDot - Sat, 2017-12-02 21:54
Despite the fact that 60% of its pizza orders arrive digitally, "A growing number of Domino's delivery customers are casting a critical eye at the company's online pizza-tracking app," reports the lifestyle editor at Fox News. "More specifically, they think it's a bunch of crap." Fault-finding app users -- or "app truthers," as The Wall Street Journal calls them -- are subscribing to the notion that the Domino's pizza tracker is nothing but a bunch of smoke and mirrors. One user who spoke with the Journal claims his app told him that "Melinda" would be arriving shortly with his order, but when he opened the door, a delivery man he already knew handed him the pizza. "Ever since then, I knew everything they said, I felt, was made up," he said. Another man claims the tracker told him his pizza was en route, even though he could see the Domino's restaurant from his house, and there was no sign of the pizza being out for delivery. Others claim the pizza app told them their food had been delivered when it hadn't, or that there were huge discrepancies between when their pies were supposed to be delivered and when they actually arrived. A whole thread on Reddit suggests that the app is just an automated timer disguised to look like a real-time tracker. In a statement Domino's blamed the problem on employees not entering correct data, while also insisting that "the vast majority of the time Pizza Tracker works as designed." According to the article, "A person who claimed to be a Domino's employee also said nearly as much in a 2015 Reddit thread. He/she added that the name of the person preparing the pizza -- as far as the app is concerned -- is usually the manager.

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California axes self-driving car rule limiting liability for crashes

Engadget - Sat, 2017-12-02 20:34
California has been happy to tweak the rules to get more self-driving cars on the road, but it still has its limits. The state's DMV has eliminated a planned rule (suggested by GM) that would have let companies avoid liability for an autonomous vehi...

How Converting A C++ Game to JavaScript Gave Us WebAssembly

SlashDot - Sat, 2017-12-02 19:49
Slashdot reader Beeftopia shares "a detailed history of WebAssembly...from one of the developers." IEEE Spectrum reports that "Like a lot of stories about tech innovation, this one started with video games." [Mozilla's Alon Zakai] wanted to take a game he had helped write in C++ and convert it to JavaScript code that would run well on the Web. This was in 2010, and back then, converting C++ to JavaScript was unthinkable... so he started working to adapt an open-source tool that could translate C++ code into JavaScript automatically. He called his project Emscripten... we were able to formalize the permitted JavaScript patterns, to make the contract between Emscripten and the browser completely clear. We named the resulting subset of JavaScript asm.js... I would optimize the JavaScript engine in Firefox to run the resulting code even faster... This brings us to the present... Emscripten can take code written in C++ and convert it directly into WebAssembly. And there will be ways in time to run other languages as well, including Rust, Lua, Python, Java, and C#. With WebAssembly, multimillion-line code bases can now load in a few seconds and then run at 80 percent of the speed of native programs. And both load time and execution speed are expected to improve as the browser engines that run the code are made better. They'd started with a C++ game because "If we could make games run well on the Web, other computationally intensive applications would soon follow." The article -- by Mozilla software engineer Luke Wagner -- remembers that the name Emscripten was a "a mash-up of 'script' from JavaScript and 'embiggen' from the TV show The Simpsons."

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NASA wakes up Voyager's slumbering thrusters 37 years later

Engadget - Sat, 2017-12-02 19:05
NASA's Voyager 1 has been drifting farther and farther away from our planet for the past 40 years. Now, the agency has ensured that it can maintain contact with the farthest spacecraft from Earth for at least two to three more years by waking up a se...

Shouting 'Pay Your Taxes', Activists Occupy Apple Stores in France

SlashDot - Sat, 2017-12-02 18:44
An anonymous reader quotes MarketWatch: A group of global activists stormed and occupied several Apple Stores in France on Saturday in a move aimed at pressuring the company to pay up on a €13 billion ($15.5 billion) tax bill to the European Union. In a press release, the France unit of the Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions and Citizen's Action organization (Attac), said 100 of its members occupied the Opera Apple Store in Paris, demanding the company pay its taxes... Attac said dozens of protests were organized at other Apple store locations throughout France on Saturday. In the Paris store, activists were seen via videos circulating on Twitter, pushing past security and hanging a banner that said "We will stop when Apple pays." Security in Paris reportedly evacuated Apple workers from the building as those protests began. After three hours they left the store -- leaving behind protest messages on the iPads on display. The group claims that Apple has stashed $230 billion in tax havens around the world, but also hopes to raise awareness about other issues. "Attac said the action was part of the #PhoneRevolt movement aimed at highlighting unfair practices by Apple, that are not just about taxes, but also pollution via extraction of metals for its phones, worker exploitation and driving a global consumption binge."

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Man aping TV show tries to make sword, scorches city, says mayor - CNET

CNET News - Sat, 2017-12-02 17:46
Commentary: A New York man allegedly sees the TV show "Forged In Fire," gets inspired, and leaves 32 buildings damaged.

Valuable Republican Donor Database Breached -- By Other Republicans

SlashDot - Sat, 2017-12-02 17:39
Politico reports: Staffers for Senate Republicans' campaign arm seized information on more than 200,000 donors from the House GOP campaign committee over several months this year by breaking into its computer system, three sources with knowledge of the breach told Politico... Multiple NRSC staffers, who previously worked for the NRCC, used old database login information to gain access to House Republicans' donor lists this year. The donor list that was breached is among the NRCC's most valuable assets, containing not only basic contact information like email addresses and phone numbers but personal information that could be used to entice donors to fork over cash -- information on top issues and key states of interest to different people, the names of family members, and summaries of past donation history... Donor lists like these are of such value to party committees that they can use them as collateral to obtain loans worth millions of dollars when they need cash just before major elections... "The individuals on these lists are guaranteed money," said a Republican fundraiser. "They will give. These are not your regular D.C. PAC list"... The list has helped the NRCC raise over $77 million this year to defend the House in 2018... Though the House and Senate campaign arms share the similar goal of electing Republican candidates and often coordinate strategy in certain states, they operate on distinct tracks and compete for money from small and large donors. Long-time Slashdot reader SethJohnson says the data breach "is the result of poor deprovisioning policies within the House Republican Campaign Committee -- allowing staff logins to persist after a person has left the organization." NRCC officials who learned of the breach "are really pissed," one source told the site.

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