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Leaked Docs Provide An Unprecedented Look At Income Of Uber Drivers

Thu, 06/23/2016 - 09:00
In 2013, Uber told the Wall Street Journal that a typical Uber driver takes in more than $100,000 in annual gross fares. The ride-hail platform, which has shared similar estimates many times since, says that the company's efforts toward its drivers is a pathway to a modest, more attainable American dream. Turns out, the it has been exaggerating. According to BuzzFeed News, which obtained leaked documents, drivers in some markets don't take home much more than service workers at major chains like Walmart when it comes to net pay. According to the publication, drivers in three major U.S. markets -- Denver, Detroit, and Houston -- earned less than an average of $13.25 an hour after expenses. From the report:Based on these calculations, it's possible to estimate that Uber drivers in late 2015 earned approximately $13.17 per hour after expenses in the Denver market (which includes all of Colorado), $10.75 per hour after expenses in the Houston area, and $8.77 per hour after expenses in the Detroit market, less than any earnings figure previously released by the company.

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Google Fiber To Acquire Gigabit Internet Provider Webpass

Thu, 06/23/2016 - 08:00
An anonymous reader writes: Google Fiber has announced a deal to acquire high-speed internet service provider Webpass. Webpass is a 13-year-old company that provides high-speed internet, including gigabit service, for businesses and residential customers across parts of the U.S.. Webpass is most widely known in California, with service running in San Fransisco, Oakland, Emeryville, Berkeley and San Diego. It also has service in Miami, Miami Beach, Coral Gables, Chicago, and Boston. The President of Webpass, Charles Barr, said in a blog post: "Joining Google Fiber will be a great development for our users because the companies share the same vision of the future and commitment to the customer," he said. "Google Fiber's resources will enable Webpass to grow faster and reach many more customers than we could as a standalone company." The acquisition should help Google Fiber with its plans to grow to more than 20 U.S. cities in the near future, helping connect to business and residential markets.

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Computer Simulations Point To the Source of Gravitational Waves

Thu, 06/23/2016 - 05:00
An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Verge: On February 11th, scientists at the LIGO observatory made history when they announced the detection of the first gravitational waves. A new study says the gravitational waves likely came from two massive suns that formed about 12 billion years ago, or two billion years after the Big Bang. The researcher's calculations have been published today in the journal Nature, and were determined by running a complex simulation called the Synthetic Universe: a computer model that simulates how the Universe may have evolved since the start of the Big Bang. The simulation even includes a synthetic LIGO detector to determine the types of objects that the observatory would detect over time. The Synthetic Universe can also make predictions as it includes a mock-LIGO to chronologically sync when we detected the waves. If the model is correct, we should see LIGO pick up to 60 detections when it begins its next observation run this fall. It could hear up to 1,000 detections annually at its peak sensitivity. The lead study author Chris Belczynski speculates specifically the size of black hole mergers that the LIGO should be able to detect from gravitational waves, a combined mass between 20 and 80 times the mass of our sun, indicating that they're likely from soon after the Big Bang when stars had lower metal content and formed proportionately larger black holes. His model suggests that the ones that collided to make these gravitational waves were stars that formed 12 billion years ago, became black holes 5 million years later, and then merged 10.3 billion years after that.

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India Launches Record 20 Satellites In Space Using A Single Rocket

Thu, 06/23/2016 - 02:00
William Robinson writes from a report via Times of India: The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) used its workhorse PSLV-C34 to inject 20 satellites which includes 17 satellites from various countries like US, Canada, Germany and Indonesia, into orbit in a single mission and set a new record on Wednesday. In the final stages of the mission, ISRO also demonstrated the vehicle's capability to place satellites in different orbits. In the demonstration, the vehicle reignited twice after its fourth and final stage and moved further a few kilometers into another orbit. Also included are a couple of satellites from academic institutions, Sathyabamasat from Sathyabhama University, Chennai and Swayam from College of Engineering, Pune. From the report: "The 320 ton Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C34) took off on its 36th flight at 9:26 a.m. from the Satish Dhawan Space Center with 20 satellites including its primary payload Cartosat-2 series, which provides remote sensing services, and earth observation and imaging satellites from U.S., Canada, Germany and Indonesia. It was also the 14th flight of PSLV in 'XL' configuration with the use of solid strap-on motors. ISRO scientists said, the vehicle had been pre-programmed for today's launch to perform tiny maneuvering to place the 20 satellites into polar sun-synchronous orbits with different inclinations and velocities. It ensured that the satellites were placed with enough distance to prevent collision."

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Why Drones Could Save Door-To-Door Mail Delivery

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 22:30
An anonymous reader writes: Online shopping aside, people don't have as many physical items to mail as they used to, which is largely the reason why Canada Post announced it would be phasing out door-to-door mail delivery. Motherboard reports: "The corporation is exploring future use of drone technology to make deliveries, according to a report from the Canadian Press. At this point, Canada Post is engaging in a 'proper exercise,' a spokesperson told the Canadian Press, adding that the project is in its earliest, experimental stages. According to Graham Scott, the deputy editor of Canadian Business, even if mail-delivering drones remain a theoretical concept for now, it's inevitable they'll be considered as a way to drive costs down. There are many good reasons why mail delivery drones may never get off the ground. For one thing, current technology limits them to delivering one item of post at a time, which is tremendously impractical. But, as we've seen with the rolling out of community mailboxes -- a program that was put on hold earlier this year when the review was launched -- the invisible hand of the market is always looking to drive costs down. So don't count out flying robot deliveries for good. From a manager's perspective at least, drones have their advantages. They don't suffer from dog bites, and they (ideally) don't deviate from their routes. 'Drones don't twist their ankle, they don't get tired, and they don't form a union.' said Scott." In 2013, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed during a CBS 60 Minutes interview that the company is working on a service called "Prime Air" to deliver packages by autonomous octocopter drones within 30 minutes of hitting the "buy" button. The Guardian reported last year that Amazon has been testing its drone delivery service at a secret site in Canada, following repeated warnings by the e-commerce giant that it would go outside the U.S. to bypass what it sees as the U.S. federal government's lethargic approach to the new technology.

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Sony Agrees To Pay Millions To Gamers To Settle PS3 Linux Debacle

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 20:25
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: After six years of litigation, Sony is now agreeing to pay the price for its 2010 firmware update that removed support for the Linux operating system in the PlayStation 3. Sony and lawyers representing as many as 10 million console owners reached the deal on Friday. Under the terms of the accord, (PDF) which has not been approved by a California federal judge yet, gamers are eligible to receive $55 if they used Linux on the console. The proposed settlement, which will be vetted by a judge next month, also provides $9 to each console owner that bought a PS3 based on Sony's claims about "Other OS" functionality. Under the plan, gamers eligible for a cash payment are "all persons in the United States who purchased a Fat PS3 model in the United States between November 1, 2006, and April 1, 2010." The accord did not say how much it would cost Sony, but the entertainment company is expected to pay out millions. On March 28, 2010, Sony announced that the update would "disable the 'Install Other OS' feature that was available on the PS3 systems prior to the current slimmer models." This feature, Sony claimed, would be removed "due to security concerns." Sony did not detail those "concerns," but the litigation alleged piracy was behind the decision. A gamer can get the $55, but they "must attest under oath to their purchase of the product and installation of Linux, provide proof of their purchase or serial number and PlayStation Network Sign-in ID, and submit some proof of their use of the Other OS functionality." To get the $9, PS3 owners must submit a claim, at the time they bought their console, they "knew about the Other OS, relied upon the Other OS functionality, and intended to use the Other OS functionality." Alternatively, a gamer "must attest that he or she lost value and/or desired functionality or was otherwise injured as a consequence of Firmware Update 3.21 issued on April 1, 2010," to get $9.

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154 Million Voter Records Exposed Due To Database Error

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 19:45
blottsie writes: Chris Vickery, a security researcher at MacKeeper, has uncovered a new voter database containing 154 million voter records, exposed as a result of a CouchDB installation error. The database includes names, addresses, Facebook profile URLs, gun ownership, and more. Who exposed the voter database? Vickery believes the suspect may be linked to L2, a company specializing in voter data utilization, after he noticed that the voter ID field was labeled "LALVOTERID." After calling the company, L2 said the database likely belongs to one of their clients, noting that there are very few clients big enough to have a national database like that. The database was secured within three hours of their phone call. L2's CEO Bruce Willsie said that the client told L2 that they were hacked and the firewall had been taken down. Their client is conducting their own research to figure out the extent of the incursion. The Daily Dot reports: "Why does this keep happening, and what is our government doing about it? No federal agency is enforcing data security in political organizations or non-profits, and so far, neither are state attorneys general."

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KFC Introduces Meal Box That Doubles As A Smartphone Charger

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 19:05
An anonymous reader writes: KFC has introduced a limited edition 5-in-1 Meal Box to select KFC outlets in Delhi and Mumbai. The box has one mighty special feature: it will charge a user's smartphone while they eat. The company has partnered with a Mumbai-based digital agency, Blink Digital, to make the "Watt a Box" concept a reality. In terms of specs, the box features a built-in 6100 mAh power bank, and two USB-ports with the ability to charge Android smartphones and iPhones. KFC has launched a contest on its Facebook page, giving users a chance to win the box. You can watch the "Watt a Box" promo video here on YouTube.

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German Government Agrees To Ban Fracking Indefinitely

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 18:25
An anonymous reader writes: On Tuesday, the German coalition government agreed to ban fracking for shale gas indefinitely. Reuters reports: "Test drilling will be allowed but only with the permission of the respective state government, officials said. German industry is keen to keep the door open to fracking -- which involves blasting chemicals and water into rocks to release trapped gas -- arguing it could help lower energy costs, but opposition is strong in the country, where a powerful green lobby has warned about possible risks to drinking water. If the law is approved by parliament, Germany will follow France, which has banned fracking, whereas Britain allows it subject to strict environmental and safety guidelines. The two parties agreed on Tuesday to an indefinite ban, but the compromise legislation calls for the German parliament to reassess whether the decision is still valid in 2021, said Thomas Oppermann, who heads the SPD's parliamentary group. CDU officials confirmed that a compromise had been reached. Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) criticized the proposal and said that by setting a date for a fresh look, the coalition had essentially agreed to allow fracking in five years." Last year, Bloomberg published an article making the case that the U.S. must consider the earthquake situation in Oklahoma a national security threat.

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Europe's Robots To Become 'Electronic Persons' Under Draft Plan

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 17:45
An anonymous reader writes from a report via Yahoo News: Under the European Union's new draft plan, Europe's growing army of robot workers could be classed as "electronic persons," with their owners liable to paying social security for them. Robots are only becoming more prevalent in the workplace. They're already taking on tasks such as personal care or surgery, and their population is only expected to rise as their abilities are expanded with the increased development of new technologies. A draft European Parliament motion suggests that their growing intelligence, pervasiveness and autonomy requires rethinking everything from taxation to legal liability. The draft motion called on the European Commission to consider "that at least the most sophisticated autonomous robots could be established as having the status of electronic persons with specific rights and obligations." It also suggested the creation of a register for smart autonomous robots, which would link each one to funds established to cover its legal liabilities. Patrick Schwarzkopf, managing director of the VDMA's robotic and automation department, said: "That we would create a legal framework with electronic persons -- that's something that could happen in 50 years but not in 10 years. We think it would be very bureaucratic and would stunt the development of robotics," he told reporters. The report added that the robotics and artificial intelligence may result in a large part of the work now done by humans being taken over by robots, raising concerns about the future of employment and the viability of social security systems. The draft motion also said organizations should have to declare savings they made in social security contributions by using robotics instead of people, for tax purposes.

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The New Censorship: 'How Did Google Become The Internet's Censor and Master Manipulator?'

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 17:05
An anonymous reader writes: Robert Epstein from U.S. News and World Report writes an article describing how Google has become the internet's censor and master manipulator. He writes about the company's nine different blacklists that impact our lives: autocomplete blacklist, Google Maps blacklist, YouTube blacklist, Google account blacklist, Google News blacklist, Google AdWords blacklist, Google AdSense blacklist, search engine blacklist, and quarantine list. The autocomplete blacklist filters out select phrases like profanities and other controversial terms like "torrent," "bisexual" and "penis." It can also be used to protect or discredit political candidates. For example, at the moment autocomplete shows you "Ted" (for former GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz) when you type "lying," but it will not show you "Hillary" when you type "crooked." While Google Maps photographs your home for everyone to see, Google maintains a list of properties it either blacks out or blurs out in its images depending on the property, e.g. military installations or wealthy residences. Epstein makes the case that while YouTube allows users to flag videos, Google employees seem far more apt to ban politically conservative videos than liberal ones. As for the Google account blacklist, you may lose access to a number of Google's products, which are all bundled into one account as of a couple of years ago, if you violate Google's terms of service agreement because Google reserves the right to "stop providing Services to you ... at any time." Google is the largest news aggregator in the world via Google News. Epstein writes, "Selective blacklisting of news sources is a powerful way of promoting a political, religious or moral agenda, with no one the wiser." Google can easily put a business out of business if a Google executive decides your business or industry doesn't meet its moral standards and revokes a business' access to Google AdWords, which makes up 70 percent of Google's $80 billion in annual revenue. Recently, Google blacklisted an entire industry -- companies providing high-interest "payday" loans. If your website has been approved by AdWords, Google's search engine is what ultimately determines the success of your business as its algorithms can be tweaked and search rankings can be manipulated, which may ruin businesses. Epstein makes an interesting case for how Google has become the internet's censor and master manipulator. Given Google's online dominance, do you think Google should be regulated like a public utility?

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C-SPAN Uses Periscope and Facebook Live To Broadcast The House Sit-In

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 16:25
An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Washington Post: C-SPAN has made history for resorting to Periscope to live stream a sit-in on the House floor. C-SPAN spokesman Howard Mortman said: "This is the first time we've ever shown video from the House floor picked up by a Periscope account." C-SPAN had to rely on Periscope for a direct feed to House proceedings because these proceedings aren't exactly official. The Washington Post reports: "Earlier today, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) led a sit-in on the House floor to push for action on gun control, following the failure of four gun measures earlier this week in the Senate. According to an official at the House Recording Studio, the cameras that C-SPAN commonly uses to broadcast House business are 'in recess subject to the call of the chair.' No approved video feed, no problem: C-SPAN has been piping in the Periscope feed from Rep. Scott Peters, a California Democrat." The feed hasn't been as reliable as C-SPAN's official House-proceedings feed. "Well, the Periscope video froze up again," said a C-SPAN anchor. And a bit later: "We're still having some issues with that video feed." At around 3:30 p.m., C-SPAN switched to a Facebook feed where viewers could hear and watch Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) rip the "cowards who run this chamber" for failing to turn on the microphones.

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WiFi-Connected Hard Drive Fits a Plex Server In Your Pocket

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 15:40
An anonymous reader cites an Engadget report:Over the years we've seen Plex's media software run across a number of different devices, from PCs to game consoles to NAS and cellphones. Now, it's teamed up with Western Digital for what it says is the first portable Plex Media Server. The hardware is handled by the My Passport Wireless Pro, a battery-powered portable hard drive that can run standalone for 10 hours, charge mobile devices, and back up data via SD or USB 3.0. The all-in-one box can even create a WiFi network to sync with mobile devices or stream media to any device running Plex. The 2TB version is ready to take your stuff on the go for $230, and upgrading to 3TB only costs an extra $20.

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Battle of the Secure Messaging Apps: Signal Triumphs Over WhatsApp, Allo

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 15:00
There is no shortage of messaging apps out there, so which one should you be using? If you care about your privacy, you would want your messaging client to be end-to-end encrypted. This narrows down the list to WhatsApp, Signal, and Allo. The Intercept has evaluated the apps to find which among the three is the best from the privacy standpoint. The publication says that while all the three aforementioned apps use the same secure messaging protocol (Open Whisper System's), they differ on exactly what information is encrypted, what metadata is collected, and what, precisely, is stored in the cloud. WhatsApp:It's important to keep in mind that, even with the Signal protocol in place, WhatsApp's servers can still see messages that users send through the service. They can't see what's inside the messages, but they can see who is sending a message to whom and when.In addition, WhatsApp also retains your contact list -- provided you have shared it with the service. If government requests access to this data, WhatsApp could hand it over. Allo:The first thing to understand about Google's forthcoming Allo app is that, by default, Google will be able to read all of your Allo messages. If you want end-to-end encryption via the Signal protocol, you need to switch to an "incognito mode" within the app, which will be secure but include fewer features. [...] Allo's machine learning features prevent Google from turning on end-to-end encryption for all messages, since Google needs to be able to ingest the content of messages for the machine learning to work, a Google spokesperson confirmed. Signal:The first thing that sets Signal apart from WhatsApp and Allo is that it is open source. The app's code is freely available for experts to inspect for flaws or back doors in its security. Another thing that makes Signal unique is its business model: There is none. In stark contrast to Facebook and Google, which make their money selling ads, Open Whisper Systems is entirely supported by grants and donations. With no advertising to target, the company intentionally stores as little user data as possible. Signal's privacy policy is short and concise. Unlike WhatsApp, Signal doesn't store any message metadata. [...] If you back up your phone to your Google or iCloud account, Signal doesn't include any of your messages in this backup.But what about Telegram, you ask? A Gizmodo report, also published on Wednesday, says that Telegram's default settings store your message on its unencrypted servers. "This is pretty much one of the worst things you could imagine when trying to send secure messages."

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Advertiser That Tracked Around 100M Phone Users Without Consent Pays $950,000

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 14:20
Mobile advertising firm InMobi will be paying a fine of $950,000 and revamp its services to resolve federal regulators' claims that it deceptively tracked locations of hundreds of millions of people, including children. Ars Technica reports:The US Federal Trade Commission alleged in a complaint filed Wednesday that Singapore-based InMobi undermined phone users' ability to make informed decisions about the collection of their location information. While InMobi claimed that its software collected geographical whereabouts only when end users provided opt-in consent, the software in fact used nearby Wi-Fi signals to infer locations when permission wasn't given, FTC officials alleged. InMobi then archived the location information and used it to push targeted advertisements to individual phone users. Specifically, the FTC alleged, InMobi collected nearby basic service set identification addresses, which act as unique serial numbers for wireless access points. The company, which thousands of Android and iOS app makers use to deliver ads to end users, then fed each BSSID into a "geocorder" database to infer the phone user's latitude and longitude, even when an end user hadn't provided permission for location to be tracked through the phone's dedicated location feature.

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Senate Rejects FBI Bid For Warrantless Access To Internet Browsing Histories

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 13:40
Zack Whittaker, reporting for ZDNet:An amendment designed to allow the government warrantless access to internet browsing histories has been narrowly defeated in the Senate. The amendment fell two votes short of the required 60 votes to advance. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) switched his vote at the last minute. He submitted a motion to reconsider the vote following the defeat. A new vote may be set for later on Wednesday. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) introduced the amendment as an add-on to the commerce, justice, and science appropriations bill earlier this week. McCain said in a statement on Monday that the amendment would "track lone wolves" in the wake of the Orlando massacre, in which Omar Mateen, who authorities say radicalized himself online, killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in the Florida city. The amendment, which may be reconsidered in the near future, aims to broaden the rules governing national security letters, which don't require court approval. These letters allow the FBI to demand records associated with Americans' online communications -- so-called electronic communications transactional records.

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Severe Flaws Found In Libarchive Open Source Library

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 13:00
Reader itwbennett writes: Researchers from Cisco Systems' Talos group have found three memory corruption errors in the widely used open-source library libarchive that can result in arbitrary code execution and can be exploited by passing specially crafted files to applications that contain the vulnerable code. "The library is used by file and package managers included in many Linux and BSD systems, as well as by components and tools in OS X and Chrome OS," writes Lucian Constantin. "Developers can also include the library's code in their own projects, so it's hard to know how many other applications or firmware packages contain it." (Original blog post) So, while the libarchive maintainers have released patches for the flaws, it will likely take a long time for them to trickle down through all the affected projects.

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Amazon's New Kindle Is Only $80, Comes In White, and With More Storage

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 12:20
Found the $290 Kindle Oasis too expensive? Amazon has a new, familiar e-reader for you. On Wednesday, the e-commerce giant announced a new, more-affordable Kindle that is pretty much identical to the Kindle Paperwhite, but costs only $80. It comes in white as well as black, and has 512MB storage space (the Kindle Paperwhite sport a 256MB internal storage chip). From an Ars Technica report:In addition to the extra memory, the $80 Kindle will have a slightly thinner, lighter, and more rounded design than its predecessors. It will have a touchscreen display as well, but it won't be the 300 PPI screen that the $120 Kindle Paperwhite has (it will sport a 167 PPI display instead). Some reports also suggest that the new Kindle will come with Bluetooth support so blind readers can hook up a pair of wireless headphones to listen to books, along with a note-sending feature that will let you send yourself messages and highlights, which can be exported as PDFs or spreadsheets.

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'Headphone Jacks Are the New Floppy Drives'

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 11:40
According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple's upcoming iPhone won't have a 3.5mm headphone jack. The news has already upset many people. The Verge's Nilay Patel wrote on Tuesday that the decision of getting rid of the legacy headphone port is "user hostile and stupid." Apple commentator John Gruber makes a case for why Apple's supposed move is not a bad idea at all. He writes:Patel misses the bigger problem. It's not enforcement of DRM on audio playback. It's enforcement of the MFi Program for certifying hardware that uses the Lightning port. Right now any headphone maker in the world can make any headphones they want for the standard jack. Not so with the Lightning port.He adds that the existing analog headphone jack "is more costly in terms of depth than thickness," and by getting rid of it, Apple could use the extra real estate to stuff in more battery juice. Addressing Patel's point that the move of ditching a deeply established standard will "disproportionately impact accessibility," Gruber adds that "enabling, open, and democratizing" have never been high on Apple's list of priorities for external ports. Gruber also addressed Patel's argument that introducing a Lightning Port-enabled headphone feature will make Android and iPhone headphones incompatible. He wrote: Why would Apple care about headphone compatibility with Android? If Apple gave two shits about port compatibility with Android, iPhones would have Micro-USB ports. In 1998 people used floppy drives extensively for sneaker-netting files between Macs and PCs. That didn't stop Apple from dropping it.As for "nobody is asking" Apple to remove headphone jack from the next iPhone, Gruber reminds: This is how it goes. If it weren't for Apple we'd probably still be using computers with VGA and serial ports. The essence of Apple is that they make design decisions "no one asked for".The 3.5mm headphone jack has been around for decades. We can either live with it forever, or try doing something better instead. History suggests that OEMs from across the world quickly replicate Apple's move. Just the idea of Apple removing the headphone jack -- the rumor of which first began last year -- arguably played an instrumental role in some smartphones shipping without the legacy port this year. If this is a change that we really need, Apple is perhaps the best company to set the tone for it. Though, whether we really need to get rid of the headphone jack remains debatable.

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Opera Denies Microsoft Edge Battery-Saving Claims

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 11:00
An anonymous reader writes: According to the makers of the Opera browser, Microsoft's recent claim that its Windows 10 Edge browser is more power-efficient than Chrome are erroneous. Running its own tests with Opera, Edge and Chrome, the company finds that Opera runs 22% faster (with a battery life of 3hr 55m) than Edge (3hrs 12m). In Microsoft's own tests, Google's Chrome browser was the first to completely exhaust the battery, closely followed by Firefox and Opera. In May, Opera added a power-saving mode, but any advantage it can be verified to have in the energy-efficiency stakes may be more due to the native adblocking feature it introduced this year.

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