Why Google Should Be Afraid of a Missouri Republican's Google Probe
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica:
The Republican attorney general of Missouri has launched an investigation into Google's business practices. Josh Hawley wants to know how Google handles user data. And he plans to look into whether Google is using its dominance in the search business to harm companies in other markets where Google competes. It's another sign of growing pressure Google is facing from the political right. Grassroots conservatives increasingly see Google as falling on the wrong side of the culture wars. So far that hasn't had a big impact in Washington policymaking. But with Hawley planning to run for the U.S. Senate next year, we could see more Republican hostility toward Google -- and perhaps other big technology companies -- in the coming years. The Hawley investigation will dig into whether Google violated Missouri's consumer-protection and antitrust laws. Specifically, Hawley will investigate: "Google's collection, use, and disclosure of information about Google users and their online activities," "Google's alleged misappropriation of online content from the websites of its competitors," and "Google's alleged manipulation of search results to preference websites owned by Google and to demote websites that compete with Google." States like Missouri have their own antitrust laws and the power to investigate company business conduct independently of the feds. So Hawley seems to be taking yet another look at those same issues to see if Google's conduct runs afoul of Missouri law.
We don't know if Hawley will get the Republican nomination or win his challenge to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) next year, but people like him will surely be elected to the Senate in the coming decade. Hawley's decision to go after Google suggests that he sees some upside in being seen as an antagonist to a company that conservatives increasingly view with suspicion. More than that, it suggests that Hawley believes it's worth the risk of alienating the GOP's pro-business wing, which takes a dim view of strict antitrust enforcement even if it targets a company with close ties to Democrats.
All 500 of the World's Top 500 Supercomputers Are Running Linux
Freshly Exhumed shares a report from ZDnet:
Linux rules supercomputing. This day has been coming since 1998, when Linux first appeared on the TOP500 Supercomputer list. Today, it finally happened: All 500 of the world's fastest supercomputers are running Linux. The last two non-Linux systems, a pair of Chinese IBM POWER computers running AIX, dropped off the November 2017 TOP500 Supercomputer list. When the first TOP500 supercomputer list was compiled in June 1993, Linux was barely more than a toy. It hadn't even adopted Tux as its mascot yet. It didn't take long for Linux to start its march on supercomputing.
From when it first appeared on the TOP500 in 1998, Linux was on its way to the top. Before Linux took the lead, Unix was supercomputing's top operating system. Since 2003, the TOP500 was on its way to Linux domination. By 2004, Linux had taken the lead for good. This happened for two reasons: First, since most of the world's top supercomputers are research machines built for specialized tasks, each machine is a standalone project with unique characteristics and optimization requirements. To save costs, no one wants to develop a custom operating system for each of these systems. With Linux, however, research teams can easily modify and optimize Linux's open-source code to their one-off designs. The semiannual TOP500 Supercomputer List was
released yesterday. It also shows that China
now claims 202 systems within the TOP500, while the United States claims 143 systems.
Yelp Ordered To Identify User Accused of Defaming a Tax Preparer
California State Appeals Court ruled this week that Yelp can't shield the identify of an anonymous reviewer who posted allegedly defamatory statements about a tax preparer. "The three-judge appeals panel in Santa Ana agreed with Yelp that it could protect the First Amendment rights of its anonymous reviewer but it still had to turn over the information," reports Bloomberg. "The panel reasoned that the accountant had made a showing that the review was defamatory in that it went beyond expressing an opinion and allegedly included false statements."
Apple Is Back To Being the World's Top Wearable Maker
once again the biggest selling producer of wearables after its third-generation Apple Watch, released in September, helped it pip China's Xiaomi to the post. TechCrunch reports:
The new device, Apple's first that connects to the internet without being tethered to a smartphone, took the U.S. mobile giant to 3.9 million shipments in the recent Q3 2017, according to new data from Canalys. The firm estimates that the gen-three version accounted for just 800,000 shipments, due to supply issues, which bodes well for Apple coming into the lucrative holiday season. That figure was a big jump on 2.8 million shipments one year previous. It also gave Apple 23 percent of the market, putting it fractionally ahead of the 21 percent for Xiaomi, the Chinese firm that was briefly top of the industry for the first time in the previous quarter. Apple's wearable division has enjoyed something of a renaissance this year, grabbing the top spot in Q1 for overall wearables the first time since Q3 2015. CEO Tim Cook said in Apple's most recent earnings report that Watch sales were up by 50 percent for the third consecutive quarter thanks to a focus on health services. As for the others: Fitbit took third in Q3 2017 for 20 percent, while phone makers Huawei (six percent) and Samsung (five percent) were some way behind in rounding out the top five. In proof of considerable fragmentation within the industry, "other brands" accounted for a dominant 25 percent, according to Canalys' figures.
FDA Approves Digital Pill That Tracks If Patients Have Ingested Their Medication
An anonymous reader quotes a report from
The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled;
For the first time, the Food and Drug Administration has approved a digital pill -- a medication embedded with a sensor that can tell doctors whether, and when, patients take their medicine. The approval, announced late on Monday, marks a significant advance in the growing field of digital devices designed to monitor medicine-taking and to address the expensive, longstanding problem that millions of patients do not take drugs as prescribed. Experts estimate that so-called nonadherence or noncompliance to medication costs about $100 billion a year, much of it because patients get sicker and need additional treatment or hospitalization. Patients who agree to take the digital medication, a version of the antipsychotic Abilify, can sign consent forms allowing their doctors and up to four other people, including family members, to receive electronic data showing the date and time pills are ingested. A smartphone app will let them block recipients anytime they change their mind. Although voluntary, the technology is still likely to prompt questions about privacy and whether patients might feel pressure to take medication in a form their doctors can monitor.
Pentagon To Make a Big Push Toward Open-Source Software Next Year
Open-source software" is computer software with its source code made available with a license in which the copyright holder provides the rights to study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose. According to The Verge, the Pentagon is going to make a big push for open-source software in 2018. "Thanks to an amendment introduced by Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) and co-sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the [
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018] could institute a big change: should the bill pass in its present form,
the Pentagon will be going open source." From the report:
We don't typically think of the Pentagon as a software-intensive workplace, but we absolutely should. The Department of Defense is the world's largest single employer, and while some of that work is people marching around with rifles and boots, a lot of the work is reports, briefings, data management, and just managing the massive enterprise. Loading slides in PowerPoint is as much a part of daily military life as loading rounds into a magazine. Besides cost, there are two other compelling explanations for why the military might want to go open source. One is that technology outside the Pentagon simply advances faster than technology within it, and by availing itself to open-source tools, the Pentagon can adopt those advances almost as soon as the new code hits the web, without going through the extra steps of a procurement process. Open-source software is also more secure than closed-source software, by its very nature: the code is perpetually scrutinized by countless users across the planet, and any weaknesses are shared immediately.
Tesla Is a 'Hotbed For Racist Behavior,' Worker Claims In Lawsuit
An African-American employee has filed a lawsuit against Tesla,
claiming their production floor is a "hotbed for racist behavior" and that black workers at the electric carmaker suffer severe and pervasive harassment. "The employee says he's one of more than 100 African-American Tesla workers affected and is seeking permission from a judge to sue on behalf of the group," reports Bloomberg. "He's seeking unspecified general and punitive monetary damages as well as an order for Tesla to implement policies to prevent and correct harassment." From the report:
"Although Tesla stands out as a groundbreaking company at the forefront of the electric car revolution, its standard operating procedure at the Tesla factory is pre-Civil Rights era race discrimination," the employee said in the complaint, filed Monday in California's Alameda County Superior Court. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Marcus Vaughn, who worked in the Fremont factory from April 23 to Oct. 31. Vaughn alleged that employees and supervisors regularly used the "N word" around him and other black colleagues. Vaughn said he complained in writing to human resources and Musk and was terminated in late October for "not having a positive attitude."
Investigation Finds Security Flaws In 'Connected' Toys
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian:
A consumer group is urging major retailers to withdraw a number of "connected" or "intelligent" toys likely to be popular at Christmas, after finding security failures that it warns could put children's safety at risk. Tests carried out by Which? with the German consumer group Stiftung Warentest, and other security research experts, found flaws in Bluetooth and wifi-enabled toys that could enable a stranger to talk to a child. The investigation found that four out of seven of the tested toys could be used to communicate with the children playing with them. Security failures were discovered in the Furby Connect, i-Que Intelligent Robot, Toy-Fi Teddy and CloudPets. With each of these toys, the Bluetooth connection had not been secured, meaning the researcher did not need a password, pin or any other authentication to gain access. Little technical knowhow was needed to hack into the toys to start sharing messages with a child.
Thirty Countries Use 'Armies of Opinion Shapers' To Manipulate Democracy
The governments of 30 countries around the globe are using armies of so called opinion shapers to meddle in elections, advance anti-democratic agendas and repress their citizens, a new report shows. From a report on The Guardian:
Unlike widely reported Russian attempts to influence foreign elections, most of the offending countries use the internet to manipulate opinion domestically, says US NGO Freedom House. "Manipulation and disinformation tactics played an important role in elections in at least 17 other countries over the past year, damaging citizens' ability to choose their leaders based on factual news and authentic debate," the US government-funded charity said. "Although some governments sought to support their interests and expand their influence abroad, as with Russia's disinformation campaigns in the United States and Europe, in most cases they used these methods inside their own borders to maintain their hold on power."
Without Humans, Artificial Intelligence Is Still Pretty Stupid
Christopher Mims, writing for WSJ:
The internet giants that tout their AI bona fides have tried to make their algorithms as human-free as possible, and that's been a problem. It has become increasingly apparent over the past year that building systems without humans "in the loop" -- especially in the case of Facebook and the ads it linked to 470 "inauthentic" Russian-backed accounts -- can lead to disastrous outcomes, as actual human brains figure out how to exploit them. Whether it's winning at games like Go or keeping watch for Russian influence operations, the best AI-powered systems require humans to play an active role in their creation, tending and operation (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). Facebook, of course, is now a prime example of this trend. The company recently announced it would add 10,000 content moderators to the 10,000 it already employs -- a hiring surge that will impact its future profitability, said Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg.
About 15 Percent of US Agencies Detected Kaspersky Software on Networks
Dustin Volz, reporting for Reuters:
About 15 percent of U.S. federal agencies have reported some trace of Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab software on their systems, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official told Congress on Tuesday. Jeanette Manfra, assistant secretary for cyber security at DHS, told a U.S. House of Representatives panel that 94 percent of agencies had responded to a directive ordering them to survey their networks to identify any use of Kaspersky Lab products and to remove them. But Manfra said DHS did "not currently have conclusive evidence" that any networks had been breached due to their use of Kaspersky Lab software. The administration of President Donald Trump ordered civilian U.S. agencies in September to remove Kaspersky Lab from their networks, amid worries the antivirus firm was vulnerable to Kremlin influence and that using its anti-virus software could jeopardize national security.
Germany Is Burning Too Much Coal
Several readers share a report:
Germany is widely seen as a world leader in the fight against climate change. Thanks to its investments in renewable power, wind and solar energy provide a third of its electricity, more than double the U.S. share. Germany's goal to lower carbon-dioxide emissions 40 percent by 2020 is significantly more ambitious than that of Europe as a whole or the U.S. After the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed even greater determination. "We can't wait for the last man on Earth to be convinced by the scientific evidence for climate change," she explained. But there's another, troubling side to the German story: The country still gets 40 percent of its energy from coal, a bigger share than most other European countries. And much of it is lignite, the dirtiest kind of coal. As a result, Germany is set to fall well short of its 2020 goal. This dependence on coal is partly a side effect of Germany's abandonment of emissions-free nuclear power and partly foot-dragging on the part of a government wary of alienating voters in German coal country. During the summer election campaign, Merkel largely avoided the subject.
Ads May Soon Stalk You on TV Like They Do on Your Facebook Feed
Targeted ads that seem to follow us everywhere online may soon be doing the same on our TV. From a report:
The Federal Communications Commission is poised to approve a new broadcast standard that will let broadcasters do something cable TV companies already do: harvest data about what you watch so advertisers can customize pitches. The prospect alarms privacy advocates, who say there are no rules setting boundaries for how broadcasters handle personal information. The FCC doesn't mention privacy in the 109-page proposed rule that is scheduled for a vote by commissioners Thursday. "If the new standard allows broadcasters to collect data in a way they haven't before, I think consumers should know about that," Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, said in an interview. "What privacy protections will apply to that data, and what security protections?" For broadcasters, Next Gen TV represents an advance into the digital world that for decades has been siphoning viewers away to the likes of Facebook, Netflix, Google's YouTube and Amazon's Prime video service.
CompuServe's Forums Are Closing On December 15
In the era before the web, the forums on CompuServe were indispensable for everything from getting tech questions answered to chatting about movies. They still exist, albeit in diminished form. But Oath, which owns AOL, which owns what's left of CompuServe, is about to finally shut them down. I wrote about the sad news for Fast Company.
The Strange Art of Writing Release Notes
IEEE Spectrum has an amusing piece on how App Stores, and the frequent updates to those apps, have given release notes new prominence to average users. Unfortunately, most release notes are hum drum and uninformative: "bug fixes, performance improvements." That may be accurate, but isn't useful for determining if the new version is worth downloading. The article highlights counterexamples that weave humor and creativity into the narrative, even if it still just boils down to "bug fixes". For instance, when was the last time your release notes included ASCII art?
Although a bit old, TechCrunch also has a commentary on the highs and lows of App Store release notes.
What is the opinion of /. readers? How much information is appropriate in release notes? Should one make any attempts at levity, or keep it strictly to business? For those of you who actually write release notes, what guidelines do you use?
The Fedora Project has announced the general availability of
Fedora 27 Workstation and
Fedora 27 Atomic editions. Fedora 27 brings with it "thousands of improvements" from both the Fedora Community and various upstream software projects, the
team said on Tuesday. From a post on Fedora Magazine:
The Workstation edition of Fedora 27 features GNOME 3.26. In the new release, both the Display and Network configuration panels have been updated, along with the overall Settings panel appearance improvement. The system search now shows more results at once, including the system actions. GNOME 3.26 also features color emoji support, folder sharing in Boxes, and numerous improvements in the Builder IDE tool. The new release also features LibreOffice 5.4.
EA's 'Star Wars' PR Disaster Finally Pushed Gamers Into Open Revolt Against Loot Boxes
Gaming company Electronic Arts is not having a good week. Bowing to pressure from early players of
Star Wars Battlefront II and the historically negative reaction over the weekend to the company's response to complaints on Reddit, the company has now
detailed significant cuts in the cost to unlock characters in its game and promised to continue to listen to player feedback. From a report:
Most importantly, Electronic Arts today announced that they are reducing the number of credits needed to unlock top characters in the game by 75 percent. Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader will now cost 15,000 credits. Emperor Palatine, Chewbacca and Leia Organa will now cost 10,000 and Iden will cost 5,000. Mashable reports on the
outcry that took place over the weekend:
Battlefront II isn't technically out until Nov. 17, but fans that subscribe to EA Access or Origin Access -- which give Xbox One and PC players, respectively, a five-day, 10-hour window to play EA games before they launch -- are discovering how those changes feel. And it's a bad scene, friends. "At the current price of 60,000 credits it will take you 40 hours of gameplay time to earn the right to unlock one hero or villain [in Star Wars: Battlefront II]," Reddit user TheHotterPotato wrote in a post. "That means 40 hours of saving each and every credit, no buying any crates at all, so no bonus credits from getting duplicates in crates." The Reddit post produced such a mind-blowingly negative response that an agent of EA actually responded. Unfortunately, that response made things even worse.
EA's Reddit account is plastered with a barrage of downvotes, with one particular response receiving over 600,000 downvotes -- a record.
Firefox Quantum Arrives With Faster Browser Engine, Major Visual Overhaul
An anonymous reader writes:
Mozilla today launched Firefox 57, branded Firefox Quantum, for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. The new version, which Mozilla calls "by far the biggest update since Firefox 1.0 in 2004," brings massive performance improvements and a visual redesign. The Quantum name signals Firefox 57 is a huge release that incorporates the company's next-generation browser engine (Project Quantum). The goal is to make Firefox the fastest and smoothest browser for PCs and mobile devices -- the company has previously promised that users can expect "some big jumps in capability and performance" through the end of the year. Indeed, three of the four past releases (Firefox 53, Firefox 54, and Firefox 55) included Quantum improvements. But those were just the tip of the iceberg. Additionally, Firefox now exclusively supports extensions built using the WebExtension API, and unsupported legacy extensions will no longer work, the company said.
OnePlus Phones Come Preinstalled With a Factory App That Can Root Devices
Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer:
Some OnePlus devices, if not all, come preinstalled with an application named EngineerMode that can be used to root the device and may be converted into a fully-fledged backdoor by clever attackers. The app was discovered by a mobile security researcher who goes online by the pseudonym of Elliot Alderson -- the name of the main character in the Mr. Robot TV series. Speaking to Bleeping Computer, the researcher said he started investigating OnePlus devices after a story he saw online last month detailing a hidden stream of telemetry data sent by OnePlus devices to the company's servers.
Digital Technology Can Help Reinvent Basic Education In Africa
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz:
African countries have worked hard to improve children's access to basic education, but there's still significant work to be done. Today, 32,6 million children of primary-school age and 25,7 million adolescents are not going to school in sub-Saharan Africa. The quality of education also remains a significant issue, but there's a possibility the technology could be part of the solution. The digital revolution currently under way in the region has led to a boom in trials using information and communication technology (ICT) in education -- both in and out of the classroom. A study carried out by the French Development Agency (AFD), the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF), Orange and Unesco shows that ICT in education in general, and mobile learning in particular, offers a number of possible benefits. These include access to low-cost teaching resources, added value compared to traditional teaching and a complementary solution for teacher training. This means that there's a huge potential to reach those excluded from education systems. The quality of knowledge and skills that are taught can also be improved.
Study Finds SpaceX Investment Saved NASA Hundreds of Millions
schwit1 shares a report from Popular Mechanics:
When a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft connected with the International Space Station on May 25, 2012, it made history as the first privately-built spacecraft to reach the ISS. The Dragon was the result of a decision 6 years prior -- in 2006, NASA made an "unprecedented" investment in SpaceX technology. A new financial analysis shows that the investment has paid off, and the government found one of the true bargains of the 21st century when it invested in SpaceX. A new research paper by Edgar Zapata, who works at Kennedy Space Center, looks closely at the finances of SpaceX and NASA. "There were indications that commercial space transportation would be a viable option from as far back as the 1980s," Zapata writes. "When the first components of the ISS were sent into orbit 1998, NASA was focused on "ambitious, large single stage-to-orbit launchers with large price tags to match." For future commercial crew missions sending astronauts into space, Zapata estimates that it will cost $405 million for a SpaceX Dragon crew deployment of 4 and $654 million for a Boeing Starliner, which is scheduled for its first flight in 2019. That sounds like a lot, and it is, but Zapata estimates that its only 37 to 39 percent of what it would have cost the government.
Apple Could Launch Two New Full-Screen iPhones Next Year
Reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo
expects to see two new full-screen iPhones next year: one will have a 6.5-inch OLED display, essentially making it a Plus version of the iPhone X; and the other will have a 6.1-inch LCD display, likely making it more like a full-screen version of the current Plus-sized iPhone. Both are said to have the notch. The Verge reports:
In his research note, which was reported by MacRumors, Kuo writes that Apple is hoping to "satisfy various needs of the high-end market" by expanding its full-screen product line. At the high end will be the 6.5-inch OLED iPhone; beneath that will be an updated version of the 5.8-inch OLED iPhone X; and finally, the 6.1-inch LCD iPhone will sit below both them. Kuo predicts that the 6.1-inch phone will be priced somewhere between $649 to $749 and be set apart by having a less-dense screen resolution, offering a worse picture. If Apple does introduce a 6.1-inch LCD iPhone, $749 certainly seems too cheap for it to sell at -- the iPhone 8 starts at $699 as it is, and the 8 Plus starts at $799. The 6.1-inch phone sounds like a step up from the existing Plus model, so it would make more sense to sell it for, say, $899, right between a refreshed version of the Plus and a refreshed version of the X.