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UK Enjoyed 'Greenest Year For Electricity Ever' in 2017

Slashdot - Czw, 2017-12-28 19:42
The UK has achieved its greenest year ever in terms of how the nation's electricity is generated, National Grid figures reveal. From a report: The rise of renewable energy helped break 13 clean energy records in 2017. In June, for the first time, wind, nuclear and solar power generated more UK power than gas and coal combined. Britain has halved carbon emissions in the electricity sector since 2012 to provide the fourth cleanest power system in Europe and seventh worldwide. In April, the UK had its first 24-hour period without using any coal power since the Industrial Revolution. The government is committed to phasing out unabated coal by 2025 as part of efforts to cut the UK's greenhouse gas emissions in line with legal obligations. Separate findings from power research group MyGridGB show that renewable energy sources provided more power than coal for 90% of 2017, figures up to 12 December show.

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MoviePass Adds a Million Subscribers, Even if Theaters Aren't Sold on It

Slashdot - Czw, 2017-12-28 18:20
From a report: As streaming services like Netflix and Hulu surge in popularity, movie theaters have been trying to compete by rethinking the concession counter and installing seats that resemble beds. Yet attendance was flat at North American cinemas in 2016, and analysts are predicting a 4 percent decline in 2017, bringing ticket sales to a 22-year low. Perhaps something more radical is necessary. Mitch Lowe, a Netflix co-founder, certainly thought so when he took over a ticketing firm called MoviePass in June 2016. By August of this year, when MoviePass introduced a cut-rate, subscription-based plan -- go to the movies 365 times a year for $9.95 a month -- Mr. Lowe had been declared an enemy of the state. "Not welcome here," AMC Entertainment, the largest multiplex operator in North America, said in an indignant August news release that threatened legal action. It may be time to get on board: MoviePass said this month that it had signed up more than one million subscribers in just four months (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source). It took Netflix more than three years to reach that level when it started selling low-priced subscriptions for DVD rentals in 1999. Spotify was relatively quick, at five months in 2011. It took Hulu 10 months to reach one million later that year. "We're actually shocked," Mr. Lowe said. "We seem to have hit a nerve in America."

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Postcard From Pyongyang: The Airport Now Has Wi-Fi, Sort of

Slashdot - Czw, 2017-12-28 17:40
Eric Talmadge, writing for AP: North Korea is one of the least Wi-Fi-friendly countries in the world. Having a device that emits Wi-Fi signals can result in detention and a major fine. Worse, if you are a North Korean. Public use of the internet is a concept that just makes North Korean officials really nervous. But here's a sign that might be changing. North Korea's main internet provider appears to have put up a Wi-Fi trial balloon at the international departure area of Pyongyang's airport. It's a logical place to start. The service is only available, or even visible, to travelers who have already cleared customs, which included me last week. The reporter was unable to actually get the Wi-Fi to work, however.

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The Year in Crowdfunded PCs: Who Succeeded? Who Failed?

Slashdot - Czw, 2017-12-28 17:01
Sean Portnoy, writing for ZDNet: The ever-maturing PC industry hasn't deterred manufacturers large and small from embracing crowdfunding as a method of bringing new systems to market, whether they need the funds to produce their new product, or just want to gain publicity and guarantee some upfront sales. Not every launch on Kickstarter or one of its rivals is a roaring success, but enough are to keep the campaigns coming. It was no different in 2017, as several companies offered new devices for crowdfunding, although some of them were clearly drawing inspiration from the past. That includes the Gemini, which answers the question: What would a PDA look like in a world filled with smartphones that have essentially replaced it? That answer is a clam-shell handheld with a physical keyboard, 5.99-inch screen, and Android and Linux dual-boot capability (along with built-in Wi-Fi and 4G option to keep up with the times). As unlikely as you might think such a device would be attractive in a world of iPhones, tablets, Chromebooks, and other portables, the company behind the Gemini, UK startup Planet Computers, easily surpassed its campaign target on IndieGogo, raising over $1.1 million. Another tiny computer, the GPD Pocket, doesn't look all that different from the Gemini, though it doesn't try to market itself specifically as a PDA. Instead, parent company GamePad Digital (or GPD) defines it as a 7-inch Windows laptop, complete with 8GB of RAM, 128GB solid-state drive, and full HD touchscreen. The list goes on.

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Google Works With Hotels To Hurt Travel Competition

Slashdot - Czw, 2017-12-28 16:21
An anonymous reader shares a WSJ report: More than 100 million Americans are expected to travel during the holidays, and many will search for lodging online. But travelers may unknowingly pay more and fail to see all of their options because some major hotels have ganged up with Google to undercut competition (The link may be paywalled). Online travel agencies like Expedia, Priceline and Travelocity have replaced brick-and-mortar agents by offering consumers more choice and convenience at a lower price. These OTAs purchase inventory from wholesalers and then market rooms at a discount to consumers in addition to flights, rental cars and travel packages. Many also have agreements with companies like American Express, Costco and Delta to market their inventory. OTA websites let travelers sift through hotel offers based on price, brand, location, amenities and guest rating, among other search filters. OTAs earn a roughly 20 percent commission from hotels for each reservation they book, which covers their cost of marketing, inventory acquisition, customer support and payment processing. As hotels get squeezed by Airbnb and home rental sites, they have begun complaining that OTAs are eating into their profits. Several major hotels are now trying to use Google as a counterweight, while Google is exploiting its search dominance to steer consumers to its travel service. Some 60% of travelers begin trip-planning on Google.

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Where Did WikiLeaks' $25 Million Bitcoin Fortune Go?

Slashdot - Czw, 2017-12-28 15:40
Everyone from early investors to cybercriminals has benefited from the huge spike in the value of bitcoin in the past few weeks. It's a boon for one other outfit that has likely racked up tens of millions of dollars' worth of the cryptocurrency: WikiLeaks. Joseph Cox, reporting for The Daily Beast: The transparency organization may be sitting on a stockpile of bitcoin valued at around $25 million, and has likely exchanged several other large cryptocurrency caches for fiat cash, according to two sources who independently analyzed WikiLeaks's bitcoin transactions. "Last wallet looks like his piggy bank," John Bambenek, a security expert who has previously tracked Neo-Nazis' use of bitcoin, told The Daily Beast, pointing to a specific bitcoin address believed to be linked to WikiLeaks. Since at least 2011, WikiLeaks has allowed supporters to send bitcoin donations. As noted by James Ball, a journalist and former WikiLeaks staffer, whoever is in control of this address -- presumably WikiLeaks -- moved around 3,000 bitcoin, worth $800 each, into a series of other accounts on one day in December 2013.

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Mark Zuckerberg's Real Campaign: Save Facebook

Slashdot - Czw, 2017-12-28 15:00
From an Axios report: Mark Zuckerberg started 2017 scoffing at the idea of Russia election manipulation on Facebook, and looked like he was contemplating his own possible run for the presidency. Facebook's CEO ends 2017 a very changed man: scrambling to curtail (some of) the manipulation he now acknowledges exists, and to save the most powerful platform in human history. A Facebook exec tells us: "This is the year people will see we get that there's real work to do. We have to change."

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Carlsberg Turns To AI To Help Develop Beers

Slashdot - Czw, 2017-12-28 14:00
From a report: One of the reasons it takes so long to develop new beers is because brewers have to rely on actual humans -- and techniques like chromatography and spectrometry -- to test liquids and detect flavors and aromas. Carlsberg thinks it's found a better way. With help from researchers at Aarhus University, the Danish beer-maker has developed sensors that are able to detect differences between beer flavors, the Financial Times reports. Now, the company is teaming up with Microsoft to help interpret that data via artificial intelligence and streamline the lengthy beer-making process.

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The WHO May Recognize Excessive Video Gaming As Mental Health Disorder

Slashdot - Czw, 2017-12-28 12:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBS News: The World Health Organization is poised to classify "gaming disorder" as a mental health problem in its 2018 update of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). Gaming disorder could be diagnosed if a person's video game habit "is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning," according a tentative draft of WHO's 11th update to the ICD. Licensed marriage and family therapist Paula-Jo Husack said common symptoms for children and adults include social isolation, trouble transitioning from one thought to another, reduction in empathy, loss of appetite and loss of sensory perception. The WHO said those symptoms generally need to persist for at least a year before doctors diagnose a case of gaming disorder, but added that a diagnosis could be made sooner if symptoms are severe.

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Web Trackers Exploit Flaw In Browser Login Managers To Steal Usernames

Slashdot - Czw, 2017-12-28 11:00
An anonymous reader writes: Princeton privacy experts are warning that advertising and analytics firms can secretly extract site usernames from browsers using hidden login fields and tie non-authenticated users visiting a site with their profiles or emails on that domain. This type of abusive behavior is possible because of a design flaw in the login managers included with all browsers. Experts say that web trackers can embed hidden login forms on sites where the tracking scripts are loaded. Because of the way the login managers work, the browser will fill these fields with the user's login information, such as username and passwords. The trick is an old one, known for more than a decade but until now it's only been used by hackers trying to collect login information during XSS (cross-site scripting) attacks. Princeton researchers say they recently found two web tracking services that utilize hidden login forms to collect login information. The two services are Adthink (audienceinsights.net) and OnAudience (behavioralengine.com), and Princeton researchers said they identified scripts from these two that collected login info on 1,110 sites found on the Alexa Top 1 Million sites list. A demo page has been created to show how the tracking works.

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A Reporter Built a Bot To Find Nazi Sock Puppet Accounts. Twitter Banned the Bot and Kept the Nazis

Slashdot - Czw, 2017-12-28 08:00
Yair Rosenberg, writing for the New York Times: I asked my own Twitter followers whether it might be possible to create a bot that would reply to these impostors and expose their true nature to any users they tried to fool. Neal Chandra, a talented developer in San Francisco whom I've never met, replied, "I can try to throw something together this evening." And so, after a week of testing, Impostor Buster was born. Using a crowdsourced database of impersonator accounts, carefully curated by us to avoid any false positives, the bot patrolled Twitter and interjected whenever impostors tried to insinuate themselves into a discussion (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled). Within days, our golem for the digital age had become a runaway success, garnering thousands of followers and numerous press write-ups. Most important, we received countless thank-yous from alerted would-be victims. The impersonator trolls seethed. Some tried changing their user names to evade the bot (it didn't work). Others simply reverted to their openly neo-Nazi personas. A few even tried to impersonate the bot, which was vastly preferable from our perspective and rather amusing. Twitter sided with the Nazis. In April, the service suspended Impostor Buster without explanation and reinstated it only after being contacted by the ADL's cyber-hate team. Over the next few months, we fine-tuned the bot to reduce its tweets and avoid tripping any of Twitter's alarms. As the trolls continued to report the bot to no avail, we thought the problem was resolved. But we were wrong. This month, Twitter suspended the bot again, and this time refused to revive it.

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FBI Software For Analyzing Fingerprints Contains Russian-Made Code, Whistleblowers Say

Slashdot - Czw, 2017-12-28 04:30
schwit1 shares an exclusive report via BuzzFeed: The fingerprint-analysis software used by the FBI and more than 18,000 other U.S. law enforcement agencies contains code created by a Russian firm with close ties to the Kremlin, according to documents and two whistleblowers. The allegations raise concerns that Russian hackers could gain backdoor access to sensitive biometric information on millions of Americans, or even compromise wider national security and law enforcement computer systems. The Russian code was inserted into the fingerprint-analysis software by a French company, said the two whistleblowers, who are former employees of that company. The firm -- then a subsidiary of the massive Paris-based conglomerate Safran -- deliberately concealed from the FBI the fact that it had purchased the Russian code in a secret deal, they said. The Russian company whose code ended up in the FBI's fingerprint-analysis software has Kremlin connections that should raise similar national security concerns, said the whistleblowers, both French nationals who worked in Russia. The Russian company, Papillon AO, boasts in its own publications about its close cooperation with various Russian ministries as well as the Federal Security Service -- the intelligence agency known as the FSB that is a successor of the Soviet-era KGB and has been implicated in other hacks of U.S. targets. Cybersecurity experts said the danger of using the Russian-made code couldn't be assessed without examining the code itself. But "the fact that there were connections to the FSB would make me nervous to use this software," said Tim Evans, who worked as director of operational policy for the National Security Agency's elite cyberintelligence unit known as Tailored Access Operations and now helps run the cybersecurity firm Adlumin. The FBI's overhaul of its fingerprint-recognition technology, unveiled in 2011, was part of a larger initiative known as Next Generation Identification to expand the bureau's use of biometrics, including face- and iris-recognition technology. The TSA also relies on the FBI fingerprint database.

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Empirical Research Reveals Three Big Problems With How Patents Are Vetted

Slashdot - Czw, 2017-12-28 02:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: If you've read our coverage of the Electronic Frontier Foundation's "Stupid Patent of the Month" series, you know America has a patent quality problem. People apply for patents on ideas that are obvious, vague, or were invented years earlier. Too often, applications get approved and low-quality patents fall into the hands of patent trolls, creating headaches for real innovators. Why don't more low-quality patents get rejected? A recent paper published by the Brookings Institution offers fascinating insights into this question. Written by legal scholars Michael Frakes and Melissa Wasserman, the paper identifies three ways the patent process encourages approval of low-quality patents: -The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is funded by fees -- and the agency gets more fees if it approves an application. -Unlimited opportunities to refile rejected applications means sometimes granting a patent is the only way to get rid of a persistent applicant. -Patent examiners are given less time to review patent applications as they gain seniority, leading to less thorough reviews. None of these observations is entirely new. But what sets Frakes and Wasserman's work apart is that they have convincing empirical evidence for all three theories. They have data showing that these features of the patent system systematically bias it in the direction of granting more patents. Which means that if we reformed the patent process in the ways they advocate, we'd likely wind up with fewer bogus patents floating around.

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Nintendo Delaying 64GB Game Cards For Switch Until 2019, Says Report

Slashdot - Czw, 2017-12-28 01:50
According to The Wall Street Journal, Nintendo is pushing back the introduction of larger 64GB game cards for the Switch. Nintendo had planned to make them available during the second half of 2018, but has reportedly told developers that they would have to wait. The reason is reportedly due to technical issues. Kotaku reports: As Kotaku previously reported, Nintendo's Switch games keep their size slim, with downloads for Super Mario Odyssey, Arms and Splatoon 2 ranging from 2-6GB. However, third party developers have been releasing bigger, data-heavy games, outpacing the Switch's 24GB of usable onboard memory. The Journal notes that Nintendo has already sold over 10 million Switch consoles, meaning developers could continue to flock to the platform, regardless.

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Apple To Release Lisa OS For Free As Open Source In 2018

Slashdot - Czw, 2017-12-28 01:10
New submitter Jose Deras writes: Nearly 35 years ago, Apple released its first computer with a graphical user interface, called the Lisa. Starting next year, the Computer History Museum will release the Apple Lisa OS for free as an open-source project. According to a new report from Business Insider, the Computer History Museum will release the code behind the Apple Lisa operating system for free as open source, for anyone to try and tinker with. The news was announced via the LisaList mailing list for Lisa enthusiasts. "While Steve Jobs didn't create the Lisa, he was instrumental in its development. It was Jobs who convinced the legendary Xerox PARC lab to let the Apple Lisa team visit and play with its prototypes for graphical user interfaces," reads the report. "And while Apple at the time said that Lisa stood for 'Local Integrated System Architecture,' Jobs would later claim to biographer Walter Isaacson that the machine was actually named for his oldest daughter, Lisa Nicole Brennan-Jobs." "Then-Apple CEO John Sculley had Jobs removed from the Lisa project, which kicked off years-long animosity between the two," continues the report. "Ultimately, a boardroom brawl would result in Jobs quitting in a huff to start his own company, NeXT Computer. Apple would go on to buy NeXT in 1996, bringing Jobs back into the fold. By 1997, Jobs had become CEO of Apple, leading the company to its present status as the most valuable in the world."

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Some Sonos and Bose Speakers Are Being Hijacked To Play Ghostly Sounds

Slashdot - Czw, 2017-12-28 00:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Researchers at Trend Micro have found that certain models of Sonos and Bose speakers have vulnerabilities that leave them open to hijacking, as reported by Wired. The accessible speakers are being exploited by hackers that are using them to play spooky sounds, Alexa commands, and Rick Astley tracks. Only a small percentage of speakers by the two companies are actually affected, including some of the Sonos Play:1, the Sonos One, and the Bose SoundTouch. All it takes is for the speaker to be connected to a misconfigured network and a simple internet scan. Once the speaker is discovered via the scan, the API it uses to talk to apps can be utilized to tell the speakers to play any audio file hosted at a specific URL. Of all the models, between 2,500 to 5,000 Sonos devices and 400 to 500 Bose devices were found by Trend Micro to be open to audio hacking.

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Russia Is Accusing the US of 'Direct Interference' In Its Elections

Slashdot - Śro, 2017-12-27 23:50
schwit1 shares a report from Business Insider (alternative source): Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Tuesday accused the U.S. of a "direct interference in our electoral process and internal affairs" following the State Department's criticism of Russia's decision to bar opposition leader Alexey Navalny from running in the upcoming presidential election against Vladimir Putin. "This State Department statement, which I'm sure will be repeated, is a direct interference in our electoral process and internal affairs," Zakharova wrote Tuesday on Facebook. In a statement shared with Business Insider on Tuesday night, a State Department spokesperson expressed concern over the Russian government's "ongoing crackdown against independent voices, from journalists to civil society activists and opposition politicians." "These actions indicate the Russian government has failed to protect space in Russia for the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms," the statement said. "More broadly, we urge the government of Russia to hold genuine elections that are transparent, fair, and free and that guarantee the free expression of the will of the people, consistent with its international human rights obligations." Zakharova pushed back. "And these people expressed outrage over alleged Russian 'interference' in their electoral process for an entire year?!" she said. "Pointing out that the Kremlin is interfering in its own election is not interference," adds schwit1.

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Human Go Champion Backtracks On Vow To Never Face An AI Opponent Again

Slashdot - Śro, 2017-12-27 23:10
Back in May, Google's AlphaGo AI defeated the human world champion Ke Jie in a three-part match. After it was over, Jie vowed never to play a computer again. But apparently something has changed his mind because Chinese news sources report that Jie will once again play an artificial intelligence at an AI tournament to be held in China in April 2018. Engadget reports: Ke Jie is one of the tournament's ambassadors, and he will play against the AI Tianrang. Normally, a human representative places pieces on behalf of the AI, but in this case, a robotic arm developed by Fuzhou University will fulfill that role. Tianrang previously ascended to the semi-finals of Japan's AI Go tournament, called AI Ryusei, earlier this month. Tencent's AI was the ultimate winner of that tournament. The complement of AI competitors for the Chinese tournament are Tianrang (Shanghai), DeepZenGo (Japan), CGI (Taipai) and more. Google DeepMind's AlphaGo has since retired from competition, so it will not be playing in the tournament.

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56,000 Layoffs and Counting: India's IT Bloodbath This Year May Just Be the Start

Slashdot - Śro, 2017-12-27 22:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: For Indian techies, 2017 was the stuff of nightmares. One of the top employment generators until a few years ago, India's $160 billion IT industry laid off more than 56,000 employees this year. Some analysts believe this spree was worse than the one during the 2008 financial crisis. Meanwhile, hiring plummeted, with entry-level openings having more than halved in 2017, according to experts. Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Infosys, two of India's largest IT companies and once leaders in job creation, reduced their headcounts for the first time ever. Even mid-sized players like Tech Mahindra retrenched several employees. Compared to the normal rate of forced attrition (i.e. asking non-performers to leave) of around 1% in earlier years, 2017 saw Indian IT companies letting go of between 2% and 6% of their employees, said Alka Dhingra, general manager of IT staffing at TeamLease Services. Infosys cut 9,000 jobs in January. "Instead of 10 people, what if we have three people to work on (a project). If we don't have the software, then some others will take the advantage (away from us)," Vishal Sikka, the former CEO of the Bengaluru-based company, said in February. Meanwhile, around 6,000 Indian employees at Cognizant reportedly lost their jobs to automation.

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That '70s Show: the Conference That Predicted the Future of Work

Slashdot - Śro, 2017-12-27 21:00
theodp writes: Over at Wired, Leslie Berlin writes about Futures Day at the 1977 Xerox World Conference, an invitation-only demonstration of the Alto personal computer system developed at Xerox PARC. It's an excerpt from Troublemakers: How a Generation of Silicon Valley Upstarts Invented the Future. Both Berlin's book and Brian Dear's recent The Friendly Orange Glow: The Untold Story of the PLATO System and the Dawn of Cyberculture are shedding light on groundbreaking systems of the '70s that were ultimately done in by the less-featured but low-cost Apple II (yes, $2,638 for a system with 48 kB of RAM was 'low cost'!) and other personal computers. Interestingly, Dear notes that the Xerox Parc and PLATO teams sent people out to see and learn and exchange ideas with each other over the years. Their interactions included 'tremendous battles' over the advantages and disadvantages of mouse interfaces [Xerox] vs. touch screens [PLATO], as well as plasma displays [PLATO] vs. other, cheaper display solutions [Xerox]. As is the case with many debates, both teams proved to be "right." Apple wouldn't introduce the masses to a mouse interface until 1984 [Macintosh] and a touch screen interface until 2007 [iPhone].

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