Newly Discovered Volcanic 'Lost World' Is a Haven For Marine Life
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo:
Australian scientists have discovered a previously unknown chain of volcanic seamounts near Tasmania. The area appears to be brimming with marine life, including a surprising number of whales who may be using the undersea volcanoes as a navigational tool. The volcanic chain was discovered by scientists from the Australian National University and CSIRO, Australia's national science agency, while on a 25-day mission aboard the research vessel Investigator to conduct detailed seafloor maps of the region. The undersea volcanoes are about 250 miles (400 kilometers) east of Tasmania, and they're quite deep.
The tallest of the seamounts extends 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) from the seafloor, so they're not tiny. It's hard to believe that something so large has gone undetected for so long, but our oceans are notoriously understudied. A mere 20 percent of Earth's oceans has been explored, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. [T]he seamounts appeared to serve as a kind of mid-ocean oasis for a host of marine organisms. In addition to finding copious amounts of plankton in the area, the researchers observed various seabirds and a surprising number of whales. The volcanic seamounts, the researchers say, are likely important stopping points for migratory animals, particularly whales, who rely on seafloor structures for navigation. The volcanoes are likely serving as important signposts as the whales travel from their winter breeding areas to summer feeding grounds, the researchers say.
Google Home Hub Is Nothing Like Other Google Smart Displays
On Tuesday, Google
announced the Google Home Hub, a 7-inch display that gives you visual information, making it easier to control smart home appliances and view photos and the weather. The unusual thing about it is that it
doesn't run the smart display software that it introduced for third-party OEMs. Ars Technica explains:
First, let's talk about what the third-party smart displays run. When Google created its smart display software, it also came up with a turnkey solution for OEMs. So far, we've seen Lenovo, LG, and Samsung's JBL all produce devices on the same basic platform. Just like with smartphones, these devices are all an extension of the Android/Qualcomm partnership -- they run Android Things on Qualcomm's SD624 Home Hub Platform. Android Things is Google's stripped-down version of Android that is purpose-built for IoT products, and the third-party smart displays are the first commercial devices to run the OS.
Unlike regular phone Android, Android Things is not customizable by third-parties. All Android Things devices use an OS image direct from Google, and Google centrally distributes updates to all Android Things devices for three years. Android Things doesn't really have an interface. It's designed to get a device up and running and show a single app, which on the smart displays is the Google Smart Display app. Qualcomm's "Home Hub" platform was purposely built to run Android Things and this Google Assistant software -- the SD624 is for smart displays, while the less powerful SDA212 is for speakers. When it came time to build the Google Home Hub, Google didn't use any of this. After talking to Google's VP of product management, Diya Jolly, Ars Technica's Ron Amadeo discovered that the Home Hub is actually built on Google's Cast platform and uses an Amlogic chip instead of Qualcomm's SD624 Home Hub Platform.
When asked why Google was using a totally different platform from the third parties, Jolly told Amadeo, "There's no particular reason. We just felt we could bring the experience to bear with Cast, and the experiences are the same. We would have easily given the third-parties Cast if they wanted it, but I think most developers are comfortable using Android Things." Amadeo seems to think it has to do with the low price, as it undercuts the cheapest third-party Google smart display (Lenovo's 8-inch model) by fifty bucks.
Microsoft Passes Acer To Become Top 5 PC Vendors In the US
During the 3rd Quarter of 2018, Microsoft reportedly
broke into the top five list of PC vendors in the U.S. for the first time, thanks to its line of Surface computers, laptops, and tablets. VentureBeat reports:
Q3 2018 was flat; it did not continue the growth we saw in the previous quarter. Gartner estimates that worldwide PC shipments increased 0.1 percent to 67.2 million units while IDC counts a 0.9 percent decline to 67.4 million units. Gartner's top five vendors were Lenovo, HP, Dell, Apple, and Acer (in that order) while IDC's were Lenovo, HP, Dell, Acer, and Apple (also in that order). But Gartner also provides a U.S. breakdown every quarter, and Q3 2018 was the first time that Microsoft made an appearance, displacing Acer.
Microsoft is still a far cry from the other players in the top 5, and its shipments were in fact only up slightly by 11,000 units, gaining just 0.1 percentage points (to 4.1 percent market share). Still, Dell and Apple were down, and the overall U.S. market was flat (down some 50,000 units) in Q3 2018, so in that context, Surface sales are doing just fine.
Magic Leap Expands Shipments of Its AR Headset To 48 US States
At the company's first developer conference, Magic Leap announced they are
opening orders of the Magic Leap One Creator's Edition headset to the 48 contiguous states of the USA. If you're in Hawaii or Alaska, no dice. TechCrunch reports:
Previously, you had to be in Chicago, LA, Miami, NYC, San Francisco or Seattle in order to get your hands on it. Also, if you had previously ordered the headset in one of those cities, someone would come to you, drop it off and get you set up personally. That service is expanding to 50 cities, but you also don't need to have someone set it up for you in order to buy one now. It's worth reiterating that this thing costs $2,295. The company is doing a financing plan with Affirm so that interested buyers can spread the cost of the device over 24 months.
Amazon Is Raising Some Workers' Pay Further, Adding Bonuses After Controversy
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg:
Amazon is sweetening the pay for some of its longtime warehouse workers after employees criticized the loss of bonuses and stock awards as part of the company's pledge to boost all wages to at least $15 an hour. The world's largest online retailer grabbed headlines last week with its minimum-pay pledge -- followed by concerns from veteran workers who feared their compensation would actually decline because the company also eliminated bonuses and stock awards. Amazon said any workers already earning $15 would get raises of $1 per hour. Now, some of those employees are learning their hourly raises will actually be $1.25 an hour. Additionally, Amazon is introducing a new cash bonus of $1,500 to $3,000 for tenure milestones at five, 10, 15 and 20 years. Workers with good attendance in the month of December will also get a $100 bonus, according to the company. "All hourly Operations and Customer Service employees will see an increase in their total compensation as a result of this announcement," Amazon said in a statement. "The significant increase in hourly cash wages effective Nov. 1 more than compensates for the phase out of incentive pay and future (stock) grants."
Automated Warehouse In Tokyo Managed To Replace 90 Percent of Its Staff With Robots
Japanese retailer Uniqlo in Tokyo's Ariake district has
managed to cut 90% of its staff and replace them with robots that are capable of inspecting and sorting the clothing housed there. The automation also allows them to operate 24 hours a day. Quartz reports:
The company recently remodeled the existing warehouse with an automated system created in partnership with Daifuku, a provider of material handling systems. Now that the system is running, the company revealed during a walkthrough of the new facility, Uniqlo has been able to cut staff at the warehouse by 90%. The Japan News described how the automation works: "The robotic system is designed to transfer products delivered to the warehouse by truck, read electronic tags attached to the products and confirm their stock numbers and other information. When shipping, the system wraps products placed on a conveyor belt in cardboard and attaches labels to them. Only a small portion of work at the warehouse needs to be done by employees, the company said."
The Tokyo warehouse is just a first step in a larger plan for Uniqlo's parent company, Fast Retailing. It has announced a strategic partnership with Daifuku with the goal of automating all Fast Retailing's brand warehouses in Japan and overseas. Uniqlo plans to invest 100 billion yen (about $887 million) in the project over an unspecified timeframe. (The Japan News reported that it costs about 1 billion to 10 billion yen to automate an existing warehouse.) Uniqlo believes the system will help it minimize storage costs and, importantly, deliver products faster around the world. The company has set a target of 3 trillion yen (about $26.6 billion) in annual revenue. Last year its revenue was about 1.86 trillion yen (pdf).
James Murdoch In Line To Replace Musk As Tesla Chairman, Says Report [Update]
21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch is the
lead candidate to replace Elon Musk as Tesla chairman, the Financial Times reported today. The company has until November 13 to appoint an independent chairman of the board, part of
settlements reached last month between Tesla, Musk and U.S. regulators in the wake of Musk
tweeting in August that he had secured funding to take the company private. Reuters reports:
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which said the statement was fraudulent, allowed the billionaire to retain his role as CEO while stripping him of his chairmanship and imposing a penalty of $20 million on each party. Murdoch, who is a nonexecutive director of Tesla, has signaled he wants the job, the report said. The son of Fox mogul Rupert Murdoch, he joined Tesla's board in July 2017 after years of work with media companies. He has no experience in manufacturing and has never led a company that makes cars or electric vehicles.
Murdoch currently serves on the boards of 21st Century Fox and News Corp. He stepped down from the board of Sky Plc on Tuesday following the completion of Comcast Corp's takeover of the broadcaster. Glass Lewis research director Courteney Keatinge said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that while Murdoch's departure from Sky could alleviate some concerns, the Tesla chairmanship would still require a big time commitment as the company faces pressures on many fronts.
Update: In a tweet late Wednesday, Musk said Financial Times' report was inaccurate.
The Breach That Killed Google+ Wasn't a Breach At All
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge:
For months, Google has been trying to stay out of the way of the growing tech backlash, but yesterday, the dam finally broke with news of a bug in the rarely used Google+ network that exposed private information for as many as 500,000 users. Google found and fixed the bug back in March, around the same time the Cambridge Analytica story was heating up in earnest. [...] The vulnerability itself seems to have been relatively small in scope. The heart of the problem was a specific developer API that could be used to see non-public information. But crucially, there's no evidence that it actually was used to see private data, and given the thin user base, it's not clear how much non-public data there really was to see. The API was theoretically accessible to anyone who asked, but only 432 people actually applied for access (again, it's Google+), so it's plausible that none of them ever thought of using it this way.
The bigger problem for Google isn't the crime, but the cover-up. The vulnerability was fixed in March, but Google didn't come clean until seven months later when The Wall Street Journal got hold of some of the memos discussing the bug. [...] Part of the disconnect comes from the fact that, legally, Google is in the clear. There are lots of laws about reporting breaches -- primarily the GDPR but also a string of state-level bills -- but by that standard, what happened to Google+ wasn't technically a breach. Those laws are concerned with unauthorized access to user information, codifying the basic idea that if someone steals your credit card or phone number, you have a right to know about it. But Google just found that data was available to developers, not that any data was actually taken. With no clear data stolen, Google had no legal reporting requirements. As far as the lawyers were concerned, it wasn't a breach, and quietly fixing the problem was good enough.
Mozilla Challenges Educators To Integrate Ethics Into STEM
Today, Mozilla, along with Omidyar Network, Schmidt Futures, and Craig Newmark Philanthropies, is launching a competition for professors and educators to effectively integrate ethics into computer science education at the undergraduate level. From a report:
The context, called the Responsible Computer Science Challenge, will award up to $3.5 million over the next two years to proposals focused on how to make ethics relevant to young technologists. "You can't take an ethics course from 50 or even 25 years ago and drop it in the middle of a computer science program and expect it to grab people or be particularly applicable," Mitchell Baker, the founder and chairwoman of the Mozilla Foundation, said. "We are looking to encourage ways of teaching ethics that make sense in a computer science program, that make sense today, and that make sense in understanding questions of data."
WhatsApp Fixes Bug That Let Hackers Take Over App When Answering a Video Call
WhatsApp developers have
fixed a bug in the Android and iOS versions of the WhatsApp mobile app that allowed hackers to take over the application when users answered an incoming video call. From a report:
Natalie Silvanovich, a security researcher with Google's Project Zero security research team, discovered the WhatsApp vulnerability at the end of August. She described the vulnerability as a "memory corruption bug in WhatsApp's non-WebRTC video conferencing implementation." "Heap corruption can occur when the WhatsApp mobile application receives a malformed RTP packet," Silvanovich said in a bug report. "This issue can occur when a WhatsApp user accepts a call from a malicious peer." It is unclear how popular the video feature is on WhatsApp, which is used by more than 1.2 billion users. But in July, the company said users were spending over two billion minutes on calls (including voice) each day.
Apple Plans To Give Away Original Content For Free To Device Owners as Part of New Digital TV Strategy, Report Says
Apple is planning a new digital video service that will provide original content free to its device owners, CNBC reported Wednesday. From the report:
Apple is preparing a new digital video service that will marry original content and subscription services from legacy media companies, according to people familiar with the matter. Owners of Apple devices, such as the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV will find the still-in-the-works service in the pre-installed "TV" application, said the people, who asked not to be named because the details of the project are private. The product will include Apple-owned content, which will be free to Apple device owners, and subscription "channels" which will allow customers to sign up for online-only services, such as those from HBO and Starz. Apple plans to debut the revamped app early next year, the people said. As Bloomberg reported in May, the subscription channels will essentially copy Amazon's Prime Video Channel Subscriptions. Customers will be able to access all of their content from within the TV app so they won't need to download individual apps from multiple media providers.
FBI Director on Whether Apple and Amazon Servers Had Chinese Spy Chips: 'Be Careful What You Read'
During a hearing in front of the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray told senators to "
be careful what you read," when asked about a recent story involving spy chips from China being
secretly embedded into servers owned by Apple, Amazon and other big companies. From a report:
Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairman of the committee, asked Wray when his agency found out about the chips that server manufacturer Super Micro implanted into server hardware, as reported last week by Bloomberg Businessweek. "I would say to the newspaper article or, I mean, the magazine article, I would say be careful what you read," Wray replied. "Especially in this context." Johnson called on Wray to speak to the accuracy of the story, telling the FBI director that, "We don't want false information out there." Wray said he couldn't offer much detail because the agency has a policy of not confirming or denying that an investigation is underway. "I do want to be careful that my comment not be construed as inferring or implying, I should say, that there is an investigation," Wray said. "We take very seriously our obligation to notify victims when they've been targeted."
State Attorneys Urge FCC To Combat Neighborhood Spoofing
Attorneys general from 35 states are urging the Federal Communications Commission to allow telephone companies to block illegally manipulated calls that appear to come from consumers' neighborhoods. From a report:
The rule change could help reduce "spoofed" calls from numbers with the same area code as the consumer, or even calls from the consumer's own number. Combating junk marketing calls has been a top consumer protection priority for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. The FCC last November adopted a set of robocall rules that allowed telephone companies to proactively block calls from invalid, unassigned or unused numbers. The agency then sought public comments on empowering telephone companies further. The attorneys general want to the FCC to create new rules specifically targeting neighborhood spoofing, they said in comments filed Oct. 9 with the agency.
Apple Said To Have 'Dramatically Reduced' Multi-Billion-Dollar iPhone Repair Fraud in China
From a report:
Within the past four years, Apple has managed to "dramatically reduce" the rate of iPhone-related repair fraud in its retail stores in China, according to The Information's Wayne Ma. The report is based on interviews with more than a dozen former Apple employees who spoke on condition of anonymity. In 2013, Apple is said to have discovered a highly sophisticated fraud scheme in which organized thieves would buy or steal iPhones, remove valuable components like the processor or logic board, swap in fake components, and return the "broken" iPhones to receive replacements they could resell. From the report: "Thieves would stand outside stores with suitcases full of iPhones with some of the original components stripped out and replaced with inferior parts, two of the people said. The fraudsters would hire people to pretend to be customers to return them, each taking a device to stand in line at the Genius Bar, the people said. Once the phones were swapped, the actors would pass the new phones to the fraudsters and get paid for their time, the people said."
BBC Had To Replace Live Broadcasts With Recorded Material on its TV News Channels For an Hour Today Because of a Technical Glitch
The BBC had to replace live broadcasts with recorded material on its TV news channels for about an hour on Wednesday following a technical glitch.
BBC News reports:
The News at Six was also presented from the BBC's Millbank studio instead of its usual home of New Broadcasting House. The issue affected OpenMedia, a new computer system rolled out across BBC News outlets over the past six months. OpenMedia supplier Annova has been helping to investigate the fault. Engineers believe they have now addressed the problem. BBC News Home Editor Mark Easton shared on social media that he was rushing across London to the Millbank studio.
More Than One Third of Music Consumers Still Pirate Music
More than one-third of global music listeners are still pirating music, according to a new report by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). From a report:
While the massive rise in legal streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal was thought to have stemmed illegal consumption, 38% of listeners continue to acquire music through illegal means. The most popular form of copyright infringement is stream-ripping (32%): using easily available software to record the audio from sites like YouTube at a low-quality bit rate. Downloads through "cyberlocker" file hosting services or P2P software like BitTorrent came second (23%), with acquisition via search engines in third place (17%).
Amazon Scraps Secret AI Recruiting Tool That Showed Bias Against Women
Jeffrey Dastin, reporting for Reuters:
Amazon's machine-learning specialists uncovered a big problem: their new recruiting engine did not like women. The team had been building computer programs since 2014 to review job applicants' resumes with the aim of mechanizing the search for top talent, five people familiar with the effort told Reuters. Automation has been key to Amazon's e-commerce dominance, be it inside warehouses or driving pricing decisions. The company's experimental hiring tool used artificial intelligence to give job candidates scores ranging from one to five stars -- much like shoppers rate products on Amazon, some of the people said. "Everyone wanted this holy grail," one of the people said. "They literally wanted it to be an engine where I'm going to give you 100 resumes, it will spit out the top five, and we'll hire those." But by 2015, the company realized its new system was not rating candidates for software developer jobs and other technical posts in a gender-neutral way. That is because Amazon's computer models were trained to vet applicants by observing patterns in resumes submitted to the company over a 10-year period. Most came from men, a reflection of male dominance across the tech industry.
[...] Amazon edited the programs to make them neutral to these particular terms. But that was no guarantee that the machines would not devise other ways of sorting candidates that could prove discriminatory, the people said. The Seattle company ultimately disbanded the team by the start of last year because executives lost hope for the project, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Amazon Patents New Alexa Feature That Knows When You're ill and Offers To Sell You Medicine
Amazon has patented a new version of its virtual assistant Alexa which can automatically detect when you're ill and offer to sell you medicine. From a report:
The proposed feature would analyse speech and identify other signs of illness or emotion. One example given in the patent is a woman coughing and sniffling while she speaks to her Amazon Echo device. Alexa first suggests some chicken soup to cure her cold, and then offers to order cough drops on Amazon. If Amazon were to introduce this technology, it could compete with a service planned by the NHS. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said earlier this year that the NHS was working on making information from its NHS Choices online service available through Alexa. Amazon's system, however, doesn't need to ask people whether they're ill -- it would just know automatically by analyzing their speech. Adverts for sore throat products could be automatically played to people who sound like they have a sore throat, Amazon's patent suggests.
New App Lets You 'Sue Anyone By Pressing a Button'
Jason Koebler writes:
Do Not Pay, a free service that launched in the iOS App store today, uses artificial intelligence to help people win up to $25,000 in small claims court. It's the latest project from 21-year-old Stanford senior Joshua Browder, whose service previously allowed people to fight parking tickets or sue Equifax; now, the app has streamlined the process. It's the "first ever service to sue anyone (in all 3,000 counties in 50 states) by pressing a button."
Microsoft Joins Open Invention Network (OIN), Will Grant a Royalty-Free and Unrestricted License To Its Entire Patent Portfolio To All Other OIN Members
Microsoft said Wednesday it had
joined the Open Invention Network (OIN), an open-source patent consortium. As part of it, the company has
essentially agreed to grant a royalty-free and unrestricted license to its entire patent portfolio to all other OIN members. From the press release:
By joining OIN, Microsoft is demonstrating its commitment to open source software (OSS) and innovation through collaborative development. With more than 2,650 members [Editor's note: the members include Google, IBM, Red Hat, and SUSE], including numerous Fortune 500 enterprises, OIN is the largest patent non-aggression community in history and represents a core set of community values related to open source licensing, which has become the norm. "Open source development continues to expand into new products and markets to create unrivaled levels of innovation. Through its participation in OIN, Microsoft is explicitly acknowledging the importance of open source software to its future growth," said Keith Bergelt, CEO of Open Invention Network. "Microsoft's participation in OIN adds to our strong community, which through its breadth and depth has reduced patent risk in core technologies, and unequivocally signals for all companies who are using OSS but have yet to join OIN that the litmus test for authentic behavior in the OSS community includes OIN participation."
Erich Andersen, Corporate Vice President and Chief IP Counsel at Microsoft, said, "Microsoft sees open source as a key innovation engine, and for the past several years we have increased our involvement in, and contributions to, the open source community. We believe the protection OIN offers the open source community helps increase global contributions to and adoption of open source technologies. We are honored to stand with OIN as an active participant in its program to protect against patent aggression in core Linux and other important OSS technologies."
Why Microsoft may be relinquishing billions in Android patent royalties.
Android Creator Is Building an AI Phone That Texts People for You, Report Says
Andy Rubin, the creator of Android operating system, is not
giving up on his Essential company. The consumer electronics startup is putting most projects aside to focus on development of a new kind of phone that
will try to mimic the user and automatically respond to messages on their behalf,
Bloomberg reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with the plans. From the report:
The company paused development of a planned home speaker, months after canceling a different smartphone that had been in the works, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the details are private. Sales of an earlier phone were disappointing, and the company is abandoning the effort partly because the product is too similar to others on the market. Essential had considered selling itself this year after a series of setbacks.
The design of the new mobile device isn't like a standard smartphone. It would have a small screen and require users to interact mainly using voice commands, in concert with Essential's artificial-intelligence software. The idea is for the product to book appointments or respond to emails and text messages on its own, according to the people familiar with the plans. Users would also be able to make phone calls from the planned device.
Google Appeals $5 Billion EU Fine In Android Case
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal:
Alphabet's Google on Tuesday said it filed an appeal of the European Union's $4.97 billion antitrust fine (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source) for allegedly abusing the dominance of its Android operating system for mobile phones. But Google said it has no plans to ask for so-called interim measures to pause application of the decision. Without further action, Google will have to meet a deadline at the end of October to end the behavior the EU says is anticompetitive or face additional fines of up to 5% of average daily global revenue for each day it doesn't comply. Google had promised that it would appeal the decision when the European Commission, the bloc's antitrust regulator, delivered it in mid-July. The commission said that Google broke the block's competition laws in part by strong-arming phone makers that use its free Android operating system to pre-install its namesake search engine, from which the company makes the bulk of its advertising revenue.
In the Android case, the European Commission has ordered Google to stop making phone manufacturers pre-install its search app and the Chrome web browser if they want to pre-install Google's Play store, which is the main way to download Android apps. The bloc also ordered Google to end restrictions that discourage manufacturers from selling devices that run unofficial versions of Android. It contends both restrictions illegally constrained competing search engines and operating systems. Google has argued that Android, which is free for manufacturers to use, has increased competition among smartphone makers, lowering prices for consumers. The company has said the allegation that it stymied competing apps is false because manufacturers typically install many rival apps on Android devices, and consumers can easily download others.
There Could Be Massive Shards of Ice Sticking Out of Jupiter's Moon Europa
According to a report
published in the journal Nature Geoscience, Jupiter's Moon Europa
may be home to a forest of tall, jagged ice spikes, which may complicate future missions looking for possible alien microbes. ScienceAlert reports:
Few moons in the Solar System are as intriguing as Jupiter's moon Europa. A global ocean of salt water almost certainly surrounds the moon - and it holds more water than any ocean on Earth. Above this immense sea, where surface temperatures dip to minus 300 degrees Fahrenheit (-184 degrees Celsius), a crust of water ice forms a shell. Astronomers predict that Jupiter, which bombards the moon with intense radiation, causes the entire moon to groan with gravity's tug. Europa's liquid water is a tempting target for future missions looking for possible alien microbes. But before a future lander can search for microscopic ET, the probe might have to contend with a forest of tall, jagged ice spikes. Their research suggests Europa is an icy hedgehog world, covered in ice formations rarely found on Earth. On our planet, ice takes several forms, as varied as needle ice, rime, parking lot slush and more exotic lumps.
Internet Archive Launches a Commodore 64 Emulator
The Internet Archive has
launched a free, browser-based Commodore 64 Emulator
with over 10,500 programs that are "working and tested for at least booting properly." Interestingly, the emulator comes just before the
launch of Commodore's own C64 Mini. "It's based off the
VICE emulator version 3.2, which is a triumph of engineering," adds HardOCP.