Google Will Hit 100 Percent Renewable Energy This Year
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Inverse:
Google has announced that after 10 years a carbon-neutral company, it will be able to brag running on entirely renewable energy at the end of 2017. That means that all of the electricity the company consumes in both its data centers and offices are provided by wind and solar energy. Announced in Google's 2017 environmental report, Google says it has created "new energy purchasing models that others can follow" and that "we've helped drive wide-scale global adoption of clean energy." In addition to being an obvious PR boon, the company says its mission of full sustainability fits in with its larger mission. (It also makes the fact that as recently as 2015 Google alone reportedly consumed as much energy as the entire city of San Francisco in a year way more palatable.)
One step the company has recently taken in marrying its ethos of sustainability with its products is a new initiative to equip Google Street View vehicles with air quality sensors. In addition to its goal of being run by renewable energy, Google is also working on achieving zero waste to landfill. Nearly half of the company's 14 data centers have already reached this goal, according to Google executive Urs Holzle's 2017 Google Environmental report released on Tuesday.
US Government Has 'No Right To Rummage' Through Anti-Trump Protest Website Logs, Says Judge
A Washington D.C. judge has told the U.S. Department of Justice it "
does not have the right to rummage" through the files of an anti-Trump protest website -- and has ordered the dot-org site's hosting company to protect the identities of its users. The Register reports:
Chief Judge Robert E. Morin issued the revised order [PDF] Tuesday following a high-profile back and forth between the site's hosting biz DreamHost and prosecutors over what details Uncle Sam was entitled to with respect to the disruptj20.org website. "As previously observed, courts around the country have acknowledged that, in searches for electronically stored information, evidence of criminal activity will likely be intermingled with communications and other records not within the scope of the search warrant," he noted in his ruling. "Because of the potential breadth of the government's review in this case, the warrant in its execution may implicate otherwise innocuous and constitutionally protected activity. As the Court has previously stated, while the government has the right to execute its Warrant, it does not have the right to rummage through the information contained on DreamHost's website and discover the identity of, or access communications by, individuals not participating in alleged criminal activity, particularly those persons who were engaging in protected First Amendment activities." The order then lists a series of protocols designed to protect netizens "to comply with First Amendment and Fourth Amendment considerations, and to prevent the government from obtaining any identifying information of innocent persons."
Qualcomm Fined Record $773 Million In Taiwan Antitrust Probe
According to Bloomberg, Qualcomm was
fined a record NT$23.4 billion ($773 million) by Taiwan's Fair Trade Commission in the latest blow from regulators over the way the U.S. company prices mobile phone chips and patents. From the report:
The company has been violating antitrust rules for at least 7 years and Qualcomm collected NT$400 billion in licensing fees from local companies during that time, the Taiwanese regulator said on its website Wednesday. Qualcomm disagrees with the decision and intends to appeal, the San Diego-based company said in a statement. The Taiwanese regulator said Qualcomm has monopoly market status over key mobile phone standards and by not providing products to clients who don't agree with its conditions, the U.S. company is violating local laws. It said Taiwanese companies had purchased $30 billion worth of Qualcomm baseband chips. Besides the fine, the Fair Trade Commission told Qualcomm to remove previously signed deals that force competitors to provide price, customer names, shipment, model name and other sensitive information as well as other clauses in its agreements.
Is the Chromebook the New Android Tablet?
An anonymous reader shares a report from Computerworld, where JR Raphael makes the case for
why it's time to call the Chromebook the new Android tablet:
What does a traditional Android tablet do that a convertible Chromebook doesn't? No matter how long you mull, it's tough to come up with much. Nowadays, a Chromebook runs the same apps from the same Google Play Store. It has an increasingly similar user interface, with a new touch-friendly and Android-reminiscent app launcher rolling out as we speak. It's likely to have an Android-like way of getting around the system before long, too, not to mention native integration of the Google Assistant (which is launching with the newly announced Pixelbook and then presumably spreading to other devices from there). But on top of all of that, a Chromebook offers meaningful advantages a traditional Android tablet simply can't match. It operates within the fast-booting, inherently secure, and free from manufacturer- or carrier-meddling Chrome OS environment. The operating system is updated every two to three weeks, directly by Google, for a minimum of five years. That's a sharp contrast to the software realities we see on Android -- and if you think the updates on Android phones are bad, let me tell you: The situation with Android tablets is worse.
In addition to the regular selection of Android apps, a Chromebook also gives you a desktop-caliber browser experience along with a laptop-level keyboard and capable trackpad. (And, as a side perk, that means you've got a built-in multi-mode stand for your tablet, too.) It's the best of both worlds, as I've put it before -- a whole new kind of platform-defying, all-purpose productivity and entertainment machine. And while it won't immediately lead to the outright extinction of traditional Android tablets, it certainly makes them seem like a watered-down and obsolete version of the same basic experience.
PornHub Uses Computer Vision To ID Actors, Acts In Its Videos
Baron_Yam shares a report from TechCrunch, which details PornHub's use of machine learning to ID actors and acts in its videos:
The computer vision system can identify specific actors in scenes and even identifies various positions and attributes. While it is obviously very difficult to describe the feature set for a family audience, the system can identify individual performers in real time -- in the demo here it recognizes one performer even from the side -- and it can also identify sex acts. Facial detection is nothing new, even for mobile devices, but this system goes one step further by categorizing videos and images based on various attributes. This means you'll be able find favorites by name or characteristics, a feat that once require prodigious amounts of data entry.
"So far we've used the model on about 500k featured videos which includes user submitted and we plan to scan the whole library in the beginning of 2018," said Price. "Very shortly, the technology will also be used to detect various sex positions / categories and be able to properly tag them as well."
Equifax Breach Included 10 Million US Driving Licenses
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget:
10.9 million U.S. driver's licenses were stolen in the massive breach that Equifax suffered in mid-May, according to a new report by The Wall Street Journal. In addition, WSJ has revealed that the attackers got a hold of 15.2 million UK customers' records, though only 693,665 among them had enough info in the system for the breach to be a real threat to their privacy. Affected customers provided most of the driver's licenses on file to verify their identities when they disputed their credit-report information through an Equifax web page. That page was one of the entry points the attackers used to gain entry into the credit reporting agency's system.
FCC's Claim That One ISP Counts As 'Competition' Faces Scrutiny In Court
Jon Brodkin reports via Ars Technica:
A Federal Communications Commission decision to eliminate price caps imposed on some business broadband providers should be struck down, advocacy groups told federal judges last week. The FCC failed to justify its claim that a market can be competitive even when there is only one Internet provider, the groups said. Led by Chairman Ajit Pai, the FCC's Republican majority voted in April of this year to eliminate price caps in a county if 50 percent of potential customers "are within a half mile of a location served by a competitive provider." That means business customers with just one choice are often considered to be located in a competitive market and thus no longer benefit from price controls. The decision affects Business Data Services (BDS), a dedicated, point-to-point broadband link that is delivered over copper-based TDM networks by incumbent phone companies like AT&T, Verizon, and CenturyLink.
But the FCC's claim that "potential competition" can rein in prices even in the absence of competition doesn't stand up to legal scrutiny, critics of the order say. "In 2016, after more than 10 years of examining the highly concentrated Business Data Services market, the FCC was poised to rein in anti-competitive pricing in the BDS market to provide enterprise customers, government agencies, schools, libraries, and hospitals with much-needed relief from monopoly rates," Phillip Berenbroick, senior policy counsel at consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge said. But after Republicans gained the FCC majority in 2017, "the commission illegally reversed course without proper notice and further deregulated the BDS market, leaving consumers at risk of paying up to $20 billion a year in excess charges from monopolistic pricing," Berenbroick said.
Amazon Finally Makes a Waterproof Kindle
After 10 years of Kindles, Amazon has
finally made a kindle e-reader with an IPX8 waterproof rating. The
new Kindle Oasis features a 7-inch display and aluminum back. The Verge reports:
Unlike last year's Kindle Oasis, which used a magnetic case you attached to the e-reader to extend its battery life, the new Oasis relies entirely on its built-in battery. It has a similar physical design, with one thicker side that tapers down on the other side, for one-handed reading. But Amazon has made a point of saying that it managed to fit in a bigger battery, while keeping the tapered side of the device at 3.4 millimeters. The resolution of the e-paper display is the same at 300 ppi, but it has a couple extra LED lights now for a brighter, more even-looking display. And it also has ambient light sensors that adjust the brightness as you move from room to room, or from outdoors to indoors. There are physical page-turn buttons, plus the touchscreen page-turn option; Amazon says it's worked on both the hardware and software side of things to make page-turning feel faster. The new e-reader has been tested in two meters of water for up to 60 minutes. It's also been tested in different water environments, like hot tubs, pools, and bubble baths.
Pirate Bay is Mining Cryptocurrency Again, No Opt Out
The Pirate Bay is
mining cryptocurrency again, causing a spike in CPU usage among many visitors. From a report:
Failed Palo Alto Startup Pivots From Trying To Be an 'Android Killer' To Self-driving Tech
A Palo Alto startup that stopped trying to be an "Android killer" last year after raising $185 million has apparently pivoted to developing autonomous vehicle technology. From a report:
The company now known as Cyngn has changed its name from Cyanogen and recently got a permit to test its self-driving tech on California roads, according to a report Wednesday on Axios. It's being led by Lior Tal, the former chief operating officer who took over as CEO last fall when Kirt McMaster left. The rest of the startup's current team of about 30 people appear to have joined since the strategy shift, Axios reported, citing LinkedIn records. Some of them are former Facebook people, like Tal, and alumni of automakers who include Mercedes-Benz. No new funding has been disclosed for the reinvented company. It lists on its website investors who backed it before it pivoted, including Andreessen Horowitz, Benchmark Capital, Redpoint Ventures, Index Ventures, Qualcomm and Chinese social networking company Tencent. The company was the center of acquisition talk in 2014, when companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Samsung and Yahoo expressed interest in the company.
Moscow Has Turned Kaspersky Antivirus Software Into a Global Spy Tool, Using It To Scan Computers For Secret US Data
WSJ has a major scoop today. From a report:
The Russian government used a popular antivirus software to secretly scan computers around the world for classified U.S. government documents and top-secret information, modifying the program to turn it into an espionage tool (could be paywalled), according to current and former U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter. The software, made by the Moscow-based company Kaspersky Lab, routinely scans files of computers on which it is installed looking for viruses and other malicious software. But in an adjustment to its normal operations that the officials say could only have been made with the company's knowledge, the program searched for terms as broad as "top secret," which may be written on classified government documents, as well as the classified code names of U.S. government programs, these people said. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Russian hackers used Kaspersky's software in 2015 to target a contractor working for the National Security Agency, who had removed classified materials from his workplace and put them on his home computer, which was running the program. The hackers stole highly classified information on how the NSA conducts espionage and protects against incursions by other countries, said people familiar with the matter. But the use of the Kaspersky program to spy on the U.S. is broader and more pervasive than the operation against that one individual, whose name hasn't been publicly released, current and former officials said. This
link should get you around WSJ's paywall. Also read:
Israeli Spies 'Watched Russian Agents Breach Kaspersky Software'
Facebook Announces $199 Oculus Go Standalone VR Headset
Facebook is going to ship a standalone VR headset called Oculus Go next year. The headset, which won't require a PC or phone to run,
will be available early next year for $199. From a report:
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg officially announced the new product during his keynote speech at Facebook's fourth Oculus Connect virtual reality (VR) developer conference in San Jose, Calif. Wednesday, where he framed the device as an important step towards bringing VR to the masses. "We want to get a billion people in virtual reality," Zuckerberg said. Facebook VP of VR Hugo Barra said that the company developed custom lenses for the headset, which allow for a wide field of view. The display is a fast-switch LCD screen with a resolution of 2560x1440 pixels, and it comes with integrated headphones. The company will be shipping first headsets to developers in November.
California DMV Changes Rules To Allow Testing and Use of Fully Autonomous Vehicles
The California Department of Motor Vehicles is changing its rules to allow companies to test autonomous vehicles without a driver behind the wheel -- and to let the public use autonomous vehicles. From a report:
The DMV released a revised version of its regulations and has started a 15-day public comment period, ending October 25, 2017. California law requires the DMV to work on regulations to cover testing and public use of autonomous vehicles, and the regulator said that this is the first step. "We are excited to take the next step in furthering the development of this potentially life-saving technology in California," the state's Transportation Secretary, Brian Kelly, said in a statement. California's DMV took pains in its announcement to highlight that it wasn't trying to overstep the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has the final say on developing and enforcing compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Rather, the California regulations, are going to require manufacturers to certify that they've met federal safety standards before their cars become (driverlessly) street legal. And manufacturers still have to obey the state traffic laws written for California.
Unsent Text On Mobile Counts As a Will, Australian Court Finds
A court in Australia has accepted an unsent, draft text message on a dead man's mobile phone as an official will. The 55-year-old man had composed a text message addressed to his brother, in which he gave "all that I have" to his brother and nephew. From a report:
The Supreme Court in Brisbane heard the 55-year-old took his own life in October 2016, after composing a text addressed to his brother, which indicated his brother and nephew should "keep all that I have," because he was unhappy with this wife. A friend found the text message in the drafts folder of the man's mobile phone, which was found near his body. The unsent message detailed how to access the man's bank account details and where he wanted his ashes to be buried.
Despite Sanctions, Russian Organisations Acquire Microsoft Software
An anonymous reader shares a report:
Software produced by Microsoft has been acquired by state organizations and firms in Russia and Crimea despite sanctions barring U.S-based companies from doing business with them, official documents show. The acquisitions, registered on the Russian state procurement database, show the limitations in the way foreign governments and firms enforce the U.S. sanctions, imposed on Russia over its annexation of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. Some of the users gave Microsoft fictitious data about their identity, people involved in the transactions told Reuters, exploiting a gap in the U.S. company's ability to keep its products out of their hands. The products in each case were sold via third parties and Reuters has no evidence that Microsoft sold products directly to entities hit by the sanctions. "Microsoft has a strong commitment to complying with legal requirements and we have been looking into this matter in recent weeks," a Microsoft representative said in an emailed response to questions from Reuters.
This Company Is Crowdsourcing Maps For Self-Driving Cars
If we want self-driving cars to become mainstream, we need maps -- and not just any maps. We need ridiculously detailed and constantly updated maps of the world's roads. And there's a mad race among startups to become the definitive provider of those maps. At Backchannel, Steven Levy takes a deep look at Mapper, a startup that just came out of stealth today and that hopes to become that definitive provider by crowdsourcing the production of those maps, paying drivers to drive around with a special mapping device on their windshields. As Levy writes, "Mapper's solution is to create an army of part-time workers to gather data that will accrue to a huge "base map" for autonomous cars, and to update the map to keep it current. Think of the work as an alternative to driving for Uber and Lyft, without having to deal with customer ratings or backseat outbursts from Travis Kalanick."
Israeli Spies 'Watched Russian Agents Breach Kaspersky Software'
Israeli spies looked on as Russian hackers breached Kaspersky cyber-security software two years ago, according to reports. From a report:
The Russians were allegedly attempting to gather data on US intelligence programs, according to the New York Times and Washington Post. Israeli agents made the discovery after breaching the software themselves. Kaspersky has said it was neither involved in nor aware of the situation and denies collusion with authorities. Last month, the US government decided to stop using the Russian firm's software on its computers. The Israelis are said to have notified the US, which led to the ban on Kaspersky programs. The New York Times said that the situation had been described by "multiple people who have been briefed on the matter."
Justice Department To Be More Aggressive In Seeking Encrypted Data From Tech Companies
An anonymous reader quotes a report from
The Wall Street Journal (Warning: source may be paywalled;
The Justice Department signaled Tuesday it intends to take a more aggressive posture in seeking access to encrypted information from technology companies, setting the stage for another round of clashes in the tug of war between privacy and public safety. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein issued the warning in a speech in Annapolis, Md., saying that negotiating with technology companies hasn't worked. "Warrant-proof encryption is not just a law enforcement problem," Mr. Rosenstein said at a conference at the U.S. Naval Academy. "The public bears the cost. When our investigations of violent criminal organizations come to a halt because we cannot access a phone, even with a court order, lives may be lost." Mr. Rosenstein didn't say what precise steps the Justice Department or Trump administration would take. Measures could include seeking court orders to compel companies to cooperate or a push for legislation. A Justice Department official said no specific plans were in the works and Mr. Rosenstein's speech was intended to spur public awareness and discussion of the issue because companies "have no incentive to address this on their own."
A Giant, Mysterious Hole Has Opened Up In Antarctica
Scientists are perplexed over a giant hole that
has opened up in Antarctica. According to Motherboard, the "gigantic, mysterious hole" is as large as Lake Superior or the state of Maine. From the report:
The gigantic, mysterious hole "is quite remarkable," atmospheric physicist Kent Moore, a professor at the University of Toronto's Mississauga campus, told me over the phone. "It looks like you just punched a hole in the ice." Areas of open water surrounded by sea ice, such as this one, are known as polynyas. They form in coastal regions of Antarctica, Moore told me. What's strange here, though, is that this polynya is "deep in the ice pack," he said, and must have formed through other processes that aren't understood. "This is hundreds of kilometers from the ice edge. If we didn't have a satellite, we wouldn't know it was there." (It measured 80,000 km^2 at its peak.) "This is now the second year in a row it's opened after 40 years of not being there," Moore said. (It opened around September 9.) "We're still trying to figure out what's going on."
Ask Slashdot: What Is Your Favorite William Gibson Novel?
When I first read William Gibson's Neuromancer and then his other novels as a young man back in the 1990s, I was blown away by Gibson's work. Everything was so fresh and out of the ordinary in his books. The writing style. The technologies. The characters and character names. The plotlines. The locations. The future world he imagined. The Matrix. It was unlike anything I had read before. A window into the far future of humanity. I had great hopes over the years that some visionary film director would take a crack at creating film versions of Neuromancer, Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive . But that never happened. All sorts of big budget science fiction was produced for TV and the big screen since Neuromancer that never got anywhere near the brilliance of Gibson's future world. Gibson's world largely stayed on the printed page, and today very few people talk about Neuromancer, even though the world we live in, at times, appears headed in the exact direction Gibson described in his Sprawl trilogy. Why does hardly anybody talk about William Gibson anymore? His books describe a future that is much more technologically advanced than where we are in 2017, so it isn't like his future vision has become "badly dated." To get the conversation going, we rephrased dryriver's question... What is your favorite William Gibson novel?