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Alphabet Invests $1 Billion In Lyft

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 17:40
Lyft announced Thursday that Google-parent Alphabet is leading a $1 billion financing round into the ride-hailing company. This ups Lyft's valuation from $7.5 billion to $11 billion. The funding is coming from CapitalG, one of Alphabet's investment firms. CNET reports: "CapitalG is honored to work with Lyft's compelling founders and strong leadership team," David Lawee, CapitalG partner, said in a statement. "Ridesharing is still in its early days and we look forward to seeing Lyft continue its impressive growth." Compared with Uber, Lyft has long been the small dog in the ride-hailing world. Before now, it's received $2.6 billion in venture funding, whereas Uber has received $12.9 billion and is valued at $68 billion. Alphabet's investment in Lyft could be a sore spot for rival Uber. Uber is currently locked in a legal battle with Waymo.

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Consumer Reports Expects Tesla's Model 3 To Have 'Average Reliability'

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 17:20
There may be only a few hundred Tesla Model 3s on the street, but Consumer Reports already has an opinion on the new car's dependability. From a report: "We are predicting that the Model 3 should have about average reliability," said Jake Fisher, director of auto testing for Consumer Reports. Average may irritate Tesla fans and the nearly 500,000 people who have reserved a Model 3, but Fisher believes people should understand what Consumer Reports expects from the new car. "We don't go around recommending that people buy cars that are below average, so if it is average or better, that is not a bad thing at all," said Fisher. "But let's be very clear, we are not giving it super high marks. We are saying it is basically par for the course." Consumer Reports has yet to buy a Model 3 and put it through a battery of tests, as the magazine does for dozens of vehicles. In addition, so few Model 3 cars have been delivered that Fisher and his team have yet to get a sense of how owners feel about their new Tesla.

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Canada's 'Super Secret Spy Agency' Is Releasing a Malware-Fighting Tool To the Public

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 16:40
Matthew Braga, reporting for CBC News: Canada's electronic spy agency says it is taking the "unprecedented step" of releasing one of its own cyber defence tools to the public, in a bid to help companies and organizations better defend their computers and networks against malicious threats. The Communications Security Establishment (CSE) rarely goes into detail about its activities -- both offensive and defensive -- and much of what is known about the agency's activities have come from leaked documents obtained by U.S. National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden and published in recent years. But as of late, CSE has acknowledged it needs to do a better job of explaining to Canadians exactly what it does. Today, it is pulling back the curtain on an open-source malware analysis tool called Assemblyline that CSE says is used to protect the Canadian government's sprawling infrastructure each day. "It's a tool that helps our analysts know what to look at, because it's overwhelming for the number of people we have to be able to protect things," Scott Jones, who heads the agency's IT security efforts, said in an interview with CBC News. On the one hand, open sourcing Assemblyline's code is a savvy act of public relations, and Jones readily admits the agency is trying to shed its "super secret spy agency" reputation in the interest of greater transparency.

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Profile of William H. Alsup, a Judge Who Codes and Decides Tech's Biggest Cases

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 16:00
Sarah Jeong at The Verge has an interesting profile of William H. Alsup, the judge in Oracle v. Google case, who to many's surprise was able to comment on the technical issues that Oracle and Google were fighting about. Alsup admits that he learned the Java programming language only so that he could better understand the substance of the case. Here's an excerpt from the interview: On May 18th, 2012, attorneys for Oracle and Google were battling over nine lines of code in a hearing before Judge William H. Alsup of the northern district of California. The first jury trial in Oracle v. Google, the fight over whether Google had hijacked code from Oracle for its Android system, was wrapping up. The argument centered on a function called rangeCheck. Of all the lines of code that Oracle had tested -- 15 million in total -- these were the only ones that were "literally" copied. Every keystroke, a perfect duplicate. It was in Oracle's interest to play up the significance of rangeCheck as much as possible, and David Boies, Oracle's lawyer, began to argue that Google had copied rangeCheck so that it could take Android to market more quickly. Judge Alsup was not buying it. "I couldn't have told you the first thing about Java before this trial," said the judge. "But, I have done and still do a lot of programming myself in other languages. I have written blocks of code like rangeCheck a hundred times or more. I could do it. You could do it. It is so simple." It was an offhand comment that would snowball out of control, much to Alsup's chagrin. It was first repeated among lawyers and legal wonks, then by tech publications. With every repetition, Alsup's skill grew, until eventually he became "the judge who learned Java" -- Alsup the programmer, the black-robed nerd hero, the 10x judge, the "master of the court and of Java."

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Doctors To Breathalyse Smokers Before Allowing Them NHS Surgery

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 15:20
Smokers in Hertfordshire, a county in southern England, are to be breathalysed to ensure they have kicked the habit before they are referred for non-urgent surgery. From a report, shared by several readers: Smokers will be breath-tested before they are considered for non-urgent surgery, two clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) have decided. Patients in Hertfordshire must stop smoking at least eight weeks before surgery or it may be delayed. Obese patients have also been told they must lose weight in order to have non-urgent surgery. The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) said the plan seemed to be "against the principles of the NHS (the publicly funded national healthcare system for England)." A joint committee of the Hertfordshire Valleys and the East and North Hertfordshire CCGs, which made the decisions, said they had to "make best use of the money and resources available." Patients with a body mass index (BMI) of over 40 must lose 15% of their weight and those with a BMI of over 30 must lose 10%, or reduce it to under a 40 BMI or a 30 BMI - whichever is the greater amount. The lifestyle changes to reduce weight must take place over nine months.

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Amazon Battles Google for Renewable Energy Crown

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 14:40
Readers share a report: Even in the age of coal enthusiast President Donald Trump, clean-energy developers are finding plenty of interest in wind and solar power from businesses with sustainability targets, especially technology companies. That was on display in a video tweeted Thursday by Amazon.com Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, as he christened the 253-megawatt Amazon Wind Farm Texas in Scurry County. Amazon has bought more than 1.22 gigawatts of output to date from U.S. clean-energy projects, second only to Alphabet's Google, with 1.85 gigawatts. Corporations have agreed to buy 1.9 gigawatts of clean power in the U.S. this year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and are on pace to match the 2.6 gigawatts signed last year.

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Discovery of 50km Cave Raises Hopes For Human Colonisation of Moon

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 14:00
New submitter Zorro shares a report: Scientists have fantasised for centuries about humans colonising the moon. That day may have drawn a little closer after Japan's space agency said it had discovered an enormous cave beneath the lunar surface that could be turned into an exploration base for astronauts. The discovery, by Japan's Selenological and Engineering Explorer (Selene) probe, comes as several countries vie to follow the US in sending manned missions to the moon. Using a radar sounder system that can examine underground structures, the orbiter initially found an opening 50 metres wide and 50 metres deep, prompting speculation that there could be a larger hollow. This week scientists at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) confirmed the presence of a cave after examining the hole using radio waves. The chasm, 50km (31 miles) long and 100 metres wide, appears to be structurally sound and its rocks may contain ice or water deposits that could be turned into fuel, according to data sent back by the orbiter, nicknamed Kaguya after the moon princess in a Japanese fairytale. Jaxa believes the cave, located from a few dozen metres to 200 metres beneath an area of volcanic domes known as the Marius Hills on the moon's near side, is a lava tube created during volcanic activity about 3.5bn years ago.

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Japanese Metal Manufacturer Faked Specifications To Hundreds of Companies

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 13:20
schwit1 writes: Kobe Steel, a major Japanese supplier of steel and other metals worldwide, has admitted that it faked the specifications to metals shipped to hundreds of companies over the past decade.Last week, Kobe Steel admitted that staff fudged reports on the strength and durability of products requested by its clients -- including those from the airline industry, cars, space rockets, and Japan's bullet trains. The company estimated that four percent of aluminum and copper products shipped from September 2016 to August 2017 were falsely labelled, Automotive News reported. But on Friday, the company's CEO, Hiroya Kawasaki, revealed the scandal has impacted about 500 companies -- doubling the initial count -- and now includes steel products, too. The practice of falsely labeling data to meet customer's specifications could date back more than 10 years, according to the Financial Times.For rockets the concern is less serious as they generally are not built for a long lifespan, but for airplanes and cars this news could be devastating, requiring major rebuilds on many operating vehicles.

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Turning the Optical Fiber Network Into a Giant Earthquake Sensor

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 12:40
Tekla Perry writes: Researchers at Stanford have demonstrated that they can use ordinary, underground fiber optic cables to monitor for earthquakes, by using innate impurities in the fiber as virtual sensors. "People didn't believe this would work," said one of the researchers. "They always assumed that an uncoupled optical fiber would generate too much signal noise to be useful." They plan a larger test installation in 2018. Their biggest challenge, they say, will not be perfecting the algorithms but rather convincing telcos to allow the technology to piggyback on existing telecommunications lines. Meanwhile, the same data is being used for an art project that visualizes the activity of pedestrians, bicycles, cars, and fountains on the surface above the cables.

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Targeted Fuzzing Is Improving Linux Security, Linus Torvalds Says

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 12:01
On the sidelines of announcing the fifth release candidate for the Linux kernel version 4.14, Linus Torvalds said fuzzing, which involves stress testing a system by generating random code to induce errors, is helping the community find and fix a range of security vulnerabilities. He wrote: The other thing perhaps worth mentioning is how much random fuzzing people are doing, and it's finding things. We've always done fuzzing (who remembers the old "crashme" program that just generated random code and jumped to it? We used to do that quite actively very early on), but people have been doing some nice targeted fuzzing of driver subsystems etc, and there's been various fixes (not just this last week either) coming out of those efforts. Very nice to see.

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Google Engineers Explore Ways To Stop In-Browser Cryptocurrency Miners in Chrome

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 11:20
An anonymous reader writes: Google Chrome engineers are considering adding a special browser permission that will thwart the rising trend of in-browser cryptocurrency miners. Discussions on the topic of in-browser miners have been going on the Chromium project's bug tracker since mid-September when Coinhive, the first such service, launched. "Here's my current thinking," Ojan Vafai, a Chrome engineering working on the Chromium project, wrote in one of the recent bug reports. "If a site is using more than XX% CPU for more than YY seconds, then we put the page into 'battery saver mode' where we aggressively throttle tasks and show a toast [notification popup] allowing the user to opt-out of battery saver mode. When a battery saver mode tab is backgrounded, we stop running tasks entirely. I think we'll want measurement to figure out what values to use for XX and YY, but we can start with really egregious things like 100% and 60 seconds. I'm effectively suggesting we add a permission here, but it would have unusual triggering conditions [...]. It only triggers when the page is doing a likely bad thing." An earlier suggestion had Google create a blacklist and block the mining code at the browser level. That suggestion was shut down as being too impractical and something better left to extensions.

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EU: No Encryption Backdoors But, Let's Help Each Other Crack That Crypto

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 10:40
The European Commission has proposed that member states help each other break into encrypted devices by sharing expertise around the bloc. From a report: In an attempt to tackle the rise of citizens using encryption and its effects on solving crimes, the commission decided to sidestep the well-worn, and well-ridiculed, path of demanding decryption backdoors in the stuff we all use. Instead, the plans set out in its antiterrorism measures on Wednesday take a more collegiate approach -- by offering member states more support when they actually get their hands on an encrypted device. "The commission's position is very clear -- we are not in favour of so-called backdoors, the utilisation of systemic vulnerabilities, because it weakens the overall security of our cyberspace, which we rely upon," security commissioner Julian King told a press briefing. "We're trying to move beyond a sometimes sterile debate between backdoors or no backdoors, and address some of the concrete law enforcement challenges. For instance, when [a member state] gets a device, how do they get information that might be encrypted on the device." [...] Share the wealth. "Some member states are more equipped technically to do that [extract information from a seized device] than others," King said. "We want to make sure no member state is at a disadvantage, by sharing the tech expertise among the member states and reinforcing the support that Europol can offer."

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New Law Bans California Employers From Asking Applicants Their Prior Salary

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 10:00
An anonymous reader shares a report: California employers can no longer ask job applicants about their prior salary and -- if applicants ask -- must give them a pay range for the job they are seeking, under a new state law that takes effect Jan. 1. AB168, signed Thursday by Gov. Jerry Brown, applies to all public- and private-sector California employers of any size. The goal is to narrow the gender wage gap. If a woman is paid less than a man doing the same job and a new employer bases her pay on her prior salary, gender discrimination can be perpetuated, the bill's backers say. Last year, the state passed a weaker law that said prior compensation, by itself, cannot justify any disparity in compensation. The new bill goes further by prohibiting employers, "orally or in writing, personally or through an agent," from asking about an applicant's previous pay. However, if the applicant "voluntarily and without prompting" provides this information, the employer may use it "in determining the salary for that applicant."

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Slashdot's 20th Anniversary: History of Slashdot

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 09:02
Slashdot turned 20 this month, which is ancient in internet years. How far have we come? Also, we've set up a page to coordinate user meet-ups around the world to celebrate. Read on for the full 20-year history of Slashdot.

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Samsung To Let Proper Linux Distros Run on Galaxy Smartphones

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 08:00
An anonymous reader shares a report: Samsung has announced it will soon become possible to run actual proper Linux on its Note8, Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones -- and even Linux desktops. Yeah, yeah, we know Android is built on Linux, but you know what we mean. Samsung said it's working on an app called "Linux on Galaxy" that will let users "run their preferred Linux distribution on their smartphones utilizing the same Linux kernel that powers the Android OS." "Whenever they need to use a function that is not available on the smartphone OS, users can simply switch to the app and run any program they need to in a Linux OS environment," Samsung says. The app also allows multiple OSes to run on a device. Linux desktops will become available if users plug their phones into the DeX Station, the device that lets a Galaxy 8 run a Samsung-created desktop-like environment when connected to the DeX and an external monitor.

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Ubuntu 17.10 Artful Aardvark Released

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 04:43
Canonical has made available the download links for Ubuntu 17.10 "Artful Aardvark". It comes with a range of new features, changes, and improvements including GNOME as the default desktop, Wayland display server by default, Optional X.org server session, Mesa 17.2 or Mesa 17.3, Linux kernel 4.13 or kernel 4.14, new Subiquity server installer, improved hardware support, new Ubuntu Server installer, switch to libinput, an always visible dock using Dash to Dock GNOME Shell extension, and Bluetooth improvements with a new BlueZ among others.

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Dodging Russian Spies, Customers Are Ripping Out Kaspersky

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 02:00
From a report: Multiple U.S. security consultants and other industry sources tell The Daily Beast customers are dropping their use of Kaspersky software all together, particularly in the financial sector, likely concerned that Russian spies can rummage through their files. Some security companies are being told to only provide U.S. products. And former Kaspersky employees describe the firm as reeling, with department closures and anticipation that researchers will jump ship soon. "We are under great pressure to only use American products no matter the technical or performance consequences," said a source in a cybersecurity firm which uses Kaspersky's anti-virus engine in its own services. The Daily Beast granted anonymity to some of the industry sources to discuss internal deliberations, as well as the former Kaspersky employees to talk candidly about recent events.

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Bankers Publicly Embracing Robots Are Privately Fearing Job Cuts

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 22:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Within the upper echelons of many financial firms, there's a lot of soul searching as executives prepare to roll out a new generation of technology. Publicly, they're upbeat, predicting machines will perform almost all repetitive tasks, freeing humans to focus on more valuable pursuits. Privately, many confide to peers, consultants and sometimes journalists that they're worried about what will happen to their staffs -- and what to tell them. There's also uncertainty. Maybe it's all overblown, executives say, because the tech will be hard to implement and humans will find new roles. Or perhaps it's the beginning of the end for legions of professionals in one of the world's most lucrative fields. Can jobs held by office-dwelling millionaires disappear like those on factory floors? The result, is that employees aren't getting a clear message on what's to come. For a rosy scenario, look to McKinsey & Co. In July, the consulting firm published a report estimating machines are ready to assume roughly a third of the work now performed by banks' rank and file. The authors framed it as positive: People will have more time to tend to clients, conduct research or brainstorm ideas. So far, it noted, firms at the forefront aren't slashing jobs. At JPMorgan Chase & Co., one of the most tech-savvy banks, Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon predicted in June that his workforce will more likely grow than shrink over the next 20 years. Technology may displace workers, he's said, but it also creates opportunities. Yet in interviews, about a dozen Wall Street executives and consultants responsible for deploying technologies -- and steeped in their capabilities -- were more bearish on humans. Machines will take over task after task, they said, and banks simply won't need nearly as many people.

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First Floating Wind Farm Delivers Electricity

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 21:05
The world's first floating offshore wind farm began delivering electricity to the Scottish grid today. "The 30MW installation, situated 25km (15.5mi) from Peterhead in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, will demonstrate that offshore wind energy can be harvested in deep waters, miles away from land, where installing giant turbines was once impractical or impossible," reports Ars Technica. "At peak capacity, the wind farm will produce enough electricity to power 20,000 Scottish homes." From the report: The installation, called Hywind Scotland, is also interesting because it was built by Statoil, a Norwegian mega-corporation known for offshore oil drilling. Statoil has pursued offshore wind projects in recent years, using the companyâ(TM)s experience building and managing infrastructure in difficult open sea conditions to its advantage. Hywind Scotland began producing power in September, and today it starts delivering electricity to the Scottish grid. Now, all that's left is for Statoil and its partner company Masdar to install a 1MWh lithium-ion battery, charmingly called âoeBatwind,â on shore. Batwind will help the offshore system regulate power delivery and optimize output. After a number of small demonstration projects, the five 6MW turbines are the first commercial turbines to lack a firm attachment to the seafloor. They're held in place using three giant suction anchors, which are commonly used in offshore oil drilling. Essentially, an enormous, empty, upside-down âoebucketâ is placed on the seafloor, and air is sucked out of the bucket, which forces the bucket downward, further into the seafloor sediment. The report mentions a 2013 video that shows how offshore wind farms work.

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Amazon E-Book Buyers Receive Payment From Antitrust Lawsuit Settlement

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 20:25
If you bought a Kindle e-book between April 2010 and May 2012, you might see some Amazon credit coming your way. The company is reportedly distributing funds from an antitrust lawsuit that it levied at Apple in 2013. From a report: Amazon has set up a website listing the available credits, and it has begun sending out emails this morning to U.S. customers who are eligible for a refund. Apple and a handful of book publishers, including Penguin, HarperCollins, Machete Book Group and Macmillan, were found guilty of conspiring to inflate the prices of e-books in order to weaken Amazon's grip on the market. While the book publishers settled out of court, Apple decided to fight the lawsuit and appealed several times. Eventually, it was ordered to pay a total of $450 million in the protracted antitrust case. Several refunds have already been distributed because of the lawsuit. In fact, the bulk of credits were sent out in 2014 and 2016. The round of credits being sent out today comes from an earmarked $20 million meant to pay states involved in the suit. The Amazon credits have a six-month shelf life and must be spent by April 20, 2018, or they'll expire. In addition the Amazon credits, customers may also be receiving Apple credits that can be used toward iBooks, iTunes and App Store purchases. Apple is currently notifying eligible customers via email.

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