Star Wars Prequels

Saudi Arabian Textbook Shows Yoda Joining The UN (bbc.com) 35

Long-time Slashdot reader Mikkeles quotes the BBC: Saudi Arabia's education minister has apologised for the production of a school textbook in which the Star Wars character Yoda is seen superimposed on a photograph of the late King Faisal... The image, which shows the diminutive Jedi Master sitting beside King Faisal as he signs the UN Charter in 1945, was created by the Saudi artist Shaweesh. He told the BBC it was not yet clear how it had ended up in the textbook... The 2013 artwork, entitled United Nations (Yoda), is part of a series in which symbols of American pop culture -- ranging from Captain America to Darth Vader -- are superimposed onto archive photos of historical events... Shaweesh said he included Yoda because, like King Faisal, he was "wise, strong and calm".
"Someone should have checked the image before printing," he added.
Books

Inside Amazon's Warehouses: Thousands of Senior Citizens and the Occasional Robot Mishap (wired.com) 76

Amazon aggressively recruited thousands of retirees living in mobile homes to migrate to Amazon's warehouses for seasonal work, according to a story shared by nightcats. Wired reports:From a hiring perspective, the RVers were a dream labor force. They showed up on demand and dispersed just before Christmas in what the company cheerfully called a "taillight parade." They asked for little in the way of benefits or protections. And though warehouse jobs were physically taxing -- not an obvious fit for older bodies -- recruiters came to see CamperForce workers' maturity as an asset. These were diligent, responsible employees. Their attendance rates were excellent. "We've had folks in their eighties who do a phenomenal job for us," noted Kelly Calmes, a CamperForce representative, in one online recruiting seminar... In a company presentation, one slide read, "Jeff Bezos has predicted that, by the year 2020, one out of every four workampers in the United States will have worked for Amazon."
The article is adapted from a new book called "Nomadland," which also describes seniors in mobile homes being recruited for sugar beet harvesting and jobs at an Iowa amusement park, as well as work as campground hsots at various national parks. Many of them "could no longer afford traditional housing," especially after the financial downturn of 2008.

But at least they got to hear stories from their trainers at Amazon about the occasional "unruly" shelf-toting "Kiva" robot: They told us how one robot had tried to drag a worker's stepladder away. Occasionally, I was told, two Kivas -- each carrying a tower of merchandise -- collided like drunken European soccer fans bumping chests. And in April of that year, the Haslet fire department responded to an accident at the warehouse involving a can of "bear repellent" (basically industrial-grade pepper spray). According to fire department records, the can of repellent was run over by a Kiva and the warehouse had to be evacuated.
Cellphones

Apple's Swift 4.0 Includes A Compatibility Mode For 'The Majority' Of Swift 3.x Code (infoworld.com) 102

An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld: Swift 4.0 is now available. It's a major upgrade to Apple's Swift, the three-year old successor to the Objective-C language used for MacOS and iOS application development. The Swift 4 upgrade enhances the Swift Package Manager and provides new compatibility modes for developers. Apple said Swift 4 also makes Swift more stable and improves its standard library. Swift 4 is largely source-compatible with Swift 3 and ships as part of Apple's Xcode 9 IDE...

Swift 4's new compatibility modes could save you from having to modify code to be able to use the new version of the compiler. Two modes are supported, including the Swift 3.2 mode, which accepts most source files built with Swift 3.x compilers, and the Swift 4.0 mode, which includes Swift 4 and API changes. Apple said that some source migration will be needed for many projects, but the number of source changes are "quite modest" compared to many previous major changes between Swift releases.

Apple calls Swift 4.0 "a major language release" that also includes new language changes and updates that came through the Swift Evolution process.
Open Source

Facebook Relents, Switches React, Flow, Immuable.js and Jest To MIT License (theregister.co.uk) 46

An anonymous reader quotes the Register: Faced with growing dissatisfaction about licensing requirements for some of its open-source projects, Facebook said it will move React, Jest, Flow, and Immutable.js under the MIT license next week. "We're relicensing these projects because React is the foundation of a broad ecosystem of open source software for the web, and we don't want to hold back forward progress for nontechnical reasons," said Facebook engineering director Adam Wolff in a blog post on Friday. Wolff said while Facebook continues to believe its BSD + Patents license has benefits, "we acknowledge that we failed to decisively convince this community"... Wolff said the updated licensing scheme will arrive next week with the launch of React 16, a rewrite of the library designed for more efficient operation at scale.
Facebook was facing strong criticism from the Apache Software Foundation and last week Wordpress.com had announced plans to move away from React.

"Wolff said Facebook considered a license change for its other open-source projects, but wasn't ready to commit to anything," the Register adds. "Some projects, he said, will keep the BSD + Patents license."
IBM

IBM Open Sources 'WebSphere Liberty' For Java Microservices and Cloud-Native Apps (techrepublic.com) 16

An anonymous reader quotes TechRepublic: On Wednesday, IBM revealed the Open Liberty project, open sourcing its WebSphere Liberty code on GitHub to support Java microservices and cloud-native apps. The company created Liberty five years ago to help developers more quickly and easily create applications using agile and DevOps principles, according to an IBM developerWorks blog post from Ian Robinson, WebSphere Foundation chief architect at IBM... Developers can also choose to move to the commercial versions of WebSphere Liberty at any time, he noted, which include technical support and more specialized features... "We hope Open Liberty will help more developers turn their ideas into full-fledged, enterprise ready apps," Robinson wrote. "We also hope it will broaden the WebSphere family to include more ideas and innovations to benefit the broader Java community of developers at organizations big and small."
IBM argues that Open Liberty, along with the OpenJ9 VM they open sourced last week, "provides the full Java stack from IBM with a fully open licensing model."

Interestingly, Slashdot ran a story asking "IBM WebSphere SE To Be Opened?" -- back in 2000.
Iphone

Hackers Using iCloud's Find My iPhone Feature To Remotely Lock Macs, Demand Ransom Payments (macrumors.com) 57

AmiMoJo shares a report from Mac Rumors: Over the last day or two, several Mac users appear to have been locked out of their machines after hackers signed into their iCloud accounts and initiated a remote lock using Find My iPhone. With access to an iCloud user's username and password, Find My iPhone on iCloud.com can be used to "lock" a Mac with a passcode even with two-factor authentication turned on, and that's what's going on here. Affected users who have had their iCloud accounts hacked are receiving messages demanding money for the passcode to unlock a locked Mac device. The usernames and passwords of the iCloud accounts affected by this "hack" were likely found through various site data breaches and have not been acquired through a breach of Apple's servers. Impacted users likely used the same email addresses, account names, and passwords for multiple accounts, allowing people with malicious intent to figure out their iCloud details.
Power

Court Rules That Imported Solar Panels Are Bad For US Manufacturing (theverge.com) 278

The International Trade Commission has ruled that American companies are being hurt by cheap solar panels from overseas, providing an opportunity for President Donald Trump to tax imports from countries like China. The Verge reports: Today's unanimous decision ruled that the companies SolarWorld Americans and Suniva were struggling financially not because of their own poor management, but because they couldn't compete with cheap panels from countries like China, Mexico, and South Korea. Suniva is now suggesting import duties of 40 cents a watt for solar cells, and a floor price of 78 cents a watt for panels. (Right now, the average floor price, worldwide, for panels is about 32 cents.) The Solar Energy Industries Association warned that implementing these suggestions could end up doubling the price of solar, thus destroying demand and causing Americans to lose their jobs.
Google

Google Experiment Tests Top 5 Browsers, Finds Safari Riddled With Security Bugs (bleepingcomputer.com) 103

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Bleeping Computer: The Project Zero team at Google has created a new tool for testing browser DOM engines and has unleashed it on today's top five browsers, finding most bugs in Apple's Safari. Results showed that Safari had by far the worst DOM engine, with 17 new bugs discovered after Fratric's test. Second was Edge with 6, then IE and Firefox with 4, and last was Chrome with only 2 new issues. The tests were carried out with a new fuzzing tool created by Google engineers named Domato, also open-sourced on GitHub. This is the third fuzzing tool Google creates and releases into open-source after OSS-Fuzz and syzkaller. Researchers focused on testing DOM engines for vulnerabilities because they expect them to be the next target for browser exploitation after Flash reaches end-of-life in 2020.
Communications

Verizon Backtracks Slightly In Plan To Kick Customers Off Network (arstechnica.com) 49

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Verizon Wireless is giving a reprieve to some rural customers who are scheduled to be booted off their service plans, but only in cases when customers have no other options for cellular service. Verizon recently notified 8,500 customers in 13 states that they will be disconnected on October 17 because they used roaming data on another network. But these customers weren't doing anything wrong -- they are being served by rural networks that were set up for the purpose of extending Verizon's reach into rural areas. Today, Verizon said it is extending the deadline to switch providers to December 1. The company is also letting some customers stay on the network -- although they must switch to a new service plan. "If there is no alternative provider in your area, you can switch to the S (2GB), M (4GB), 5GB single-line, or L (8GB) Verizon plan, but you must do so by December 1," Verizon said in a statement released today. These plans range from $35 to $70 a month, plus $20 "line fees" for each line. The 8,500 customers who received disconnection letters have a total of 19,000 lines. Verizon sells unlimited plans in most of the country but said only those limited options would be available to these customers. Verizon also reiterated its promise that first responders will be able to keep their Verizon service even though some public safety officials received disconnection notices. "We have become aware of a very small number of affected customers who may be using their personal phones in their roles as first responders and another small group who may not have another option for wireless service," Verizon said. "After listening to these folks, we are committed to resolving these issues in the best interest of the customers and their communities. We're committed to ensuring first responders in these areas keep their Verizon service."
Businesses

Nestle Makes Billions Bottling Water It Pays Nearly Nothing For (bloomberg.com) 372

Nestle, the world's largest food and beverage company, has been bottling water since 1843 and has grown into the largest seller of bottled water. But a detailed report on Bloomberg uncovers the company's operation in Michigan, revealing that Nestle has come to dominate in the industry in part by going into economically depressed areas with lax water laws. It makes billions selling a product for which it pays close to nothing. Find the Bloomberg Businessweek article here (it might be paywalled, here's an alternative source).
Businesses

Anatomy of a Moral Panic: Reports About Amazon Suggesting 'Bomb-Making Items' Were Highly Misleading (idlewords.com) 76

Maciej Ceglowski, a Polish-American web developer, has demolished a news story from earlier this week in which a British outlet Channel 4 suggested that Amazon's algorithm-driven suggestions were helping people find items that are required to make bombs. Multiple credible news outlets picked the story, including The New York Times, Reuters, BBC, and CNBC. We ran an excerpt from the New York Times' article, which included a newsworthy response from Amazon that it was reviewing its website, on Slashdot. In reality what was happening was, Ceglowski wrote, the items Amazon suggested would help high school chemistry students with their experiments. From his blog: The 'common chemical compound' in Channel 4's report is potassium nitrate, an ingredient used in curing meat. If you go to Amazon's page to order a half-kilo bag of the stuff, you'll see the suggested items include sulfur and charcoal, the other two ingredients of gunpowder. [...] The Channel 4 piece goes on to reveal that people searching for 'another widely available chemical' are being offered the ingredients for thermite, a mixture of metal powders that when ignited "creates a hazardous reaction used in incendiary bombs and for cutting through steel." In this case, the 'widely available chemical' is magnesium ribbon. If you search for this ribbon on Amazon, the site will offer to sell you iron oxide (rust) and aluminum powder, which you can mix together to create a spectacular bit of fireworks called the thermite reaction. The thermite reaction is performed in every high school chemistry classroom, as a fun reward for students who have had to suffer through a baffling unit on redox reactions. [...] When I contacted the author of one of these pieces to express my concerns, they explained that the piece had been written on short deadline that morning, and they were already working on an unrelated article. The author cited coverage in other mainstream outlets (including the New York Times) as justification for republishing and not correcting the assertions made in the original Channel 4 report. The real story in this mess is not the threat that algorithms pose to Amazon shoppers, but the threat that algorithms pose to journalism. By forcing reporters to optimize every story for clicks, not giving them time to check or contextualize their reporting, and requiring them to race to publish follow-on articles on every topic, the clickbait economics of online media encourage carelessness and drama. This is particularly true for technical topics outside the reporter's area of expertise. And reporters have no choice but to chase clicks.
Red Hat Software

Red Hat Pledges Patent Protection For 99 Percent of FOSS-ware (theregister.co.uk) 65

Red Hat says it has amassed over 2,000 patents and won't enforce them if the technologies they describe are used in properly-licensed open-source software. From a report: The company has made more or less the same offer since 2002, when it first made a "Patent Promise" in order to "discourage patent aggression in free and open source software." Back then the company didn't own many patents and claimed its non-enforcement promise covered 35 per cent of open-source software. The Promise was revised in order to reflect the company's growing patent trove and to spruce up the language it uses to make it more relevant. The revised promise "applies to all software meeting the free software or open source definitions of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) or the Open Source Initiative (OSI)." [...] It's not a blank cheque. Hardware isn't covered and Red Hat is at pains to point out that "Our Promise is not an assurance that Red Hat's patents are enforceable or that practicing Red Hat's patented inventions does not infringe others' patents or other intellectual property." But the company says 99 percent of FOSS software should be covered by the Promise.
Businesses

Apple's Latest Products Get Rare Mixed-Bag Reviews, Muted Reception (bloomberg.com) 204

Mark Gurman, writing for Bloomberg: Despite the strength of its brand, Apple occasionally releases a product to mediocre reviews -- remember the original Apple TV or Apple Watch? But reviewers have rarely been as grumpy as this month, when Apple unveiled its collection of new gadgets for the holidays. "I can't think of a single compelling reason to upgrade [to iPhone 8, or iPhone 8 Plus] from an iPhone 7 [which was launched last year]," wrote Nilay Patel of The Verge. Another potential sign of trouble: the iPhone 8 models didn't sell out during pre-orders, another rare occurrence for Apple phones. [...] Reviewing the new Apple Watch Series 3 model, The Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern wrote "On the AT&T-connected models, the cellular connection dropped, calls were often choppy and Siri sometimes failed to connect. On the one that ran on T-Mobile, I experienced several dropped connections." The Verge's Lauren Goode noticed a serious connection issue as well, saying the device "would appear to pick up a single bar of some random Wi-Fi signal, and hang on that, rather than switching to LTE." [...] Reviewing the Apple TV 4K, The Verge's Patel noted the device's high price, a lack of 4K support in major apps including YouTube, and a lack of support for the Dolby Atmos audio standard. Reuters reported on Friday: Hundreds of people usually gather at Apple's Sydney city store with queues winding down the town's main street, George Street, when there is a new product release. But there were fewer than 30 people lining up before the store opened on Friday, according to a Reuters witness. While the number of people queuing up outside Apple stores have dropped over the years with many opting for online purchases, the weak turnout for the latest iPhone has partly been due to poor reviews. Over at Financial Times, Tim Bradshaw reports: "I think demand is down from last year, for no other reason than you have another flagship phone," said Neil Cybart, an Apple analyst at Above Avalon. "A portion of the iPhone launch demand is not materialising quite yet." That could leave this weekend's initial sales lower than at any point since the iPhone 6 first launched in 2014, Mr Cybart added. Apple's decision to increase prices for the iPhone 8 compared with last year's model and a less aggressive launch push by mobile carriers could also affect demand.
Communications

T-Mobile, Sprint Close To Agreeing Deal Terms (reuters.com) 81

From a report: T-Mobile US is close to agreeing tentative terms on a deal to merge with peer Sprint Corp, people familiar with the matter said on Friday, a major breakthrough in efforts to merge the third and fourth largest U.S. wireless carriers. The development follows more than four months of on-and-off talks this year between T-Mobile and Sprint, and comes as the U.S. telecommunications sector seeks ways to tackle investments in 5G technology that will greatly enhance wireless data transfer speeds.
Businesses

London Has Decided To Ban Uber (recode.net) 213

Johana Bhuiyan, writing for Recode: Transport for London, the taxi regulating service in London, announced today that it would not be renewing Uber's license to operate because of concerns over the company's "lack of corporate responsibility" in relation to public safety issues. The ride-hail company, which launched in London in 2012, is appealing the TfL's decision and will be allowed to continue to operate until a court makes a decision on that appeal. That process could take months. London is a significant market for Uber: The company says there are 40,000 drivers and 3.5 million riders on its platform in London. And like New York City, it is one of the most regulated markets where Uber operates. Unlike most markets across the U.S., Uber drivers in London and New York City are required to participate in government administered background checks.

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