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Wisconsin Report Confirms Foxconn's So-Called LCD Factory Isn't Real

Thu, 2020-10-22 14:00
According to a report from Wisconsin's Division of Executive Budget and Finance, Foxconn has not built the enormous Gen 10.5 LCD factory in Wisconsin that it specified in its contract with the state. "It also says that the building the company claims is a smaller Gen 6 LCD factory shows no signs of manufacturing LCDs in the foreseeable future and 'may be better suited for demonstration purposes,'" reports The Verge. From the report: The report notes that Foxconn received a permit to use its so-called "Fab" for storage, which The Verge first reported this week. Furthermore, according to an industry expert consulted by the state, Foxconn has not ordered the equipment that would be needed to make LCDs. If the building were to be used as an LCD manufacturing facility, the expert notes it would be the smallest Gen 6 in the world and "would appear to be more of a showcase than a business viable for the long term." If any LCD-related manufacturing were to take place in the building, the analysis says, it would likely only be the final assembly of components produced elsewhere and imported to Wisconsin. Such a project would have a vastly smaller impact on local supply chains and employ nowhere near the 13,000 workers anticipated in Foxconn's contract with the state. Wisconsin Secretary of the Department of Administration Joel Brennan said in an interview with The Verge today that "clearly the Gen 6 that's been discussed and built in Mount Pleasant is not similar to other Gen 6 fabs around the world." Brennan said the memo was an effort to consult industry experts to better understand the scope of Foxconn's current project and its potential impact on the state. "There was justified criticism of the [former Governor Scott] Walker administration for entering into this contract, and not really getting any outside experts for an industry that was new to Wisconsin," Brennan said. "This is about making sure that we can use the best expertise that we have inside and outside state government so that we can make the best decisions possible." The report provides the fullest articulation of the state's reason for rejecting Foxconn's subsidy payments so far. Last week, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), which oversees the deal, denied the company its first installment of the nearly $3 billion refundable tax credits because it hasn't built the "Gen 10.5 Fab" specified in its contract. The project Foxconn has pursued instead, the new analysis says, would not have warranted the record-breaking subsidy package passed by then-Gov. Scott Walker, nor required the infrastructure state and local governments have built to support it. "Taxpayers fully performed their side of the agreement to date, while the Recipients have not," the report says. In fact, "state taxpayers have spent as much if not more than" Foxconn has on improvements to the company's supposed manufacturing campus. The Verge previously reported that state and local governments spent at least $400 million on the project, mostly on land and infrastructure the company will likely never need. Foxconn listed approximately $300 million in capital expenses at the end of 2019.

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Categories: Technology

The Forklift Truck Drivers Who Never Leave Their Desks

Thu, 2020-10-22 11:00
Forklift operators are using remote-control technology that allows them to work off-site, controlling their machines from afar. The BBC reports: [A]s Covid-19 spreads easily, the warehouses dotted along the world's supply chains have become potential hubs of disease transmission, says Elliot Katz, co-founder of Phantom Auto. Phantom Auto's technology is now installed in around a dozen warehouses in the US and Europe, he adds. Some of the warehouses using Phantom Auto's technology fence-off the space where the remote-controlled forklifts work, says Mr Katz and the forklifts are also fitted with microphones so the operator can be warned should something be about to go wrong. "If someone is behind that forklift and says, 'Hey, you're about to hit me,' the operator can hear it just like he's sitting on the forklift," says Mr Katz. Among the other firms working in the teleoperation space is US start-up Teleo. It specializes in retrofitting construction equipment so it can be driven remotely. It has just started a trial at a quarry for an unnamed client. In this case, Teleo has adapted a large-wheeled loading vehicle so it can be controlled from an office on site. In the future, a driver could sit in the office and remotely control a variety of vehicles nearby. That might mean fewer people would be employed on-site overall but Teleo argues it makes the role safer for the driver. But the idea of vehicles driven like this is controversial for some. There's always the possibility a terrorist, for example, might try to hack such a system and use a teleoperated car or truck to kill people. Mr Katz and Mr Shet [Teleo co-founder and chief executive] both say their firms have thought about this scenario and add that their engineers have introduced various steps to make a cyber-attack harder. For example, by encrypting communications between teleoperator and vehicle, requiring authorization of drivers and automatically shutting down vehicles should they lose access to a reliable communications signal. No-one can guarantee that such a system will never be hacked, though.

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Categories: Technology

No, Mouthwash Will Not Save You From the Coronavirus

Thu, 2020-10-22 08:00
You may have noticed a rash of provocative headlines this week suggesting that mouthwash can "inactivate" coronaviruses and help curb their spread. While the news is based on a new study from researchers at the Penn State College of Medicine, it's important to note that the study focused on a coronavirus that causes common colds -- not the one that causes COVID-19. "Not only did the study not investigate this deadly new virus, but it also did not test whether mouthwash affects how viruses spread from person to person," adds Katherine J. Wu via The New York Times. From the report: "I don't have a problem with using Listerine," said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University. "But it's not an antiviral." The study, which was published last month in the Journal of Medical Virology, looked only at a coronavirus called 229E that causes common colds -- not the new coronavirus, which goes by the formal name of SARS-CoV-2, and causes far more serious disease. Researchers can study SARS-CoV-2 only in high-security labs after undergoing rigorous training. The two viruses are in the same family, and, in broad strokes, look anatomically similar, which can make 229E a good proxy for SARS-CoV-2 in certain experiments. But the two viruses shouldn't be thought of as interchangeable, Dr. Rasmussen said. The researchers tested the virus-destroying effects of several products, including a watered-down mixture of Johnson's baby shampoo -- which is sometimes used to flush out the inside of the nose -- and mouthwashes made by Listerine, Crest, Orajel, Equate and C.V.S. They flooded 229E coronaviruses, which had been grown in human liver cells in the lab, with these chemicals for 30 seconds, 1 minute or 2 minutes -- longer than the typical swig or spritz into a nose or mouth. Around 90 to 99 percent of the viruses could no longer infect cells after this exposure, the study found. But because the study didn't recruit any human volunteers to gargle the products in question, the findings have limited value for the real world, other experts said. The human mouth, full of nooks and crannies and a slurry of chemicals secreted by a diverse cadre of cells, is far more complicated than the inside of a laboratory dish. Nothing should be considered conclusive "unless human studies are performed," said Dr. Maricar Malinis, an infectious disease expert at Yale University. [...] Even if people did a very thorough job coating the inside of their mouths or noses with a coronavirus-killing chemical, a substantial amount of the virus would still remain in the body. The new coronavirus infiltrates not only the mouth and nose, but also the deep throat and lungs, where mouthwash and nasal washes hopefully never enter. Viruses that have already hidden away inside cells will also be shielded from the fast-acting chemicals found in these products.

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Categories: Technology

Google AI Tech Will Be Used For Virtual Border Wall, CBP Contract Shows

Thu, 2020-10-22 04:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Intercept: After years of backlash over controversial government work, Google technology will be used to aid the Trump administration's efforts to fortify the U.S.-Mexico border, according to documents related to a federal contract. In August, Customs and Border Protection accepted a proposal to use Google Cloud technology to facilitate the use of artificial intelligence deployed by the CBP Innovation Team, known as INVNT. Among other projects, INVNT is working on technologies for a new "virtual" wall along the southern border that combines surveillance towers and drones, blanketing an area with sensors to detect unauthorized entry into the country. Contracting documents indicate that CBP's new work with Google is being done through a third-party federal contracting firm, Virginia-based Thundercat Technology. Thundercat is a reseller that bills itself as a premier information technology provider for federal contracts. The contract was obtained through a FOIA request filed by Tech Inquiry, a new research group that explores technology and corporate power founded by Jack Poulson, a former research scientist at Google who left the company over ethical concerns. Not only is Google becoming involved in implementing the Trump administration's border policy, the contract brings the company into the orbit of one of President Donald Trump's biggest boosters among tech executives. Documents show that Google's technology for CBP will be used in conjunction with work done by Anduril Industries, a controversial defense technology startup founded by Palmer Luckey. The brash 28-year-old executive -- also the founder of Oculus VR, acquired by Facebook for over $2 billion in 2014 -- is an open supporter of and fundraiser for hard-line conservative politics; he has been one of the most vocal critics of Google's decision to drop its military contract. Anduril operates sentry towers along the U.S.-Mexico border that are used by CBP for surveillance and apprehension of people entering the country, streamlining the process of putting migrants in DHS custody. CBP's Autonomous Surveillance Towers program calls for automated surveillance operations "24 hours per day, 365 days per year" to help the agency "identify items of interest, such as people or vehicles." The program has been touted as a "true force multiplier for CBP, enabling Border Patrol agents to remain focused on their interdiction mission rather than operating surveillance systems." It's unclear how exactly CBP plans to use Google Cloud in conjunction with Anduril or for any of the "mission needs" alluded to in the contract document. Google faced internal turmoil in 2018 over a contract with the Pentagon to deploy AI-enhanced drone image recognition solutions. "In response to the controversy, Google ended its involvement with the initiative, known as Project Maven, and established a new set of AI principles to govern future government contracts," notes The Intercept.

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Categories: Technology

How This Uncrushable Beetle Can Survive Being Run Over By a Car

Thu, 2020-10-22 02:30
fahrbot-bot shares a report from Gizmodo: The diabolical ironclad beetle, in addition to having one of the coolest names in the animal kingdom, boasts one of the toughest natural exoskeletons. A team of scientists has finally figured out the secret behind this extra durable armor and how these insects can survive getting run over by a car. As wise people often say, a reed that bends in the wind is stronger than a mighty tree that breaks during a storm. New research published today in Nature suggests the diabolical ironclad beetle (Phloeodes diabolicus) is an adherent of these sage words. Their exoskeletons are extra tough, but when the pressure literally gets to be too much, their protective shells take on an elastic quality that results in a kind of stretching rather than breaking. The scientists who made this discovery -- a team from Purdue University and the University of California-Irvine -- say the unique strategy employed by the diabolical ironclad beetle could inspire the creation of innovative materials, namely components capable of dissipating energy to prevent catastrophic breakage. According to the experiments, diabolical ironclad beetles can withstand an applied force of 150 newtons, which is 39,000 times its body weight. "If we were to compare this to humans (not a great example, given the vastly different scales involved, but fun nonetheless), that would require a 200-pound person to endure the crush of 7.8 million pounds," the report says. "A tire passing overhead would inflict 100 newtons of force, which explains how these beetles can survive run-ins with cars. The researchers say other beetle species can't handle even half of this load."

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Airbnb Hires Jony Ive To Design Next-Gen Products and Services

Thu, 2020-10-22 01:50
Online vacation rental giant Airbnb on Wednesday said it has hired former Apple CDO Jony Ive and his company LoveFrom to assist in the design of future products and services. AppleInsider reports: Announced in a blog post from Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky, Ive will work on next-generation "products and services" as a design consultant. It appears that he will report directly to Chesky, or collaborate on design initiatives with the CEO, throughout what is described as a "multi-year relationship." "Jony will also help us continue to develop our internal design team, which he believes to be one of the world's best," Chesky writes. "I know he is particularly excited about a relationship that will evolve to become a deep collaboration with our creative team." As noted by The Information, Ive and Chesky have known each other for years. Ive helped flesh out Airbnb's logo in 2014, while Chesky wrote Ive's biography for Time magazine's top 100 most influential people in 2015. Airbnb on Wednesday told employees that its chief design officer, Alex Schleifer, would step down to a part-time role, The Information reports. Schleifer led the company's design team for six years.

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James Randi, Magician and Stage Artist Devoted To Debunking the Paranormal, Dies At 92

Thu, 2020-10-22 01:10
James Randi, a Canadian-American stage magician and scientific skeptic who extensively challenged paranormal and pseudoscientific claims, has passed away Tuesday "due to age-related causes." He was 92. Slashdot reader trinarybit first shared the news. The Washington Post reports: An inveterate skeptic and bristly contrarian in his profession, Mr. Randi insisted that magic is based solely on earthly sleight of hand and visual trickery. He scorned fellow magicians who allowed or encouraged audiences to believe their work was rooted in extrasensory or paranormal powers. In contrast, the bearded, gnomish Mr. Randi cheerfully described himself as a "liar" and "cheat" in mock recognition of his magician's skills at duping people into thinking they had seen something inexplicable -- such as a person appearing to be cut in half with a saw -- when it was, in fact, the result of simple physical deception. He was equally dismissive of psychics, seers and soothsayers. Still, he was always careful to describe himself as an investigator, not a debunker, and insisted he was always open to the possibility of supernatural phenomena but simply found no evidence of it after decades of research. To put his money where his mouth was, Mr. Randi and the research organization he helped found in 1976, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, offered payouts ranging up to $1 million to anyone who could demonstrate a supernatural or paranormal phenomenon under mutually agreed, scientifically controlled conditions. While he had many takers, he said, none of them earned a cent. Randi was featured in a handful of Slashdot stories over the years, including a two-part interview where he answered your questions.

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Categories: Technology

FCC Defends Helping Trump, Claims Authority Over Social Media Law

Thu, 2020-10-22 00:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Federal Communications Commission's top lawyer today explained the FCC's theory of why it can grant President Donald Trump's request for a new interpretation of a law that provides legal protection to social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Critics of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's plan from both the left and right say the FCC has no authority to reinterpret Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which gives legal immunity to online platforms that block or modify content posted by users. FCC General Counsel Thomas Johnson said those critics are wrong in a blog post published on the FCC website today. Johnson noted that the Communications Decency Act was passed by Congress as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which was an update to the Communications Act of 1934 that established the FCC and provided it with regulatory authority. Johnson also pointed to Section 201(b) of the Communications Act, which gave the FCC power to "prescribe such rules and regulations as may be necessary in the public interest to carry out the provisions of this Act." Johnson then explained why he believes this means the FCC can reinterpret Section 230: "The Supreme Court has twice considered whether the FCC's general rulemaking authority under Section 201(b), adopted in 1938, extends to the 1996 amendments to the Act. Both times, the Court held that it does. Writing for the Court in Iowa Utilities Board, and employing his trademark textualist method, Justice Scalia wrote that this provision 'means what it says: The FCC has rulemaking authority to carry out the 'provisions of [the 1934] Act.'' The Court explained that 'the clear fact that the 1996 Act was adopted, not as a freestanding enactment, but as an amendment to, and hence part of, [the 1934] Act' shows that Congress intended the Commission to have rulemaking authority over all its provisions. Likewise, in the later City of Arlington case, the Court confirmed that the Commission's rulemaking authority '[o]f course... extends to the subsequently added portions of the Act.' From these authorities, a simple conclusion follows: Because Section 230 is among the 'subsequently added portions of the Act,' it is subject to the FCC's Section 201(b) rulemaking authority." Matt Wood, VP of policy and general counsel at media-advocacy group Free Press, told Ars today: "The FCC lawyers' latest sleight-of-hand is a clever distraction, but still not good enough to save the Commission's pending foray into speech codes and Internet regulation. The agency claims that it's not going to make rules, it's merely going to interpret the supposed ambiguities in the language of Section 230 and let courts apply that interpretation. But there's no ambiguity to resolve, nor any reason for courts to follow the FCC's interpretation. And there's no hiding the fact that the FCC's pretense of interpretation without the effect of substantive rules is a ruse and nothing better."

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Categories: Technology

AOC's Debut Twitch Stream Is One of the Biggest Ever

Wed, 2020-10-21 23:50
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) made her Twitch debut last night to play Among Us and quickly became one of the platform's biggest broadcasters. According to Twitch, her stream peaked at 435,000 viewers around the time of her first match. The Verge reports: That peak viewership puts her broadcast among the 20 biggest streams ever, according to the third-party metrics site TwitchTracker, and much higher if you're only looking at broadcasts from individual streamers. Ninja holds the record for an individual streamer, with more than 600,000 viewers during a Fortnite match with Drake in 2018. TwitchTracker's metrics suggest that AOC's stream could in the top 10 for an individual in terms of peak viewers. Ocasio-Cortez's stream came together quickly. She tweeted Monday asking, "Anyone want to play Among Us with me on Twitch to get out the vote?" Major streamers quickly signed up -- she ended up being joined by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Pokimane, HasanAbi, Disguised Toast, DrLupo, and more. Her stream even had graphics prepared, which Ocasio-Cortez said came from supporters who started making art after she tweeted. Despite only having minimal Among Us experience -- Ocasio-Cortez said Monday that she'd never played before, but seemed to have brushed up before the stream -- she did well in her first broadcast. She was chosen as an impostor in the first round and, with a partner, knocked out about half the field before getting caught. Omar later made it to the final three as an impostor before getting voted out by Ocasio-Cortez and Hasan.

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Categories: Technology

GMC Hummer EV vs. Tesla Cybertruck, Bollinger and Rivian

Wed, 2020-10-21 23:10
Last night, GMC unveiled the Hummer EV, the company's first electric pickup with a 350-mile range, 1,000 HP and up to 11,500 pound-feet of torque. Although there's still plenty more questions than answers, CNET has compared what we know about the Hummer EV against the Tesla Cybertruck, as well as trucks from startups like Bollinger and Rivian. And just for fun, they've included the tried and true Ford F-150 (Raptor). Here's a summary of the specs/features based on CNET's analysis: Performance Tesla Cybertruck: Three motors with more performance than the Model S Performance (though tech specs are limited). GMC Hummer EV: 1,000 horsepower and 11,500 pound-feet of torque (likely axle torque). 60mph in 3 seconds flat. The Bollinger B2: Dual-motor setup with 614 horsepower and 668 pound-feet of torque. The Rivian R1T: The top-spec variant will feature 750 horsepower and 829 pound-feet of torque. Ford F-150: High-output turbocharged V6 with 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque. Range Tesla Cybertruck: 500 miles GMC Hummer EV: 350 miles; compatible with 350-kW DC fast-charging; 100 miles of range in just 10 minutes Rivian R1T: 400 miles Bollinger B2: 200 miles; 120 kWh battery Ford F-150: 850 miles; 26-gallon tank of diesel Towing and payload Tesla Cybertruck: 14,000 pounds; NA GMC Hummer EV: NA; NA Rivian R1T: 11,000 pounds; NA Bollinger B2: 7,500 pounds; 5,000 pounds Ford F-150: 13,200 pounds; 3,270 pounds Cost Tesla Cybertruck: "under $40,000" for base model with rear-wheel drive GMC Hummer EV: The fancy Edition 1 will cost $112,595 with less expensive versions in following years Rivian R1T: starts at $69,000 Bollinger B2: starts at $125,000 Ford F-150: starts at $28,495 -> $67,485

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Former Google CEO Calls Social Networks 'Amplifiers for Idiots'

Wed, 2020-10-21 22:30
Former Google Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt said the "excesses" of social media are likely to result in greater regulation of internet platforms in the coming years. From a report: Schmidt, who left the board of Google's parent Alphabet in 2019 but is still one of its largest shareholders, said the antitrust lawsuit the U.S. government filed against the company on Tuesday was misplaced, but that more regulation may be in order for social networks in general. "The context of social networks serving as amplifiers for idiots and crazy people is not what we intended," Schmidt said at a virtual conference hosted by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. "Unless the industry gets its act together in a really clever way, there will be regulation." [...] Schmidt also argued Google's massive search business -- the target of the U.S. Department of Justice's antitrust suit -- continues to be so successful because people choose it over competitors, not because it uses its size to block smaller rivals. "I would be careful about these dominance arguments. I just don't agree with them," Schmidt said. "Google's market share is not 100%."

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Categories: Technology

Activists Turn Facial Recognition Tools Against the Police

Wed, 2020-10-21 21:50
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: In early September, the City Council in Portland, Ore., met virtually to consider sweeping legislation outlawing the use of facial recognition technology. The bills would not only bar the police from using it to unmask protesters and individuals captured in surveillance imagery; they would also prevent companies and a variety of other organizations from using the software to identify an unknown person. During the time for public comments, a local man, Christopher Howell, said he had concerns about a blanket ban. He gave a surprising reason. "I am involved with developing facial recognition to in fact use on Portland police officers, since they are not identifying themselves to the public," Mr. Howell said. Over the summer, with the city seized by demonstrations against police violence, leaders of the department had told uniformed officers that they could tape over their name. Mr. Howell wanted to know: Would his use of facial recognition technology become illegal? Portland's mayor, Ted Wheeler, told Mr. Howell that his project was "a little creepy," but a lawyer for the city clarified that the bills would not apply to individuals. The Council then passed the legislation in a unanimous vote. Mr. Howell was offended by Mr. Wheeler's characterization of his project but relieved he could keep working on it. "There's a lot of excessive force here in Portland," he said in a phone interview. "Knowing who the officers are seems like a baseline." Mr. Howell, 42, is a lifelong protester and self-taught coder; in graduate school, he started working with neural net technology, an artificial intelligence that learns to make decisions from data it is fed, such as images. He said that the police had tear-gassed him during a midday protest in June, and that he had begun researching how to build a facial recognition product that could defeat officers' attempts to shield their identity. Mr. Howell is not alone in his pursuit. Law enforcement has used facial recognition to identify criminals, using photos from government databases or, through a company called Clearview AI, from the public internet. But now activists around the world are turning the process around and developing tools that can unmask law enforcement in cases of misconduct. The report also mentions a few other projects around the world that are using facial recognition tools against the police. An online exhibit called "Capture," was created by artist Paolo Cirio and includes photos of 4,000 faces of French police officers. It's currently down because France's interior minister threatened legal action against Mr. Cirio but he hopes to republish them. Andrew Maximov, a technologist from Belarus, uploaded a video to YouTube that demonstrated how facial recognition technology could be used to digitally strip away masks from police officers. The report also notes that older attempts to identify police officers have relied on crowdsourcing. For example, news service ProPublica asks readers to identify officers in a series of videos of police violence. There's also the OpenOversight, a "public searchable database of law enforcement officers" that asks people to upload photos of uniformed officers and match them to the officers' names or badge numbers.

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Categories: Technology

New York's New Digital Subway Map

Wed, 2020-10-21 21:12
An anonymous reader shares a report: The date was April 20, 1978; the scene, the Great Hall of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art on Astor Place. On the stage where Abraham Lincoln once spoke sat two men, the Italian modernist Massimo Vignelli and the cartographer John Tauranac, constituting two sides of the Great Subway Map Debate. Six years earlier, Vignelli's firm had reimagined the New York subway map into a groovy rainbowlike diagram, one that graphic designers loved and many riders found hard to navigate. Tauranac was the head of a committee that had engaged Michael Hertz Associates to re-re-draw it into the topographically grounded, graphically busy, and not particularly elegant map that -- modest updates aside -- is the one we all still use. Vignelli's diagram was a joy to look at and was nearly useless as an aboveground navigation tool. Hertz and Tauranac's map functioned pretty well as a map to getting around town but inspired comparatively little delight. Vignelli said the Hertz map made him "puke." Tauranac countered with paeans to real-world use. (The moderator for the evening was Peter Blake, New York's first architecture critic.) By the end of the Great Debate, the aesthetes sensed they were going to lose, and indeed they did. Hertz's practical problem-solving work replaced Vignelli's the following year, and the aesthetes have been rolling their eyes ever since. Jonathan Barnett, then a City College professor, summed up the evening by asking, "Why can't we have both maps?" As of this morning, perhaps we do. The MTA has unveiled its new digital map, the first one that uses the agency's own data streams to update in real time. It supersedes the blizzard of paper service-change announcements that are taped all over your subway station's entrance. It's so thoroughly up-to-the-moment that you can watch individual trains move around the system on your phone. Pinch your fingers on the screen, and you can zoom out to see your whole line or borough, as the lines resolve into single strands. Drag your fingers apart, and you'll zoom in to see multiple routes in each tunnel springing out, widening into parallel bands -- making visible individual service changes, closures and openings, and reroutings. Click on a station, and you can find out whether the elevators and escalators are working. The escalators at 34th Street-11th Avenue, as of press time, are 18 for 20. And the whole thing resolves the Great Subway Map Debate almost by accident along the way, because when you're zoomed-in it draws on the best parts of Vignelli's diagram -- the completeness of its parallel, stranded routes and the swoopy aesthetics -- and the zoomed-out version echoes the Hertz map's best features, its graspable consolidation of multiple lines into single ones and its representation of the physical world.

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Categories: Technology

Microsoft Says It Took Down 94% of TrickBot's Command and Control Servers

Wed, 2020-10-21 20:33
TrickBot survived an initial takedown attempt, but Microsoft and its partners are countering TrickBot operators after every move, taking down any new infrastructure the group is attempting to bring up online. From a report: Last week, a coalition of cyber-security firms led by Microsoft orchestrated a global takedown against TrickBot, one of today's largest malware botnets and cybercrime operations. Even if Microsoft brought down TrickBot infrastructure in the first few days, the botnet survived, and TrickBot operators brought new command and control (C&C) servers online in the hopes of continuing their cybercrime spree. But as several sources in the cyber-security industry told ZDNet last week, everyone expected TrickBot to fight back, and Microsoft promised to continue cracking down against the group in the weeks to come. In an update posted today on its takedown efforts, Microsoft confirmed a second wave of takedown actions against TrickBot. The OS maker said it has slowly chipped away at TrickBot infrastructure over the past week and has taken down 94% of the botnet's C&C servers, including the original servers and new ones brought online after the first takedown.

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Quibi Is Shutting Down

Wed, 2020-10-21 19:55
Quibi is considering shutting itself down, WSJ reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter, a move that points to a possible crash landing for a once-highflying entertainment startup that raised $1.75 billion in capital. From the report: The streaming service has been plagued with problems since it launched in April, facing lower-than-expected viewership, disappointing download numbers and a lawsuit from a well-capitalized foe. The service is aimed at mobile viewers, but the coronavirus pandemic forced would-be subscribers away from the kinds of on-the-go situations Quibi executives envisioned for its users. Quibi attracted blue-chip advertisers including Pepsi, Walmart and Anheuser-Busch, securing about $150 million in ad revenue in the run-up to its launch. Those deals came under strain earlier this year amid lower-than-expected viewership for Quibi's shows, prompting advertisers to defer their payments. In recent weeks, Quibi hired a restructuring firm to evaluate its options, the people said. The firm recommended the options to the board of directors this week, laying out a list of options that included shutting the company down. Update: 10/21 19:44 GMT: The Information is reporting that Quibi has decided to shut down. From the report: The closure is a stunning end to Katzenberg's hopes of creating a new category of video entertainment, short programs of a few minutes in length that could be watched on the go. Katzenberg, a former Disney executive who later helped start DreamWorks, raised nearly $2 billion to finance Quibi. Among the backers were most of the major Hollywood studios, Google, Alibaba and the Madrone Capital Partners. Quibi scheduled calls with investors and employees on Wednesday afternoon to deliver the news.

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Tesla Starts Full Self-Driving Beta Rollout

Wed, 2020-10-21 19:17
Tesla has started the rollout of its Full Self-Driving Beta update, which Elon Musk said "will be extremely slow and cautious." From the report: We have been expecting the update for a while now. Over the last few months, Elon Musk has been talking about Tesla working on "a significant foundational rewrite in the Tesla Autopilot." He has been teasing the new core change to Autopilot, which should be able to interpret its environment in 4D instead of 2D after the update and should result in a rapid improvement in performance and new features being released quicker. More recently, the CEO has been referring to the update as "Full Self-Driving Beta" or "FSD Beta." Last week, Musk said that Tesla will start to release "Full Self-Driving Beta" to some customers on Tuesday. Yesterday, the CEO confirmed that the rollout is happening as planned tonight and added that the system will be "extremely slow and cautious."

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Kite Expands Its AI Code Completions From 2 To 13 Programming Languages

Wed, 2020-10-21 18:31
An anonymous reader writes: Kite, which suggests code snippets for developers in real time, today added support for 11 more programming languages, bringing its total to 13. In addition to Python and JavaScript, Kite's AI-powered code completions now support TypeScript, Java, HTML, CSS, Go, C, C#, C++, Objective C, Kotlin, and Scala. (The team chose the 11 languages by triangulating the StackOverflow developer survey, Redmonk's language rankings, and its own developer submissions.) AI that helps developers is growing in popularity, with startups like DeepCode offering AI-powered code reviews and tech giants like Microsoft trying to apply AI to the entire application developer cycle. Kite stands out from the pack with 350,000 monthly developers using its AI developer tool. Kite debuted privately in April 2016 before publicly launching a cloud-powered developer sidekick in March 2017. The company raised $17 million in January 2019 and ditched the cloud to run its free offering locally. In May, Kite added JavaScript support, launched a Pro plan with advanced line-of-code completions for Python, and updated its engine to use deep learning, a type of machine learning.

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PayPal To Let You Buy and Sell Cryptocurrencies in the US

Wed, 2020-10-21 17:56
PayPal has partnered with cryptocurrency company Paxos to launch a new service. PayPal users in the U.S. will soon be able to buy, hold and sell cryptocurrencies. More countries are coming soon. From a report: PayPal plans to support Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin at first. You'll be able to connect to your PayPal account to buy and sell cryptocurrencies. Behind the scenes, Paxos takes care of trading and custody. In early 2021, PayPal wants to let you use your crypto assets as a funding source for your PayPal purchases. This could be a good way to use cryptocurrencies for everyday purchases without having to convert cryptocurrencies on an exchange first. There are 26 million merchants that offer PayPal around the world. For those merchants, customers paying in crypto won't have any impact. Everything will be converted to fiat currency when a transaction is settled. As part of today's move, PayPal has been granted a conditional BitLicense by the New York State Department of Financial Service. It should be able to launch its crypto service in partnership with Paxos in New York.

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Categories: Technology

Mozilla Fears 'Collateral Damage' in Google Antitrust Case

Wed, 2020-10-21 17:32
Mozilla has responded to the U.S. Department of Justice's antitrust lawsuit against Google, but rather than commending the DOJ's action, the Firefox browser maker has voiced concerns that its commercial partnership could make it "collateral damage" in the fight against Google's alleged monopolistic practices. From a report: The DOJ, with support from 11 U.S. states, confirmed yesterday that it is suing Google for allegedly violating anti-competition laws by crowding out rivals in the internet search and advertising markets. "Small and independent companies such as Mozilla thrive by innovating, disrupting, and providing users with industry-leading features and services in areas like search," Mozilla chief legal officer Amy Keating wrote in a blog post. "The ultimate outcomes of an antitrust lawsuit should not cause collateral damage to the very organizations -- like Mozilla -- best positioned to drive competition and protect the interests of consumers on the web." Mozilla has a long and complicated history with Google. In recent years, Mozilla has launched countless privacy campaigns against the internet giant's various online properties, and just last month it introduced a new browser add-on to crowdsource research into YouTube's opaque recommendation algorithm. On the other hand, Mozilla relies heavily on royalties from a search engine partnership with Google. The duo recently extended their deal to make Google the default search engine inside Firefox in the U.S. and other markets, which will reportedly secure Mozilla up to $450 million over the next three years.

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Categories: Technology

The Police Can Probably Break Into Your Phone

Wed, 2020-10-21 17:05
At least 2,000 law enforcement agencies have tools to get into encrypted smartphones, according to new research, and they are using them far more than previously known. From a report: In a new Apple ad, a man on a city bus announces he has just shopped for divorce lawyers. Then a woman recites her credit card number through a megaphone in a park. "Some things shouldn't be shared," the ad says, "iPhone helps keep it that way." Apple has built complex encryption into iPhones and made the devices' security central to its marketing pitch. That, in turn, has angered law enforcement. Officials from the F.B.I. director to rural sheriffs have argued that encrypted phones stifle their work to catch and convict dangerous criminals. They have tried to force Apple and Google to unlock suspects' phones, but the companies say they can't. In response, the authorities have put their own marketing spin on the problem. Law enforcement, they say, is "going dark." Yet new data reveals a twist to the encryption debate that undercuts both sides: Law enforcement officials across the nation regularly break into encrypted smartphones. That is because at least 2,000 law enforcement agencies in all 50 states now have tools to get into locked, encrypted phones and extract their data, according to years of public records collected in a report by Upturn, a Washington nonprofit that investigates how the police use technology. At least 49 of the 50 largest U.S. police departments have the tools, according to the records, as do the police and sheriffs in small towns and counties across the country, including Buckeye, Ariz.; Shaker Heights, Ohio; and Walla Walla, Wash. And local law enforcement agencies that don't have such tools can often send a locked phone to a state or federal crime lab that does. With more tools in their arsenal, the authorities have used them in an increasing range of cases, from homicides and rapes to drugs and shoplifting, according to the records, which were reviewed by The New York Times. Upturn researchers said the records suggested that U.S. authorities had searched hundreds of thousands of phones over the past five years. While the existence of such tools has been known for some time, the records show that the authorities break into phones far more than previously understood -- and that smartphones, with their vast troves of personal data, are not as impenetrable as Apple and Google have advertised. While many in law enforcement have argued that smartphones are often a roadblock to investigations, the findings indicate that they are instead one of the most important tools for prosecutions.

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