Google Makes Sharing Plus Codes Easier in a Push To Simplify Addressing System Globally
Two years ago, Google
open-sourced Plus Codes, a digital addressing system to help billions of people navigate to places that don't have clear addresses. The company said this week it is
making it easier for anyone with an Android device to share its rendition of an address -- a six-digit alphanumeric code. From a report:
Google Maps users on Android can now tap the blue dot that represents their current location to view and share their unique six-digit coordinate with friends. Anyone with the code can look it up on Google Maps or Google Search to get the precise location of the destination. The codes look like this: G6G4+CJ Delhi, India. Google says it divides the geographical surface of the world into tiled areas and attributes a unique six-letter code and the name of the city and country to each of them. More than 2 billion people on the planet either don't have an address or have an address that isn't easy to locate. This challenge is more prevalent in developed markets such as India where a street address could often be as long as a paragraph, and where people often rely on nearby landmarks to navigate their way.
Translation From VC-Backed PR Jargon To English of Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz's Statement That He's 'Stepping Down'
From a company-wide memo sent by Rony Abovitz, the founder of Magic Leap, which has raised nearly $3 billion from high-profile investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Google, AT&T, NTT DoCoMo, Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, JP Morgan, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers:
As we've shared over the last several weeks, in order to set Magic Leap on a course for success, we have pivoted to focus on delivering a spatial computing platform for enterprise.
Technology columnist John Gruber, translates:
As nearly everyone has finally realized, our actual technology is nothing at all like what we promised, lied about for years, and sold gullible deep-pocketed investors on. Our con is falling apart at the seams, so we'll milk the last few dollars out of the only investors dumb enough to give us even more money, by repeating the word "enterprise" and doing that thing with our fingers like Obi-Wan Kenobi. Magic Leap's memo adds:
We have closed significant new funding and have very positive momentum towards closing key strategic enterprise partnerships. Gruber,
You're not going to believe this but we somehow raised another $350 million. I know, right? Magic Leap:
As the board and I planned the changes we made and what Magic Leap needs for this next focused phase, it became clear to us that a change in my role was a natural next step. Gruber:
Everyone agrees the jig is up. Magic Leap:
I discussed this with the board and we have agreed that now is the time to bring in a new CEO who can help us to commercialize our focused plan for spatial computing in enterprise. We have been actively recruiting candidates for this role and I look forward to sharing more soon. Gruber:
Our Craigslist ad: "Florida company seeks Bernie Madoff type." Magic Leap:
I have been leading Magic Leap since 2011 (starting in my garage). We have created a new field. A new medium. And together we have defined the future of computing. Gruber:
No one will remember us or anything we've doneâ--âunless Netflix makes one of those documentaries like the Fyre Festival one. I love that movie. Which makes me think maybe we should change our Craigslist ad to "Billy McFarland type." Actually, when does he get out of prison?
Twitter Flags Trump and White House Tweets About Minneapolis Protests for 'Glorifying Violence'
Twitter placed a notice on a tweet from President Trump, shielding it from view for
breaking what the company said are its rules about glorifying violence
[Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source]. From a report:
Mr. Trump's tweet was a comment on the violent protests in Minnesota. The post can now only be seen after users click a box with a notice saying it violated Twitter's rules against encouraging violence, but it otherwise remains visible. "We've taken action in the interest of preventing others from being inspired to commit violent acts, but have kept the Tweet on Twitter because it is important that the public still be able to see the Tweet given its relevance to ongoing matters of public importance," Twitter said on its official communications account.
This is the first time such a step has been taken against a head of state for breaking Twitter's rules about glorifying violence, a company spokesman said. The company said users' ability to interact with the tweet will be limited, and that users can retweet it with comment, but not like, reply to, or otherwise retweet it. "...These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won't let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!," Mr. Trump's tweet said. The official account of the White House, which tweeted Trump's message,
has been flagged as well.
Miss Your Office? Some Companies Are Building Virtual Replicas
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal:
Stay-home orders and the shuttering of workplaces have given corporate employees some respite from getting dragged into time-wasting water-cooler conversations. But some companies and their employees don't want to leave everything about the office behind, it turns out, and are replicating their offices in "SimCity"-like simulations online. File-transfer service WeTransfer BV opened its virtual space on May 1, almost seven weeks after closing its physical offices in New York, Los Angeles and Amsterdam as part of the global effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
Graphics reminiscent of early "Tomb Raider" videogames depict a version of the company's Dutch headquarters, adapted to include pool tables, techno music and in-jokes such as a "memorial" library named for the very- much-alive chief creative officer. Staff roam around in the form of avatars such as robots and panda bears. Gordon Willoughby, the chief executive of WeTransfer, said the platform helps provide the social experience of office life in the way that Zoom calls and Slack have replaced business meetings and desk-side chats. That is particularly valuable for recent hires, he said. [...] Although clients can use Breakroom to create their office utopia, the platform also enables real-world elements such additional privileges for senior staff. In Sine Wave's own virtual world, senior members can lock the boardroom, which is located on top of a hill overlooking the rest of the office.
Ancient Mass Extinction Tied To Ozone Loss, Warming Climate
Iwastheone shares a report from Science Magazine:
The end of the Devonian period, 359 million years ago, was an eventful time: Fish were inching out of the ocean, and fernlike forests were advancing on land. The world was recovering from a mass extinction 12 million years earlier, but the climate was still chaotic, swinging between hothouse conditions and freezes so deep that glaciers formed in the tropics. And then, just as the planet was warming from one of these ice ages, another extinction struck, seemingly without reason. Now, spores from fernlike plants, preserved in ancient lake sediments from eastern Greenland, suggest a culprit: The planet's protective ozone layer was suddenly stripped away, exposing surface life to a blast of mutation-causing ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
Just as the extinction set in, the spores became misshapen and dark, indicating DNA damage, John Marshall, a palynologist at the University of Southampton, and his co-authors say in a paper published in Science Advances. It's evidence, he says, that "all of the ozone protection is gone." Scientists have long believed -- at least before humanity became a force for extinction -- that there were just two ways to wipe out life on Earth: an asteroid strike or massive volcanic eruptions. But 2 years ago, researchers found evidence that in Earth's worst extinction -- the end-Permian, 252 million years ago -- volcanoes lofted Siberian salt deposits into the stratosphere, where they might have fed chemical reactions that obliterated the ozone layer and sterilized whole forests. Now, spores from the end-Devonian make a compelling case that, even without eruptions, a warming climate can deplete the ozone layer, says Lauren Sallan, a paleobiologist at the University of Pennsylvania. "Because the evidence is so strong, it will make people rethink other mass extinction events."
Vulcan Is Closing 'The Living Computers: Museum + Labs' In Seattle
Buried in the news of several closures by Vulcan, a venture by the late Paul Allen, is that Seattle's Living Computers museum is among the closures, along with Seattle's Cinerama movie theater.
"Two museums under the Vulcan wing, closed because of the pandemic, will also remain shuttered: the Living Computers: Museum + Labs and the Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum," reports The Seattle Times. "For both, the Vulcan statement said, the coming months will be a time to evaluate 'if, how and when to reopen.' The Living Computers: Museum + Labs, described on Vulcan's website as 'the world's largest collection of fully restored supercomputers, mainframes, minicomputers and more,' opened in Sodo in 2012 and was expanded in 2016. Its offerings included not only selections from Allen's vast personal collection, but hands-on exhibits on virtual reality, self-driving cars, robotics, and computer-generated art and music."
Uber Destroys Thousands of Bikes and Scooters
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC:
Uber is destroying thousands of electric bikes and scooters, after selling its Jump business to Lime. Videos of its red bikes being crushed at a recycling centre were shared on social media, angering cycling advocates. Uber said it had decided to destroy thousands of its older-model vehicles due to maintenance, liability and safety concerns.
In 2018, Uber said it would focus more on its electric bike and scooter business than on cars. But on May 7 this year, Uber announced a deal that saw Lime take over the Jump bike business. As part of the deal, Uber invested $170 million in Lime, while Lime acquired "tens of thousands" of Uber's Jump bikes -- and the associated intellectual property. Lime's chief executive Wayne Ting has said he prefers the design of Uber's bikes and will deploy more of them in the future. However, there were also "tens of thousands" of older-model bikes that Lime did not inherit as part of the deal. Videos shared on Twitter show the bikes arriving at a recycling facility in North Carolina to be destroyed. "We explored donating the remaining, older-model bikes," Uber said in a statement. "But given many significant issues -- including maintenance, liability, safety concerns, and a lack of consumer-grade charging equipment -- we decided the best approach was to responsibly recycle them."
The decision to destroy these bikes comes
amid a national bike shortage. "We have never seen anything like this in a very long time," said Dave Nghiem at College Park Bicycles in College Park, MD. "We have never locked down half the planet like this so they can't do their jobs to build bikes. So, no one has been building bikes for three months. If no one is building bikes, there's no bikes on the continent," said Dave.
Bike Share Museum seems to think
it is all about killing Jump, "destroying every bike they can, and slowly taking Lime down in the process." He adds: "We also can't emphasize enough how disgusting it is for UBER to scrap 20,000 bicycles in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic where bicycles have literally become an object of survival. Heavy as they are, these could be transportation for the many who have been brought to financial ruin during COVID-19."
Germany Calls In Russian Envoy Over Hack Attack
In response to a cyberattack on the German Parliament in 2015, Germany
wants to impose a European travel ban and asset freeze on those responsible. Reuters reports:
Russia has rejected allegations that its military intelligence was behind the cyber attack after media reported that data had been stolen, including emails from Chancellor Angela Merkel's constituency office. State Secretary Miguel Berger told the ambassador that the government would call for the EU's cyber sanctions mechanism to be invoked against those responsible for the attack, said the German ministry in a statement. The EU last year approved a system to freeze hackers' assets in the bloc and banning them from entry.
Federal prosecutors issued an arrest warrant on May 5 for Russian national Dmitry Badin over the attack and the German ministry said there was credible evidence that he was part of the GRU military intelligence service at the time of the attack. "The arrest warrant against Mr Badin was issued on the basis of the strong suspicion that the accused conspired with other hitherto anonymous persons to carry out intelligence activities against Germany on behalf of the secret service of a foreign power," said the ministry. In a statement on Wednesday, the Russian embassy in Berlin said German officials so far had not been able to present facts to underpin the accusations against Moscow.
ACLU Accuses Clearview AI of Privacy 'Nightmare Scenario'
The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday
sued the facial recognition start-up Clearview AI
(alternative source), which claims to have helped hundreds of law enforcement agencies use online photos to solve crimes, accusing the company of "unlawful, privacy-destroying surveillance activities." The New York Times reports:
In a suit filed in Illinois, the A.C.L.U. said that Clearview violated a state law that forbids companies from using a resident's fingerprints or face scans without consent. Under the law, residents have the right to sue companies for up to $5,000 per privacy violation. "The bottom line is that, if left unchecked, Clearview's product is going to end privacy as we know it," said Nathan Freed Wessler, a lawyer at the A.C.L.U., "and we're taking the company to court to prevent that from happening."
The suit, filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, adds to the growing backlash against Clearview since January, when The New York Times reported that the company had amassed a database of more than three billion photos across the internet, including from Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Venmo. This trove of photos enables anyone with the Clearview app to match a person to their online photos and find links back to the sites where the images originated. People in New York and Vermont have also filed suits in against the company in recent months, and the state attorneys general of Vermont and New Jersey have ordered Clearview to stop collecting residents' photos. According to the A.C.L.U. suit, "Clearview has set out to do what many companies have intentionally avoided out of ethical concerns: create a mass database of billions of face prints of people, including millions of Illinoisans, entirely unbeknownst to those people, and offer paid access to that database to private and governmental actors worldwide." The company's business model, the complaint said, "appears to embody the nightmare scenario" of a "private company capturing untold quantities of biometric data for purposes of surveillance and tracking without notice to the individuals affected, much less their consent."
Google Sued by Arizona Over Location Data and Alleged Consumer Fraud
Google has been hit by a lawsuit filed by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, alleging the search giant
deceived its users in order to collect location data from their phones. From a report:
The company generates the vast majority of its revenue through its massive advertising operation, which is buttressed by personal information Google collects when people use its products. But users were "lulled into a false sense of security" because Google led users to believe they disabled settings for location data gathering, when they were still turned on, Brnovich wrote on Twitter. "Google collects detailed information about its users, including their physical locations, to target users for advertising," Brnovich wrote. "Often, this is done without the users' consent or knowledge." The lawsuit seeks damages, but the amount is unclear. Brnovich's office didn't respond to a request for comment.
Google Launches Android Studio 4.0 With Motion Editor, Build Analyzer, and Java 8 APIs
An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat:
Google today launched Android Studio 4.0, the latest version of its integrated development environment (IDE). Android Studio 4.0 is supposed to help developers "code smarter, build faster, and design apps." Version 4.0 includes a new Motion Editor, a Build Analyzer, and Java 8 language APIs. Google also overhauled the CPU Profiler user interface and improved the Layout Inspector. [In the article] you'll find Android Studio 4.0 features broken down by category: design, develop, and build. The new version also includes the usual performance improvements and bug fixes on top of the new features (full release notes). Google didn't share its plans for the next version. Normally we'd get hints at the company's I/O developer conference, but 2020 is a weird year.
YouTube Says China-Linked Comment Deletions Weren't Caused By Outside Parties
YouTube sparked widespread speculation about its moderation policies this week after it
admitted to accidentally deleting comments that contained phrases critical of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Today, the company told The Verge that the issue
was not the result of outside interference -- an explanation for the error floated by many. The Verge reports:
The phrases that triggered automatic deletion included "communist bandit" and "50-cent party," a slang term for internet users paid to defend the CCP. Some speculated that an outside group, perhaps connected to the CCP, manipulated YouTube's automated filters by repeatedly reporting these phrases, causing the algorithm to tag them as offensive. Speaking to The Verge, YouTube spokesperson Alex Joseph denied that this happened and said that, contrary to popular belief, YouTube never removes comments only on the basis of user reports.
"This was not the result of outside interference, and we only remove content when our enforcement system determines it violates our Community Guidelines, not solely because it's flagged by users," said Joseph. "This was an error with our enforcement systems and we have rolled out a fix."
NSA Warns of Ongoing Russian Hacking Campaign Against US Systems
The U.S. National Security Agency on Thursday
warned government partners and private companies about a Russian hacking operation that uses a special intrusion technique to target operating systems often used by industrial firms to manage computer infrastructure. Reuters reports:
"This is a vulnerability that is being actively exploited, that's why we're bringing this notification out," said Doug Cress, chief of the cybersecurity collaboration center and directorate at NSA. "We really want... the broader cybersecurity community to take this seriously." Cress declined to discuss which business sectors had been most affected, how many organizations were compromised using the Russian technique, or whether the cyber espionage operation targeted a specific geographic region.
The NSA said the hacking activity was tied directly to a specific unit within Russia's Main Intelligence Directorate, also known as the GRU, named the Main Center for Special Technologies. The cybersecurity research community refers to this same hacking group as "Sandworm," and has previously connected it to disruptive cyberattacks against Ukrainian electric production facilities. A security alert published by the NSA on Thursday explains how hackers with GRU, Russia's military intelligence, are leveraging a software vulnerability in Exim, a mail transfer agent common on Unix-based operating systems, such as Linux. The vulnerability was patched last year, but some users have not updated their systems to close the security gap.
A $350 'Anti-5G' Device Is Just a 128MB USB Stick, Teardown Finds
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica:
Believers of 5G conspiracy theories have apparently been buying a $350 anti-5G USB key that -- not surprisingly -- appears to just be a regular USB stick with only 128MB of storage. As noted by the BBC today, the "5GBioShield" USB stick "was recommended by a member of Glastonbury Town Council's 5G Advisory Committee, which has called for an inquiry into 5G." The company that sells 5GBioShield claims it "is the result of the most advanced technology currently available for balancing and prevention of the devastating effects caused by non-natural electric waves, particularly (but not limited to) 5G, for all biological life forms." The product's website charges 283 British pounds for a single 5GBioShield, which converts to nearly $350. That's what it costs to get "protection for your home and family, thanks to the wearable holographic nano-layer catalyser, which can be worn or placed near to a smartphone or any other electrical, radiation or EMF emitting device." The USB stick apparently doesn't need to be plugged in to anything to work its magic. "It is always ON and working -- that's why we used quantum nano-layer technology," the company says in an FAQ.
But what does the 5GBioShield actually consist of? The BBC pointed to a recent teardown by security company Pen Test Partners, which found that the device is just a USB stick with 128MB of storage. The company wrote: "When plugged in to our test machine we may have missed the bubble of 'quantum holographic catalyzer technology' appearing. The stick comes loaded with a 25 page PDF version of the material from 5GBioShield's website. It included a Q&A of distances for the "bubble" and how to know if it is working. It's an "always on" system apparently, is always working, powered or not, so no visual checks needed. A review of the stick's properties revealed nothing more than what you'd expect from a regular 128MB USB key. We weren't even sure that 128s are still in production!" The report says that the London Trading Standards has launched a probe to investigate this product.
How will the company defend itself? BioShield Distribution Director Anna Grochowalska told the BBC, "We are in possession of a great deal of technical information, with plenty of back-up historical research," and "we are not authorized to fully disclose all this sensitive information to third parties, for obvious reasons."
The Most Powerful Raspberry Pi Now Has 8GB of RAM
The Raspberry Pi Foundation has doubled the maximum amount of RAM available in the
Raspberry Pi 4 to 8GB with a new device it's selling for $75. An anonymous reader writes:
To take advantage of the RAM increase, the foundation is also releasing a new 64-bit version of its operating system in early beta. The new Raspberry Pi 4 is otherwise identical to the device that was announced in June last year, meaning it has the same ARM-based CPU, and HDMI, USB 3, and Ethernet ports. 8GB is a lot of RAM considering the Raspberry Pi's size and price. It's the same as many flagship smartphones released this year, and enough for an entry-level gaming PC. The Raspberry Pi Foundation says the additional memory should be useful for compiling large pieces of software, running heavy server workloads, or maybe just having more browser tabs open at once. We're sure that it won't take long for the community to come up with many interesting uses.