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The Verge's Essential Phone Review: An Arcane Artifact From an Unrealized Future

Slashdot - Sat, 08/19/2017 - 00:00
An anonymous reader shares Dieter Bohn's review of the Essential Phone: Even though it was announced less than three months ago at the Code Conference, there's already enough mythology surrounding the Essential Phone to fill a book. It comes from a brand-new billion-dollar startup led by the person who helped create Android itself, Andy Rubin. That origin binds it up with the history of all smartphones in a way that doesn't usually apply to your run-of-the-mill device. The phone was also delayed a bit, a sign that this tiny company hasn't yet quite figured out how to punch above its weight class -- which it's certainly trying to do. Although it runs standard Android, it's meant to act as a vanguard for Essential's new ecosystem of smart home devices and services connected by the mysterious Ambient OS. Even if we trust that Rubin's futuristic vision for a connected home will come to pass, it's not going to happen overnight. Instead, all we really have right now is that future's harbinger, a well-designed Android phone that I've been testing for the past week. Available unlocked or at Sprint, the $699 Essential Phone is an ambitious device. It has a unique way to connect modular accessories, starting with a 360-degree camera. It has a bold take on how to make a big, edge-to-edge screen paired with top-flight materials such as ceramic and titanium. And it has a dual camera system that is meant to compete with other flagship devices without adding any thickness to the phone. That would be a lot for even a massive company like Samsung or Apple to try to do with a single phone. For a tiny company like Essential, the question is simply this: is it trying to do too much? In conclusion, Bohn writes: "The Essential Phone is doing so much right: elegant design, big screen, long battery life, and clean software. And on top of all that, it has ambitions to do even more with those modules. If you asked Android users what they wanted in the abstract, I suspect a great many of them would describe this exact device. But while the camera is pretty good, it doesn't live up to the high bar the rest of the phone market has set. Sometimes artifacts are better to behold than they are to use."

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Self-sufficient Eclipse Chasers Hit the Road To 'Totality'

Slashdot - Fri, 08/18/2017 - 23:30
An anonymous reader shares a report: Michael Zeiler packed his portable toilet then headed out on a 10-hour drive from New Mexico to Wyoming where, on Monday, he intends to mark the ninth time he has seen the moon pass in front of the sun in a total solar eclipse. Zeiler is a self-described "eclipse chaser," part of a group of avid astronomy buffs, telescope hobbyists and amateur photographers whose passion for such celestial events takes them to the far corners of the earth. For the first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in the United States in almost a century, and the first visible anywhere in the Lower 48 states since 1979, Zeiler had only to drive some 650 miles (1,046 km) from the desert Southwest to the Rockies. He showed up prepared and early on Wednesday at his destination in Casper, Wyoming, within the "path of totality," the corridor over which the moon's 70-mile-wide shadow will be cast as it crosses the United States over 93 minutes. Along that path at the height of the eclipse on Aug. 21, the sun will be completely blotted out except for its outer atmosphere, known as the corona.

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Info on 1.8M Chicago Voters Was Publicly Accessible, But Now Removed From Cloud Service

Slashdot - Fri, 08/18/2017 - 23:00
A file containing the names, addresses, dates of birth and other information about Chicago's 1.8 million registered voters was published online and publicly accessible for an unknown period of time, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners said this week. From a report: The acknowledgment came days after a data security researcher alerted officials to the existence of the unsecured files. The researcher found the files while conducting a search of items uploaded to Amazon Web Services, a cloud system that allows users to rent storage space and share files with certain people or the general public. The files had been uploaded by Election Systems & Software, a contractor that helps maintain Chicago's electronic poll books. Election Systems said in a statement that the files "did not include any ballot information or vote totals and were not in any way connected to Chicago's voting or tabulation systems." The company said it had "promptly secured" the files on Saturday evening and had launched "a full investigation, with the assistance of a third-party firm, to perform thorough forensic analyses of the AWS server." State and local officials were notified of the existence of the files Saturday by cybersecurity expert Chris Vickery, who works at the Mountain View, Calif. firm UpGuard.

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YouTube Music Head Says Company Pays Higher Royalties Than Spotify in US

Slashdot - Fri, 08/18/2017 - 22:30
An anonymous reader shares a report: Making a living from streaming royalties is tough for music artists, and YouTube has had one of the worst reputations in the music industry for a while. Even Lyor Cohen, the current head of YouTube Music, knows that many are skeptical about the service's ability to pay out a legitimate rate. Cohen wrote a blog post this week to explain why he thinks that YouTube deserves another chance, and that his company is the highest paying music streaming service out there. The former road manager for Run DMC has been at YouTube for eight months now. He believes that YouTube music got to the subscription party late, which allowed companies like Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music to take an early lead. He also says that ads in music videos aren't the "death of the music industry," but rather a second supplement to bring in the money. Cohen claims that YouTube's ads brought in more than a billion dollars in the past 12 months. That should help soothe the music industry itself, but what about artists? Cohen rebuts the common belief that YouTube pays less than Spotify or Pandora, saying that his service pays more than $3 per thousand streams in the US, "more than other ad supported services."

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A 'Netflix Tax'? Yes, and It's Already a Thing in Some States

Slashdot - Fri, 08/18/2017 - 22:00
An anonymous reader shares a report: Your monthly bill for Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and other streaming entertainment services could go up soon as states such as Illinois try to find ways to offset declining sales taxes and other revenue shortfalls. Chicago, Pennsylvania and Florida have already passed a so-called Netflix tax, and cities such as Pasadena, Calif. have broached the issue. These taxes can translate to additional fees of less than $1 each month to consumers. But over the months -- and tacked onto multiple streaming subscriptions -- they might add up to $50 or more each year. Netflix, consumer tax groups and tech trade organizations have voiced their opposition to such taxes, warning they can be unfair and deter innovation. Some opponents have initiated legal challenges, and at least one state has shelved plans after a court decision. But state and local governments aren't likely to halt fresh efforts as falling pay-TV subscriptions and video rentals mean there's less opportunity to tax cable bills or charge sales tax at the cash register.

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Hollywood, Apple Said To Mull Rental Plan, Defying Theaters

Slashdot - Fri, 08/18/2017 - 21:20
An anonymous reader shares a report: Movie studios are considering whether to ignore the objections of cinema chains and forge ahead with a plan to offer digital rentals of films mere weeks after they appear in theaters, according to people familiar with the matter. Some of the biggest proponents, including Warner Bros and Universal Pictures, are pressing on in talks with Apple and Comcast on ways to push ahead with the project even without theater chains, the people said. After months of negotiations, the two sides have been unable to arrive at a mutually beneficial way to create a $30 to $50 premium movie-download product. The leading Hollywood studios, except for Walt Disney, are eager to introduce a new product to make up for declining sales of DVDs and other home entertainment in the age of Netflix. They have discussed sharing a split of the revenue from premium video on demand, or PVOD, with the cinema chains if they give their blessing to the concept. But the exhibitors have sought a long-term commitment of as much as 10 years for that revenue split, which the studios have rejected, the people said. Deals with potential distributors such as Apple and Comcast could be reached as soon as early next year to sell digital downloads of major films as soon as two weeks after they debut in theaters, the people said.

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Developer Accidentally Deletes Three-Month of Work With Visual Studio Code

Slashdot - Fri, 08/18/2017 - 20:40
New submitter joshtops writes: A developer accidentally three-month of his work. In a post, he described his experience, "I had just downloaded VScode as an alternative and I was just playing with the source control option, seeing how it wanted to stage -- five thousand files -- I clicked discard... AND IT DELETED ALL MY FILES, ALL OF THEM, PERMANENTLY! How the f*uk is this s*it possible, who the hell is the d******* who made the option to permanently delete all the files on a project by accident even possible? Cannot even find them in the Recycle Bin!!!! I didn't even thought that was possible on Windows!!! F*ck this f*cking editor and f*ck whoever implemented this option. I wish you the worst.'

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How Hackers Are Targeting the Shipping Industry

Slashdot - Fri, 08/18/2017 - 20:00
An anonymous reader shares a report: When staff at CyberKeel investigated email activity at a medium-sized shipping firm, they made a shocking discovery. "Someone had hacked into the systems of the company and planted a small virus," explains co-founder Lars Jensen. "They would then monitor all emails to and from people in the finance department." Whenever one of the firm's fuel suppliers would send an email asking for payment, the virus simply changed the text of the message before it was read, adding a different bank account number. "Several million dollars," says Mr Jensen, were transferred to the hackers before the company cottoned on. After the NotPetya cyber-attack in June, major firms including shipping giant Maersk were badly affected. In fact, Maersk revealed this week that the incident could cost it as much as $300 million in profits. But Mr Jensen has long believed that that the shipping industry needs to protect itself better against hackers -- the fraud case dealt with by CyberKeel was just another example. The firm was launched more than three years ago after Mr Jensen teamed up with business partner Morten Schenk, a former lieutenant in the Danish military who Jensen describes as "one of those guys who could hack almost anything." They wanted to offer penetration testing -- investigative tests of security -- to shipping companies. The initial response they got, however, was far from rosy.

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Trump Adviser Steve Bannon is Leaving White House Post

Slashdot - Fri, 08/18/2017 - 19:13
President Donald Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon left his position on Friday (alternative source) as the newly minted chief of staff John Kelly sought to bring order to a White House riven by infighting and power struggles, more than a dozen news outlets report. Maggie Haberman, reporting for The New York Times: The president and senior White House officials were debating when and how to dismiss Mr. Bannon. The two administration officials cautioned that Mr. Trump is known to be averse to confrontation within his inner circle, and could decide to keep on Mr. Bannon for some time. As of Friday morning, the two men were still discussing Mr. Bannon's future, the officials said. A person close to Mr. Bannon insisted the parting of ways was his idea, and that he had submitted his resignation to the president on Aug. 7, to be announced at the start of this week, but the move was delayed after the racial unrest in Charlottesville, Va.

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Bing is 'Bigger Than You Think', Says Microsoft

Slashdot - Fri, 08/18/2017 - 18:40
Microsoft said this week that Bing is "bigger than you think" and provided some numbers that could be a surprise to many. The company claims that fully one-third of searches in the US are powered by Bing, either directly or through Yahoo or AOL (both of which provide results generated by Microsoft). From a report: With 9% market share worldwide and 12 billion monthly searches, almost half of that (5 billion) comes from the United States where Bing has 33% market share.

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E-Commerce To Evolve Next Month As Amazon Loses the 1-Click Patent

Slashdot - Fri, 08/18/2017 - 18:00
An anonymous reader shares an article: Next month e-commerce will change forever thanks to Amazon. September 12 marks 20 years since Amazon filed for their 1-Click patent. This means that the patent will expire and the technology behind it will be free to be used by any e-commerce site. Starting next month more and more sites will be offering a one click checkout experience. Most major sites have already started development with plans to launch soon after the patent expires. Amazon applied for the 1-Click patent in September of 1997, the actual patent was granted in 1999. The whole idea behind the patent is when you store a user's credit card and address you only need a single click to order a product. For the last 20 years Amazon has kept a tight hold on this technology, they have only licensed it to one company: Apple. No one knows what Apple paid to license the technology, but the value of the patent has been assessed at 2.4 billion dollars by sources. Over the last 20 years Amazon has defended the validity of the patent in several cases, even having to revise the patent at one point. But, now the wait is almost over and this technology is about to make it into the open market.

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Kit Kat Accused of Copying Atari Game Breakout

Slashdot - Fri, 08/18/2017 - 17:20
An anonymous reader shares a report: Kit Kat's maker Nestle has been accused of copying Breakout, the 1970s computer game, in a marketing campaign. Atari, the company behind some of the most popular early video games, has filed a suit alleging Nestle knowingly exploited the game's look and feel. The advert showed a game similar to Breakout but where the bricks were replaced with single Kit Kat bars. Nestle said it was aware of the lawsuit and would defend itself "strongly" against the allegations. Breakout was created as a successor to "Pong" by Apple founders, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. In the advert, which is titled "Kit Kat: Breakout", a row of people, of varying ages and appearance, share a sofa and play a video game during their work break. In the game depicted, a primitive paddle moves side-to-side to bounce a ball into a collision with the horizontal bars ranged across the top of the screen.

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Secret Chips in Replacement Parts Can Completely Hijack Your Phone's Security

Slashdot - Fri, 08/18/2017 - 16:45
Dan Goodin, writing for ArsTechnica: People with cracked touch screens or similar smartphone maladies have a new headache to consider: the possibility the replacement parts installed by repair shops contain secret hardware that completely hijacks the security of the device. The concern arises from research that shows how replacement screens -- one put into a Huawei Nexus 6P and the other into an LG G Pad 7.0 -- can be used to surreptitiously log keyboard input and patterns, install malicious apps, and take pictures and e-mail them to the attacker. The booby-trapped screens also exploited operating system vulnerabilities that bypassed key security protections built into the phones. The malicious parts cost less than $10 and could easily be mass-produced. Most chilling of all, to most people, the booby-trapped parts could be indistinguishable from legitimate ones, a trait that could leave many service technicians unaware of the maliciousness. There would be no sign of tampering unless someone with a background in hardware disassembled the repaired phone and inspected it. The research, in a paper presented this week (PDF) at the 2017 Usenix Workshop on Offensive Technologies, highlights an often overlooked disparity in smartphone security. The software drivers included in both the iOS and Android operating systems are closely guarded by the device manufacturers, and therefore exist within a "trust boundary."

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How Security Pros Look at Encryption Backdoors

Slashdot - Fri, 08/18/2017 - 16:05
An anonymous reader shares a report: The majority of IT security professionals believe encryption backdoors are ineffective and potentially dangerous, with 91 percent saying cybercriminals could take advantage of government-mandated encryption backdoors. 72 percent of the respondents do not believe encryption backdoors would make their nations safer from terrorists, according to a Venafi survey of 296 IT security pros, conducted at Black Hat USA 2017. Only 19 percent believe the technology industry is doing enough to protect the public from the dangers of encryption backdoors. 81 percent feel governments should not be able to force technology companies to give them access to encrypted user data. 86 percent believe consumers don't understand issues around encryption backdoors.

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Google Researchers Made An Algorithm To Delete Watermarks From Photos

Slashdot - Fri, 08/18/2017 - 15:00
"Researchers at Google have found a vulnerability in the way watermarks are used by stock imagery sites like Adobe Stock that makes it possible to remove the opaque stamp used to protect copyright," writes Khari Johnson via VentureBeat. "The consistent nature in which the watermarks are placed on photos can be exploited using an algorithm trained to recognize and automatically remove watermarks." From the report: Changing the position or opacity of a watermark do not impact the algorithm's ability to remove watermarks from images with copyright protection. Randomization, the researchers say, is required to keep images from being stolen. In results presented at the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference last month, subtle modifications to each watermark can make it harder to remove watermarks. With these warped watermarks, attempts to get rid of watermarks with an algorithm or photo editing software leaves noticeable marks, rendering an image useless. "As often done with vulnerabilities discovered in operating systems, applications or protocols, we want to disclose this vulnerability and propose solutions in order to help the photography and stock image communities adapt and better protect its copyrighted content and creations," research scientists Tali Dekel and Michael Rubenstein wrote in a blog post today. "From our experiments much of the world's stock imagery is currently susceptible to this circumvention." You can learn more about the different types of randomization that can be done to combat watermark removal and see more example images in Google's blog post. The full report and research is available via the project's GitHub page.

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iOS 11 Has a Feature To Temporarily Disable Touch ID

Slashdot - Fri, 08/18/2017 - 12:00
A new feature baked into iOS 11 lets you quickly disable Touch ID, which could come in handy if you're ever in a situation where someone (a cop) might force you to unlock your device. Cult of Mac reports: To temporarily disable Touch ID, you simply press the power button quickly five times. This presents you with the "Emergency SOS" option, which you can swipe to call the emergency services. It also prevents your iPhone from being unlocked without the passcode. Until now, there were other ways to temporarily disable Touch ID, but they weren't quick and simply. You either had to restart your iPhone, let it sit idle for a few days until Touch ID was temporarily disabled by itself, or scan the wrong finger several times. The police, or any government agency, cannot force you to hand over your iPhone's passcode. However, they can force you to unlock your device with your fingerprint. That doesn't work if your fingerprint scanner has been disabled.

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New Immunotherapy Trial Cures Kids of Peanut Allergy For Up To Four Years

Slashdot - Fri, 08/18/2017 - 09:00
Using a new kind of immunotherapy treatment, Australian researchers have managed to cure a majority of the children in their study suffering from a peanut allergy. "The desensitization to peanuts persisted for up to four years after treatment," reports The Guardian. From the report: Tang, an immunologist and allergist, pioneered a new form of treatment that combines a probiotic with peanut oral immunotherapy, known as PPOIT. Instead of avoiding the allergen, the treatment is designed to reprogram the immune system's response to peanuts and eventually develop a tolerance. It's thought that combining the probiotic with the immunotherapy gives the immune system the "nudge" it needs to do this, according to Tang. Forty-eight children were enrolled in the PPOIT trial and were randomly given either a combination of the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus with peanut protein in increasing amounts, or a placebo, once daily for 18 months. At the end of the original trial in 2013, 82% of children who received the immunotherapy treatment were deemed tolerant to peanuts compared with just 4% in the placebo group. Four years later, the majority of the children who gained initial tolerance were still eating peanuts as part of their normal diet and 70% passed a further challenge test to confirm long-term tolerance. The results have been published in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.

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The Health Benefits of Wind and Solar Exceed the Cost of All Subsidies

Slashdot - Fri, 08/18/2017 - 05:30
New submitter TheCoroner writes: A paper in Nature Energy suggests that the benefits we receive from moving to renewables like wind and solar that reduce air pollution exceed the cost of the subsidies required to make them competitive with traditional fossil fuels. Ars Technica reports: "Berkeley environmental engineer Dev Millstein and his colleagues estimate that between 3,000 and 12,700 premature deaths have been averted because of air quality benefits over the last decade or so, creating a total economic benefit between $30 billion and $113 billion. The benefits from wind work out to be more than 7 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is more than unsubsidized wind energy generally costs. This study ambitiously tries to estimate the benefits from emissions that were avoided because of the increase in wind and solar energy from 2007 through 2015, and to do so for the whole of the U.S. Millstein and colleagues looked at carbon emissions, as well as sulphur dioxides, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter, all of which contribute to poor air quality. There are other factors that also need to be considered. A rise in renewables isn't the only thing that has been changing in the energy sector: fuel costs and regulation have also played a role. How much of the benefit can be attributed to wind and solar power, and how much to other changes? The researchers used models that track the benefits attributable to renewable power as a proportion of the total reduction in emissions.

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Video Is Coming To Reddit

Slashdot - Fri, 08/18/2017 - 03:25
An anonymous reader shares a report from Variety: Videos are coming to Reddit, thanks to a new feature that allows users to upload video clips directly to the service. Reddit rolled out the new video feature Tuesday after testing it with around 200 communities over the past couple of weeks. Reddit users are now able to upload videos of up to 15 minutes in length, with file sizes being limited to 1 gigabyte. Users will be able to upload videos via Reddit's website and its mobile apps for iOS and Android, with the latter offering basic trimming functionality as well. And, in keeping with the spirit of the site, Reddit is also offering a conversion tool to turn videos into animated Gifs. Videos are being displayed persistently, or pinned, meaning that users can scroll through the comments while the video keeps playing in the corner of their screen. And community moderators can opt not to allow videos in their Subreddits at all, with Le arguing that some discussion-heavy Subreddits may decide that the format just doesn't work for them.

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PlayStation 4 Update 5.0 Officially Revealed

Slashdot - Fri, 08/18/2017 - 02:45
After the PlayStation 4's 5.0 update was leaked last week, Sony decided to officially reveal what's coming in the update. GameSpot highlights the new features in their report: Some of the enhancements center around streaming using the PS4's built-in broadcasting capabilities. PS4 Pro users will be able to stream in 1080p and 60 FPS, provided their connection is strong enough, and PSVR users will be able to see new messages and comments coming through while broadcasting. PSVR is also adding 5.1ch and 7.1ch virtual surround sound support. Next up, the PS4's Friends List is being updated with greater management tools, such as the ability to set up separate lists of friends. You'll be able to create a list of all the people you play Destiny with and send them all an invite, for example. This feature replaces the old Favorite Groups tab. In another move to help reduce the amount of time spent in menus, the Quick Menu is being updated to have more options. For example, you'll be able to check on download progress and see new party invites. You can also leave a party from within that menu and see your current Spotify playlist. Notifications are also being improved when watching films and TV, as you can now disable message and other notification pop-ups while watching media. You can also change how much of a message is displayed, as well as its color, when playing or watching any form of content. Finally, Parental Control features are being overhauled in favor of what Sony calls "Family on PSN." This replaces the old Master/Sub account system; instead, one user is deemed the Family Manager, and they can set up other accounts and appoint them as a Parent/Guardian, Adult, or Child. Parents or Guardians can restrict Child accounts in their "use of online features and communication with other players, set restrictions for games, restrict the use of the internet browser, and set spending limits for PlayStation Store." Note that Sony says the first time any North American user tries to set up an Adult account, they will be charged $0.50 "to verify that you are an adult."

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