Richard Stallman Resigns From MIT
reporting the unfortunate news that famed free software advocate and computer scientist Richard Stallman
has resigned from MIT. Slashdot reader
Following outrage over his remarks about Jefferey Epstein's victims, Richard Stallman has resigned from his position in MIT, effective immediately. I'm sure everyone in the Slashdot community will miss him -- even if you didn't enjoy his work, there's no denying his contributions to popular culture. Truly an American icon. "I am resigning effective immediately from my position in CSAIL at MIT," Stallman
wrote in an email, referring to MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. "I am doing this due to pressure on MIT and me over a series of misunderstandings and mischaracterizations."
Stallman also resigned as president from the Free Software Foundation (FSF) as well as from the organization's board of directors, FSF
announced shortly after.
Spouse of Ring Exec Among Lawmakers Trying To Weaken California Privacy Law
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica:
The California legislature worked through the summer to finalize the text of the state's landmark data privacy law before time to make amendments ran out on Friday. In the Assembly (California's lower house), Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin has been a key voice and vote backing motions that would weaken the law, and a new report says her reasoning may be very, very close to home. A review of state ethics documents conducted by Politico found that Ms. Irwin is married to Jon Irwin, the chief operating officer of Amazon's controversial Ring home surveillance business. That company stands to benefit if the California law is weakened in certain key ways before it can take effect.
One proposal put forth by Assemblywoman Irwin would expand what kind of data would be exempt from CCPA provisions, and this drew the ire of consumer protection groups, Politico reports. Irwin also initially proposed striking out "a provision requiring companies to disclose or delete data associated with 'households' upon request," a regulation that will likely affect companies like Ring. She also voted against an amendment that would have required smart speaker systems, like Amazon's Alexa or Google Home, to obtain user consent to sell recorded conversations, and "used store security-camera footage as an example of data that would be burdensome and risky for businesses to be required to link to consumers in response to data-deletion requests." Assemblywoman Irwin told Politico she found questions about her spouse to be offensive, given her own personal background as a systems engineer. "My role in the privacy debate in the Legislature is focused on bringing people together and solving the practical issues posed to us as policy makers and is independent of any job or role my husband may have," she said. The California Consumer Privacy Act was signed into law
in June 2018 by California nGovernor Gavin Newsom. "This legislation gives California residents several protections with regard to their personal information, including the rights to know what is being collected, what is being sold, and to whom it is being sold," reports Ars Technica. "It also grants Californians the right to access their personal information, the right to delete data collected from them, and the right to opt out -- without being charged extra for services if they choose to do so."
Milton's Notes On Shakespeare Appear To Have Been Found
Almost 400 years after the first folio of Shakespeare was published in 1623, scholars believe they
have identified the early owner of one copy of the text, who made hundreds of insightful annotations throughout: John Milton. The Guardian reports:
The astonishing find, which academics say could be one of the most important literary discoveries of modern times, was made by Cambridge University fellow Jason Scott-Warren when he was reading an article about the anonymous annotator by Pennsylvania State University English professor Claire Bourne. Bourne's study of this copy, which has been housed in the Free Library of Philadelphia since 1944, dated the annotator to the mid-17th century, finding them alive to "the sense, accuracy, and interpretative possibility of the dialogue." She also provided many images of the handwritten notes, which struck Scott-Warren as looking oddly similar to Milton's hand.
The first folio is the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays, published seven years after his death. Without it, 18 plays including Macbeth and The Tempest might have been lost to history. Around 750 first folios were printed, with 233 known to survive. They command huge sums at auction, with one selling for 1.87 million pounds three years ago. Scott-Warren has made a detailed comparison of the annotator's handwriting with the Paradise Lost poet's. He also believes that the work the annotator did to improve the text of the folio -- suggesting corrections and supplying additional material such as the prologue to Romeo and Juliet, along with cross-references to other works -- is similar to work Milton did in other books that survive from his library, including his copy of Boccaccio's Life of Dante.
Drivers May Choose Electric Car Alert Sounds, US Proposal Says
The NHTSA is now
proposing drivers be able to select an electric-car alert sound at speeds under 18.6 mph. "NHTSA wants the public's opinion 'on whether there should be a limit to the number of compliant sounds that a manufacturer can install in a vehicle and what that limit should be,'" adds CNET. From the report:
As of this month, automakers are required to equip 50% of their "quiet cars," which applies to silent electric vehicles, with an alert noise at low speeds. The rules, first brought about in 2010, have been delayed for years, but come 2020, every quiet vehicle will need the alert mechanism. Regulators concluded cars make enough noise from tire and wind noise to forego the alert above 18.6 mph (that's 30 kph in case you're wondering why so precise a figure). Think of the sound as a gentle reminder when strolling through parking lots with cars backing out of spaces and crawling through the area. It's nice to hear a car approach, and something we take for granted with internal-combustion engines. NHTSA said the alert will help prevent 2,400 injuries annually.
CentOS 8 To Be Released Next Week
The CentOS Project has announced that CentOS 8.0 will be available for download beginning Tuesday, September 24. This release was deferred so that work to release CentOS 7.7 could be completed, which means that CentOS 7.7 will be out shortly as well (and 7.7 it is already beginning to appear in mirrors and repos). This comes 20 weeks to the day from the release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8.
Apple Takes On EU's Vestager In Record $14 Billion Tax Fight
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg:
Apple fights the world's biggest tax case in a quiet courtroom this week, trying to rein in the European Union's powerful antitrust chief ahead of a potential new crackdown on internet giants. The iPhone maker can tell the EU General Court in Luxembourg that it's the world's biggest taxpayer. But that's not enough for EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager who said in a 2016 ruling that Apple's tax deals with Ireland allowed the company to pay far less than other businesses. The court must now weigh whether regulators were right to levy a record 13 billion-euro ($14.4 billion) tax bill.
A court ruling, likely to take months, could empower or halt Vestager's tax probes, which are now centering on fiscal deals done by Amazon.com and Alphabet. She's also been tasked with coming up with a "fair European tax" by the end of 2020 if global efforts to reform digital taxation don't make progress. Vestager showed her determination to fight the tax cases to the end by opening new probes into 39 companies' tax deals with Belgium on Monday. The move addresses criticism by the same court handling the Apple challenge. A February judgment threw out her 2016 order for them to pay back about 800 million euros. At the same time she's pushing for "fair international tax rules so that digitization doesn't allow companies to avoid paying their fair share of tax," according to a speech to German ambassadors last month. She urged them to use "our influence to build an international environment that helps us reach our goals" in talks on a new global agreement to tax technology firms. After the 2016 EU order, Apple CEO Tim Cook blasted the EU move as "total political crap." "The company's legal challenge claims the EU wrongly targeted profits that should be taxed in the U.S. and 'retroactively changed the rules' on how global authorities calculate what's owed to them," reports Bloomberg.
Faster Wi-Fi Officially Launches Today
The Wi-Fi Alliance, the organization that oversees implementation of the Wi-Fi standard,
is launching its official Wi-Fi 6 certification program. "That might sound boring, but it means the
Wi-Fi 6 standard is truly ready to go, and tech companies will soon be able to advertise their products -- mostly brand new ones -- as certified to properly support Wi-Fi 6," reports The Verge. From the report:
So the point of Wi-Fi 6 is to boost speeds within a crowded network. The theoretical maximum speed for Wi-Fi is increasing, too -- to 9.6 Gbps from 3.5 Gbps -- but those numbers don't really matter since you'll never get them at home. What matters is that Wi-Fi 6 has a bunch of tools allowing it to operate faster and deliver more data at once, so the speeds you actually get will be higher than before. Those gains will be most noticeable on crowded networks, where the efficiency improvements will make up for the higher Wi-Fi demands. (Wi-Fi 6 also mandates a major security improvement.)
Really, though, today's launch is largely a formality. The Wi-Fi certification program -- while important, and very much marking the beginning of the Wi-Fi 6 era -- isn't required, and companies have been rolling out Wi-Fi 6 devices for months that likely work just fine. But the Wi-Fi Alliance is made up of members of the tech industry big and small, and its actions represent what wireless features and technologies they're interested in delivering, so this is a clear sign that Wi-Fi 6 has arrived. All that said, this week's biggest news for Wi-Fi 6 has no immediate connection to the Alliance: it's that the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro go on sale, and both support Wi-Fi 6. That's going to quickly put millions of Wi-Fi 6 devices into people's hands, meaning adoption of the new tech will very suddenly be well underway.
MIT Unveils New 'Blackest Black' Material and Makes a Diamond Disappear
An anonymous reader shares a report:
What do you do with a $2 million natural yellow diamond? If you're at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, you coat it in a wild high-tech material that makes any object look like it fell into a black hole. The coated diamond is now a piece of art called The Redemption of Vanity, a collaboration between Diemut Strebe, artist-in-residence at the MIT Center for Art, Science and Technology, and Brian Wardle an MIT aeronautics and astronautics professor. The diamond will be on exhibit at the New York Stock Exchange until Nov. 25, giving viewers a chance to see MIT's new carbon nanotube material in action. "The unification of extreme opposites in one object and the particular aesthetic features of the CNTs caught my imagination for this art project," Strebe said in an MIT release. MIT described the carbon nanotubes as "microscopic filaments of carbon, like a fuzzy forest of tiny trees" that's grown on an aluminum foil surface. "The foil captures more than 99.96 percent of any incoming light, making it the blackest material on record," MIT said.
Password-Leaking Bug Purged From LastPass Extensions
Developers of the LastPass password manager have patched a vulnerability that
made it possible for websites to steal credentials for the last account the user logged into using the Chrome or Opera extension. Ars Technica reports:
The vulnerability was discovered late last month by Google Project Zero researcher Tavis Ormandy, who privately reported it to LastPass. In a write-up that became public on Sunday, Ormandy said the flaw stemmed from the way the extension generated popup windows. In certain situations, websites could produce a popup by creating an HTML iframe that linked to the Lastpass popupfilltab.html window, rather than through the expected procedure of calling a function called do_popupregister(). In some cases, this unexpected method caused the popups to open with a password of the most recently visited site. "Because do_popupregister() is never called, ftd_get_frameparenturl() just uses the last cached value in g_popup_url_by_tabid for the current tab," Ormandy wrote. "That means via some clickjacking, you can leak the credentials for the previous site logged in for the current tab."
On Friday, LastPass published a post that said the bugs had been fixed and described the "limited set of circumstances" required for the flaws to be exploited. "To exploit this bug, a series of actions would need to be taken by a LastPass user including filling a password with the LastPass icon, then visiting a compromised or malicious site and finally being tricked into clicking on the page several times," LastPass representative Ferenc Kun wrote. "This exploit may result in the last site credentials filled by LastPass to be exposed. We quickly worked to develop a fix and verified the solution was comprehensive with Tavis."
Facebook Advertisers Can Write Their Own Headlines For Shared News Stories
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBC.ca:
Advertisers on Facebook are able to completely rewrite the displayed headline for news stories, CBC News has learned, opening the door for potential disinformation to spread on the platform while using news media branding as cover. When placing an ad on the platform, one option is to include a link to a website, including links to news stories. The news story's real headline is auto-filled into the ad copy, but advertisers have the option to rewrite the headline. However, the article's website address still appears in the ad, giving the impression that the headline is the one written by the article's author. This policy raises the possibility that it could be abused by political parties or third-party advertisers during the federal election campaign. The article provides an example where the UK's Conservative Party
ran an ad containing a BBC article whose headline was, "14 billion pound cash boost for schools." However, the actual BBC story is headlined "School spending: Multi-billion pound cash boost announced," and instead put the number at 7.1 billion pounds, criticizing the government's use of 14 billion pound figure as not the usual way of calculating spending.
Facebook is aware of the issue and said it is planning changes. "We have a system that gives publishers control over how their links appear on Facebook. We're working to put additional safeguards in place by the end of this year to make sure advertisers don't misuse this tool," said a Facebook spokesperson in an email to CBC News.
CBS and MIT's 1960 Documentary On AI Is a Gem
FastCompany magazine editor and Slashdot reader
On the night of October 26, 1960, CBS aired a special -- coproduced with MIT -- about an emerging field of technology called 'artificial intelligence.' It featured demos -- like a checkers-playing computer and one that wrote scripts for TV westerns -- along with sound bits from leading scientists on the question of whether machines would ever think. It was well reviewed at the time and then mostly forgotten. But it's available on YouTube, and surprisingly relevant to today's AI challenges, 59 years later.
Netflix Lands 'Seinfeld' Rights in $500M-Plus Deal After Losing 'Friends' and 'The Office'
Seinfeld will be master of a new domain starting in 2021. From a report:
Netflix has landed worldwide rights to the iconic sitcom in a five-year deal with distributor Sony. The show will move from current rightsholder Hulu when its deal is up in 2021. Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the new Seinfeld streaming deal is worth more than $500 million and covers global rights. By comparison, The Office and Friends moved to NBC's streaming platform and HBO Max, respectively, for similar valuations that only covered domestic. The deal, sources stress, was competitive with Netflix beating out rich offers from the likes of Amazon, NBC's streamer, HBO Max, Hulu and CBS All Access. The acquisition of Seinfeld for the streamer comes after Netflix lost rights to two other classic NBC comedies: Friends, which is moving to WarnerMedia's HBO Max in 2020, and The Office, which will be part of Comcast's streaming platform starting in 2021.
Australia Concludes China Was Behind Hack on Parliament, Political Parties
Australian intelligence determined
China was responsible for a cyber-attack on its
national parliament and
three largest political parties before the general election in May,
Reuters reports. From the report:
Australia's cyber intelligence agency -- the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) -- concluded in March that China's Ministry of State Security was responsible for the attack, the five people with direct knowledge of the findings of the investigation told Reuters. The report, which also included input from the Department of Foreign Affairs, recommended keeping the findings secret in order to avoid disrupting trade relations with Beijing, two of the people said. The Australian government has not disclosed who it believes was behind the attack or any details of the report.
The World Has a Third Pole -- and It's Melting Quickly
An anonymous reader
shares a report:
Many moons ago in Tibet, the Second Buddha transformed a fierce nyen (a malevolent mountain demon) into a neri (the holiest protective warrior god) called Khawa Karpo, who took up residence in the sacred mountain bearing his name. Khawa Karpo is the tallest of the Meili mountain range, piercing the sky at 6,740 metres (22,112ft) above sea level. Local Tibetan communities believe that conquering Khawa Karpo is an act of sacrilege and would cause the deity to abandon his mountain home. Nevertheless, there have been several failed attempts by outsiders -- the best known by an international team of 17, all of whom died in an avalanche during their ascent on 3 January 1991. After much local petitioning, in 2001 Beijing passed a law banning mountaineering there.
However, Khawa Karpo continues to be affronted more insidiously. Over the past two decades, the Mingyong glacier at the foot of the mountain has dramatically receded. Villagers blame disrespectful human behaviour, including an inadequacy of prayer, greater material greed and an increase in pollution from tourism. People have started to avoid eating garlic and onions, burning meat, breaking vows or fighting for fear of unleashing the wrath of the deity. Mingyong is one of the world's fastest shrinking glaciers, but locals cannot believe it will die because their own existence is intertwined with it. Yet its disappearance is almost inevitable.
Khawa Karpo lies at the world's "third pole." This is how glaciologists refer to the Tibetan plateau, home to the vast Hindu Kush-Himalaya ice sheet, because it contains the largest amount of snow and ice after the Arctic and Antarctic -- about 15% of the global total. However, a quarter of its ice has been lost since 1970. This month, in a long-awaited special report on the cryosphere by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), scientists will warn that up to two-thirds of the region's remaining glaciers are on track to disappear by the end of the century. It is expected a third of the ice will be lost in that time even if the internationally agreed target of limiting global warming by 1.5C above pre-industrial levels is adhered to.
There's a Lost Continent 1,000 Miles Under Europe
Scientists have reconstructed the tumultuous history of a lost continent hidden underneath Southern Europe, which has been
formally named "Greater Adria" in a new study. From a report:
This ancient landmass broke free from the supercontinent Gondwana more than 200 million years ago and roamed for another 100 million years before it gradually plunged underneath the Northern Mediterranean basin. Researchers led by Douwe van Hinsbergen, a professor of global tectonics and paleogeography at Utrecht University, have been piecing together Greater Adria's past for a decade. The team collected rock samples from Spain to Iran, looking for the last material remnants of the continent that are accessible to scientists. The results were published this month in the journal Gondwana Research, and include an animated summary of the lost continent's birth, life, and death. Unless you live in an earthquake zone, it can be easy to forget that Earth is constantly cannibalizing its own landmasses. The map of our world morphs over the eons, as continental plates shift around, bump into each other, and undergo subduction, which occurs when one plate slides underneath another.