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Amazon Refreshes Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 Tablets

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 01:43
BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: Amazon's tablets have needed a refresh for a while now, and today it happened. The company announced two newly updated models -- the Fire 7 ($49) and the Fire HD 8 ($79). They both feature Alexa support, of course, and are designed for a quality experience with all types of media, such as movies, music, and books. The 7-inch has a 1024 x 600 resolution, while the 8-inch variant has 1280 x 800. Best of all, they are extremely affordable. At these insanely low prices, you might expect anemic performance, but both come with a respectable Quad-core 1.3 GHz processor. The Fire 7 has 1GB of RAM, while the HD 8 has 1.5GB. Regardless of which model you select, you will also get both front and rear cameras. The low cost might make you think they will be cheaply made, but Amazon claims they are more durable than Apple's newest iPad.

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Justice Department Appoints Former FBI Director Robert Mueller As Special Counsel For Russia Investigation

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 01:01
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill: The Justice Department has appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russia's involvement in the U.S. election. Mueller, a former prosecutor who served a 12-year term at the helm of the bureau, has accepted the position, according to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. "In my capacity as acting attorney general I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a special counsel to assume responsibility for the matter," Rosenstein said in a statement. "My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination. What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command." UPDATE: President Trump has released a statement: "As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know -- there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity. I look forward to this matter concluding quickly. In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country."

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Apple Starts Assembling iPhones In India

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 00:40
Apple has successfully completed its first trial run assembly of the iPhone SE in India, reports The Wall Street Journal. "We are beginning initial production of a small number of iPhone SE in Bengaluru," Apple said in a statement to TechCrunch. "iPhone SE is the most popular and powerful phone with a four-inch display in the world and we'll begin shipping to domestic customers this month." From the report: The four-inch SE is Apple's least expensive model, running $399 in the States. Some retailers in the country have managed to undercut the cost, lower the entry level price of the handset by around $80 -- but even at that price, it's still substantially more expensive than most. In spite of its relatively low pricing, the SE doesn't appear to have made quite the splash Apple was initially anticipating in the country. Apple has long been working to move production to the country, hoping, in part, to retake some of the market it has lost in China in recent years, as domestic handset sales have grown. Locals are hoping that such a move could reduce the retail cost of the SE even further, by as much as $100. But while $220 is certainly a lot more palatable, that still marks a substantial premium over the average handset price. It's the world's fastest growing market, having recently surpassed the U.S. to claim the number. The Indian market is expected to generate somewhere in the neighborhood of one billion smartphone sales over the next half-decade.

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Android Now Supports the Kotlin Programming Language

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 00:20
In addition to Java and C++, Google announced at its I/O 2017 conference today that Android is gaining official support for the Kotlin programming language. VentureBeat reports: Kotlin is developed by JetBrains, the same people who created IntelliJ. Google describes Kotlin, which is an open sourced project under the Apache 2.0 license, as "a brilliantly designed, mature language that we believe will make Android development faster and more fun." The company notes that some have already adopted the programming language for their production apps, including Expedia, Flipboard, Pinterest, and Square. There are already many enthusiastic Kotlin developers for Android, and the company says it is simply listening to what the community wants. But Google's choice didn't just come down to the team believing Kotlin will make writing Android apps easier. Developers will be happy to know that Kotlin's compiler emits Java byte-code. Kotlin can call Java, and Java can call Kotlin. Indeed, "the effortless interoperation between the two languages" was a large part of Kotlin's appeal to the Android team. This means you can add as little or as much Kotlin into your existing codebase as you want, mixing the two languages freely within the same project. Calling out to Kotlin code from Java code should just work, while calling to Java code requires some automatically applied translation conventions.

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The Republican Push To Repeal Net Neutrality Will Get Underway This Week

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 00:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Washington Post: Federal regulators will move to roll back one of the Obama administration's signature Internet policies this week, launching a process to repeal the government's net neutrality rules that currently regulate how Internet providers may treat websites and their own customers. The vote on Thursday, led by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, will kick off consideration of a proposal to relax regulations on companies such as Comcast and AT&T. If approved by the 2-1 Republican-majority commission, it will be a significant step for the broadband industry as it seeks more leeway under government rules to develop new business models. For consumer advocates and tech companies, it will be a setback; those groups argue that looser regulations won't prevent those business models from harming Internet users and website owners. The current rules force Internet providers to behave much like their cousins in the legacy telephone business. Under the FCC's net neutrality policy, providers cannot block or slow down consumers' Internet traffic, or charge websites a fee in order to be displayed on consumers' screens. The net neutrality rules also empower the FCC to investigate ISP practices that risk harming competition. Internet providers have chafed at the stricter rules governing phone service, which they say were written for a bygone era. Pai's effort to roll back the rules has led to a highly politicized debate. Underlying it is a complex policy decision with major implications for the future of the Web.

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Google Takes Another Shot At Making Android Great On Low-Budget Smartphones

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 23:20
At its developer conference, Google unveiled Android Go, a project wherein Google will offer a version of Android that runs swiftly on budget, low-specced smartphones. With the new strategy, Google hopes to further improve the low-budget smartphone ecosystem in developing markets. Android Go will be focused around building a version of Android for phones with less memory, with the System UI and kernel able to run with as little as 512MB of memory. Apps will be optimized for low bandwidth and memory, with a version of Play Store designed for those markets that will highlight these apps. From a report: Another feature of Android Go will be data management. Android Go will let you easily see your data usage, and thanks to carrier integration, it'll also let you top-up with more data right on your device.

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Google's Balloons Connect Flood-hit Peru

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 22:40
An anonymous reader writes: "Tens of thousands" of Peruvians have been getting online using Project Loon, the ambitious connectivity project from Google's parent company, Alphabet. Project Loon uses tennis court-sized balloons carrying a small box of equipment to beam internet access to a wide area below. The team told the BBC they had been testing the system in Peru when serious floods hit in January, and so the technology was opened up to people living in three badly-hit cities. Until now, only small-scale tests of the technology had taken place. Project Loon is in competition with other attempts to provide internet from the skies, including Facebook's Aquila project which is being worked on in the UK. Project Loon recently announced it had figured out how to use artificial intelligence (AI) to "steer" the balloons by raising or lowering them to piggy-back weather streams. It was this discovery that enabled the company to use just a "handful" of balloons to connect people in Lima, Chimbote, and Piura. The balloons were launched from the US territory of Puerto Rico before being guided south.

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Where Have All the Insects Gone?

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 22:00
Entomologists have been assessing diversity and abundance across western Germany and have found that between 1989 and 2013 the biomass of invertebrates caught had fallen by nearly 80 percent. From an article on Science magazine: Scientists have tracked alarming declines in domesticated honey bees, monarch butterflies, and lightning bugs. But few have paid attention to the moths, hover flies, beetles, and countless other insects that buzz and flitter through the warm months. "We have a pretty good track record of ignoring most noncharismatic species," which most insects are, says Joe Nocera, an ecologist at the University of New Brunswick in Canada. [...] A new set of long-term data is coming to light, this time from a dedicated group of mostly amateur entomologists who have tracked insect abundance at more than 100 nature reserves in western Europe since the 1980s. Over that time the group, the Krefeld Entomological Society, has seen the yearly insect catches fluctuate, as expected. But in 2013 they spotted something alarming. When they returned to one of their earliest trapping sites from 1989, the total mass of their catch had fallen by nearly 80%. Perhaps it was a particularly bad year, they thought, so they set up the traps again in 2014. The numbers were just as low. Through more direct comparisons, the group -- which had preserved thousands of samples over 3 decades -- found dramatic declines across more than a dozen other sites. Such losses reverberate up the food chain. "If you're an insect-eating bird living in that area, four-fifths of your food is gone in the last quarter-century, which is staggering," says Dave Goulson, an ecologist at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, who is working with the Krefeld group to analyze and publish some of the data. "One almost hopes that it's not representative -- that it's some strange artifact."

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Google Will Soon Add Job Listings To Search Results

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 21:21
Google's mission is to steer people to the information they need in their daily lives. One crucial area the Internet giant says could use some work: Jobs. USA Today adds: So Google is launching a new feature, Google for Jobs, that collects and organizes millions of job postings from all over the web to make them easier for job seekers to find. In coming weeks, a Google search for a cashier job in Des Moines or a software engineering gig in Boise will pop up job openings at the top of search results. With Google for Jobs, job hunters will be able to explore the listings across experience and wage levels by industry, category and location, refining these searches to find full or part-time roles or accessibility to public transportation. Google is determined to crack the code on matching available jobs with the right candidates, CEO Sundar Pichai said during his keynote address Wednesday at Google's annual I/O conference for software developers here. "The challenge of connecting job seekers to better information on job availability is like many search challenges we've solved in the past," he said.

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Popular Torrent Site ExtraTorrent Permanently Shuts Down

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 20:40
ExtraTorrent, the world's second largest torrent index, on Wednesday said it is permanently shutting its doors. The site, which launched in 2006, had steadily climbed the ranks in the piracy world to become the second most popular torrent site, observing millions of daily views. TorrentFreak adds: "ExtraTorrent with all mirrors goes offline.. We permanently erase all data. Stay away from fake ExtraTorrent websites and clones. Thx to all ET supporters and torrent community. ET was a place to beâ¦." TorrentFreak reached out to ExtraTorrent operator SaM who confirmed that this is indeed the end of the road for the site. "It's time we say goodbye," he said, without providing more details. [...] ExtraTorrent is the latest in a series of BitTorrent giants to fall in recent months. Previously, sites including KickassTorrents, Torrentz.eu, TorrentHound and What.cd went offline.

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Can You Copyright a Joke?

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 20:00
Reader AnalogDiehard writes: Writer Alex Kaseburg has filed a lawsuit against TBS and Time Warner alleging that jokes recited on the Conan O'Brien show were stolen from his blog shortly after they were published. The case gets heard in August and could create new protections in a legal forum in which there is little precedent or clear definition in what defines a joke as "original" and subject to legal protection, especially in an industry where theft of humor occurs on a regular basis. But the outcome of any judicial decision opens a big can of worms and raises serious questions: Will YouTube videos get shut down from DMCA notices citing copyrighted jokes? Will compliance staff have to be retained to ensure that their magazine or news article, TV show, movie, or broadway act is not infringing on copyrighted jokes? Will copyrights on jokes get near-perpetual protection like the controversial Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act? Will people be able to recite limericks without fear of infringing? Will tyrannical politicians copyright critical jokes to oppress freedom of speech? Will legal cases be filed arguing that a comedian's joke(s) bears too much similarity to a copyrighted joke recited decades ago? Will girl scouts be free to tell copyright jokes around the campfire?

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Google's Android Now Powers More Than 2 Billion Devices

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 19:20
At Google's developer conference IO 2017, CEO Sundar Pichai said Android is now running on more than two billion active devices. The milestone, Pichai said, Google achieved this month. CNET adds: It took three years for Android to double its user base, having disclosed that it had 1 billion active devices at its developer conference in 2014. In 2015, Google said that it had 1.4 billion active users on Android. While phones make up a bulk of its devices, it's starting to see a proliferation of other gadgets running on the software.

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Region-Locked Content Drives UK Users To Try a VPN

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 18:40
An anonymous reader writes: A new report has revealed that VPN usage in the UK has increased with almost one in six people now using a VPN alongside their internet connection. According to YouGov's 'Incognito Individual' report, 16 percent of British adults have used either a VPN or proxy server. This up-tick in users trying a VPN was often the direct result of trying access region-locked content or websites. Of those surveyed, 48 percent of respondents admitted to using a VPN or a proxy to access content they would otherwise be unable to view. VPNs are often used by security conscious individuals who are concerned with their privacy and not having their browsing data logged. YouGov's report found that 44 percent of VPN users utilised such a service for better security and that 37 percent did so for improved privacy.

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Software Is Eating the World, But AI Is Going To Eat Software, Nvidia CEO Says

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 18:00
An anonymous reader writes: Nvidia's revenues have started to climb in the recent quarters as it looks at making hardware customized for machine-learning algorithms and use cases such as autonomous cars. At the company's annual developer conference in San Jose, California last week, the company's CEO Jensen Huang spoke about how the machine-learning revolution is just starting. "Very few lines of code in the enterprises and industries all over the world use AI today. It's quite pervasive in Internet service companies, particularly two or three of them," Huang said. "But there's a whole bunch of others in tech and other industries that are trying to catch up. Software is eating the world, but AI is going to eat software."

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Chinese State Media Says US Should Take Some Blame For Cyberattack

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 17:20
An anonymous reader shares a CNBC report: Chinese state media on Wednesday criticized the United States for hindering efforts to stop global cyber threats in the wake of the WannaCry ransomware attack that has infected more than 300,000 computers worldwide in recent days. The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) should shoulder some blame for the attack, which targets vulnerabilities in Microsoft systems and has infected some 30,000 Chinese organisations as of Saturday, the China Daily said. "Concerted efforts to tackle cyber crimes have been hindered by the actions of the United States," it said, adding that Washington had "no credible evidence" to support bans on Chinese tech firms in the United States following the attack. The malware attack, which began on Friday and has been linked by some researchers to previous hits by a North Korean-run hacking operation, leveraged a tool built by the NSA that leaked online in April, Microsoft says.

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Many Nations Pin Climate Hopes On China, India As Hopes For Trump Fade

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 16:40
Twelve readers share a Reuters report: Many countries are pinning their hopes on China and India to lead efforts to slow climate change amid a growing sense of resignation that U.S. President Donald Trump will either withdraw from a global pact or stay and play a minimal role. Delegates at the May 8-18 negotiations in Bonn on a detailed "rule book" for the 2015 Paris Agreement, the first U.N. talks since Trump took office, say there is less foreboding than when Washington last broke with global climate efforts in 2001. Trump doubts global warming has a human cause and says he will decide on a campaign threat to "cancel" the Paris Agreement, the first to bind all nations to set goals to curb emissions, after a group of Seven summit in Italy on May 26-27. "The time when one big player could affect the whole game is past," said Ronald Jumeau, climate ambassador for the Seychelles. "There would be a void without the U.S., but China and India seem to be increasing their effort." Big emitters led by China, the European Union and India have reaffirmed their commitment to Paris, which seeks to phase out greenhouse gas emissions this century by shifting to clean energies. By contrast, Trump wants to favor U.S. coal.

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Qualcomm Sues Apple Contract Manufacturers

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 16:00
Qualcomm on Wednesday sued the manufacturers that make iPhones for Apple for failing to pay royalties on the chip maker's technology, widening its legal battle with the world's most valuable company. Qualcomm's lawsuit, filed Wednesday in a federal district court in San Diego, accuses Compal, Foxconn, Pegatron, and Wistron of breaching longstanding patent-licensing agreements with Qualcomm by halting royalty payments on Qualcomm technology used in iPhones and iPads. From a report: Apple sued Qualcomm in January, accusing it of overcharging for chips and refusing to pay some $1 billion in promised rebates. Qualcomm said in the complaint that Apple is trying to force the company to agree to a "unreasonable demand for a below-market direct license." Qualcomm said last month that Apple had decided to withhold royalty payments to its contract manufacturers that are owed to the chipmaker, for sales made in the first quarter of 2017, until the dispute is resolved in court. "While not disputing their contractual obligations to pay for the use of Qualcomm's inventions, the manufacturers say they must follow Apple's instructions not to pay," Qualcomm said in a statement on Wednesday.

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Chelsea Manning Set To Be Released From Prison, 28 Years Early

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 15:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning is set to walk out of prison Wednesday -- but she won't be entirely free. Manning's 35-year sentence for leaking an enormous trove of military intelligence records was commuted by President Barack Obama in January. But Manning is still appealing her conviction in a case that could take years, and the government has yet to respond to the appeal. And all the while, Private First Class Manning, 29, will remain an active duty soldier in the U.S. Army. She won't be paid a salary, and it's highly unlikely that she will be called to serve. But being placed on voluntary excess leave rather than discharged, says one of her attorneys, makes her vulnerable to new military punishment or charges if she steps out of line. Such an offense could be anything from getting into a fistfight to revealing previously unreleased classified information. Manning could even get into trouble with the military for speaking and writing. The Army private then known as Bradley Manning was just 22-year-old when she leaked nearly 750,000 military files and cables to WikiLeaks. Manning was court-martialed and sentenced in 2013 to 35 years in prison, with opportunity for parole after seven years served. n a statement given to the TODAY show the day after sentencing, Manning came out as a transgender woman. Last Tuesday, in Manning's first official statement about her plans after prison, she said, "I can see a future for myself as Chelsea."

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Apple Receives Patents For Bezel-Free Display, Touch ID Button Embedded In Screen

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 12:00
Apple has just been granted patents for two of the biggest features expected from the iPhone 8: an edge-to-edge display, and a Touch ID button embedded into the screen. 9to5Mac reports: The edge-to-edge display patent has the rather mundane heading "Reducing the border area of a device." It describes how a mostly-flat display can have a curved border area allowing it to wrap around the sides of the device: [...] "This relates to methods and systems for reducing the border areas of an electronic device so as to maximize the display/interactive touch areas of the device. In particular, a flexible substrate can be used to fabricate the display panel and/or the touch sensor panel (referred to collectively herein as a 'circuit panel') of a mobile electronic device so that the edges of the display panel and/or the touch sensor panel can be bent. Bending the edges can reduce the width (or length) of the panel, which in turn can allow the overall device to be narrower without reducing the display/touch-active area of the device." The embedded Touch ID patent is one of many submitted by Apple, describing different approaches it could take. This one re-uses language from a separate patent granted back in February, describing the benefits of allowing a user to authenticate without having to remove their finger from the screen: "Where a fingerprint sensor is integrated into an electronic device or host device, for example, as noted above, it may be desirable to more quickly perform authentication, particularly while performing another task or an application on the electronic device. In other words, in some instances it may be undesirable to have a user perform an authentication in a separate authentication step, for example switching between tasks to perform the authentication." Apple has been granted a total of 56 patents today. For more information, visit Patently Apple.

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AMD Unveils 'EPYC' Server CPUs, Ryzen Mobile, Threadripper CPU and Radeon Vega Frontier Edition GPU

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 09:00
MojoKid writes: Today, at its financial analyst day, AMD lifted the veil on a number of new products based on the company's Zen CPU architecture and next generation Vega GPU architecture. AMD CEO Lisa Su lifted a very large server chip in the air that the company now has branded EPYC. AMD is going for the jugular when it comes to comparisons with Intel's Xeon family, providing up to 128 PCI Express 3.0 lanes, which Su says "allows you to connect more GPUs directly to the CPU than any other solution in the industry." EPYC currently scales to 32 cores/64 threads per socket and supports up to 8-channel DDR4 memory (16 DIMMs per CPU, up to 4TB total memory support). AMD also confirmed the previously rumored Threadripper CPU, a 16-core/32-thread beast of a chip for the enthusiast desktop PC space. AMD's Raja Koduri, Senior Vice President and Chief Architect for Radeon Technologies Group, also unveiled Radeon Vega Frontier Edition, a workstation and pro graphics card targeted at VR content creation, visualization and machine learning. Radeon Vega Frontier Edition offers 13 TFLOPS of FP32 throughput, 25 TFLOPS of FP16 performance and is powered by 64 computer units and 16GB of HMB2 memory for about 480GB/sec of memory bandwidth. The cards are expected to ship in June but there was no word just yet on when consumer versions of Vega will hit. Finally, AMD also shared info on Ryzen Mobile, which will incorporate both the Zen CPU architecture and an integrated Vega GPU core. Compared to AMD's 7th generation APUs, AMD claims Ryzen Mobile will up CPU performance by 50 percent while offering 40 percent better graphics performance. AMD also claimed those gains will not come at the expense of battery life, with a 50 percent reduction in power consumption, which reportedly will pave the way for faster, longer lasting premium notebooks and 2-in-1 devices.

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