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Should the US Fund a 'National Cloud' for AI Research to Compete With China?

Slashdot - 2 hours 44 min ago
Big data "has big designs on a big cloud," reports NBC News: A steady drumbeat from some of the most influential executives in the technology industry has emerged in recent months to push the idea that the U.S. government should invest in a "national research cloud" — a hub for U.S. research into artificial intelligence where researchers from academia and smaller tech companies could share data sets and other resources. It's an idea that has been backed by a government commission led by ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt and including executives from Amazon, Microsoft and Oracle, which recommended that the Biden administration create a hub for U.S. research into artificial intelligence. The White House has warmed up to the idea, ordering another report on it due next year with an eye toward competing with China on the development of artificial intelligence. "We should be able to stay ahead of China. We estimated that we are one to two years ahead of China, broadly speaking, in this area. I hope that's true," Schmidt said in an interview with NBC News. "Investments that are targeted in research — new algorithms — should be able to keep us ahead," he said. The stakes could be enormous. Some experts in artificial intelligence believe it has the potential to transform the economy — automating some jobs, while creating new ones — and the potential military applications have spurred investment by the Pentagon. But this month, the idea began getting fresh pushback. Research groups including New York University's AI Now Institute and Data & Society, a nonprofit technology research group based in New York, say the very tech companies pushing this idea stand to profit from it, because the national hub would likely be housed in the same companies' commercial cloud computing services. They say that's a conflict, and little more than a cash grab by what's effectively the next generation of military contractors. The plan also could entrench the very same tech companies that President Joe Biden's antitrust enforcers are working to rein in, these critics say.

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EFF Board of Directors Removes 76-Year-Old John Gilmore

Slashdot - 6 hours 44 min ago
76-year-old John Gilmore co-founded the EFF in 1990, and in the 31 years since he's "provided leadership and guidance on many of the most important digital rights issues we advocate for today," the EFF said in a statement Friday. "But in recent years, we have not seen eye-to-eye on how to best communicate and work together," they add, announcing "we have been unable to agree on a way forward with Gilmore in a governance role." That is why the EFF Board of Directors has recently made the difficult decision to vote to remove Gilmore from the Board. We are deeply grateful for the many years Gilmore gave to EFF as a leader and advocate, and the Board has elected him to the role of Board Member Emeritus moving forward. "I am so proud of the impact that EFF has had in retaining and expanding individual rights and freedoms as the world has adapted to major technological changes," Gilmore said. "My departure will leave a strong board and an even stronger staff who care deeply about these issues." John Gilmore co-founded EFF in 1990 alongside John Perry Barlow, Steve Wozniak and Mitch Kapor, and provided significant financial support critical to the organization's survival and growth over many years. Since then, Gilmore has worked closely with EFF's staff, board, and lawyers on privacy, free speech, security, encryption, and more. In the 1990s, Gilmore found the government documents that confirmed the First Amendment problem with the government's export controls over encryption, and helped initiate the filing of Bernstein v DOJ, which resulted in a court ruling that software source code was speech protected by the First Amendment and the government's regulations preventing its publication were unconstitutional. The decision made it legal in 1999 for web browsers, websites, and software like PGP and Signal to use the encryption of their choice. Gilmore also led EFF's effort to design and build the DES Cracker, which was regarded as a fundamental breakthrough in how we evaluate computer security and the public policies that control its use. At the time, the 1970s Data Encryption Standard (DES) was embedded in ATM machines and banking networks, as well as in popular software around the world. U.S. government officials proclaimed that DES was secure, while secretly being able to wiretap it themselves. The EFF DES Cracker publicly showed that DES was in fact so weak that it could be broken in one week with an investment of less than $350,000. This catalyzed the international creation and adoption of the much stronger Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), now widely used to secure information worldwide.... EFF has always valued and appreciated Gilmore's opinions, even when we disagree. It is no overstatement to say that EFF would not exist without him. We look forward to continuing to benefit from his institutional knowledge and guidance in his new role of Board Member Emeritus. Gilmore also created the alt* hierarchy on Usenet, co-founded the Cypherpunks mailing list, and was one of the founders of Cygnus Solutions (according to his page on Wikipedia). He's also apparently Slashdot user #35,813 (though he hasn't posted a comment since 2004).

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After Open Source Community Outcry, Microsoft Reverses Controversial<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.NET Change

Slashdot - 8 hours 44 min ago
"Microsoft is reversing a decision to remove a key feature from its upcoming .NET 6 release, after a public outcry from the open source community," reports the Verge. "Microsoft angered the .NET open source community earlier this week by removing a key part of Hot Reload in the upcoming release of .NET 6, a feature that allows developers to modify source code while an app is running and immediately see the results." It's a feature many had been looking forward to using in Visual Studio Code and across multiple platforms, until Microsoft made a controversial last-minute decision to lock it to Visual Studio 2022 which is a paid product that's limited to Windows. Sources at Microsoft, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Verge that the last-minute change was made by Julia Liuson, the head of Microsoft's developer division, and was a business-focused move. Microsoft has now reversed the change following a backlash, and anger inside the company from many of Microsoft's own employees. "We made a mistake in executing on our decision and took longer than expected to respond back to the community," explains Scott Hunter, director of program management for .NET. Microsoft has now approved the community's pull request to re-enable this feature and it will be available in the final version of the .NET 6 SDK... This eventful episode came after weeks of unrest in the .NET community over Microsoft's involvement in the .NET Foundation. The foundation was created in 2014 when Microsoft made .NET open source, and it's supposed to be an independent organization that exists to improve open source software development and collaboration for .NET.

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Aggressive US Marketers are Bringing Police Surveillance Tools to the Masses

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-10-23 23:34
"License plate readers are rapidly reshaping private security in American neighborhoods," reports the Washington Post, as aggressively-marketed $2,500-a-year "safety-as-a-service" packages "spread to cover practically everywhere anyone chooses to live in the United States" and "bringing police surveillance tools to the masses with an automated watchdog that records 24 hours a day." Flock Safety, the industry leader, says its systems have been installed in 1,400 cities across 40 states and now capture data from more than a billion cars and trucks every month. "This is not just for million-dollar homes," Flock's founder, Garrett Langley, said. "This is America at its core..." Its solar-powered, motion-sensing camera can snap a dozen photos of a single plate in less than a second — even in the dark, in the rain, of a car driving 100 mph up to 75 feet away, as Flock's marketing materials say. Piped into a neighborhood's private Flock database, the photos are made available for the homeowners to search, filter or peruse. Machine-learning software categorizes each vehicle based on two dozen attributes, including its color, make and model; what state its plates came from; and whether it had bumper stickers or a roof rack. Each "vehicle fingerprint" is pinpointed on a map and tracked by how often it had been spotted in the past month. The plates are also run against law enforcement watch lists for abducted children, stolen cars, missing people and wanted fugitives; if there's a match, the system alerts the nearest police force with details on how to track it down... Flock's customer base has roughly quadrupled since 2019, with police agencies and homeowners associations in more than 1,400 cities today, and the company has hired sales representatives in 30 states to court customers with promises of a safer, more-monitored life. Company officials have also attended town hall meetings and papered homeowners associations with glossy marketing materials declaring its system "the most user-friendly, least invasive way for communities to stop crime": a network of cameras "that see like a detective," "protect home values" and "automate [the] neighborhood watch ... while you sleep." Along the way, the Atlanta-based company has become an unlikely darling of American tech. The company said in July it had raised $150 million from prominent venture capital firms such as Andreessen Horowitz, which said Flock was pursuing "a massive opportunity in shaping the future...." Flock deletes the footage every 30 days by default and encourages customers to search only when investigating crime. But the company otherwise lets customers set their own rules: In some neighborhoods, all the homeowners can access the images for themselves... Camera opponents didn't want the neighborhood's leaders to anoint themselves gatekeepers, choosing who does and doesn't belong. And they worried that if someone's car was broken into, but no one knew exactly when, the system could lead to hundreds of drivers, virtually all of them innocent, coming under suspicion for the crime. They also worried about the consequences of the cameras getting it wrong. In San Francisco, police had handcuffed a woman at gunpoint in 2009 after a camera garbled her plate number; another family was similarly detained last year because a thief had swiped their tag before committing a crime. And last year in Aurora, 30 miles from Paradise Hills, police handcuffed a mother and her children at gunpoint after a license plate reader flagged their SUV as stolen. The actual stolen vehicle, a motorcycle, had the same plate number from another state. Police officials have said racial profiling did not play a role, though the drivers in all three cases were Black. (The license plate readers in these cases were not Flock devices, and the company said its systems would have shown more accurate results...) The Paradise Hills opponents were right to be skeptical about a local crime wave. According to Jefferson County sheriff's records shared with The Post, the only crime reports written up since September 2020 included two damaged mailboxes, a fraudulent unemployment claim and some stuff stolen out of three parked cars, two of which had been left unlocked. "I wouldn't exactly say it's a hot spot," patrol commander Dan Aten told The Post... The cameras clicked on in August, a board member said. In the weeks since, the neighborhood hasn't seen any reports of crime. The local sheriff's office said it hasn't used the Flock data to crack any cases, nor has it found the need to ask. Flock's founder, Garrett Langley, nonetheless tells the Washington Post, "There are 17,000 cities in America. "Until we have them all, we're not done."

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Egyptian Security Forces Detain Humanoid Robot, Suspecting Espionage

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-10-23 22:34
The Guardian reports: She has been described as "a vision of the future" who is every bit as good as other abstract artists today, but Ai-Da — the world's first ultra-realistic robot artist — hit a temporary snag before her latest exhibition when Egyptian security forces detained her at customs. Ai-Da is due to open and present her work at the Great Pyramid of Giza on Thursday, the first time contemporary art has been allowed next to the pyramid in thousands of years. But because of "security issues" that may include concerns that she is part of a wider espionage plot, both Ai-Da and her sculpture were held in Egyptian customs for 10 days before being released on Wednesday, sparking a diplomatic fracas... According to Aidan Meller, the human force behind Ai-Da, border guards detained Ai-Da at first because she had a modem, and then because she had cameras in her eyes (which she uses to draw and paint). "I can ditch the modems, but I can't really gouge her eyes out," he said. She was finally cleared through customs on Wednesday evening, hours before the exhibition was due to start, with the British embassy in Cairo saying they were "glad" the case had been resolved... Meller, an Oxford gallerist, said he always hoped his project would prompt debate about the rapid rise of AI technology. "She is an artist robot, let's be really clear about this. She is not a spy. People fear robots, I understand that. But the whole situation is ironic, because the goal of Ai-Da was to highlight and warn of the abuse of technological development, and she's being held because she is technology. Ai-Da would appreciate that irony, I think."

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$28B Startup Says Companies Were Refusing Their Free Open-Source Code as 'Not Enterprise-Ready'

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-10-23 21:34
"Ali Ghodsi was happily researching AI at Berkeley when he helped invent a revolutionary bit of code — and he wanted to give it away for free," remembers Forbes India. "But few would take it unless he charged for it. "Now his startup is worth $28 billion, and the career academic is a billionaire with a reputation as one of the best CEOs in the Valley." (Literally. VC Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz calls him the best CEO in Andreessen Horowitz's portfolio of hundreds of companies.) Inside a 13th-floor boardroom in downtown San Francisco, the atmosphere was tense. It was November 2015, and Databricks, a two-year-old software company started by a group of seven Berkeley researchers, was long on buzz but short on revenue. The directors awkwardly broached subjects that had been rehashed time and again. The startup had been trying to raise funds for five months, but venture capitalists were keeping it at arm's length, wary of its paltry sales. Seeing no other option, NEA partner Pete Sonsini, an existing investor, raised his hand to save the company with an emergency $30 million injection... Many of the original founders, Ghodsi in particular, were so engrossed with their academic work that they were reluctant to start a company — or charge for their technology, a best-of-breed piece of future-predicting code called Spark, at all. But when the researchers offered it to companies as an open-source tool, they were told it wasn't "enterprise ready". In other words, Databricks needed to commercialise. "We were a bunch of Berkeley hippies, and we just wanted to change the world," Ghodsi says. "We would tell them, 'Just take the software for free', and they would say 'No, we have to give you $1 million'." Databricks' cutting-edge software uses artificial intelligence to fuse costly data warehouses (structured data used for analytics) with data lakes (cheap, raw data repositories) to create what it has coined data "lakehouses" (no space between the words, in the finest geekspeak tradition). Users feed in their data and the AI makes predictions about the future. John Deere, for example, installs sensors in its farm equipment to measure things like engine temperature and hours of use. Databricks uses this raw data to predict when a tractor is likely to break down. Ecommerce companies use the software to suggest changes to their websites that boost sales. It's used to detect malicious actors — both on stock exchanges and on social networks. Ghodsi says Databricks is ready to go public soon. It's on track to near $1 billion in revenue next year, Sonsini notes. Down the line, $100 billion is not out of the question, Ghodsi says — and even that could be a conservative figure. It's simple math: Enterprise AI is already a trillion-dollar market, and it's certain to grow much larger. If the category leader grabs just 10 percent of the market, Ghodsi says, that's revenues of "many, many hundred billions." Later in the article Ghodsi offers this succinct summary of the market they entered. "It turns out that if you dust off the neural network algorithms from the '70s, but you use way more data than ever before and modern hardware, the results start becoming superhuman."

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Astronomers Find Nascent Exploding Star, 'Rosetta Stone' of All Supernovas

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-10-23 20:34
"A star located 60 million light years away went supernova last year, and astronomers managed to capture all stages of the stellar explosion using telescopes both on the ground and in space," reports Gizmodo. Long-time Slashdot reader spaceman375 shared Gizmodo's report: This awesome display of astronomical power has yielded a dataset of unprecedented proportions, with independent observations gathered before, during, and after the explosion. It's providing a rare multifaceted view of a supernova during its earliest phase of destruction. The resulting data should vastly improve our understanding of the processes involved when stars go supernova, and possibly lead to an early warning system in which astronomers can predict the timing of such events. "We used to talk about supernova work like we were crime scene investigators, where we would show up after the fact and try to figure out what happened to that star," Ryan Foley, an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the leader of the investigation, explained in a press release. "This is a different situation, because we really know what's going on and we actually see the death in real time." Of course, it took 60 million years for the light from this supernova to reach Earth, so it's not exactly happening in "real time," but you get what Foley is saying... Observations of circumstellar material in close proximity to the star were made by Hubble just hours after the explosion, which, wow. The star shed this material during the past year, offering a unique perspective of the various stages that occur just prior to a supernova explosion. "We rarely get to examine this very close-in circumstellar material since it is only visible for a very short time, and we usually don't start observing a supernova until at least a few days after the explosion," said Samaporn Tinyanont, the lead author of the paper, which is set for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. TESS managed to capture one image of the evolving system every 30 minutes, starting a few days before the explosion and ending several weeks afterward. Hubble joined in on the action a few hours after the explosion was first detected. Archival data dating back to the 1990s was also brought in for the analysis, resulting in an unprecedented multi-decade survey of a star on its way out... In the press release, the researchers referred to SN 2020fqv as the "Rosetta Stone of supernovas," as the new observations could translate hidden or poorly understood signals into meaningful data.

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Can Windows 11 Run on a 2006-Era Pentium 4 Chip?

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-10-23 19:34
"Microsoft has been mainly telling consumers that Windows 11 is meant for newer PCs," reports PC Magazine. "However, an internet user has uploaded a video that shows the OS can actually run on a 15-year-old Pentium 4 chip from Intel." Last week, Twitter user "Carlos S.M." posted screenshots of his Pentium 4-powered PC running Windows 11. He then followed that up with a video and benchmarks to verify that his machine was running the one-core Pentium chip with only 4GB of DDR2 RAM. To install the OS onto the system, Carlos S.M. said he used a Windows 10 PE Installer, which can be used to deploy or repair Windows via a USB drive. "Windows 11 is installed in MBR (Master Boot Record)/Legacy Boot mode, no EFI emulation involved," he added. Of course, the OS runs a bit slow on the Pentium 4 chip. Nevertheless, it shows Windows 11 can easily run on decade-old hardware... Officially, Microsoft has said a PC must possess a newer security feature called TPM 2.0 in order to run Windows 11. To underscore the point, the company released a list of eligible CPUs, and the processors only go as far back as late 2017. However, the company has also quietly acknowledged that older PCs without TPM 2.0 can run Windows 11 — so long as the user decides to manually install the OS onto their machine... If you do install Windows 11 on an unsupported PC, Microsoft warns your machine may not be eligible to receive automatic updates. But apparently Carlos S.M. has had no problems receiving updates for his own Pentium-powered PC. "Windows update still works on this machine and even installed the Patch Tuesday," Carlos S.M. said in a follow-up tweet. Thanks to tlhIngan (Slashdot reader #30,335) for the tip!

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Systemd-Free Devuan 4.0 'Chimaera' Officially Released

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-10-23 18:34
Luna (Slashdot reader #20,969) quotes the Devuan web site. "Dear Friends and Software Freedom Lovers," its announcement begins: "Devuan Developers are delighted to announce the release of Devuan Chimaera 4.0 as the project's new stable release. This is the result of many months of painstaking work by the Team and detailed testing by the wider Devuan community." This release is Based on Debian Bullseye (11.1) with Linux kernel 5.10, according to the announcement, and lets you choose your init system : sysvinit, runit, and OpenRC. Another feature it's touting: Improved desktop support. "Virtually all desktop environments available in Debian are now part of Devuan, systemd-free."

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Visual Studio for Browsers: Microsoft Unveils 'VSCode for the Web'

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-10-23 17:34
"Bringing VS Code to the browser is the realization of the original vision for the product," Microsoft said in a blog post. "It is also the start of a completely new one. An ephemeral editor that is available to anyone with a browser and an internet connection is the foundation for a future where we can truly edit anything from anywhere." Or, as Mike Melanson describes it in his "This Week in Programming" column, "Microsoft continued its march toward developer dominance this week with the launch of Visual Studio Code for the Web, a lightweight version of the company's highly popular (mostly) open source code editor..." Now, before you go getting too excited, VS Code for the Web isn't really a fully-functional version of VS Code running in the browser, as it has no backend to back it up, which means its primary purpose is for client-side HTML, JavaScript, and CSS applications... VS Code for the Web is able to provide syntax colorization, text-based completions and other such features for popular languages such as C/C++, C#, Java, PHP, Rust, and Go, while TypeScript, JavaScript, and Python are "all powered by language services that run natively in the browser" and therefore provide a "better" experience, while those aforementioned Web languages, such as JSON, HTML, CSS, and LESS, will provide the best experience. Extensions, meanwhile — which are among the top reasons for using VS Code — generally work for user interface customizations (and can be synced with your other environments), but, again, not so much for those back-end features. Caveats aside, VS Code for the Web does, indeed, offer a lightweight, available-anywhere code editor for things like your tablet, your Chromebook, and heck, even your XBOX... While companies like Amazon and Google seem to be sitting idly by in this arena, Microsoft is not the only company focused on providing remote developer experiences. The Eclipse Foundation, for example, last year offered what it said was "a true open source alternative to Visual Studio Code" with Eclipse Theia, and Eclipse Foundation executive director Mike Milinkovich said he expects this to be just the beginning. "We have been saying for years that the future of developer tools is the browser. Developers already use their browsers for the vast majority of their day-to-day tasks, with code editing being amongst the last to move," Milinkovich wrote in an email. "Microsoft's recent vscode.dev announcement is a recognition of this trend. I expect that every serious cloud vendor will be following suit over the next few quarters." GitPod, meanwhile, has been hard at work in this very same arena, with its own launch just last month of the open source OpenVSCode Server, which also lets developers run upstream Visual Studio Code in the browser. Gitpod co-founder Johannes Landgraf calls it "yet another validation that we reached a tipping point of how and where we develop software" — but also more. "Think orchestration and provisioning of compute, operating system, language servers and all other tools you require for professional software development in the cloud." Melanson's column also argues VS Code for the Web is meant to entice geeks further into the Microsoft development universe. "The next thing you know, you've spent $100 on other things...like GitHub Codespaces, which is, after all, pretty much the same exact thing, except it provides all those back-end services and, more importantly for Microsoft, is not free to use. And more important still, once you've got all those developers fully hooked on VS Code, Codespaces, GitHub, and the rest of it, Azure isn't too far down the line now, is it?"

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AmigaOS Is Still Getting Updates and Upgrades

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-10-23 16:34
Mike Bouma (Slashdot reader #85,252) writes: A-EON Technology Ltd has released Enhancer Software Release 2.1 for AmigaOS4.1 FE update 2, which itself was released on 23 December 2020. It's an OS enhancement package with large amounts of updated and upgraded OS components. Also earlier this year Hyperion released AmigaOS 3.2 for all classic Amigas. Here's a roundup of new features by The Guru Meditation on YouTube.

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Facebook Accused of Tolerating Dangerous and Criminal Behavior to Preserve Profitability

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-10-23 15:34
A new whistleblower affidavit submitted by a former Facebook employee "alleges that the company prizes growth and profits over combating hate speech, misinformation and other threats to the public," reports the Washington Post: The SEC affidavit goes on to allege that Facebook officials routinely undermined efforts to fight misinformation, hate speech and other problematic content out of fear of angering then-President Donald Trump and his political allies, or out of concern about potentially dampening the user growth key to Facebook's multi-billion-dollar profits... Friday's filing is the latest in a series since 2017 spearheaded by former journalist Gretchen Peters and a group she leads, the Alliance to Counter Crime Online. Taken together, the filings argue that Facebook has failed to adequately address dangerous and criminal behavior on its platforms, including Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger... "Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives repeatedly claimed high rates of success in restricting illicit and toxic content — to lawmakers, regulators and investors — when in fact they knew the firm could not remove this content and remain profitable," Peters said in a statement. Friday's filing, which was accompanied by a second affidavit from Peters based on interviews she conducted with other former company employees, argues that top leaders at Facebook, including chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, are aware of the severity of problems within the company but have failed to report them in SEC filings available to investors... Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which some lawmakers are pushing to reform, gives broad immunity to Internet companies for content that users post on their platforms. That is a barrier to some kinds of legal scrutiny but not necessarily to an investigation by the SEC, which has wide-ranging enforcement powers. There appears to be a convenient case study available. Facebook "had set up safeguards that were aimed at combating misinformation and other forms of platform abuse" in the run-up to America's 2020 election, "but it dismantled many of them by mid-December," Bloomberg reported Friday, citing a new package of redacted documents provided to Congress by whistleblower Frances Haugen. And in addition, "In early December, Facebook disbanded a 300-person squad known as Civic Integrity, which had the job of monitoring misuse of the platform around elections... even as efforts to delegitimize the election intensified." Meanwhile, Stop the Steal groups were "amplifying and normalizing misinformation and violent hate in a way that delegitimized a free and fair election," Facebook's internal analysis concluded. But there's more in that company after-action report, adds the Washington Post: The documents also provide ample support that the company's internal research over several years had identified ways to diminish the spread of political polarization, conspiracy theories and incitements to violence but that in many instances, executives had declined to implement those steps... The documents and interviews with former employees make clear that Facebook has deep, highly precise knowledge about how its users are affected by what appears on its sites. Facebook relentlessly measures an astonishing array of data points, including the frequency, reach and sources of falsehoods and hateful content and often implements measures to suppress both. The company exhaustively studies potential policy changes for their impacts on user growth and other factors key to corporate profits, such as engagement, the extent of sharing and other reactions. The article adds that at Facebook, even the public relations and political impacts "are carefully weighed — to the point that potentially flattering and unflattering news headlines about the company are sketched out for review."

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Facebook Fined Record &pound;50m By UK Competition Watchdog

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-10-23 14:45
"The BBC is reporting that Facebook has been fined a record £50 million by the UK's Competition and Markets Authority," writes long-time Slashdot reader Hope Thelps, "for deliberately failing to provide required information" (pertaining to Facebook's 2020 acquisition of Gif-sharing service Giphy). The BBC reports: The £50m fine the CMA handed Facebook is more than 150 times higher than the previous record handed down for similar offences, at £325,000. Speaking about its decision to fine the social media giant, the CMA said in a statement: "This is the first time a company has been found by the CMA to have breached an [order] by consciously refusing to report all the required information." Giphy is widely used by Facebook's competitors to power animated Gif images used in social media apps, on mobile keyboards, and elsewhere online. That led to potential competition concerns. The CMA issued something called an "initial enforcement order", which limits how companies that are merging, but under investigation, operate. It is designed to keep the entities semi-separate and in competition with each other until the investigation is over. Facebook is obliged to provide updates and information to make clear how it is complying with the order. "Given the multiple warnings it gave Facebook, the CMA considers that Facebook's failure to comply was deliberate," the CMA said. That "fundamentally undermined its ability to prevent, monitor and put right any issues". The fine for that offence is £50m. Separately, the CMA announced a £500,000 fine for Facebook changing its chief compliance officer — twice — "without seeking consent first".

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Sinclair Workers Say TV Channels Are In 'Pandemonium' After Ransomware Attack

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-10-23 14:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: In the early hours of Sunday morning, hackers took down the corporate servers and systems of Sinclair Broadcast Group, a giant U.S. TV conglomerate that owns or operates more than 600 channels across the country. Days later, inside the company, "it's pandemonium and chaos," as one current employee, who asked to remain anonymous as they were not authorized to speak to the press, told Motherboard. Sinclair has released very few details about the attack since it was hacked Sunday. On Wednesday, Bloomberg reported that the group behind the attack is the infamous Evil Corp., a ransomware gang that is believed to be based in Russia and which was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury department in 2019. The ransomware attack interfered with several channels' broadcast programming, preventing them from airing ads or NFL games, as reported by The Record, a news site owned by cybersecurity firm Recorded Future. It has also left employees confused and wondering what's going on, according to current Sinclair workers. "Whoever did this, they either by accident or by design did a very good job," a current employee said in a phone call, explaining that there are some channels that haven't been able to air commercials since Sunday. "We're really running in the blind [...] you really can't do your job." The employee said that he was working on Sunday and was able to get two emails out to colleagues. "And one of them got it, and the other one didn't," they said. Employees did not have access to their emails until Tuesday morning, according to the two employees and text messages seen by Motherboard. The office computers, however, are still locked by the company out of precaution, and Sinclair told employees not to log into their corporate VPN, which they usually used to do their jobs. Until Thursday, the company was communicating with employees via text, according to the sources, who shared some of the texts sent by the company. In one of them, they called for an all hands meeting. The meeting, according to the two current employees, was quick and vague. Both sources said that the company should be more transparent with its own employees.

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Audio Tape Interface Revives Microcassettes As Storage Medium

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-10-23 11:00
Zack Nelson decided to go back in time and add a suitably classic storage medium to a retrocomputing project, in the form of a cassette interface. Hackaday reports: The cassette player he had available was a Pearlcorder L400, which uses the smaller microcassette instead of the familiar audio tapes used in your Walkman or boombox. [Zack] designed the entire thing from the ground up: first he decided to use differential Manchester encoding, which provides immunity against common disturbances like speed variations (which cause wow and flutter). The data is encoded in the frequency range from 1 kHz to 2 kHz, which suits the bandwidth of the cassette player. Next, he designed the interface between the computer and the tape recorder; built from an op-amp and a comparator with a handful of discrete components, it filters the incoming signal and clips it to provide a clean digital signal to be read out directly by the computer. The system is demonstrated by hooking it up to an Arduino Nano, which reads out the data stream at about 3000 baud. The noise it makes should bring back memories to anyone brought up with the "PRESS PLAY ON TAPE" message.

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Hear Sounds From Mars Captured By NASA's Perseverance Rover

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-10-23 08:00
NASA's Perseverance rover has recorded up to five hours of sounds on the Mars, giving engineers a sense of how the Red Planet sounds different from Earth. Space.com reports: NASA now has a Perseverance rover website filling up with Martian audio, ranging from wind gusts to the sounds of rover driving as it seeks spots to hunt for the signs of life on the Red Planet. In March, we even heard its laser "snapping" (sadly, no pew-pew noise was evident.) "It's like you're really standing there," Baptiste Chide, a planetary scientist who studies data from the Perseverance microphones, said in a statement from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). "Martian sounds have strong bass vibrations, so when you put on headphones, you can really feel it. I think microphones will be an important asset to future Mars and solar system science," added Chide, who works at France's Institute of Research in Astrophysics and Planetology. The SuperCam mics have been especially helpful for JPL to learn more about the environment in Jezero Crater, where Perseverance has been roaming for about seven Earth months. In May, Perseverance was able to hear the sound of the Ingenuity drone's rotors buzzing from a distance of 262 feet away. "The audio has been useful for investigations ranging from how sound propagates on Mars, and keeping Perseverance well-maintained," the report adds.

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Japanese bloke collared after using AI software to uncensor smut and flogging it

The Register - Sat, 2021-10-23 04:30
Plus: Explore the limits of language models in bizarre research experiment, and more

In brief  A man was detained in Japan for selling uncensored pornographic content that he had, in a way, depixelated using machine-learning tools.…

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Intel's Future Now Depends On Making Everyone Else's Chips

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-10-23 04:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica, written by Tim De Chant: Over the last year and a half, as the pandemic has everyone turned to their screens, demand has surged for devices (phones and laptops) and cloud services (Netflix and Zoom), all powered by a range of advanced semiconductors. Manufacturers have raced to squeeze more chips out of their fabs, but many were running near their limits before the pandemic. Still, Intel and its competitors didn't rush to build new fabs -- fabs are startlingly expensive, and without continued demand, semiconductor firms are loath to build more. But now, as the global pandemic continues to disrupt supply chains, chipmakers have decided that the current spike in demand isn't going away. Intel's $20 billion investment [to build two new chip factories in Chandler, Arizona] is only one example. Samsung announced in May that it would spend $151 billion over the next decade to boost its semiconductor capacity. TSMC made a similar announcement in April, pledging to invest $100 billion in the next three years alone. The investments required to stay at the leading edge -- where the most advanced chips are made -- has whittled down the number of semiconductor competitors from more than 20 in 2001 to just two today. "There's really only so much room at the leading edge, just because of the huge capital costs involved," said Will Hunt, a research analyst at Georgetown University's Center for Security and Emerging Technology. That cost is driven by the price of the equipment that's required to etch ever-smaller features onto chips. A few years ago, the industry began to use extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) to shrink transistor sizes. EUV machines are marvels of physics and engineering, and one tool costs upwards of $120 million. To stay relevant, companies will need to buy a dozen or more annually for the next several years. For those sorts of investments to make sense, semiconductor manufacturers must produce and sell an enormous volume of chips. "When you have volume orders, then you can do yield experiments, you can improve your yield, and yield is everything because that's how you cover your costs," said Willy Shih, a professor of management at Harvard Business School. Which is why Intel, under [Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger], is doing something now that it historically has shunned. "We are now a foundry," Gelsinger said at the Arizona groundbreaking. In the coming years, he said, Intel will "open the doors of our fab wide for the community at large to serve the foundry needs of our customers -- many of them US companies that are dependent on solely having foreign supply sources today." But becoming a leading-edge foundry isn't just about building fabs and telling customers you've got space to make their chips. Gelsinger will have to change Intel's culture and, to some extent, its technology, both of which are deep-seated. "He has to turn a huge ship around," said Robert Maire, president of Semiconductor Advisors. In the coming years, Intel has several challenges to master at once. As the company rolls out a new business model, it also needs to redouble its R&D efforts while still being careful with cash flow. (Intel has fallen so far behind that it now plans to outsource production of its most advanced chips -- and a portion of the profits that accompany them -- to TSMC.) The transition will demand intense focus. "The foundry business could be a distraction," Shih said. At the same time, he added, Apple, Google, Amazon, and other companies are moving away from Intel's standardized chips toward their own customized designs. If Intel doesn't change with the times, it risks being left behind. "There will be many challenges, and there will be tests that will face them," Shih said. "It's going to be hard."

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NATO Launches AI Strategy and $1 Billion Fund As Defense Race Heats Up

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-10-23 03:02
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the military alliance of 30 countries that border the North Atlantic Ocean, this week announced that it would adopt its first AI strategy and launch a "future-proofing" fund with the goal of investing around $1 billion. VentureBeat reports: Military.com reports that U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will join other NATO members in Brussels, Belgium, the alliance's headquarters, to formally approve the plans over two days of talks. Speaking at a news conference, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the effort was in response to "authoritarian regimes racing to develop new technologies." NATO's AI strategy will cover areas including data analysis, imagery, cyberdefense, he added. NATO's overtures come after a senior cybersecurity official at the Pentagon resigned in protest because of the slow pace of technological development at the department. Speaking to the press last week, Nicolas Chaillan, former chief software officer at the Air Force, said that the U.S. has "no competing fighting chance against China" in 15 to 20 years, characterizing the AI and cyber defenses in some government agencies as being at "kindergarten level."

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Apple Updates App Store Guidelines To Permit Devs To Contact Customers About Other Payment Methods

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-10-23 02:25
TechCrunch's Sarah Perez writes about the new set of App Store Guidelines that Apple introduced today: One of the changes is the result of a previously announced settlement agreement with a class of U.S. app developers. It clarifies that developers are allowed to communicate with their customers about other payment methods available outside their app. Related to this, another new guideline explains that apps may request customer information like name and email, but the request must be optional for the user and shouldn't prevent them from using the app. The third guideline is unrelated to legal action, and simply details how developers can use a new App Store feature, called in-app events, which rolls out next week. Specifically, Apple deleted a clause from guideline 3.1.3 which had previously said developers were not permitted to use information obtained within their app to target individual users outside of the app to use purchasing methods other than Apple's own in-app purchases. The old rule had also said this would include sending out emails to the address on file obtained when the customer signed up for the app. With this clause gone, developers are no longer barred from those sorts of communications. Apple also added a new section to guideline 5.1.1 (x) which explains further how developers may go about requesting user contact information. It says: "Apps may request basic contact information (such as name and email address) so long as the request is optional for the user, features and services are not conditional on providing the information, and it complies with all other provisions of these guidelines, including limitations on collecting information from kids."

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