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Zoom Deleted Events Discussing Zoom 'Censorship'

Mon, 2020-10-26 16:05
Zoom shut down a series of events meant to discuss what organizers called "censorship" by the company. From a report: The events were planned for Oct. 23 and were organized in response to a previous cancellation by Zoom of a San Francisco State University talk by Leila Khaled, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a designated terror organization in the US. Khaled is best known for highjacking two planes, one in 1969 and one in 1970. Zoom told the Verge at the time that the Sept. 23 talk was in violation of the company's terms of service. The Verge also reported that the action was in response to pressure by Jewish and Israel lobby groups, such as the Lawfare Project. Following the Sept. 23 cancellation, a group of academics organized a series of events across the country, as well as in Canada and the UK, which were meant to highlight the issue. "Campuses across North America are joining in the campaign to resist corporate and university silencing of Palestinian narratives and Palestinian voices," said the day of action's event description, which was meant to be held on Oct. 23. The follow-up events did not include Khaled presenting. The event held in part by New York University, which was canceled the day of, included a compilation of her previous statements, according to a blog post on the incident.

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Categories: Technology

Schools Clamored for Seesaw's App. That Was Good News, and Bad News.

Mon, 2020-10-26 15:22
An anonymous reader shares a report: The first requests that upended Seesaw, a popular classroom app, came in January from teachers and education officials abroad. Their schools were shutting down because of the coronavirus, and they urgently wanted the app adjusted for remote learning. The company figured it could do that with a single short hackathon project. "We were so naive," said Emily Voigtlander Seliger, a Seesaw product manager. Weeks later, reality hit: The virus spread to the United States, where more of the app's users are. Seesaw had been designed for students in a classroom to submit an audio comment or a digital drawing after a lesson. But thousands of teachers suddenly wanted it to work as a full-featured home learning tool. Rather than using Seesaw for a couple of assignments a week, they were using it for hours each day. It seemed like every start-up's dream: racing to keep up with demand from people desperate for your app. And in many ways, that has worked out well for Seesaw, a San Francisco company. The number of student posts on its app increased tenfold from February to May, Seesaw says, and the paid customer base has tripled from last year. The app is now used in more than three-quarters of American schools, including big districts like Dallas and Los Angeles. [...] But Seesaw's experience also shows the kinds of hurdles that a company must jump in such extreme circumstances, going through years' worth of growing pains in a few months. Other digital education products, like Zoom and Google Classroom, experienced similar growth spurts and ran into their own problems -- such as unwelcome strangers who dropped into those early weeks of Zoom school. But they are public companies with resources to spare. Seesaw had just 60 employees in February, when the coronavirus hit the United States, and was trying to prove that it deserved a tryout for the big leagues. Small issues that the company knew about but hadn't addressed before the pandemic became significant problems. Teachers begged for app reliability, but some changes Seesaw made for at-home use didn't always work smoothly. While Seesaw executives wanted the app to be interesting for students, it had to be streamlined enough for frazzled parents suddenly running at-home school.

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Categories: Technology

Microsoft Will Forcibly Stop Loading Some URLs in Internet Explorer To Move Users To Edge

Mon, 2020-10-26 14:43
Big changes are coming to Internet Explorer. Starting next month, users trying to access certain websites will see IE refuse to load the URL and automatically open the site in Edge instead. From a report: This forced IE-to-Edge behavior is part of Microsoft's Internet Explorer deprecation plans. Microsoft has been gradually rolling out the feature for testing purposes for some Windows users since the release of Edge 84 this summer. However, with the release of Edge 87, scheduled for next month, Microsoft plans to enable the forced IE-to-Edge action for all IE users.

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Categories: Technology

James Bond Film 'No Time To Die' Explored $600 Million Sale To Streaming Services

Mon, 2020-10-26 14:02
Apple, Netflix and other streaming services explored the possibility of acquiring "No Time to Die," the upcoming James Bond movie that was originally slated to debut last April. From a report: The film's release has been postponed multiple times, with the Daniel Craig vehicle moving back to November before being pushed into 2021 as the number of coronavirus cases kept growing. MGM, the studio behind the film, reportedly lost between $30 million to $50 million due to the delays, insiders said. Bloomberg first reported the discussions, which have been the topic du jour in Hollywood this week. Other studios, such as Paramount and Sony, have raked in tens of millions by selling movies like "Greyhound," "Coming 2 America" and "Without Remorse" to streaming services while the exhibition sector continues to struggle during the pandemic. However, multiple insiders at rival studios and companies said that a possible Bond sale was explored overtly, and believe that MGM was at least open to the possibility of unloading their crown jewel for a princely sum. The studio was said to be looking for a deal of roughly $600 million -- a price tag that was deemed too rich for two of the free-spending streaming services. A sale of this magnitude would be led exclusively by Kevin Ulrich, the chairman and CEO of MGM's majority owner Anchorage Capital Group, insiders said.

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Categories: Technology

Vint Cerf Is Working on an Internet for Outer Space

Mon, 2020-10-26 11:34
"TCP/IP doesn't work at interplanetary distances," 77-year-old Vinton Cerf tells Quanta magazine. "So we designed a set of protocols that do." Specifically, bundle protocols: a disruption/delay-tolerant networking (DTN) protocol with nodes that can also store information: A data packet traveling from Earth to Jupiter might, for example, go through a relay on Mars, Cerf explained. However, when the packet arrives at the relay, some 40 million miles into the 400-million-mile journey, Mars may not be oriented properly to send the packet on to Jupiter. "Why throw the information away, instead of hanging on to it until Jupiter shows up?" Cerf said. This store-and-forward feature allows bundles to navigate toward their destinations one hop at a time, despite large disruptions and delays... So, a couple decades after conceiving of bundle protocols, is the interplanetary internet up and running? We don't have to build the whole thing and then hope somebody uses it. We sought to get standards in place, as we have for the internet; offer those standards freely; and then achieve interoperability so that the various spacefaring nations could help each other. We're taking the next obvious step for multi-mission infrastructure: designing the capability for an interplanetary backbone network. You build what's needed for the next mission. As spacecraft get built and deployed, they carry the standard protocols that become part of the interplanetary backbone. Then, when they finish their primary scientific mission, they get repurposed as nodes in the backbone network. We accrete an interplanetary backbone over time. In 2004, the Mars rovers were supposed to transmit data back to Earth directly through the deep space network — three big 70-meter antennas in Australia, Spain and California. However, the channel's available data rate was 28 kilobits per second, which isn't much. When they turned the radios on, they overheated. They had to back off, which meant less data would come back. That made the scientists grumpy. One of the JPL engineers used prototype software — this is so cool! — to reprogram the rovers and orbiters from hundreds of millions of miles away. We built a small store-and-forward interplanetary internet with essentially three nodes: the rovers on the surface of Mars, the orbiters and the deep space network on Earth. That's been running ever since. We've been refining the design of those protocols, implementing and testing them. The latest protocols are running back-and-forth relays between Earth and the International Space Station... We did another test at the ISS where the astronauts were controlling a little robot vehicle in Germany.

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Categories: Technology

Facebook Finally Launches Its New Oversight Board for Content Moderation

Mon, 2020-10-26 07:34
NBC News reports that "Social media users who believe their posts have been unfairly removed from Facebook or Instagram can now file an appeal to Facebook's Independent Oversight Board, the company announced Thursday." Positioned as a "Supreme Court" for Facebook's content moderation decisions, the external panel of 20 journalists, academics, lawyers and human rights experts will weigh in — and potentially override its content moderation decisions. The board has up to 90 days to review cases submitted by users through its website after they have exhausted their content appeal options directly with Facebook. If the Board sides with the user, Facebook will restore the content and potentially re-evaluate its policies. "The Oversight Board wasn't created to be a quick fix or an all-encompassing solution," said Helle Thorning-Schmidt, co-chair of the board and former prime minister of Denmark. But it aims to "offer a critical independent check on Facebook's approach to moderating some of the most significant content issues." By announcing the board on Thursday, Facebook has launched an unprecedented model of governance that no other social media outlet has created... "The Oversight Board has the potential to revolutionize how we think about the relationship between private corporations and our public rights," said Kate Klonick, an assistant professor at the St. John's University School of Law, who has published research on the Oversight Board. "It's a step toward recognition that these transnational companies control our public rights in a way that governments don't and that we need to create a participatory and democratic mechanism to inform those companies that those rights are protected...." "Of all the criticisms that are lodged against Facebook, I think one of the biggest is that we can't trust them," Jamal Greene, a Columbia Law School professor and co-chair of the Oversight Board, said in an interview in September. "One of the aims of the Oversight Board is to try to establish an institution that can be trusted..." During test panels, there were times when board members noted that their decision could affect Facebook's commercial model. For example, being more permissive about images containing some types of nudity on the platform could deter users in parts of the world with stricter cultural norms. "The reaction has always been 'Well, that's not our problem, that's Facebook's problem,'" said board member Alan Rusbridger, former editor-in-chief of The Guardian. "So I don't think anyone is coming into this thinking we're here to help Facebook continue with life as normal."

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Categories: Technology

CNET: Police Are Using Facial Recognition For Minor Crimes, 'Because They Can'

Mon, 2020-10-26 03:54
"Police often frame facial recognition as a necessary tool to solve the most heinous crimes, like terrorist attacks and violent assaults, but researchers have found that the technology is more frequently used for low-level offenses," reports CNET: In a recent court filing, the New York police department noted that it's turned to facial recognition in more than 22,000 cases in the last three years. "Even though the NYPD claims facial recognition is only used for serious crimes, the numbers tell a different story," said Albert Fox Cahn, the executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project. "As facial recognition continues to grow, it's being routinely deployed for everything from shoplifting to graffiti." Asked for comment, an NYPD spokeswoman pointed to a 2019 opinion article by police commissioner James O'Neill titled "How Facial Recognition Makes You Safer." In the piece, O'Neill talked about how facial recognition had been used to make arrests in murder, robbery and rape cases, but he didn't disclose how often it was used for low-level crimes. The department's facial recognition policy, established in March, allows the technology to be used for any crime, no matter the severity. Without any limits, police have more frequently used the technology for petty thefts than the dangerous crimes, privacy advocates say. Before Amazon put a moratorium on police use of its Rekognition face-identifying software, the program was used in a $12 shoplifting case in Oregon in 2018... Without any limits, police can use facial recognition however they please, and in many cases, arrested suspects don't even know that the flawed technology was used... Attorneys representing protesters in Miami didn't know that police used facial recognition in their arrests, according to an NBC Miami report. Police used facial recognition software in a $50 drug dealing case in Florida in 2016 but made no mention of it in the arrest report. The article also notes that as recently as this Tuesday, Hoan Ton-That, the CEO of facial recognition startup Clearview AI "said it isn't the company's responsibility to make sure its technology is being properly used by its thousands of police partners. "Though the company has its own guidelines, Ton-That said Clearview AI wouldn't be enforcing them, saying that 'it's not our job to set the policy as a tech company...'"

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Categories: Technology

America and France Reach New All-Time Highs For COVID-19 Infections

Mon, 2020-10-26 01:34
An anonymous reader quotes Time: The United States has reached a new record high in the number of daily COVID-19 infections, surpassing the peak in mid-July during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic's domestic toll. As of Oct. 24, there was a weekly average of 23.0 infections per 100,000 residents, up from 20.5 on July 19 and ticking rapidly upward. The country also set a new single-day record on Oct. 23 with 83,757 new cases. There have been clear signs for weeks of a third wave of the pandemic in the U.S. as the weather gets colder and the virus has migrated from metropolitan regions to more rural settings. But it was far from certain, at the beginning of October, that the resurgence would surpass that of the summer... We know now that the third wave will be worse than the second, which was far worse than the first, when cases peaked at 9.7 per 100,000 on April 7. Reuters reports that France has also "registered a record 52,010 new confirmed coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, following a record 45,422 on Saturday, the health ministry said in a statement on Sunday... The new cases took the total to 1,138,507, with France now ahead of Argentina and Spain to register the world's fifth highest number of cases after the United States, India, Brazil and Russia. "In the past three days, France has registered over 139,000 new cases, which is more than the 132,000 cases registered during the two-month lockdown from mid-March to mid-May."

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Categories: Technology

In World First, 100% of South Australia's Power Supplied By Solar Panels

Sun, 2020-10-25 23:34
1.76 million people live in the 983,482 square kilometer (379,725 square mile) state of South Australia. This weekend Australia's national broadcaster made a big announcement: South Australia's renewable energy boom has achieved a global milestone. The state once known for not having enough power has become the first major jurisdiction in the world to be powered entirely by solar energy. For just over an hour on Sunday, October 11, 100 percent of energy demand was met by solar panels alone. "This is truly a phenomenon in the global energy landscape," Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) chief executive Audrey Zibelman said. "Never before has a jurisdiction the size of South Australia been completely run by solar power, with consumers' rooftop solar systems contributing 77 per cent." Large-scale solar farms, like the ones operating at Tailem Bend and Port Augusta, provided the other 23 per cent. Any excess power generated by gas and wind farms on that day was stored in batteries or exported to Victoria via the interconnector. South Australia is where Elon Musk installed Tesla's giant Powerpack battery as part of a massive solar and wind farm.

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Categories: Technology

NASA's Probe Sampled Too Much From Asteroid Bennu and Now It's Leaking

Sun, 2020-10-25 22:34
Iwastheone shares some space news from OPB: A NASA spacecraft sent out to collect a sample of rock and dust from an asteroid has nabbed so much that it's created an unexpected problem. Rocks are jammed in the device in a way that's keeping a Mylar flap open, creating a gap that's letting some of the collected pebbles and dust drift out into space. "We had a successful sample collection attempt — almost too successful. Material is escaping," says Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, the principal investigator for the OSIRIS-REx mission. "We think we're losing a small fraction of material, but it's more than I'm comfortable with. I was pretty concerned when I saw these images coming in." To prevent any further loss, the team is now preparing to stow the sample collection device quickly into its return capsule, possibly starting the stowing process as soon as Tuesday. The capsule is expected to return to Earth in 2023... It's now looking like the collection device must have penetrated farther down into the asteroid's surface than expected — perhaps as deep as 48 centimeters, or about a foot and a half. Maybe that's because new findings from mission "suggest that the interior of the asteroid Bennu could be weaker and less dense than its outer layers — like a crème-filled chocolate egg flying though space..." according to an article earlier this month in the news digest of the University of Colorado Boulder: The results appear in a study published in the journal Science Advances and led by the University of Colorado Boulder's OSIRIS-REx team, including professors Daniel Scheeres and Jay McMahon... Using OSIRIS-REx's own navigational instruments and other tools, the group spent nearly two years mapping out the ebbs and flows of Bennu's gravity field. Think of it like taking an X-ray of a chunk of space debris with an average width about the height of the Empire State Building. "If you can measure the gravity field with enough precision, that places hard constraints on where the mass is located, even if you can't see it directly," said Andrew French, a coauthor of the new study and a former graduate student at CU Boulder, now at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. What the team has found may also spell trouble for Bennu. The asteroid's core appears to be weaker than its exterior, a fact that could put its survival at risk in the not-too-distant future. "You could imagine maybe in a million years or less the whole thing flying apart," said Scheeres, a distinguished professor in the Ann and H.J. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences.

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Categories: Technology

Can We Replace YAML With an Easier Markup Language?

Sun, 2020-10-25 21:34
On his personal blog, Red Hat's Chris Short (also a CNCF Cloud Native Ambassador) told his readers that "We kinda went down a rabbit hole the other day when I suggested folks check out yq. ("The aim of the project is to be the jq or sed of yaml files.") "First, there's nothing wrong with this project. I like it, I find the tool useful, and that's that. But the great debate started over our lord and savior, YAML." And then he shares what he learned from a bad experience reading the YAML spec in 2012: It was not an RFC, which I am fond of reading, but something about the YAML spec made me sad and frustrated. Syntax really mattered. Whitespace really mattered... It is human-readable because you see the human-readable words in the scalars and structures, but there was something off-putting about YAML. It was a markup language claiming not to be a markup language. I held the firm belief that markup languages are supposed to make things simpler for humans, not harder (XML is the antithesis of markup languages, in my opinion)... Close to ten years later, I see YAML in the same somewhat offputting light... I hope that a drop in replacement is possible. The fact that we need tools like yq does show that there is some work to be done when it comes to wrangling the YAML beast at scale... Incrementally, YAML is better than XML but, it sucks compared to something like HTML or Markdown (which I can teach to execs and children alike)... Yes, balancing machine and human readability is hard. The compromises suck, but, at some point, there's enough compute to run a process to take in something 100% human-readable and make it 100% machine-readable... There will always be complexity and a need to understand the tool you're using. But, YAML gives us an example that there can and should be better things. In a comment on the original submission, Slashdot reader BAReFO0t writes "Binary markup or GTFO." UTF8 is already binary. Hell, ASCII is already binary numbers, not directly readable, but mapped to vector drawings or bitmap images ... that again are rendered to pixel values, that are then turning on blinkenlights or ink blots or noises that a human can actually recognize directly. So why not extend it to structure, instead of just letters (... and colors ... and sound pressures... EBML's core [Extensible Binary Meta Language] is the logical choice. If all editors always display it as, say XML, just like they all convert numbers into text-shaped blinkenlights too, people will soon call it "plain, human readable" too...

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Categories: Technology

Java Geeks Discuss 'The War for the Browser' and the State of Java Modularization

Sun, 2020-10-25 20:34
Self-described "Java geek" nfrankel writes: At the beginning of 2019, I wrote about the state of Java modularization. I took a sample of widespread libraries, and for each of them, I checked whether: - It supports the module system i.e. it provides an automatic module name in the manifest - It's a full-fledged module i.e. it provides a module-info The results were interesting. 14 out of those 29 libraries supported the module system, while 2 were modules in their own right. Nearly 2 years later, and with Java 16 looming around the corner, it's time to update the report. I kept the same libraries and added Hazelcast and Hazelcast Jet. I've checked the latest version... Three full years after that release, 10 out of 31 libraries still don't provide a module-compatible JAR. Granted, 3 of them didn't release a new version in the meantime. That's still 7 libraries that didn't add a simple line of text in their MANIFEST.MF Meanwhile, long-time Slashdot reader AirHog argues that "Java is in a war for the browser. Can it regain the place it once held in its heyday?" All major browsers have disabled support for Java (and indeed most non-JavaScript technologies). Web-based front-ends are usually coded in JavaScript or some wrapper designed to make it less problematic (like TypeScript). Yes, you can still make websites using Java technology. There are plenty of 'official' technologies like JSP and JSF. Unfortunately, these technologies are entirely server-side. You can generate the page using Java libraries and business logic, but once it is sent to the browser it is static and lifeless... Java client-side innovation has all but stopped, at least via the official channels.... How can Java increase its relevance? How can Java win back client-side developers? How can Java prevent other technologies from leveraging front-end dominance to win the back-end, like Java once did to other technologies? To win the war, Java needs a strong client-side option. One that lets developers make modern web applications using Java code. One that leverages web technologies. One that supports components. One that builds quickly. One that produces fast-downloading, high performance, 100-Lighthouse-scoring apps. One that plays nicely with other JVM languages. What does Java need? Spoiler: The article concludes that "What Java needs Is TeaVM... an ahead-of-time transpiler that compiles Java classes to JavaScript."

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Categories: Technology

'How 30 Lines of Code Blew Up a 27-Ton Generator'

Sun, 2020-10-25 19:34
After the U.S. unveiled charges against six members of the Sandworm unit in Russia's military intelligence agency, Wired re-visited "a secret experiment in 2007 proved that hackers could devastate power grid equipment beyond repair — with a file no bigger than a gif." It's an excerpt from the new book SANDWORM: A New Era of Cyberwar and the Hunt for the Kremlin's Most Dangerous Hackers which also remembers the late industrial control systems security pioneer Mike Assante: Among [Sandworm's] acts of cyberwar was an unprecedented attack on Ukraine's power grid in 2016, one that appeared designed to not merely cause a blackout, but to inflict physical damage on electric equipment. And when one cybersecurity researcher named Mike Assante dug into the details of that attack, he recognized a grid-hacking idea invented not by Russian hackers, but by the United State government, and tested a decade earlier... [S]creens showed live footage from several angles of a massive diesel generator. The machine was the size of a school bus, a mint green, gargantuan mass of steel weighing 27 tons, about as much as an M3 Bradley tank. It sat a mile away from its audience in an electrical substation, producing enough electricity to power a hospital or a navy ship and emitting a steady roar. Waves of heat coming off its surface rippled the horizon in the video feed's image. Assante and his fellow Idaho National Laboratory researchers had bought the generator for $300,000 from an oil field in Alaska. They'd shipped it thousands of miles to the Idaho test site, an 890-square-mile piece of land where the national lab maintained a sizable power grid for testing purposes, complete with 61 miles of transmission lines and seven electrical substations. Now, if Assante had done his job properly, they were going to destroy it. And the assembled researchers planned to kill that very expensive and resilient piece of machinery not with any physical tool or weapon but with about 140 kilobytes of data, a file smaller than the average cat GIF shared today on Twitter.... Protective relays are designed to function as a safety mechanism to guard against dangerous physical conditions in electric systems. If lines overheat or a generator goes out of sync, it's those protective relays that detect the anomaly and open a circuit breaker, disconnecting the trouble spot, saving precious hardware, even preventing fires... But what if that protective relay could be paralyzed — or worse, corrupted so that it became the vehicle for an attacker's payload...? Black chunks began to fly out of an access panel on the generator, which the researchers had left open to watch its internals. Inside, the black rubber grommet that linked the two halves of the generator's shaft was tearing itself apart. A few seconds later, the machine shook again as the protective relay code repeated its sabotage cycle, disconnecting the machine and reconnecting it out of sync. This time a cloud of gray smoke began to spill out of the generator, perhaps the result of the rubber debris burning inside it... The engineers had just proven without a doubt that hackers who attacked an electric utility could go beyond a temporary disruption of the victim's operations: They could damage its most critical equipment beyond repair... Assante also remembers feeling something weightier in the moments after the Aurora experiment. It was a sense that, like Robert Oppenheimer watching the first atomic bomb test at another U.S. national lab six decades earlier, he was witnessing the birth of something historic and immensely powerful. "I had a very real pit in my stomach," Assante says. "It was like a glimpse of the future."

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Categories: Technology

'Apple, Google and a Deal That Controls the Internet'

Sun, 2020-10-25 18:34
The New York Times' looks at "a deal that controls the internet" — Apple's agreement to feature Google as the preselected search engine for iPhones, saying America's Justice Department views it "as a prime example of what prosecutors say are Google's illegal tactics to protect its monopoly and choke off competition..." The scrutiny of the pact, which was first inked 15 years ago and has rarely been discussed by either company, has highlighted the special relationship between Silicon Valley's two most valuable companies — an unlikely union of rivals that regulators say is unfairly preventing smaller companies from flourishing. "We have this sort of strange term in Silicon Valley: co-opetition," said Bruce Sewell, Apple's general counsel from 2009 to 2017. "You have brutal competition, but at the same time, you have necessary cooperation." Apple and Google are joined at the hip even though Mr. Cook has said internet advertising, Google's bread and butter, engages in "surveillance" of consumers and even though Steve Jobs, Apple's co-founder, once promised "thermonuclear war" on his Silicon Valley neighbor when he learned it was working on a rival to the iPhone. Apple and Google's parent company, Alphabet, worth more than $3 trillion combined, do compete on plenty of fronts, like smartphones, digital maps and laptops. But they also know how to make nice when it suits their interests. And few deals have been nicer to both sides of the table than the iPhone search deal. Nearly half of Google's search traffic now comes from Apple devices, according to the Justice Department, and the prospect of losing the Apple deal has been described as a "code red" scenario inside the company. When iPhone users search on Google, they see the search ads that drive Google's business. They can also find their way to other Google products, like YouTube. A former Google executive, who asked not to be identified because he was not permitted to talk about the deal, said the prospect of losing Apple's traffic was "terrifying" to the company. The Justice Department, which is asking for a court injunction preventing Google from entering into deals like the one it made with Apple, argues that the arrangement has unfairly helped make Google, which handles 92 percent of the world's internet searches, the center of consumers' online lives... [C]ompetitors like DuckDuckGo, a small search engine that sells itself as a privacy-focused alternative to Google, could never match Google's tab with Apple. Apple now receives an estimated $8 billion to $12 billion in annual payments — up from $1 billion a year in 2014 — in exchange for building Google's search engine into its products. It is probably the single biggest payment that Google makes to anyone and accounts for 14 to 21 percent of Apple's annual profits. That's not money Apple would be eager to walk away from. In fact, Mr. Cook and Mr. Pichai met again in 2018 to discuss how they could increase revenue from search. After the meeting, a senior Apple employee wrote to a Google counterpart that "our vision is that we work as if we are one company," according to the Justice Department's complaint. The article remembers Steve Jobs unveiling the iPhone in 2007 — and then inviting Google CEO Eric Schmidt onto the stage. Schmidt, who was also on Apple's board of directors, joked "If we just sort of merged the two companies, we could just call them AppleGoo." He'd also added that with Google search on the iPhone, "you can actually merge without merging."

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Categories: Technology

Is X.Org Server Abandonware?

Sun, 2020-10-25 17:34
Phoronix ran a story this morning with this provocative headline: "It's Time To Admit It: The X.Org Server Is Abandonware." The last major release of the X.Org Server was in May 2018 but don't expect the long-awaited X.Org Server 1.21 to actually be released anytime soon. This should hardly be surprising but a prominent Intel open-source developer has conceded that the X.Org Server is pretty much "abandonware" with Wayland being the future. [Or, more specifically, that "The main worry I have is that xserver is abandonware without even regular releases from the main branch."] This comes as X.Org Server development hits a nearly two decade low, the X.Org Server is well off its six month release regimen in not seeing a major release in over two years, and no one is stepping up to manage the 1.21 release. A year ago was a proposal to see new releases driven via continuous integration testing but even that didn't take flight and as we roll into 2021 there isn't any motivation for releasing new versions of the X.Org Server by those capable of doing so. Red Hat folks have long stepped up to manage X.Org Server releases but with Fedora Workstation using Wayland by default and RHEL working that way, they haven't been eager to devote resources to new X.Org Server releases. Other major stakeholders also have resisted stepping up to ship 1.21 or commit any major resources to new xorg-server versions.

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Categories: Technology

The U.S. Health Department Tried to Offer Early Vaccines to Shopping Mall Santas

Sun, 2020-10-25 16:19
America's national health agency "halted a public-service coronavirus advertising campaign funded by $250 million in taxpayer money after it offered a special vaccine deal to an unusual set of essential workers: Santa Claus performers." The Wall Street Journal reports: As part of the plan, a top Trump administration official wanted the Santa performers to promote the benefits of a Covid-19 vaccination and, in exchange, offered them early vaccine access ahead of the general public, according to audio recordings. Those who perform as Mrs. Claus and elves also would have been included.... The decision comes as the Covid-19 spread continues to accelerate in most states, and the vaccines are unlikely to be broadly available to the public before the holiday season. The coronavirus ad effort — titled "Covid 19 Public Health and Reopening America Public Service Announcements and Advertising Campaign" — was intended to "defeat despair, inspire hope and achieve national recovery," according to a work statement reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. It was to include television, radio, online and podcast announcements, starting immediately. The public-relations blitz began to fizzle after some celebrities, including actor Dennis Quaid, shied away from participating, a former White House official said, amid concerns that the campaign would be viewed as political rather than aiding public health.... [Former pharmaceutical lobbyist Alex Azar, now serving as America's Secretary of Health], has "ordered a strategic review of this public health education campaign that will be led by top public health and communications experts to determine whether the campaign serves important public health purposes," Health and Human Services officials said in a statement. Santa's vaccines were the brainchild of Michael Caputo, a political strategist/lobbyist also appointed to America's Health and Human Services as assistant secretary, according to the Journal. But an HHS spokesman now tells them that the Santa "collaboration will not be happening." They also get a quote from Ric Erwin, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas — who called the news "extremely disappointing." In a 12-minute phone call in late August, Mr. Caputo told Mr. Erwin of the Santa group that vaccines would likely be approved by mid-November and distributed to front-line workers before Thanksgiving. "If you and your colleagues are not essential workers, I don't know what is," Mr. Caputo said on the call, which was recorded by Mr. Erwin and provided to the Journal. [In audio of the call published by the Journal, Santa responds by saying "Ho ho ho ho, ho ho ho. I love you."] "I cannot wait to tell the president," Mr. Caputo said at another point about the plan. "He's going to love this." Mr. Erwin said on the call: "Since you would be doing Santa a serious favor, Santa would definitely reciprocate." Mr. Caputo said: "I'm in, Santa, if you're in...." Mr. Caputo said he wanted Santas to appear at rollout events in as many as 35 cities. In exchange, he said the Santas would get an early crack at inoculation.

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Categories: Technology

Is Right to Repair Gaining Momentum?

Sun, 2020-10-25 15:34
"A movement known as 'right to repair' is starting to make progress in pushing for laws that prohibit restrictions..." reports the New York Times: This August, Democrats introduced a bill in Congress to block manufacturers' limits on medical devices, spurred by the pandemic. In Europe, the European Commission announced plans in March for new right-to-repair rules that would cover phones, tablets, and laptops by 2021. In less than two weeks, Massachusetts voters will consider a measure that would make it easier for local garages to work on cars. And in more than 20 statehouses nationwide, right-to-repair legislation has been introduced in recent years by both Republicans and Democrats. Over the summer, the House advanced a funding bill that includes a requirement that the FTC complete a report on anticompetitive practices in the repair market and present its findings to Congress and the public. And in a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, Marine Captain Elle Ekman and former Marine Lucas Kunce last year detailed how mechanics in the American armed forces have run into similar obstacles... Manufacturers argue that their products are repairable, and that they are protecting consumers' safety, privacy and security by restricting who does the repairs. Apple, for instance, limits consumers from repairing their devices by requiring specific tools or authorized parts. "When a repair is needed, a customer should have confidence the repair is done right," Jeff Williams, Apple's chief operating officer, said in a release last year. "We believe the safest and most reliable repair is one handled by a trained technician using genuine parts that have been properly engineered and rigorously tested."

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Categories: Technology

Snopes.com Exposes 4chan Campaign to 'Kindle Mistrust in Snopes'

Sun, 2020-10-25 14:34
"This is the perfect moment to do this. This is an age of conspiracies for boomers... Let's kindle their mistrust in Snopes and other fact checkers," wrote one 4chan poster. Snopes.com later reported: In October 2020, a series of threads was posted to the anonymous internet forum 4Chan as part of operation "Snopes-Piercer," a smear campaign with the stated goal of "red-pilling some normies" — internet slang for a propaganda technique in which distorted, fabricated, or skewed information is used to further a self-determined "truth." In order to "red-pill" these people (one thread noted that "boomers" were the primary target), the plan was to create and circulate doctored screenshots of Snopes fact checks to make it appear as if Snopes fact-checkers addressed claims that we had not. Over the next few days, users created and shared these fake Snopes screenshots in a number of additional 4chan threads. These images were also posted on social media sites, like Twitter.... Some were humorous (we did not actually address the claim that CNN reporter Chris Cuomo was actually Fredo from "The Godfather"), some were insidious (we did not really publish a fact check questioning the Holocaust), and some were political (we did not publish a fact check questioning the results of the 2020 election before the election happened)... These red pill campaigns all follow a basic formula. The user decides what they want to be true and then they set out to find, or manufacture, the evidence to support that truth. A concerted effort is then made to spread these false narratives to as wide an audience as possible in order to "red-pill" the general population. In this formula, the desired "truth" comes first. The "evidence" comes second. It goes without saying that this method is antithetical to the mission of Snopes, fact-checkers in general, journalists, and anyone seeking an objective view of reality.

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Categories: Technology

So How Good Is Edge on Linux?

Sun, 2020-10-25 13:34
"No one asked Microsoft to port its Edge browser to Linux," writes Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols at ZDNet, adding "Indeed, very few people asked for Edge on Windows. "But, here it is. So, how good — or not — is it..?" The new release comes ready to run on Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, and openSUSE Linux distributions... Since I've been benchmarking web browsers since Mosaic rolled off the bit assembly line, I benchmarked the first Edge browser and Chrome 86 and Firefox 81 on my main Linux production PC.... First up: JetStream 2.0, which is made up of 64 smaller tests. This JavaScript and WebAssembly benchmark suite focuses on advanced web applications. It rewards browsers that start up quickly, execute code quickly, and run smoothly. Higher scores are better on this benchmark. JetStream's top-scorer — drumroll please — was Edge with 136.971. But, right behind it within the margin of error, was Chrome with a score of 132.413. This isn't too surprising. They are, after all, built on the same platform. Back in the back was Firefox with 102.131. Next up: Kraken 1.1. This benchmark, which is based on the long-obsolete SunSpider, measures JavaScript performance. To this basic JavaScript testing, it added typical use-case scenarios. Mozilla, Firefox's parent organization, created Kraken. With this benchmark, the lower the score, the better the result. To no great surprise, Firefox took first place here with 810.1 milliseconds (ms). Following it was Chrome with 904.5ms and then Edge with 958.8ms. The latest version of WebXPRT is today's best browser benchmark. It's produced by the benchmark professionals at Principled Technology. This company's executives were the founders of the Ziff Davis Benchmark Operation, the gold-standard of PC benchmarking. WebXPRT uses scenarios created to mirror everyday tasks. These include Photo Enhancement, Organize Album, Stock Option Pricing, Local Notes, Sales Graphs, and DNA Sequencing. Here, the higher the score, the better the browser. On this benchmark, Firefox shines. It was an easy winner with a score of 272. Chrome edges out Edge 233 to 230. The article concludes that "Oddly, Edge, which turned in a poor performance when I recently benchmarked it on Windows, did well on Linux. Who'd have guessed...? Edge is a good, fast browser on Linux. If you're a Windows user coming over to Linux or you're doing development work aimed at Edge, then by all means try Edge on Linux. It works and it works well." Yet Vaughan-Nichols admits he's still not going to switch to Edge. "Chrome is more than fast enough for my purposes and I don't want my information tied into the Microsoft ecosystem. For better or worse, mine's already locked into the Googleverse and I can live with that."

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Categories: Technology

The Battle Over Chips is About to Get Uglier

Sun, 2020-10-25 11:34
"We're in a new world where governments are more concerned about the security of their digital infrastructure and the resiliency of their supply chains," Jimmy Goodrich, vice president of global policy with the Washington-based Semiconductor Industry Association, tells Bloomberg. "The techno-nationalist trends gaining traction in multiple capitals around the world are a challenge to the semiconductor industry." At once highly globalized and yet concentrated in the hands of a few countries, the industry has choke points that the U.S. under the presidency of Donald Trump has sought to exploit in order to thwart China's plans to become a world leader in chip production. Washington says Beijing can only achieve that goal through state subvention [funding] at the expense of U.S. industry, while furthering Communist Party access to high-tech tools for surveillance and repression. China rejects the allegations, accusing the U.S. of hypocrisy and acting out of political motivation. For both sides, Taiwan, which is responsible for some 70% of chips manufactured to order, is the new front line... Citing the need to promote "digital sovereignty," the European Commission is exploring a 30 billion-euro ($35 billion) drive to raise Europe's share of the world chip market to 20%, from less than 10% now. Japan is also looking to bolster its domestic capacity. At least one Japanese delegation traveled to Taiwan in May and June this year in the hope of convincing TSMC to invest in Japan, a person with knowledge of the visit said. But TSMC announced in May that it was building a $12 billion facility in Arizona, and the company declined to receive any foreign visitors seeking to woo it, said another person familiar with the company's thinking.... A focus of Beijing is to accelerate research into so-called third-generation semiconductors — circuits made of materials such as silicon carbide and gallium nitride, a fledgling technology where no country dominates. Yet without silicon capabilities it will be difficult for China to build a proper semiconductor industry, said a senior TSMC official. Another person from a company involved in third-generation chip production said designing them is an art, and even poaching a team of designers won't necessarily guarantee success. The consensus is it won't be easy for China to catch up, especially at the cutting-edge where TSMC and Samsung are producing chips whose circuits are measured in single-digit nanometers, or billionths of a meter. SMIC [a partially state-owned Chinese semiconductor foundry] would have to double annual research spending in the next two-to-three years just to prevent its technology gap with those companies widening, says Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Charles Shum. The tussle raises the prospect of a broader decoupling of the global industry with two distinct supply chains.

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