Slashdot.org

Syndicate content Slashdot
News for nerds, stuff that matters
Updated: 44 min 7 sec ago

Google Will Implement a Microsoft-Style Browser Picker For EU Android Devices

1 hour 19 min ago
Back in 2009, the EU's European Commission said Microsoft was harming competition by bundling its browser -- Internet Explorer -- with Windows. Eventually Microsoft and the European Commission settled on the "browser ballot," a screen that would pop up and give users a choice of browsers. Almost 10 years later, the tech industry is going through this again, this time with Google and the EU. After receiving "feedback" from the European Commission, Google announced last night that it would offer Android users in the EU a choice of browsers and search engines. Ars Technica reports: In July, the European Commission found Google had violated the EU's antitrust rules by bundling Google Chrome and Google Search with Android, punishing manufacturers that shipped Android forks, and paying manufacturers for exclusively pre-installing Google Search. Google was fined a whopping $5.05 billion (which it is appealing) and then the concessions started. Google said its bundling of Search and Chrome funded the development and free distribution of Android, so any manufacturer looking to ship Android with unbundled Google apps would now be charged a fee. Reports later pegged this amount as up to $40 per handset. We don't have many details on exactly how Google's new search and browser picker will work; there's just a single paragraph in the company's blog post. Google says it will "do more to ensure that Android phone owners know about the wide choice of browsers and search engines available to download to their phones. This will involve asking users of existing and new Android devices in Europe which browser and search apps they would like to use."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Volvo To Add In-Car Sensors To Prevent Drunk Driving

1 hour 59 min ago
Volvo is installing cameras and sensors in its cars from the early 2020s, monitoring drivers for signs of being drunk or distracted and intervening to prevent accidents. These new safety features come a couple weeks after the automaker announced it will limit the top speed to 112mph on all its new cars from 2020 to help reduce the number of accidents. Reuters reports: Head of R&D Henrik Green said cameras will be installed on all Volvo models built on its SPA2 platform for larger cars, starting from the XC90 SUV in the early part of the next decade, before being added to smaller cars built on its CMA platform. Volvo said intervention if the driver is found to be drunk, tired or distracted by checking a mobile phone - among the biggest factors in accidents - could involve limiting the car's speed, alerting the Volvo on Call assistance service, or slowing down and parking the car. CEO Hakan Samuelsson said that while the strategies meant Volvo might lose some customers keen on high speeds, it also opened opportunities to win parents who wanted to buy the safest car to carry their children. "It would be easy to say that people can do whatever they like but we feel we have a responsibility to do this. Maybe people will see us as 'Big Brother,' but if we save some lives then it's worth it," he told journalists. Volvo also said it would introduce Care Key on cars from 2021, allowing buyers to set speed limits, and that it was talking to insurers to offer better terms for users of these safety features.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Four Wikipedias To 'Black Out' Over EU Copyright Directive

2 hours 39 min ago
Sherwin Siy and Jan Gerlach, writing for the Wikimedia Foundation: Volunteer editor communities in four language Wikipedias -- German, Czech, Danish, and Slovak -- have decided to black out the sites on 21 March in opposition to the current version of the proposed EU Copyright Directive. Those language editions of Wikipedia will redirect all visitors to a banner about the directive, blocking access to content on Wikipedia for 24 hours. A final vote on the directive is expected on 26 March. These independent language communities decided to black out in the same way most decisions are made on Wikipedia -- through discussion and consensus, something summarized in a statement from the German Wikipedia volunteer community: "Each of these independent Wikipedia communities has been engaging in public online discussions as to their course of action, and voting on whether and how to protest. They have done this according to their own rules of governance."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

'Energizing Times': Microsoft To 'Go Big' at E3 in Response To Google Stadia

3 hours 19 min ago
Microsoft announced its Xcloud game-streaming service last August, with the ambition of streaming console-quality games to gamers wherever they are. Yesterday, Google made its foray into the space with the announcement of Stadia. Google promises that Stadia will be "coming [in] 2019," potentially stealing a march on Xcloud, which is due only to enter public trials this year. But in an internal email sent to rally the troops, Phil Spencer, Microsoft's gaming chief, seemed unsurprised and apparently unconcerned. He wrote: We just wrapped up watching the Google announcement of Stadia as team here at GDC. Their announcement is validation of the path we embarked on two years ago.. Today we saw a big tech competitor enter the gaming market, and frame the necessary ingredients for success as Content, Community and Cloud. There were no big surprises in their announcement although I was impressed by their leveraging of YouTube, the use of Google Assistant and the new WiFi controller. But I want get back to us, there has been really good work to get us to the position where we are poised to compete for 2 billion gamers across the planet. Google went big today and we have a couple of months until E3 when we will go big. We have to stay agile and continue to build with our customer at the center. We have the content, community, cloud team and strategy, and as I've been saying for a while, it's all about execution. This is even more true today. Energizing times.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Many People Think AI Could Make Better Policy Decisions Than Politicians

3 hours 59 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: A new survey on Europeans' attitudes towards technology found that a quarter of people would prefer it if policy decisions were made by artificial intelligence instead of politicians. The Center for the Governance of Change at Spain's IE University polled 2,500 adults in the UK, Spain, Germany, France, Ireland, Italy, and the Netherlands in January. The results reflect an intense anxiety about the changes brought about by advances in tech, with more than half of respondents worried that jobs would be replaced by robots, and 70% saying that unchecked technological innovation could do more harm than good to society. Respondents also expressed concerns about the impact of digital relationships replacing human contact as more people spend time online. Perhaps most interestingly, a quarter of the respondents said they would prefer AI to guide decisions about governance of their country over politicians. Around the world, citizens have expressed a growing disillusionment with democracy, and an increased skepticism that their voice has an impact on political decisions. But algorithmic decisions aren't a problem-free solution: they can be embedded with the prejudice and bias of their programmers or manipulated to achieve specific outcomes, making the results as potentially problematic as the ones made by humans. The study also found that respondents expected governments to reduce the disruption that technology might have on their lives with regulation, limits on automation, and support for people affected by job losses. This "highlights the paradox in which we live," the authors wrote. "People are disillusioned with governments, yet at the same time ask them to tackle the societal and economic negative effects that emerging technologies might have."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

China's E-Buses Dent Oil Demand More Than Electric Cars Do

4 hours 39 min ago
China's fleet of electric buses appear to be denting oil demand more than electric cars. "By the end of this year, a cumulative 270,000 barrels a day of diesel demand will have been displaced by electric buses, most of it in China," reports Bloomberg, citing a new report published by BloombergNEF. "That's more than three times the displacement by all the world's passenger electric vehicles (a market where Tesla has a share of about 12 percent)." From the report: Despite rapid growth, the impact on the oil market from electric vehicles remains relatively small. Collectively, buses and electric vehicles account for about 3 percent of oil demand growth since 2011, and 0.3 percent of current global consumption, according to BloombergNEF figures and data from the International Energy Agency. Buses matter more because of their size and constant use. For every 1,000 electric buses on the road, 500 barrels of diesel are displaced each day, BloombergNEF estimates. By comparison, 1,000 battery electric vehicles remove just 15 barrels of oil demand. Still, the EV market's impact on oil consumption is only going to grow. By 2040, electric vehicles could displace much as 6.4 million barrels a day of demand, while fuel efficiency improvements will erase another 7.5 million barrels a day, according to BloombergNEF's May 2018 long-term EV outlook.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Oculus Unveils the Rift S, a Higher-Resolution VR Headset With Built-In Tracking

5 hours 19 min ago
Oculus VR unveiled the Oculus Rift S, a higher-resolution pair of virtual reality goggles that remove the need for external cameras by incorporating built-in tracking. The company partnered with Lenovo "to help it speed up manufacturing and to improve upon the design of the original Rift," reports The Verge. From the report: The result is a new VR device that is more comfortable, sports 2560 x 1440 resolution (or 1280 x 1440 per eye), and features the same inside-out tracking system that will ship on Oculus' upcoming standalone Quest headset, which the company calls Oculus Insight. That way, you won't need cumbersome cameras to enable full-body movement. In another twist, both the Quest and Rift S device will cost exactly the same at launch: $399, with the same pair of slightly modified Touch motion controllers included and the same integrated audio system (plus a headphone jack for external audio). That decision makes it clear that Oculus wants its VR platform to offer a choice not between two vastly different pieces of hardware, but by the more simple determination of whether you have the hardware to power PC-grade VR. The Rift S will support every existing and future game on the Rift platform. "The company is also enabling cross-buy and cross-play features," the report adds. "That way, you can buy a Quest and, at a later date, upgrade to a Rift S and still have your entire library intact. Additionally, multiplayer games that support both platforms will let players play one another, regardless of whether you're playing on a Quest or Rift device." The Rift S and Quest will be shipping this spring.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Streaming and Cloud Computing Endanger Modding and Game Preservation

5 hours 59 min ago
Services like Google's Stadia seem convenient, but they could completely change the past and future of video games, writes Rich Whitehouse, a video game preservationist and veteran programmer in the video game industry. From the story: For most of today's games, modding isn't an especially friendly process. There are some exceptions, but for the most part, people like me are digging into these games and reverse engineering data formats in order to create tools which allow users to mod the games. Once that data starts only existing on a server somewhere, we can no longer see it, and we can no longer change it. I expect some publishers/developers to respond to this by explicitly supporting modifications in their games, but ultimately, this will come with limitations and, most likely, censorship. As such, this represents an end of an era, where we're free to dig into these games and make whatever we want out of them. As someone who got their start in game development through modding, I think this sucks. It is also arguably not a healthy direction for the video game industry to head in. Dota 2, Counter-Strike, and other massively popular games that generate millions of dollars annually, all got their start as user-modifications of existing video games from big publishers. Will we still get the new Counter-Strike if users can't mod their games? [...] The bigger problem here, as I see it, is analysis and preservation. There is so much more history to a video game than the playable end result conveys. When the data and code driving a game exists only on a remote server, we can't look at it, and we can't learn from it. Reverse engineering a game gives us tons of insight into its development, from lost and hidden features to actual development decisions. Indeed, even with optimizing compilers and well-defined dependency trees which help to cull unused data out of retail builds, many of the popular major releases of today have plenty waiting to be discovered and documented. We're already living in a world where the story of a game's development remains largely hidden from the public, and the bits that trickle out through presentations and conferences are well-filtered, and often omit important information merely because it might not be well-received, might make the developer look bad, etc. This ultimately offers up a deeply flawed, relatively sparse historical record.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Jury Finds Bayer's Roundup Weedkiller Caused Man's Cancer

6 hours 39 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Shares in Germany's Bayer's fell more than 12 percent on Wednesday after a second U.S. jury ruled its Roundup weed killer caused cancer. Tuesday's unanimous jury decision in San Francisco federal court was not a finding of Bayer's liability for the cancer of plaintiff Edwin Hardeman. Liability and damages will be decided by the same jury in a second trial phase beginning on Wednesday. Bayer, which denies allegations that glyphosate or Roundup cause cancer, said it was disappointed with the jury's initial decision. Bayer acquired Monsanto, the longtime maker of Roundup, for $63 billion last year. The case was only the second of some 11,200 Roundup lawsuits to go to trial in the United States. Another California man was awarded $289 million in August after a state court jury found Roundup caused his cancer. That award was later reduced to $78 million and is on appeal. Bayer had claimed that jury was overly influenced by plaintiffs' lawyers allegations of corporate misconduct and did not focus on the science. U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria called such evidence "a distraction" from the scientific question of whether glyphosate causes cancer. He split the Hardeman case into two phases: one to decide causation, the other to determine Bayer's potential liability and damages. Under Chhabria's order, the second phase would only take place if the jury found Roundup to be a substantial factor in causing Hardeman's non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The jury found that it was on Tuesday.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Kaspersky Lab Files Antitrust Complaint Against Apple Over App Store Policy

7 hours 29 min ago
Cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab has filed an antitrust complaint against Apple with the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service relating to the company's App Store distribution policy. From a report: Kaspersky's complaint is specifically to do with Apple's removal of the Kaspersky Safe Kids app. In a blog post on the Kaspersky website, the firm says it received notice from Apple last year that the app, which had been in the App Store for three years, did not meet App Store guidelines owing to the use of configuration profiles. Kaspersky was told by Apple that it would need to remove these profiles for the app to pass review and remain in the App Store, but the Russian firm had argued this action essentially crippled the app. "For us, that would mean removing two key features from Kaspersky Safe Kids: app control and Safari browser blocking." The first allows parents to specify which apps kids can't run based on the App Store's age restrictions, while the second allows the hiding of all browsers on the device so that web pages can only be accessed in the Kaspersky Safe Kids app's built-in secure browser.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Google Bans VPN Ads in China

8 hours 19 min ago
Google has banned ads for virtual private network (VPN) products targeting Chinese users, ZDNet reported on Wednesday. From a report: The company cited "local legal restrictions" as the cause of the VPN ad ban. "It is currently Google Ads policy to disallow promoting VPN services in China, due to local legal restrictions," Google said in an email today. The email was received and shared with ZDNet by VPNMentor, a website offering advice, tips, and reviews of VPN products. The company said Google prevented its employees from placing Google search ads for the Chinese version of its site.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Britain Could Run Short of Water by 2050, Official Says

9 hours 4 min ago
To the casual observer, Britain -- an island nation that's no stranger to rain -- could not get much wetter. From a report: But, as it turns out, that's a fallacy. And if preventive steps are not taken, in less than three decades, Britain might run out of water, the chief executive of the Environment Agency, a public body responsible for conservation in England, said on Tuesday. "On the present projections, many parts of our country will face significant water deficits by 2050, particularly in the southeast, where much of the U.K. population lives," the agency chief, James Bevan, said at a conference on water use. In about 20 to 25 years, demand could close in on supply in what Mr. Bevan called "the jaws of death -- the point at which, unless we take action to change things, we will not have enough water to supply our needs." The reasons, he said, were climate change and population growth. And he called for a change of attitude toward water conservation to help tackle the problem. "We need water wastage to be as socially unacceptable as blowing smoke in the face of a baby or throwing your plastic bags into the sea," Mr. Bevan said. Many in Britain, citing the often rainy weather and expressing frustration with the infamously high levels of leakage from underground pipes, tend to belittle warnings about water shortages.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Opera Adds Free and Unlimited VPN Service To Its Android Browser

9 hours 44 min ago
Opera has added a free VPN service to its Android browser. The Norwegian browser maker, which went public last year, also addressed concerns about potential hidden costs of using its free VPN offering. From a report: As users become more cautious about their privacy, many have explored using VPN services. According to a GlobalWebIndex estimate, more than 650 million people worldwide use such tools to mask their identity online and fend off web trackers. Opera has long recognized this need; in 2016, it launched Opera VPN, a standalone VPN app for iOS and Android. A few months later, it baked that feature into its desktop browser. Last year, however, the company discontinued Opera VPN. Now, Opera is integrating the VPN service into its Android browser. Opera 51 for Android enables users to establish a private connection between their mobile device and a remote VPN server using 256-bit encryption. Users can pick a server of their choice from a range of locations. Unlike several other VPN apps, Opera's offering does not require an account to use the service.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Pilot Who Hitched a Ride Saved Lion Air 737 Day Before Deadly Crash

10 hours 19 min ago
As the Lion Air crew fought to control their diving Boeing 737 Max 8, they got help from an unexpected source: an off-duty pilot who happened to be riding in the cockpit. Bloomberg reports: That extra pilot, who was seated in the cockpit jumpseat, correctly diagnosed the problem and told the crew how to disable a malfunctioning flight-control system and save the plane, according to two people familiar with Indonesia's investigation. The next day, under command of a different crew facing what investigators said was an identical malfunction, the jetliner crashed into the Java Sea killing all 189 aboard. The previously undisclosed detail on the earlier Lion Air flight represents a new clue in the mystery of how some 737 Max pilots faced with the malfunction have been able to avert disaster while the others lost control of their planes and crashed. The presence of a third pilot in the cockpit wasn't contained in Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee's Nov. 28 report on the crash and hasn't previously been reported. The so-called dead-head pilot on the earlier flight from Bali to Jakarta told the crew to cut power to the motor driving the nose down, according to the people familiar, part of a checklist that all pilots are required to memorize. Further reading: Flawed Analysis, Failed Oversight: How Boeing, FAA Certified the Suspect 737 MAX Flight Control System.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

LLVM 8.0 Released With Cascade Lake Support, Better Diagnostics, More OpenMP/OpenCL

10 hours 59 min ago
After being delayed for the better part of one month, LLVM 8.0 officially is finally available. From a report: LLVM release manager Hans Wennborg announced the release a few minutes ago and summed up this half-year update to LLVM and its sub-project as: "speculative load hardening, concurrent compilation in the ORC JIT API, no longer experimental WebAssembly target, a Clang option to initialize automatic variables, improved pre-compiled header support in clang-cl, the /Zc:dllexportInlines- flag, RISC-V support in lld. And as usual, many bug fixes, optimization and diagnostics improvements, etc."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

It's Scary How Much Personal Data People Leave on Used Laptops and Phones, Researcher Finds

11 hours 39 min ago
A recent experiment by Josh Frantz, a senior security consultant at Rapid7, suggests that users are taking few if any steps to protect their private information before releasing their used devices back out into the wild. From a report: For around six months, he collected used desktop, hard disks, cellphones and more from pawn shops near his home in Wisconsin. It turned out they contain a wealth of private data belonging to their former owners, including a ton of personally identifiable information (PII) -- the bread and butter of identity theft. Frantz amassed a respectable stockpile of refurbished, donated, and used hardware: 41 desktops and laptops, 27 pieces of removable media (memory cards and flash drives), 11 hard disks, and six cellphones. The total cost of the experiment was a lot less than you'd imagine. "I visited a total of 31 businesses and bought whatever I could get my hands on for a grand total of around $600," he said. Frantz used a Python-based optical character recognition (OCR) tool to scan for Social Security numbers, dates of birth, credit card information, and other sensitive data. And the result was, as you might expect, not good. The pile of junk turned out to contain 41 Social Security numbers, 50 dates of birth, 611 email accounts, 19 credit card numbers, two passport numbers, and six driver's license numbers. Additionally, more than 200,000 images were contained on the devices and over 3,400 documents. He also extracted nearly 150,000 emails.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Google Fined Nearly $1.7 Billion For Ad Practices That Violated European Antitrust Laws

12 hours 19 min ago
European regulators on Wednesday slapped Google with a roughly $1.7 billion fine on charges that its advertising practices violated local antitrust laws, marking the third time in as many years that the region's watchdogs have penalized the U.S. tech giant for harming competition and consumers. The Washington Post: Margrethe Vestager, the European Union's top competition commissioner, announced the punishment at a news conference, accusing Google of engaging in "illegal practices" in a bid to "cement its dominant market position" in the search and advertising markets. The new penalty adds to Google's costly headaches in Europe, where Vestager now has fined the tech giant more than $9 billion in total for a series of antitrust violations. Her actions stand in stark contrast to the United States, where regulators -- facing a flood of complaints that big tech companies have become too big and powerful -- have not brought a single antitrust case against Google or any of its peers in recent years, reflecting a widening transatlantic schism over Silicon Valley and its business practices.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

NVIDIA's Latest AI Software Turns Rough Doodles Into Realistic Landscapes

13 hours 19 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: AI is going to be huge for artists, and the latest demonstration comes from Nvidia, which has built prototype software that turns doodles into realistic landscapes. Using a type of AI model known as a generative adversarial network (GAN), the software gives users what Nvidia is calling a "smart paint brush." This means someone can make a very basic outline of a scene (drawing, say, a tree on a hill) before filling in their rough sketch with natural textures like grass, clouds, forests, or rocks. The results are not quite photorealistic, but they're impressive all the same. The software generates AI landscapes instantly, and it's surprisingly intuitive. For example, when a user draws a tree and then a pool of water underneath it, the model adds the tree's reflection to the pool. Nvidia didn't say if it has any plans to turn the software into an actual product, but it suggests that tools like this could help "everyone from architects and urban planners to landscape designers and game developers" in the future. The company has published a video showing off the imagery it handles particularly well.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Researchers Create the First AI-Controlled Robotic Limb That Can Learn To Walk Without Being Programmed

16 hours 19 min ago
schwit1 shares a report from ScienceAlert: Researchers at the University of Southern Carolina (USC) claim to have created the first AI-controlled robotic limb that can learn how to walk without being explicitly programmed to do so. The algorithm they used is inspired by real-life biology. Just like animals that can walk soon after birth, this robot can figure out how to use its animal-like tendons after only five minutes of unstructured play. Today, most robots take months or years before they are ready to interact with the rest of the world. But with this new algorithm, the team has figured out how to make robots that can learn by simply doing. This is known in robotics as "motor babbling" because it closely mimics how babies learn to speak through trial and error. "During the babbling phase, the system will send random commands to motors and sense the joint angles," co-author Ali Marjaninejad an engineer at USC, told PC Mag. "Then, it will train the three-layer neural network to guess what commands will produce a given movement. We then start performing the task and reinforce good behavior."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

How Diet May Have Changed the Way Humans Speak

19 hours 19 min ago
"Ancient hunter-gathererers often had front teeth that met together, unlike today's more common alignment where the upper front teeth 'overbite' the lower front teeth," writes Slashdot reader omfglearntoplay. "This malocclusion is a result of changes to the ancestral human diet and introduction of soft foods, according to a new study published in the journal Science." ABC News reports: More than 2,000 different sounds exist across the roughly 7,000 to 8,000 languages that humans speak today, from ubiquitous cardinal vowels such as "a" and "i" to the rare click consonants found in southern Africa. Scientists had long thought this range of sounds was fixed in human biology since at least the emergence of our species about 300,000 years ago. However, in 1985, linguist Charles Hockett noted that labiodentals -- sounds produced by positioning the lower lip against the upper teeth, including "f" and "v" -- are overwhelmingly absent in languages whose speakers are hunter-gatherers. He suggested tough foods associated with such diets favored bites where teeth met edge on edge, and that people with such teeth would find it difficult to pronounce labiodentals, which are nowadays found in nearly half the world's languages. To explore Hockett's idea further, researchers developed computer models of the human skull, teeth and jaw in overbite, overjet and edge-on-edge bite configurations. They next analyzed the amount of effort these configurations needed to pronounce certain labiodental sounds. The scientists found that overbites and overjets required 29 percent less muscular effort to produce labiodental sounds than edge-on-edge bites. In addition, overbites and overjets made it easier to accidentally mispronounce bilabial sounds such as "m," "w" or "p," which are made by placing the lips together, as labiodental ones. The researchers also discovered that hunter-gatherer societies only have about 27 percent the number of labiodentals found in agricultural societies. "Moreover, when they focused on the Indo-European language family -- which stretches from Iceland to the eastern Indian state of Assam and has records stretching back more than 2,500 years on how sounds in some of its languages were pronounced -- they found the use of labiodentals increased steadily following the development of agriculture," the report says. "All in all, they estimated that labiodentals only had a 3 percent chance of existing in the Indo-European proto-language that emerged about 6,000 to 8,000 years ago but are now found in 76 percent of the family's languages."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Comment