Georgia's Secretary of State Brian Kemp Doxes Thousands of Absentee Voters
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch:
Georgia's secretary of state and candidate for state governor in the midterm election, Brian Kemp, has taken the unusual, if not unprecedented step of posting the personal details of 291,164 absentee voters online for anyone to download. Kemp's office posted an Excel file on its website within hours of the results of the general election, exposing the names and addresses of state residents who mailed in an absentee ballot -- including their reason why, such as if a person is "disabled" or "elderly."
The file, according to the web page, allows Georgia residents to "check the status of your mail-in absentee ballot." Millions of Americans across the country mail in their completed ballots ahead of election day, particularly if getting to a polling place is difficult -- such as if a person is disabled, elderly or traveling. When reached, Georgia secretary of state's press secretary Candice Broce told TechCrunch that all of the data "is clearly designated as public information under state law," and denied that the data was "confidential or sensitive." "State law requires the public availability of voter lists, including names and address of registered voters," she said in an email. "While the data may already be public, it is not publicly available in aggregate like this," said security expert Jake Williams, founder of Rendition Infosec, who lives in Georgia. Williams took issue with the reasons that the state gave for each absentee ballot, saying it "could be used by criminals to target currently unoccupied properties." "Releasing this data in aggregate could be seen as suppressing future absentee voters in Georgia who do not want their information released in this manner," he said.
China's Brightest Children Are Being Recruited To Develop AI 'Killer Bots'
According to The South China Morning Post, "some of China's smartest students have been recruited straight from high school to begin training as the world's youngest AI weapons scientists." A total of 27 boys and four girls all under the age of 18 were
chosen for the four-year "experimental program for intelligent weapons systems" at the Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT) from more than 5,000 candidates. From the report:
The BIT is one of the country's top weapons research institutes, and the launch of the new program is evidence of the weight it places on the development of AI technology for military use. "These kids are all exceptionally bright, but being bright is not enough," said a BIT professor who was involved in the screening process but asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the subject. "We are looking for other qualities such as creative thinking, willingness to fight, a persistence when facing challenges," he said. "A passion for developing new weapons is a must ... and they must also be patriots."
Each student will be mentored by two senior weapons scientists, one from an academic background and the other from the defense industry, according to the program's brochure. After completing a short program of course work in the first semester, the students will be asked to choose a speciality field, such as mechanical engineering, electronics or overall weapon design. They will then be assigned to a relevant defense laboratory where they will be able to develop their skills through hands-on experience.
Free Music Archive Is Shutting Down
Free Music Archive -- a digital library of high-quality and legal downloads that users could listen to, remix, and share -- is
shutting down due to funding shortages. The Verge reports:
"The future is uncertain, has been my mantra lately," says Cheyenne Hohman, who's been the director of the Free Music Archive since 2014. The shutdown date was initially the 9th, but has since been pushed back to November 16th because the FMA is in early talks with four different organizations that are interested in taking the project over. "The site may stay up a little bit longer to ensure, at the very least, that our collections are backed up on archive.org and the Wayback Machine." Even so, it's not a perfect solution. "If it just goes into archive.org, it's going to be there in perpetuity, but it's not going to be changing at all," Hohman says. "It's not going to be the same thing, that sort of community and project that it was for ... almost 10 years."
Gates Foundation Spent $200 Million Funding Toilet Research
According to Bloomberg, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation "
spent $200 million over seven years funding sanitation research, showcased some 20 novel toilet and sludge-processing designs that eliminate harmful pathogens and convert bodily waste into clean water and fertilizer." Gates told the Reinvented Toilet Expo in Beijing on Tuesday that these technologies at the event "are the most significant advances in sanitation in nearly 200 years." From the report:
Holding a beaker of human excreta that, Gates said, contained as many as 200 trillion rotavirus cells, 20 billion Shigella bacteria, and 100,000 parasitic worm eggs, the Microsoft Corp. co-founder explained to a 400-strong crowd that new approaches for sterilizing human waste may help end almost 500,000 infant deaths and save $233 billion annually in costs linked to diarrhea, cholera and other diseases caused by poor water, sanitation and hygiene. One approach from the California Institute of Technology that Gates said he finds "super interesting" integrates an electrochemical reactor to break down water and human waste into fertilizer and hydrogen, which can be stored in hydrogen fuel cells as energy.
The reinvented toilet market, which has attracted companies including Japan's LIXIL Group, could generate $6 billion a year worldwide by 2030, according to Gates. The initial demand for the reinvented toilet will be in places like schools, apartment buildings, and community bathroom facilities. As adoption of these multi-unit toilets increases, and costs decline, a new category of reinvented household toilets will become available, the Gates Foundation said.
A Robot Scientist Will Dream Up New Materials To Advance Computing
An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review:
In a laboratory that overlooks a busy shopping street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a robot is attempting to create new materials. A robot arm dips a pipette into a dish and transfers a tiny amount of bright liquid into one of many receptacles sitting in front of another machine. When all the samples are ready, the second machine tests their optical properties, and the results are fed to a computer that controls the arm. Software analyzes the results of these experiments, formulates a few hypotheses, and then starts the process over again. Humans are barely required.
The setup, developed by a startup called Kebotix, hints at how machine learning and robotic automation may be poised to revolutionize materials science in coming years. The company believes it may find new compounds that could, among other things, absorb pollution, combat drug-resistant fungal infections, and serve as more efficient optoelectronic components. The company's software learns from 3-D models of molecules with known properties. Kebotix uses several machine-learning methods to design novel chemical compounds. The company feeds molecular models of compounds with desirable properties into a type of neural network that learns a statistical representation of those properties. This algorithm can then come up with new examples that fit the same model. To strain out potentially useless materials, Kebotix uses another neural network and "then the company's robotic system tests the remaining chemical structures," reports MIT Technology Review. "The results of those experiments can be fed back into the machine-learning pipeline, helping it get closer to the desired chemical properties. The company dubs the overall system a 'self-driving lab.'"
EU Court Rules Hungary's State Monopoly Over Mobile Payments Is Illegal
Hungarian state's monopoly over national mobile payment services
has been ruled illegal by the European Court of Justice. "The ruling would require the end of exclusive control over Hungarian mobile payments exercised since July 2014 by state-owned firm Nemzeti Mobilfizetesi Zrt," reports Reuters. "This exclusive operation 'is contrary to EU law,' the bloc's top court said in a statement."
"Even if the services provided under that system constitute services of general economic interest, their supply cannot be reserved to a state monopoly," the court added.
Samsung Will Put Notches On Its Future Phones
Samsung is one of the biggest smartphone makers to hold off on releasing smartphones with display notches. But at the company's developer conference today, Samsung
confirmed that it's soon going to join in on the trend. "A slide during the keynote showed several notch designs that are almost certainly coming to Samsung-branded devices in 2019 and beyond," reports The Verge. From the report:
Hassan Anjum, a director of product marketing at Samsung, took the stage to highlight Samsung's previous breakthroughs in reducing bezels and maximizing display size year after year. "We're going to keep going. The bezels are going to shrink even further," Anjum said. "We're going to push the limits with our new lineup: the Infinity U, V, and O displays. These are new concepts that are just around the corner, and I can't wait to tell you more about them."
Infinity U: This basically looks identical to the Essential Phone's notch design. It's a small half oval that cuts down into the top middle of the display.
Infinity V: Similar to Infinity U, but with four edges instead of a curved half-oval.
Infinity O: This is a full circular cutout of the display and not so much a "notch" the top edge of the screen. Still, it seems like an eyesore and it's hard to imagine reaction to this being very positive. What's gained by that little area of display above it? Asus seems to be exploring a similar idea for its ZenFone 6, and feedback has been overwhelmingly bad.
New Infinity: This looks to be a completely notchless display. Anjum didn't discuss this one onstage, and the technology isn't quite there to allow for this design just yet. That said, Samsung could be exploring the idea of a slider phone that would house the selfie camera and other components somewhere outside their usual location.
Police Decrypt 258,000 Messages After Breaking Pricey IronChat Crypto App
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica:
Police in the Netherlands said they decrypted more than 258,000 messages sent using IronChat, an app billed as providing end-to-end encryption that was endorsed by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. In a statement published Tuesday, Dutch police said officers achieved a "breakthrough in the interception and decryption of encrypted communication" in an investigation into money laundering. The encrypted messages, according to the statement, were sent by IronChat, an app that runs on a device that cost thousands of dollars and could send only text messages.
"Criminals thought they could safely communicate with so-called crypto phones which used the application IronChat," Tuesday's statement said. "Police experts in the east of the Netherlands have succeeded in gaining access to this communication. As a result, the police have been able to watch live the communication between criminals for some time." Blackbox-security.com, the site selling IronChat and IronPhone, quoted Snowden as saying: "I use PGP to say hi and hello, i use IronChat (OTR) to have a serious conversation," according to Web archives. Whether the endorsement was authentic or not wasn't immediately known. The site has been seized by Dutch police.
NASA is Showering One City With Sonic Booms and Hoping No One Notices
Eric Mack, reporting for CNET:
NASA has been deliberately creating sonic booms off the coast of Galveston, Texas, since Monday in the hope that residents on the barrier island community won't be too bothered by the sound of an F/A-18 aircraft briefly going supersonic. That's because the research jet is performing a dive maneuver designed to reduce the normally thunderous sonic boom to what NASA calls a "quiet thump," more like the sound of a car door slamming. The test flights are aimed at measuring the community response to the new, quieter booms and are part of NASA's larger effort to develop a new, more muted supersonic plane that might be able to fly over land. Current regulations prohibit flights over land that generate sonic booms.
Chinese 'Gait Recognition' Tech IDs People By How They Walk; Police Have Started Using It on Streets of Beijing and Shanghai
Chinese authorities have begun deploying a new surveillance tool: "gait recognition" software that
uses people's body shapes and how they walk to identify them, even when their faces are hidden from cameras. From a report:
Already used by police on the streets of Beijing and Shanghai, "gait recognition" is part of a push across China to develop artificial-intelligence and data-driven surveillance that is raising concern about how far the technology will go. Huang Yongzhen, the CEO of Watrix, said that its system can identify people from up to 50 meters (165 feet) away, even with their back turned or face covered. This can fill a gap in facial recognition, which needs close-up, high-resolution images of a person's face to work. "You don't need people's cooperation for us to be able to recognize their identity," Huang said in an interview in his Beijing office. "Gait analysis can't be fooled by simply limping, walking with splayed feet or hunching over, because we're analyzing all the features of an entire body."
California Voters Embrace Year-Round Daylight-Saving Time
Californians warmed to the idea of year-round daylight-saving time,
approving an initiative that would urge state lawmakers to junk the annual springing forward and falling back. From a report:
With 43 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday night, Proposition 7 was leading 61 percent to 39 percent. It's a long way from here to year-round daylight-saving time. First, the Legislature would have to approve it by a two-thirds vote. Then Congress would have to allow California to deviate from standard time when most of the rest of the nation shifts to it.
Samsung Shows Off a Foldable Prototype That Merges Phone and Tablet
At its developer conference Wednesday, Samsung introduced its new Infinity Flex Display, a foldable OLED screen that can allow manufacturers like Samsung to create
new, unique devices such as a phone that folds out to become a tablet-like device with a larger display. From a report:
"The foldable display lays the foundation for a new kind of mobile experience," said DJ Koh, president and CEO of Samsung IT and mobile communications division, in a statement. "We are excited to work with developers on this new platform to create new value for our customers." Although the product shown Wednesday was just a prototype, the company plans to release a consumer product that features the technology in the coming months. In addition to creating the hardware, Samsung has partnered with Google to work on the software to make sure apps work seamlessly regardless of whether the display is folded in a "smartphone-like" mode or opened fully as akin to a tablet.
Samsung Opens Its Voice Assistant Bixby To Developers as It Pursues Alexa and Siri
Samsung said Wednesday it was rolling out new voice-assistant features to challenge its U.S. rivals' dominance in AI. At its developer conference, where the company is also expected to unveil its first foldable smartphone, the company said it was fully opening its virtual assistant, called Bixby, to third-party developers and businesses for the first time. The move may help the company challenge incumbent players Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, and Google's Assistant.
Much of the assistant market is yet to be tapped, and it is the right time for developers to embrace Bixby, an executive said. The company said it is offering a no-trade off set of tools (what it calls Bixby Developer Studio) to developers to make use of Bixby. It's the first time any company is offering the full suite of tools that it uses to make its assistant to developers, the company said.
Corneas Could Be the First Mainstream Application of Bioprinting
A startup says it can replace donated eyes with 3D-printed corneas. From a report:
Here's a futuristic problem that may not have occurred to you: If self-driving cars really catch on and the number of traffic fatalities plunges, so will the number of organs available for transplant. Currently, about 20 percent of donated organs come from people who die in car accidents. Luckily, there's a futuristic solution: 3D-printed organs.
This technology is far from ready for the clinic, as researchers are still trying to figure out how to print out complex tissue structures with blood vessels and nerves. But for one early indicator of progress in this field, look to the eye. Precise Bio, a North Carolina-based startup founded by several professors at the renowned Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, is working on bioprinting tissues for a variety of medical applications. The company just announced that its first products will be for the eye -- starting with a human cornea suitable for transplantation. "We plan to put our printers in eye banks," says Precise Bio CEO Aryeh Batt.
As PUBG For PS4 Looms, Xbox Unofficially Responds: Have the Game For Free
Unannounced, unadvertised freebie lands ahead of Microsoft's X018 conference. PUBG, the game that kicked off an
international "battle royale" gaming sensation,
is currently free for all Xbox One owners. From a report:
Even if you do not have a paid Xbox Live Gold subscription, you can head to this link and claim what appears to be a permanent copy of the game for your Microsoft Account. Timed trials of Xbox One games tend to be exclusive treats for XBLG subscribers. Bizarrely, the Konami soccer game PES 2019, which launched at a standard $60 retail price point in August, is also free to claim as of today. (Here's that link.) Of course, there is the caveat that these games' giveaways could be yanked from accounts by Microsoft at any moment. In the meantime, we suggest clicking first, asking questions later.
Apple Not in Settlement Talks 'at Any Level' With Qualcomm, Report Says
not in talks "at any level" to settle its wide-ranging legal dispute with mobile chip maker Qualcomm,
Reuters reported Wednesday, citing a source familiar with the matter. From the report:
In the past, Apple used Qualcomm's modem chips in its flagship iPhone models to help them connect to wireless data networks. But early last year, Apple sued Qualcomm in federal court in San Diego, alleging that the chip company's practice of taking a cut of the selling price of phones as a patent license fee was illegal. The case is to go to trial early next year and has spawned related legal actions in other courts around the world. In July, Qualcomm's chief executive, Steve Mollenkopf, told investors on the company's quarterly earnings call that the two companies were in talks to resolve the litigation.
In a First, Amazon Begins Mailing 70-page Printed Holiday Toy Catalog To US Homes
Amazon is shipping its first-ever printed holiday toy catalog, titled "A Holiday of Play," to
millions of customers in the U.S. starting this month, the company said. From a report:
"Amazon is excited to offer a new way for customers to shop for toys this holiday season," Amazon said in a statement. The catalog comes with a distinct retro look, invoking memories of old Toys "R" Us catalogs that made the now-defunct toy retailer so successful. Some of the featured toys come with a QR code, allowing readers to instantly scan and shop for more products. Readers can also scan the product images in the catalog with their Amazon App to get more information and add them to their shopping cart. The move is Amazon's latest in following the playbook of traditional brick-and-mortar retailers.
WLinux, the First Paid-for Linux Distro for Windows 10, Goes On Sale on Microsoft Store
puddingebola shares a report:
WLinux is a $20 open-source, Debian-based distribution, designed to run on Windows 10's Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). The WSL allows Windows 10 to run various GNU/Linux distros inside Windows as Microsoft Store apps, providing access to Ubuntu, openSUSE, Debian, Fedora, Kali Linux, and others. The WSL has disadvantages over a running a dedicated GNU/Linux system. For example, there's no official support for desktop environments or graphical applications, and I/O performance bottlenecks, but it is being improved over time. The developers of WLinux describe it as a "fast Linux terminal environment for developers", saying it is the first distribution to be "pre-configured and optimized to run specifically on Windows Subsystem for Linux". Announcing WLinux's availability, Microsoft program manager Tara Raj, called out the wlinux-setup tool, "which allows users to easily set up common developer toolchains, and removes unsupported features like systemd."
San Francisco Passes a First-of-its-Kind Tax on Big Businesses To Help the Homeless
San Francisco voters passed a measure that has divided the tech community and sparked a national debate about the industry's responsibility to fix the city's homelessness crisis. From a report:
The San Francisco Chronicle called the race at 60 percent in favor with 99 percent of the vote counted. Proposition C will raise the city's gross receipts tax by an average of .5 percent on annual gross receipts over $50 million that companies like Square, Lyft and Salesforce generate. The new funds will bring in an estimated $250 million to $300 million a year -- twice what the city currently spends on an annual basis to help the homeless in tech's de facto capital. The thousands of people living on San Francisco's streets serve as a daily reminder of economic inequality in a city that has one of the highest concentrations of billionaires in the nation. Earlier this year, a United Nations expert on housing called the living conditions of the homeless in the Bay Area "cruel" and "unacceptable." The decision to increase funding for the city's most needy is a victory for the local nonprofits behind the measure and their tech fairy godfather, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, who, along with his company, has poured more than $7 million into the campaign in the month leading up to the election.
Zuckerberg Rebuffs Request To Appear Before UK Parliament
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has rejected
a request to appear before an international parliamentary delving into the questions around fake news. From a report:
The rebuff came after Damian Collins, the head of the U.K. parliament's media committee, joined forces with his Canadian counterpart in hopes of pressuring Zuckerberg to testify, as he did before the U.S Congress. Facebook rejected the invitation to appear before the so-called "international grand committee" session Nov. 27, arguing it wasn't possible for Zuckerberg to appear before all parliaments.
A New Method To Produce Steel Could Cut 5 Percent of CO2 Emissions
An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via MIT Technology Review:
A lumpy disc of dark-gray steel covers a bench in the lab space of Boston Metal, an MIT spinout located a half-hour north of its namesake city. It's the company's first batch of the high-strength alloy, created using a novel approach to metal processing. Instead of the blast furnace employed in steelmaking for centuries, Boston Metal has developed something closer to a battery. Specifically, it's what's known as an electrolytic cell, which uses electricity -- rather than carbon -- to process raw iron ore.
If the technology works at scale as cheaply as the founders hope, it could offer a clear path to cutting greenhouse-gas emissions from one of the hardest-to-clean sectors of the global economy, and the single biggest industrial source of climate pollution. After working on the idea for the last six years, the nine-person company is shifting into its next phase. If it closes a pending funding round, the startup plans to build a large demonstration facility and develop an industrial-scale cell for steel production. The process to produce steel results in around 1.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere annually, "adding up to around 5 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, according to
a recent paper in Science," MIT Technology Review reports.
The electrolytic cell that Boston Metal developed was realized after it was proposed to be used to extract oxygen from the moon's surface. "The by-product was molten metal," the report says. "But producing something like steel would require an anode made from cheap materials that wouldn't corrode under high temperatures or readily react with iron oxide. In 2013, [MIT chemist] Sadoway and MIT metallurgy researcher Antoine Allanore
published a paper in Nature concluding that anodes made from chromium-based alloys might check all those boxes."
Chinese President Vows To Boost Intellectual Property Protection
In the opening of China's first import-themed trade fair, President Xi Jinping promised tougher penalties for intellectual property theft, a key concern of the Trump administration, in front of leaders and executives from 3,600 companies from more than 170 countries. China has been steadily advancing intellectual property protection over the years. In addition to filing twice as many patents as the U.S. in 2017, up nearly 14 folds from 2001, it is also increasingly being selected as a key venue for patent litigation by non-Chinese companies, as litigants feel they are treated fairly as foreign plaintiffs won the majority of their patent cases in 2015 (though that likely attracts patent trolls). China's journey from piracy to protection models the journeys of the U.S. which had blatantly violated intellectual properties in building its modern industry.
Google Sends Final Software Update To Legacy Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P Phones
Google has pushed out the final "guaranteed" official software update for Nexus devices. According to Hot Hardware, the November update for both the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P "
carries the final build number of OPM7.181105.004, running Android 8.1 Oreo." From the report:
The last Nexus smartphones to launch from Google were the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P, which debuted in late 2015. Under Google's three-year update policy, both smartphones have received two major Android releases (Android 7.0 Nougat in 2016 and Android 8.0 Oreo in 2017) along with three years of monthly security updates. The monthly security updates should have ended in September, but Google out of nowhere provided a two-month reprieve through November 2018.