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Apple's iPhone 8 To Replace Touch ID Home Button With 'Function Area'

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 08:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Apple Insider: Apple will ditch the home button when it debuts a new 'iPhone 8' model later this year, and will dedicate the extra screen real estate to an area for virtual buttons, according to KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Adding detail to his previous predictions regarding the next-generation handset, Kuo in a note to investors obtained by AppleInsider said the full-screen design will allow Apple to integrate a "function" area never seen in an iPhone. The device is expected to adopt a 5.8-inch OLED panel in a form factor similar to the current 4.7-inch iPhone 7. Despite having extended screen real estate as compared to current iPhone models, the actual active display area on "iPhone 8" will be closer to 5.15 inches on the diagonal, with the remaining bottom portion dedicated to system functions like virtual buttons. While Kuo failed to elaborate on an exact implementation, the note suggests Apple plans to hardcode a set of always-on, static system controls into iOS. Whether the so-called "function area" is capable of switching to an active display mode for in-app activities like watching videos or playing games, remains to be seen. With the deletion of current Touch ID technology, Kuo believes "iPhone 8" will incorporate new bio-recognition assets to take over device security and Apple Pay authentication duties. The analyst did not offer predictions on the type of biometric tech Apple intends to use, but a report earlier today said the company could integrate a 3D laser scanning module capable of facilitating facial recognition and augmented reality applications. Kuo in a note last month said Apple might integrate a dual biometric system utilizing optical fingerprint readers and facial recognition hardware.

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Astronomers Discover 60 New Planets Including 'Super Earth'

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 05:00
schwit1 quotes a report from New York Post: An international team of astronomers has found 60 new planets orbiting stars close to Earth's solar system, including a rocky "super Earth." The experts also found evidence of an additional 54 planets, bringing the potential discovery of new worlds to 114. One planet in particular, Gliese 411b, has been generating plenty of attention. Described as a "hot super Earth with a rocky surface," Gliese 411b is located in the fourth-nearest star system to the Sun, making it the third-nearest planetary system to the Sun, according to the U.K.'s University of Hertfordshire, which participated in the research. Gliese 411b (also known as GJ 411b or Lalande 21185) orbits the star Gliese 411 (or GJ 411). Despite the "super Earth" label, Dr. Mikko Tuomi from University of Hertfordshire's Centre for Astrophysics told Fox News that Gliese 411b is too hot for life to exist on its surface. The 60 new planets are found orbiting stars that are mostly some 20 to 300 light years away, according to Tuomi. The discoveries are based on observations taken over 20 years by U.S. astronomers using the Keck-I telescope in Hawaii as part of the Lick-Carnegie Exoplanet Survey. During the course of the research, scientists obtained almost 61,000 observations of 1,600 stars, which are now available to the public.

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Lost Winston Churchill Essay Reveals His Thoughts On Alien Life

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 02:00
"A newly discovered essay by Winston Churchill shows that the British statesman gave a lot of thought to the existential question that has inspired years of scientific research and blockbuster movies: are we alone in the University?" reports The Verge. "The essay was drafted in the 1930s, but unearthed in a museum in Missouri last year." Astrophysicist Mario Livio was the first scientist to analyze the article and has published his comments in the journal Nature. The Verge reports: Livio was "stunned" when he first saw the unpublished, 11-page essay on the existence of alien life, he tells The Verge. The astrophysicist was visiting Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, for a talk last year, when he was approached by Timothy Riley, the director of Fulton's US National Churchill Museum. Riley showed him the essay, titled "Are We Alone in the Universe?" In the essay, Churchill reasons that we can't possibly be alone in the Universe -- and that many other Suns will likely have many other planets that could harbor life. Because of how enormously distant these extrasolar planets are, we may never know if they "house living creatures, or even plants," Churchill concludes. He wrote this decades before exoplanets were discovered in the 1990s; hundreds have since been detected. What's impressive about the essay is the way Churchill approaches the existential and scientific question of whether life exists on other planets, Livio says. Churchill's reasoning mirrors extremely well the way scientists think about this problem today. The British leader also talks about several theories that still guide the search for alien life, Livio says. For example, he notes that water is the key ingredient for life on Earth, and so finding water on other planets could mean finding life there. Churchill also notes that life can only survive in regions "between a few degrees of frost and the boiling point of water" -- what today we call the habitable zone, the region around a star that is neither too hot or too cold, so that liquid water may exist on the planet's surface.

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Ethicists Advise Caution In Applying CRISPR Gene Editing To Humans

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 22:30
New submitter Baron_Yam quotes a report from Washington Post (Warning: may be paywalled; alternate source): Ethicists have been working overtime to figure out how to handle CRISPR, the revolutionary gene-editing technique that could potentially prevent congenital diseases but could also be used for cosmetic enhancements and lead to permanent, heritable changes in the human species. The latest iteration of this ongoing CRISPR debate is a report published Tuesday by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine. The report, a series of guidelines written by 22 experts from multiple countries and a variety of academic specialties, presents a kind of flashing red light for CRISPR. The report did not recommend an absolute prohibition of gene editing on the human "germline" if such interventions can be proved safe. This would involve genetic changes to eggs, sperm or embryos that would persist in an adult and could be inherited by future generations. For some ethicists, that represents a slippery slope. At the conclusion of a gene-editing summit in Washington at the National Academy of Sciences in December 2015, scientists said that although some basic research could proceed, it would be irresponsible to use genetically modified germline cells for the purpose of establishing a pregnancy. But the new report takes a slightly more permissive, forward-thinking position, saying that, if and when such interventions are proved safe -- which could be in the near future -- and if numerous criteria are met to ensure that such gene editing is regulated and limited, it could potentially be used to treat rare, serious diseases. "We say proceed with all due caution, but we don't prohibit germline, after considerable discussion and debate," said Richard Hynes, an MIT biologist and one of the leaders of the new study. "We're talking only about fixing diseases."

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Bipartisan Bill Seeks Warrants For Police Use of 'Stingray' Cell Trackers

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 20:25
Tulsa_Time quotes a report from USA Today: A bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers introduced legislation Wednesday requiring police agencies to get a search warrant before they can deploy powerful cellphone surveillance technology known as "stingrays" that sweep up information about the movements of innocent Americans while tracking suspected criminals. "Owning a smartphone or fitness tracker shouldn't give the government a blank check to track your movements," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee who introduced the bill with Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and John Conyers, D-Mich. "Law enforcement should be able to use GPS data, but they need to get a warrant. This bill sets out clear rules to make sure our laws keep up with the times." The legislation introduced Wednesday, called the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance (GPS) Act, would require a warrant for all domestic law enforcement agencies to track the location and movements of individual Americans through GPS technology without their knowledge. It also aims to combat high-tech stalking by creating criminal penalties for secretly using an electronic device to track someone's movements.

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Autism Starts Months Before Symptoms Appear, Study Shows

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 19:45
A new study published this week in the journal Nature suggests there is evidence of autism in the brain well before symptoms start to appear. Typically, the earliest that children are diagnosed with the disorder is at the age of two, although often times it is even later. Scientists may now be able to detect the disorder well before a child's first birthday via a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. Scientific American reports: Researchers conducted MRI scans on 150 children three times: at six months old, one year and two years. Just over 100 of the children were at high risk because they had an older sibling diagnosed with autism. The faster growth rate of the surface areas of their brains correctly predicted eight times out of 10 which of the high-risk children would go on to be diagnosed with the condition. Enlargement of the brain seemed to correlate with the arrival of symptoms, says Heather Hazlett, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina's Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities (CIDD), and the paper's lead author. Still, with only 100 at-risk children, the study is too small to be considered definitive -- nor should doctors rush to use MRIs to diagnose autism, Hazlett says. But if the study results are confirmed in future research, it could offer a new option for screening high-risk children before their symptoms become obvious -- and possibly at a time when treatment will be most effective.

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JavaScript Attack Breaks ASLR On 22 CPU Architectures

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 19:05
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: Five researchers from the Vrije University in the Netherlands have put together an attack that can be carried out via JavaScript code and break ASLR protection on at least 22 microprocessor architectures from vendors such as Intel, AMD, ARM, Allwinner, Nvidia, and others. The attack, christened ASLRCache, or AnC, focuses on the memory management unit (MMU), a lesser known component of many CPU architectures, which is tasked with improving performance for cache management operations. What researchers discovered was that this component shares some of its cache with untrusted applications, including browsers. This meant that researchers could send malicious JavaScript that specifically targeted this shared memory space and attempted to read its content. In layman's terms, this means an AnC attack can break ASLR and allow the attacker to read portions of the computer's memory, which he could then use to launch more complex exploits and escalate access to the entire OS. Researchers have published two papers [1, 2] detailing the AnC attack, along with two videos[1, 2] showing the attack in action.

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Nearly 56,000 Bridges Called Structurally Deficient

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 18:20
schwit1 quotes a report from USA Today: Nearly 56,000 bridges nationwide, which vehicles cross 185 million times a day, are structurally deficient, a bridge construction group announced Wednesday. The list is based on Transportation Department data. The department scores bridges on a nine-point scale, and while the deficient ones might not be imminently unsafe, they are classified in need of attention. More than one in four bridges (173,919) are at least 50 years old and have never had major reconstruction work, according to the ARTBA analysis. State transportation officials have identified 13,000 bridges along interstates that need replacement, widening or major reconstruction, according to the group. "America's highway network is woefully underperforming," said Alison Premo Black, the group's chief economics who conducted the analysis. "It is outdated, overused, underfunded and in desperate need of modernization." The five states with the most deficient bridges are Iowa with 4,968, Pennsylvania with 4,506, Oklahoma with 3,460, Missouri with 3,195 and Nebraska with 2,361. The eight states where at least 15% of the bridges are deficient are: Rhode Island at 25%, Pennsylvania at 21%, Iowa and South Dakota at 20%, West Virginia at 17%, and Nebraska, North Dakota and Oklahoma at 15%.

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Patent Office Rules CRISPR Patents, Potentially Worth Billions, Belong To Broad Institute

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 17:40
According to a ruling by judges at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the disputed patents on the gene-editing tool CRISPR belong to the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. "The ruling comes a little over two months after a high-profile court hearing, during which MIT and University of California, Berkeley heatedly argued about who should own CRISPR," The Verge reports. From their report: STAT News reported that the decision was one sentence long. The three judges decided that the Broad patents are different enough from the ones the University of California applied for that the Broad patents stand. The patent ruling suggests that the work done by Jennifer Doudna of the University of California and her colleagues on CRISPR wasn't so groundbreaking as to make any other advance obvious. But that legal opinion isn't how the science world views her work, STAT points out: "Doudna and her chief collaborator, Emmanuelle Charpentier, won the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in the life sciences in 2015, the $500,000 Gruber Genetics Prize in 2015, and the $450,000 Japan Prize in 2017," the outlet notes.

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MariaDB Fixes Business Source License, Releases MaxScale 2.1

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 17:20
Creator of The Open Source Definition and longtime Slashdot reader Bruce Perens writes: MariaDB is releasing MaxScale 2.1, a new version of their database routing proxy, and has modified its timed-transition-to-Open-Source "Business Source License" to make it more acceptable to the Open Source community and more easily usable by other companies. I've blogged the issues I had with the license and how MariaDB has fixed them, and Kaj Arno has blogged the MariaDB side of the story. Here's an excerpt from Perens' blog post: "The BSL is a parameterized license. The licensor chooses the license which is transitioned to, the date of the transition, and the limitation. The problem with this is that it was so parameterized that if you told someone the license was 'BSL 1.0,' they would not have any idea what license they really had. It might transition to any of 100 Open Source licenses, or to a non-Open-Source license. The transition might happen in a month, or next century. The limitation might be that you could only have three commercial servers, or that you indentured your firstborn son (OK, that's going overboard, but you get the picture)." He continues, "So, I didn't like that 'BSL' didn't really say what the license did, and I didn't feel that was the best thing for the users or the community. I asked MariaDB to fix it. Together we have arrived at constraints on the parameters and minimum privileges that will take the new BSL much closer to being one license while still allowing licensors some latitude to choose parameters."

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Utilities Vote To Close Largest Coal Plant In Western US

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 17:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: At 2.25 gigawatts, Arizona's Navajo Generating Station is the biggest coal-burning power plant in the Western U.S. The plant, and the nearby Kayenta coal mine that feeds it, are located on the Navajo Indian Reservation, and the Navajo and Hopi peoples have had a conflicted relationship with coal since the plant opened in the 1970s. Almost all the 900-plus jobs at the mine and plant are held by Native Americans, and the tribes receive royalties to account for large portions of their budget. Negotiations were underway to improve the tribes' lease terms, which expire in 2019. But on Monday, the four utilities that own most of the plant voted to close it at the end of 2019. They decided that the plant's coal-powered electricity just can't compete with plants burning natural gas. A press release from Salt River Projects, which runs the plant, explained, "The decision by the utility owners of [Navajo Generating Station] is based on the rapidly changing economics of the energy industry, which has seen natural gas prices sink to record lows and become a viable long-term and economical alternative to coal power."

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Dutch Town Pilots Lightlines To Help Distracted Smartphone Users Cross the Road

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 16:20
An anonymous reader writes: A Dutch municipality has introduced pedestrian traffic lights specifically designed to help smartphone users avoid stepping into traffic by displaying a colorful strip of light on the pavement. Built by Dutch firm HIG Traffic Systems, the new +LightLine light comes with a LED strip that illuminates the pavement with a horizontal strip before the road crossing. Smartphone users looking at their phone will see the color of the strip beneath their feet before stepping out into the road.

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Yahoo Notifying Users of Malicious Account Activity as Verizon Deal Progresses

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 15:40
Kate Conger, writing for TechCrunch: Yahoo is continuing to issue warnings to users about several security incidents as it moves toward an acquisition by Verizon. Users are receiving notifications today about unauthorized access to their accounts in 2015 and 2016, which occurred due to previously disclosed cookie forging. "As we have previously disclosed, our outside forensic experts have been investigating the creation of forged cookies that could have enabled an intruder to access our users' accounts without a password. The investigation has identified user accounts for which we believe forged cookies were taken or used. Yahoo is in the process of notifying all potentially affected account holders. Yahoo has invalidated the forged cookies so they cannot be used again," a Yahoo spokesperson told TechCrunch.

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Brazil Judge Rules Uber Drivers Are Employees, Deserve Benefits

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 15:00
An anonymous reader shares a Reuters report: A Brazilian judge ruled that a driver using the Uber ride-hailing app is an employee of the San Francisco-based company and is entitled to workers' benefits, adding to the global debate over labor rights for drivers on the platform. Uber said on Tuesday it would appeal the decision by Judge Marcio Toledo Goncalves, who issued the ruling late Monday in a labor court in Minas Gerais state. Goncalves ordered Uber to pay one driver around 30,000 reais ($10,000) in compensation for overtime, night shifts, holidays and expenses such as gasoline, water and candy for passengers. The consequences for Uber, if the ruling is upheld, could be far greater if more drivers follow suit and if state and federal regulators and tax agencies start treating it, as the judge suggested, as a transportation company rather than a tech firm.

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Voice Calls May Be Coming To the Amazon Echo and Google Home

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 14:20
Amazon and Google are interested in adding the ability to make and receive phone calls to their popular home speaker devices -- Echo and Home, reports WSJ, adding that telecom regulations and privacy are some of the things both the companies are tackling. If the companies are able to sort out the issues, the feature could make way to the home speaker devices as soon as this year, the paper reported. From The Verge: There's also the fact that you would only make calls over speakerphone, which could limit the usefulness of the feature for some users. Theoretically, it would be easier for Google to get a phone service up and running on the Home, given that it's been operating Google Voice for seven years and launched Project Fi back in 2015, while Amazon has to start from scratch to get its phone service up and running. According to the Journal, Amazon is considering a number of different options, including syncing to the user's existing phone number, call forwarding, or the Echo getting its own phone number.

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Now Get Weather Alerts Even When Your Mobile Networks Are Down, Thanks To IBM's Mesh Networking

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 13:40
Communicating news of severe weather events or natural disasters is something mobile phones are well suited to, but if there's limited or disrupted network coverage the message may fail to get through. But not anymore. From a CNET report: A new Weather Channel app, though, can get the message through even during earthquakes, tornadoes, and terrorist attacks when mobile networks can be overwhelmed and may not work. The Android app, geared specifically for developing countries, uses IBM-developed technology called mesh networking that sends messages directly from one phone to another. The result is that information can propagate even when centralized networks fail. Using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi networks, the app can send data from phone to phone across distances between 200 to 500 feet, IBM Research staff member Nirmit Desai said. It doesn't add any more battery burden than an ordinary app, and the mesh network can be used without having to reconfigure the phone's network settings.

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Apple Explains Why Its R&D Spending Is On the Rise

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 13:00
Apple has steadily increased its spending on research and development over the past few quarters. An executive with the company explained why that's the case. From a report on CNBC: Company's financial guru attributes the spending to something of a much smaller scale: chips. It may not sound like it, but that research is "very strategic and important" for Apple to differentiate itself from the rest of the industry, chief financial officer Luca Maestri said on Tuesday at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco. "Today, we do much more in-house development of some fundamental technologies than we used to do a few years ago, when we did more of that in the supplier base -- the work we do around processors or sensors," Maestri said. "It's very important for us because we can push the envelope on innovation, we can better control timing, cost, quality. We look at that as a great strategic investment." On Tuesday, Maestri also noted that Apple's "product portfolio is much larger than it used to be," and that keeping all these products moving along in parallel adds up, especially with smaller markets, like the Apple Watch. While Maestri said Apple drops a "meaningful" amount of cash on products that do not generate revenue today, these products are not very large "in the total scheme of things," Maestri said. "They add up over time, and hopefully, those are good bets that we are making for the future of the company," Maestri said.

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IT Decisions Makers and Executives Don't Agree On Cyber Security Responsibility

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 12:20
Sead Fadilpasic, writing for BetaNews: There's a severe disconnect between IT decision makers and C-suite executives when it comes to handling cyber attacks. Namely, both believe the other one is responsible for keeping a company safe. This is according to a new and extensive research by BAE Systems. A total of 221 C-suite executives and 984 IT decision-makers were polled or the report. According to the research, a third (35 percent) of C-suite executives believe IT teams are responsible for data breaches. On the other hand, 50 percent of IT decision makers would place that responsibility in the hands of their senior management. Cost estimates of a successful breach also differ. IT decision makers think it would set them back $19.2 million, while C-suite thinks of a lesser figure, $11.6m. C-level thinks a tenth (10 percent) of their company's IT budget is spent on cyber security, while IT decision makers think that's 15 percent. Also, 84 percent of C-suite, and 81 percent of IT teams believe they have the right protection set up.

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'Electric Buses Now Cheaper Than Their Diesel or CNG Counterpart, Could Dominate the Market Within 10 Years'

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 11:40
An anonymous reader shares a report: Transit vehicles today are mostly powered by gasoline, diesel, and CNG, while batteries only represent about 1 percent of the market. It is currently a small part of the industry, but it's also the fastest growing fuel source in the sector and it's starting to become highly competitive. Electric bus maker Proterra is ramping up production and currently claims to be cheaper than diesel and CNG. It leads CEO Ryan Popple to make a bold prediction that battery-powered buses will dominate the transit bus market within 10 years. More specifically, he says that the majority of new bus sales will be electric by 2025 and all new bus sales to transit agencies will be electric by 2030. Proterra has so far only delivered a few hundred all-electric buses, but they have been announcing several major deals lately, like 73 buses from King County's Metro Transit, that seem to indicate there's a shift in the transit industry.

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China's Huawei Catching Up With Apple, Samsung Smartphone Sales

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 11:00
From a report: Chinese smartphone maker Huawei managed to gain ground on Samsung and Apple in terms of global market share last year, following the problems encountered by the two giants, the Gartner consultancy group said on Wednesday. Over the year as a whole, the Chinese maker saw its sales leap by 26.7 percent, while the South Korean and US rivals both saw their sales decline by 4.3 percent, Gartner said in a study. As result, Huawei was able to increase its share of the smartphone sector to 8.9 percent in 2016 from 7.3 percent a year earlier, while Samsung saw its market share shrink by two full percentage points to 20.5 percent and Apple's contracted to 14.4 percent from 15.9 percent. "Chinese makers succeeded in winning market share over last year and Huawei now seems to be the main rival to the two giants, even if the gap remains large," Gartner analyst Annette Zimmermann told AFP.

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