Communications

Fake News Sharing In US Is a Rightwing Thing, Says Oxford Study (theguardian.com) 997

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Low-quality, extremist, sensationalist and conspiratorial news published in the U.S. was overwhelmingly consumed and shared by rightwing social network users, according to a new study from the University of Oxford. The study, from the university's "computational propaganda project", looked at the most significant sources of "junk news" shared in the three months leading up to Donald Trump's first State of the Union address this January, and tried to find out who was sharing them and why. "On Twitter, a network of Trump supporters consumes the largest volume of junk news, and junk news is the largest proportion of news links they share," the researchers concluded. On Facebook, the skew was even greater. There, "extreme hard right pages -- distinct from Republican pages -- share more junk news than all the other audiences put together." The research involved monitoring a core group of around 13,500 politically-active U.S. Twitter users, and a separate group of 48,000 public Facebook pages, to find the external websites that they were sharing.
Facebook

Facebook Hired a Full-Time Pollster To Monitor Zuckerberg's Approval Ratings (theverge.com) 109

According to The Verge, Facebook hired a full-time pollster to track Mark Zuckerberg's approval ratings last year as the young CEO was making his 50-state tour across the country. The pollster, Tavis McGinn, reportedly "decided to leave the company after only six months after coming to believe that Facebook had a negative effect on the world." From the report: It was April, and Facebook was caught up in the fallout of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. After initially discounting the possibility that fake news had contributed to Donald Trump's victory, Facebook acknowledged that Russia-linked groups had spent more than $100,000 on political advertising. Zuckerberg undertook a nationwide listening tour modeled after a modern political campaign. McGinn would fill another role common to political campaigns: leading an ongoing poll operation dedicated to tracking minute changes in Zuckerberg's public perception. "It was a very unusual role," McGinn says. "It was my job to do surveys and focus groups globally to understand why people like Mark Zuckerberg, whether they think they can trust him, and whether they've even heard of him. That's especially important outside of the United States."

McGinn tracked a wide range of questions related to Zuckerberg's public perception. "Not just him in the abstract, but do people like Mark's speeches? Do they like his interviews with the press? Do people like his posts on Facebook? It's a bit like a political campaign, in the sense that you're constantly measuring how every piece of communication lands. If Mark's doing a barbecue in his backyard and he hops on Facebook Live, how do people respond to that?" Facebook worked to develop an understanding of Zuckerberg's perception that went beyond simple "thumbs-up" or "thumbs-down" metrics, McGinn says. "If Mark gives a speech and he's talking about immigration and universal health care and access to equal education, it's looking at all the different topics that Mark mentions and seeing what resonates with different audiences in the United States," he says. "It's very advanced research."

The Internet

FCC Report Claims Broken Broadband Market Has Been Fixed By Killing Net Neutrality (vice.com) 116

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: The FCC has released a new report falsely claiming that the agency's attack on net neutrality is already paying huge dividends when it comes to sector investment and competition. Unfortunately for the FCC, the data the agency is relying on to "prove" this claim comes from before current FCC boss Ajit Pai even took office and doesn't remotely support that conclusion. The Trump FCC's latest broadband deployment report [concludes] that "advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion." That claim comes despite the fact that this same data also shows that two thirds of U.S. homes lack access to 25 Mbps broadband from more than one ISP, resulting in numerous broadband monopolies in markets nationwide.

An accompanying press release goes on to claim that "steps taken last year have restored progress by removing barriers to infrastructure investment, promoting competition, and restoring the longstanding bipartisan light-touch regulatory framework for broadband that had been reversed by the Title II Order." The FCC has repeatedly tried to claim that the FCC's 2015 net neutrality rules devastated sector investment -- despite the fact this is easily disproved by ISP earnings reports, SEC filings, and numerous CEO statements to investors. That hasn't stopped this FCC from repeating this claim anyway, apparently hoping that repetition forges reality.
"The problem: these deployments aren't new, and industry watchers note that they all technically began under the oversight of the previous FCC," Motherboard concludes. "All of the examples provided by the agency cite deployments that predominantly occurred in 2017 as the result of obligations attached to mergers or subsidies under the previous Tom Wheeler-run FCC."
Facebook

Facebook is Talking About Expanding Its TV-like Service, Watch, Into a Rival To YouTube (cnbc.com) 33

Facebook is talking about expanding its TV-like service, Watch, into a rival to Google's YouTube by opening the platform to more individual creators, CNBC reports citing people familiar with the plans. From the report: This would increase the amount of long-form video content that Facebook can sell ads against, and could reverse a decline in the time users are spending on the site. Facebook wants to allow more people to create their own shows on Watch, according to three media agencies who asked they remain anonymous because the conversations are private. Instead of buying rights to these shows, however, Facebook wants to create a system where creators can upload their shows for free, then earn a cut of the revenue from ads placed on that content -- similar to how YouTube pays its online creators. Another source with knowledge of the situation said Facebook's ultimate goal is to create a sustainable ad-supported video platform, where it won't have to pay for the majority of content.
Transportation

Female Uber Drivers Get Paid Less Than Men, Says Study (recode.net) 338

According to a new study by Uber and Stanford economists, male Uber drivers get paid 7 percent more than their female counterparts in the U.S. "That's surprising, because Uber's driver assignments and pay are gender-blind, meaning a driver's gender isn't considered when matching riders or assigning fares," reports Recode. "Rather, pay has to do with trip length, distance and whether it's happening during surge-price hours or not." From the report: There are more male drivers -- women make up 27 percent of Uber drivers in the U.S. -- and male drivers tend to work longer hours. However, on an hourly rate, women still make less, according to the data, which measured trips by 1.8 million drivers from 2015 to 2017. According to the study, discrimination on the customer side isn't the reason for the pay gap, either. So why are female Uber drivers paid less than men? The study points to three reasons that make the gap disappear:

When and where: The times and places female Uber drivers work seem to be less profitable. That could be fewer overnight shifts, shifts with shorter wait times or surge-price shifts than men.
Driver experience: Drivers who've been with Uber longer get paid more, on account of knowing which routes and times tend to pay more. In general, men work for Uber longer than women so they are more experienced. The attrition rate after six months is 77 percent for women and 65 percent for men.
Speed: Male Uber drivers conduct more trips per hour than women, meaning they're actually driving faster, according to the data. More trips mean more money. About 50 percent of the earnings gap is explained away by differences in driving speed.

Japan

Japan Wants To Increase Acceptance of Technology That Could Help Fill the Gap in the Nursing Workforce (theguardian.com) 57

With Japan's ageing society facing a predicted shortfall of 370,000 caregivers by 2025, the government wants to increase community acceptance of technology that could help fill the gap in the nursing workforce. From a report: Developers have focused their efforts on producing simple robotic devices that help frail residents get out of their bed and into a wheelchair, or that can ease senior citizens into bathtubs. But the government sees a wider range of potential applications and recently revised its list of priorities to include robots that can predict when patients might need to use the toilet. Dr Hirohisa Hirukawa, director of robot innovation research at Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, said the aims included easing the burden on nursing staff and boosting the autonomy of people still living at home. "Robotics cannot solve all of these issues; however, robotics will be able to make a contribution to some of these difficulties," he said. Hirukawa said lifting robotics had so far been deployed in only about 8% of nursing homes in Japan, partly because of the cost and partly because of the "the mindset by the people on the frontline of caregiving that after all it must be human beings who provide this kind of care."
Chrome

A Bug in Browser Extension Grammarly, Now Patched, Could Have Allowed an Attacker To Read Everything Users Wrote Online (gizmodo.com) 57

Copyediting app Grammarly included a gaping security hole that left users of its browser extension open to more embarrassment than just misspelled words. From a report: The Grammarly browser extension for Chrome and Firefox contained a "high severity bug" that was leaking authentication tokens, according to a bug report by Tavis Ormandy, a security researcher with Google's Project Zero. This meant that any website a Grammarly user visited could access the user's "documents, history, logs, and all other data," according to Ormandy. Grammarly provides automated copyediting for virtually anything you type into a browser that has the extension enabled, from blogs to tweets to emails to your attorney. In other words, there is an unfathomable number of scenarios in which this kind of major vulnerability could result in disastrous real-world consequences. Grammarly has approximately 22 million users, according to Ormandy, and the company told Gizmodo in an email that it "has no evidence that any user information was compromised" by the security hole. "We're continuing to monitor actively for any unusual activity," a Grammarly spokesperson said.
Youtube

YouTube Kids App Still Showing Disturbing Videos (bbc.co.uk) 169

YouTube says it is "very sorry" after more disturbing videos were found on the YouTube Kids app. From a report: BBC's Newsround found several videos not suitable for children, including one showing how to sharpen knives. Another had characters from children's cartoon Paw Patrol on a burning plane. YouTube has been criticised for using algorithms rather than human curators to decide what appears on YouTube Kids. In 2015, two child safety groups complained after disturbing videos were found on the YouTube Kids app. YouTube said it needed to "do more" to tackle inappropriate videos being seen by children. Newsround had arranged for five children to meet Google's Katie O'Donovan. They spoke about distressing videos they had seen on the main YouTube website and app. The videos included images of clowns with blood on them, scary advertisements and messages telling them someone was at their door.
Earth

The Arctic is Full of Toxic Mercury, and Climate Change is Going To Release it (washingtonpost.com) 195

We already knew that thawing Arctic permafrost would release powerful greenhouse gases. On Monday, scientists revealed it could also release massive amounts of mercury -- a potent neurotoxin and serious threat to human health. From a report: Permafrost, the Arctic's frozen soil, acts as a massive ice trap that keeps carbon stuck in the ground and out of the atmosphere -- where, if released as carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas would drive global warming. But as humans warm the climate, they risk thawing that permafrost and releasing that carbon, with microbial organisms becoming more active and breaking down the ancient plant life that had previously been preserved in the frozen earth. That would further worsen global warming, further thawing the Arctic -- and so on. That cycle would be scary enough, but U.S. government scientists on Monday revealed that the permafrost also contains large volumes of mercury, a toxic element humans have already been pumping into the air by burning coal. There are 32 million gallons worth of mercury, or the equivalent of 50 Olympic swimming pools, trapped in the permafrost, the scientists wrote in a study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. For context, that's "twice as much mercury as the rest of all soils, the atmosphere, and ocean combined," they wrote.
Open Source

A Look at How Indian Women Have Persevered Through Several Obstacles To Contribute to the Open Source Community (factordaily.com) 274

A fascinating story of how Indian women have persevered through various roadblocks, including cultural, to actively contribute to the open source community. An excerpt from the story: As Vaishali Thakker, a 23-year old open source programmer looked over the hall filled with around 200 people, she didn't know how to react to what she had just heard. Thakker was one of the five women on the stage at PyCon India 2017, a conference on the use of the Python programming language, in New Delhi. The topic of the discussion was "Women in open source." As the women started discussing the open source projects they had been working on, the challenges and so on, someone from the audience got up and drew the attention of the gathering to the wi-fi hotspots in the hall. They were named "Shut the fk up" and "Feminism sucks." "It was right on our faces," remembers Thakker. For their part, the organisers were upset and even warned the audience. But the event had no code of conduct for anyone to really penalise or expel the culprits.

"It's disheartening when you're talking about the problem, someone is actually giving a proof that it (gender bias) indeed is a problem. In a way, I found it funny, because how stupid can you be to give the proof that the problem actually exists," says Thakker. And how. It's just been three years in her coding career but she is familiar with the high wall that gender stereotyping puts up in the world of software scripting. More so in her chosen field of coding. Thakker is among a small -- but fast-growing -- set of women coders from India shaping the future of several open source platforms globally including the Linux kernel, the core software program behind the world's biggest eponymous open source software.

Youtube

Senator Warns YouTube Algorithm May Be Open To Manipulation By 'Bad Actors' (theguardian.com) 179

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The top-ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee has warned that YouTube's powerful recommendation algorithm may be "optimizing for outrageous, salacious and often fraudulent content" or susceptible to "manipulation by bad actors, including foreign intelligence entities." Senator Mark Warner, of Virginia, made the stark warning after an investigation by the Guardian found that the Google-owned video platform was systematically promoting divisive and conspiratorial videos that were damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign in the months leading up to the 2016 election.

"Companies like YouTube have immense power and influence in shaping the media and content that users see," Warner said. "I've been increasingly concerned that the recommendation engine algorithms behind platforms like YouTube are, at best, intrinsically flawed in optimizing for outrageous, salacious and often fraudulent content." He added: "At worst, they can be highly susceptible to gaming and manipulation by bad actors, including foreign intelligence entities."
YouTube's algorithm determines which videos to promote in the "Up next" column beside the video player. The Guardian found that "the algorithm was six times more likely to recommend videos that was damaging to Clinton than Trump, and also tended to amplify wild conspiracy theories about the former secretary of state."
Businesses

US Startups Don't Want To Go Public Anymore (qz.com) 154

According to a new working paper from the National Bureau of Economics, the number of American firms listed publicly in the U.S. has dropped more than half. In 1997, more than 7,500 American firms were listed publicly in the U.S. Nearly two decades later, in 2016, the number had dropped to 3,618 firms. Quartz reports: The crux of the issue is that U.S. startups are increasingly shunning stock market boards. That could have worrying implications for America's long-term economic prospects. One big reason young companies are shying away from IPOs is that public listings don't offer much benefit to promising startups, say the paper's authors, economists Craig Doidge, Kathleen Kahle, Andrew Karolyi, and Rene Stulz. In fact, going public can hurt them. The upside of public listing is that it lets companies raise huge sums of capital, issue more shares, issue debt with relative ease, and use equity to fund acquisitions. But because of the ways the American economy has evolved, those advantages are less important than they once were.

When industry powered U.S. growth, companies grew by spending on capital investments like factories and machinery. Back in 1975, firms once spent six times more on capital investments than they did on research and development. But as the U.S. shifted toward a services and knowledge-based economy, intangible investments became increasingly important. In 2002, R&D expenditures for the average firm surpassed capital expenditures for the first time. It's stayed that way since; nowadays, average R&D spending is roughly twice that of capital expenditures. The problem is, two features of public listings -- disclosure and accounting standards -- make things tough on companies with more intangible assets. U.S. securities law requires companies to disclose their activities in detail. But startups are wary of sharing information that might benefit their competitors.

The Almighty Buck

New York's $6 Billion Plan For Offshore Wind Shows That Oil Drilling Really Is On the Way Out (businessinsider.com) 399

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Business Insider: Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a plan earlier this month to develop $6 billion of offshore wind projects off the southern coast of Long Island by 2028 and predicted that the industry would bring 5,000 jobs to the state. The plan calls for developing 2.4 gigawatts -- enough to power 1.2 million homes -- by 2030. It's all part of New York's Clean Energy Standard, which requires 50% of the state's electricity come from renewable sources like solar and wind. The move comes as President Donald Trump earlier this month announced a five-year plan to open up areas of the East Coast to offshore drilling.

"While the federal government continues to turn its back on protecting natural resources and plots to open up our coastline to drilling, New York is doubling down on our commitment to renewable energy and the industries of tomorrow," Cuomo said in a statement. Cuomo has asked Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke for an exemption from the drilling plan, saying in an open letter that the plan "undermines New York's efforts to combat climate change by shifting from greenhouse gas emitting fossil energy sources to renewable sources, such as offshore wind." The report identifies a 1 million acre site approximately 20 miles south of Long Island that would best support the wind turbines, and "ensure that, for the vast majority of the time, turbines would have no discernible or visible impact from the casual viewer on the shore."
The report also notes that New Jersey announced a similar plan last Wednesday to develop 3.5 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity off its coast.
Bitcoin

Man Sues T-Mobile For Allegedly Failing To Stop Hackers From Stealing His Cryptocurrency (theverge.com) 133

Over the weekend, a lawsuit was filed against T-Mobile claiming that the company's lack of security allowed hackers to enter his wireless account last fall and steal cryptocoins worth thousands of dollars. "Carlos Tapang of Washington state accuses T-Mobile of having 'improperly allowed wrongdoers to access' his wireless account on November 7th last year," reports The Verge. "The hackers then cancelled his number and transferred it to an AT&T account under their control. 'T-Mobile was unable to contain this security breach until the next day,' when it finally got the number back from AT&T, Tapang alleges in the suit, first spotted by Law360." From the report: After gaining control of his phone number, the hackers were able to change the password on one of Tapang's cryptocurrency accounts and steal 1,000 OmiseGo (OMG) tokens and 19.6 BitConnect coins, Tapang claims. The hackers then exchanged the coins for 2.875 Bitcoin and transferred it out of his account, the suit states. On November 7th, the price of Bitcoin was $7,118.80, so had the hackers cashed out then, they would have netted a profit of $20,466.55. Tapang goes on to say, "After the incident, BTC price reached more than $17,000.00 per coin," but given the volatility of bitcoin prices, the hackers may not have benefited from the soar.

The suit alleges T-Mobile is at fault partly because the carrier said it would add a PIN code to Tapang's account prior to the incident, but didn't actually implement it. Tapang also states that hackers are able to call T-Mobile's customer support multiple times to gain access to customer accounts, until they're able to get an agent on the line that would grant them access without requiring further identity verification. The complaint also lists several anonymous internet users who have posted about similar security breaches to their own T-Mobile accounts.

The Courts

What We Learned From Day 1 of the Uber and Alphabet Trial (arstechnica.com) 25

Recode highlights the presentations each side gave on Day 1 in the Waymo v. Uber trial: Alphabet's self-driving arm, Waymo, and Uber gave their opening statements in front of a jury on Monday, commencing the courtroom phase of what has already been a messy legal battle. The day was entirely about opening arguments, but both Uber's and Waymo's strategy centers largely on one thing: Our opponent stooped to the levels they did because they were afraid we would beat them. Uber claims Waymo's lawsuit is baseless and is only suing because they were upset they were losing top talent at a time when competing companies began gaining ground. Waymo claims Uber was worried about getting beat in the self-driving car race so it stole Waymo's trade secrets when it hired one of its former executives. If Uber loses the case, it could have to pay out millions of dollars in damages and potentially stall its self-driving efforts. For Waymo, losing the case will have largely reputational risks. Alphabet rarely, if ever, sues over any issues with people or other companies, which means this litigation carries a lot of weight.

Uber as the defense doesn't have to prove anything, just cast enough doubt on Waymo's claims. Waymo has to prove both motivation on the part of Uber to intentionally steal trade secrets, and that the information Uber stole was proprietary. "That was quite the story," Uber attorney Bill Carmody said in his opening statement. "I want to tell you right up front. It didn't happen, there's no conspiracy, there's no cheating, period end of story." It'll be up to the jury to determine if Waymo has presented enough evidence to prove that not only did Uber steal trade secrets, that the company was using them in their current self-driving technology. Painting Waymo as a company that was growing increasingly concerned over losing top engineers to Uber -- in addition to harboring personal grievances against Levandowski -- could help the ride-hail company convince the jury that Waymo had ulterior motives with its lawsuit.
Recode has a detailed list in their report of all the evidence Uber and Waymo presented against one another, as well as their strategies going forward.
Government

New Jersey Governor Signs Net Neutrality Order (thehill.com) 60

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill: New Jersey on Monday became the latest state to implement its own net neutrality rules following the Federal Communications Commission's repeal of the Obama-era consumer protections. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed an executive order prohibiting all internet service providers that do business with the state from blocking, throttling or favoring web content.

"We may not agree with everything we see online, but that does not give us a justifiable reason to block the free, uninterrupted, and indiscriminate flow of information," Murphy said in a statement. "And, it certainly doesn't give certain companies or individuals a right to pay their way to the front of the line. "While New Jersey cannot unilaterally regulate net neutrality back into law or cement it as a state regulation, we can exercise our power as a consumer to make our preferences known," he added. Gurbir Grewal, New Jersey's attorney general, also announced on Monday that the state would be the 22nd to join a lawsuit against the FCC.

Businesses

Samsung Billionaire Gets Off Easy (gizmodo.com) 93

Lee Jae-yong, the Samsung chief found guilty of bribery and embezzlement, was freed from prison after an appeals court reduced and suspended his five-year prison sentence. Gizmodo reports: Lee had pleaded not guilty to all charges and spent nearly a year in jail, CNN reported, before the appeals court reduced his sentence to two and a half years and suspended it for four. The court reportedly found him guilty of one bribery charge, but not of hiding money offshore. It also overturned another bribery charge. It's important to understand that Samsung has a tight grip on the country's economy. Known as a "chaebol," or a (usually family-owned) business conglomerate, Samsung contributes to a little over one-fifth of the country's exports. Its businesses make up about 15 percent of the country's total economy. It is extremely rare for leaders of the country's chaebols to be justly punished for their crimes -- most convicted are ultimately pardoned or granted a commutation. Lee's father, Lee Kun-hee, has been pardoned twice for similar charges.
Facebook

Seattle Finds Facebook in Violation of City Campaign Finance Law (reuters.com) 106

Seattle's election authority said on Monday that Facebook is in violation of a city law that requires disclosure of who buys election ads, the first attempt of its kind to regulate U.S. political ads on the internet. From a report: Facebook must disclose details about spending in last year's Seattle city elections or face penalties, Wayne Barnett, executive director of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, said in a statement. The penalties could be up to $5,000 per advertising buy, Barnett said, adding that he would discuss next steps this week with Seattle's city attorney.
Bitcoin

US Regulators To Back More Oversight of Virtual Currencies (reuters.com) 121

Digital currencies such as bitcoin demand increased oversight and may require a new federal regulatory framework, the top U.S. markets regulators will tell lawmakers at a congressional hearing on Tuesday. From a report: Christopher Giancarlo, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), and Jay Clayton, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), will provide testimony to the Senate Banking Committee amid growing global concerns over the risks virtual currencies pose to investors and the financial system. Giancarlo and Clayton will say a patchwork of rules for cryptocurrency exchanges may need to be reviewed in favour of a rationalised federal framework, according to prepared testimony published on Monday. Congressional sources told Reuters the hearing will largely be a fact-finding exercise focusing on the powers of the SEC and CFTC to oversee cryptocurrency exchanges, how the watchdogs can protect investors from volatility and fraud, and the risks posed by cyber criminals intent on stealing digital tokens.
United Kingdom

Lauri Love Ruling 'Sets Precedent' For Trying Hacking Suspects in UK (theguardian.com) 222

A high court ruling blocking extradition to the US of Lauri Love, a student accused of breaking into US government websites, has been welcomed by lawyers and human rights groups as a precedent for trying hacking suspects in the UK in future. From a report: The decision delivered by the lord chief justice, Lord Burnett of Maldon, is highly critical of the conditions Love would have endured in US jails, warning of the risk of suicide. Lawyers for the 33-year-old, who lives in Suffolk, had argued that Love should be tried in Britain for allegedly hacking into US government websites and that he would be at risk of killing himself if sent to the US. There was cheering and applause in court on Monday when Burnett announced his decision. He asked supporters to be quiet, saying: "This is a court, not a theatre." In his judgment, Burnett said: "It would not be oppressive to prosecute Mr Love in England for the offences alleged against him. Far from it. Much of Mr Love's argument was based on the contention that this is indeed where he should be prosecuted
Businesses

US Consumer Protection Official Puts Equifax Probe on Ice (reuters.com) 145

From a report on Reuters: Mick Mulvaney, head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has pulled back from a full-scale probe of how Equifax failed to protect the personal data of millions of consumers, according to people familiar with the matter. Equifax said in September that hackers stole personal data it had collected on some 143 million Americans. Richard Cordray, then the CFPB director, authorized an investigation that month, said former officials familiar with the probe. But Cordray resigned in November and was replaced by Mulvaney, President Donald Trump's budget chief. The CFPB effort against Equifax has sputtered since then, said several government and industry sources, raising questions about how Mulvaney will police a data-warehousing industry that has enormous sway over how much consumers pay to borrow money. The CFPB has the tools to examine a data breach like Equifax, said John Czwartacki, a spokesman, but the agency is not permitted to acknowledge an open investigation. "The bureau has the desire, expertise, and know-how in-house to vigorously pursue hypothetical matters such as these," he said.
Social Networks

Former Google/Facebook/Mozilla Employees Will Fight Addictive Technologies (qz.com) 121

An anonymous reader quotes Quartz: A new alliance made up of former Silicon Valley cronies has aseembled to challenge the technological Frankenstein they've collectively created. The Center for Humane Technology is a group comprising former employees and pals of Google, Facebook, and Mozilla. The nonprofit launches today (Feb. 4) in the hopes that it can raise awareness about the societal tolls of technology, which its members believe are inherently addictive. The group will lobby for a bill to research the effects of technology on children's health... On Feb. 7, the group's members will participate in a conference focused on digital health for kids, hosted by the nonprofit Common Sense.
The group also plans an anti-tech addiction ad campaign at 55,000 schools across America, and has another $50 million in media airtime donated by partners which include Comcast and DirecTV.

The group's co-founder, a former Google design ethicist, told Quartz that tech companies "profit by drilling into our brains to pull the attention out of it, by using persuasion techniques to keep [us] hooked." And the group's web page argues that "What began as a race to monetize our attention is now eroding the pillars of our society: mental health, democracy, social relationships, and our children."
The Media

Hulu, NBC Experience Glitches During Super Bowl Telecast (theverge.com) 98

Variety reports: NBC's coverage of Super Bowl LII briefly went dark for nearly 30 seconds on Sunday night. NBC released a brief statement attributing the outage to an equipment failure... "We had a brief equipment failure that we quickly resolved," the statement read. "No game action or commercial time were missed." The outage happened during a commercial pause in the action between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles.
And anonymous reader shared another story from The Verge: Hulu's live TV subscription service cut off the end of tonight's Super Bowl in some markets during the climactic final moments of the Eagles/Patriots game. Tom Brady was making a last-ditch push down the field in hopes of tying the 41-33 contest when Hulu customers lost all video and audio from NBC and U.S. Bank Stadium. Not everyone experienced the abrupt cutoff, which occurred at approximately 10:00PM ET. But those who did received an error screen before the game's conclusion. Error messages ranged from "no content available" to one that said the game couldn't be shown due to rights restrictions. Complaints immediately surged on Twitter and Reddit... In a tweet, the company said there had been "a technical issue" and said users could restart their Hulu app to restore the game feed.
Open Source

LKRG: A Loadable Linux Kernel Module for Runtime Integrity Checking (bleepingcomputer.com) 36

An anonymous reader quotes BleepingComputer: Members of the open source community are working on a new security-focused project for the Linux kernel. Named Linux Kernel Runtime Guard (LKRG), this is a loadable kernel module that will perform runtime integrity checking of the Linux kernel. Its purpose is to detect exploitation attempts for known security vulnerabilities against the Linux kernel and attempt to block attacks. LKRG will also detect privilege escalation for running processes, and kill the running process before the exploit code runs.

Since the project is in such early development, current versions of LKRG will only report kernel integrity violations via kernel messages, but a full exploit mitigation system will be deployed as the system matures... While LKRG will remain an open source project, LKRG maintainers also have plans for an LKRG Pro version that will include distro-specific LKRG builds and support for the detection of specific exploits, such as container escapes. The team plans to use the funds from LKRG Pro to fund the rest of the project.

The first public version of LKRG -- LKRG v0.0 -- is now live and available for download on this page. A wiki is also available here, and a Patreon page for supporting the project has also been set up. LKRG kernel modules are currently available for main Linux distros such as RHEL7, OpenVZ 7, Virtuozzo 7, and Ubuntu 16.04 to latest mainlines.

Education

Gates On a Plane: Alaska Airlines Inflight Entertainment Stars Bill Gates (miamiherald.com) 50

theodp writes: On Tuesday, it was announced that Alaska Airlines will make a new Code.org series of six short videos starring Microsoft's Bill Gates on How Computers Work available as inflight entertainment. "Because students and adults alike can learn from these videos," wrote Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi, "we are pleased to announce Khan Academy and Alaska Airlines will make them available beyond Code.org classrooms."
The original submission notes that Gates (and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) have contributed millions to both educational groups, but Alaska Airlines calls the videos "entertaining and approachable," and says they'll start appearing on their flights in April.

But the videos are also available online, and besides Gates also feature appearances by former Apple designer May Li Khoe and Nat Brown, one of the creators of Microsoft's Xbox gaming system.
Encryption

Camera Makers Resist Encryption, Despite Warnings From Photographers (zdnet.com) 291

An anonymous reader shares an article from the security editor of ZDNet: A year after photojournalists and filmmakers sent a critical letter to camera makers for failing to add a basic security feature to protect their work from searches and hacking, little progress has been made. The letter, sent in late 2016, called on camera makers to build encryption into their cameras after photojournalists said they face "a variety of threats..." Even when they're out in the field, collecting footage and documenting evidence, reporters have long argued that without encryption, police, the military, and border agents in countries where they work can examine and search their devices. "The consequences can be dire," the letter added.

Although iPhones and Android phones, computers, and instant messengers all come with encryption, camera makers have fallen behind. Not only does encryption protect reported work from prying eyes, it also protects sources -- many of whom put their lives at risk to expose corruption or wrongdoing... The lack of encryption means high-end camera makers are forcing their customers to choose between putting their sources at risk, or relying on encrypted, but less-capable devices, like iPhones. We asked the same camera manufacturers if they plan to add encryption to their cameras -- and if not, why. The short answer: don't expect much any time soon.

Media

Are Music CDs Dying? Best Buy Stops Selling CDs (complex.com) 295

An anonymous reader quotes Complex magazine: The future of physical music isn't looking good. According to Billboard, consumer electronics company Best Buy will no longer carry physical CDs and Target may be following suit in the near future. Best Buy notified music suppliers that they will cease selling CDs at stores beginning July 1. The move is sure to hurt the already declining sales of CDs as consumers are switching to streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal in large numbers. CD sales have already dropped by a sizable 18.5 percent in the past year, Billboard reports.
Billboard also reports Target has given an "ultimatum" to music and video suppliers. "Currently, Target takes the inventory risk by agreeing to pay for any goods it is shipped within 60 days, and must pay to ship back unsold CDs for credit... Target has demanded to music suppliers that it wants CDs to be sold on what amounts to a consignment basis..."

"If the majors don't play ball and give in to the new sale terms, it could considerably hasten the phase down of the CD format."
Open Source

New 'Open Source Initiative' Site Announces Anniversary Celebrations and Outreach Programs (opensource.net) 32

Coining the term "Open Source" was only the beginning. "That same month, the Open Source Initiative (OSI) was founded as a general educational and advocacy organization to raise awareness and adoption for the superiority of an open development process." That's the word from their newly-re-designed site OpenSource.net, which is now commemorating the 20th anniversary of the open source movement with an interactive timeline of milestones -- and announcements about much more.
  • "Celebrations will be held worldwide, in conjunction with the leading open source conferences, as well as standalone community-led events... Our anniversary website will support volunteer organizers to host events in their own cities. The OSI will provide small grants to these community-led events and promote them to the broader community." (There are already several t-shirt designs...)
  • A "Share Your Story" section explains that "As part of our mission, we want to promote the success stories of companies like yours that are investing in open source software and community in order to increase adoption and development even more broadly... We'll be sharing your stories with the community throughout the 2018 celebration. We'll also connect you with media outlets to share your story and participate in interviews."
  • And going forward, OpenSource.Net "will serve both as a community of practice and a mentorship program. The goal is to further promote adoption of open source software over the next twenty years as issues shift from open source's viability/value to issues around implementation and authentic participation. OpenSource.Net connects those that "get it" and "did it" with a global network of highly qualified peers across industries. Your experiences as an exemplar in the community will help others address common (or unique) issue.

The anniversary is also being celebrated at this year's FOSDEM conference in Brussels, Belgium. "When it was inaugurated in 2000, FOSDEM, standing for Free and Open Source Developer's European Meeting, started out as OSDEM," remembers the site i-Programmer.

"But the F was added before its second event in 2002 in response to a request from Richard Stallman."


Open Source

'How I Coined the Term Open Source' (opensource.com) 117

Today is the 20th anniversary of the phrase "open source software," which this article says was coined by the executive director of the Foresight Institute, a nonprofit think tank focused on nanotech and artificial intelligence. The phrase first entered the world on February 3rd, 1998, according to Christine Peterson: Of course, there are a number of accounts of the coining of the term, for example by Eric Raymond and Richard Stallman, yet this is mine, written on January 2, 2006. It has never been published, until today. The introduction of the term "open source software" was a deliberate effort to make this field of endeavor more understandable to newcomers and to business, which was viewed as necessary to its spread to a broader community of users... Interest in free software was starting to grow outside the programming community, and it was increasingly clear that an opportunity was coming to change the world... [W]e discussed the need for a new term due to the confusion factor. The argument was as follows: those new to the term "free software" assume it is referring to the price. Oldtimers must then launch into an explanation, usually given as follows: "We mean free as in freedom, not free as in beer." At this point, a discussion on software has turned into one about the price of an alcoholic beverage...

Between meetings that week, I was still focused on the need for a better name and came up with the term "open source software." While not ideal, it struck me as good enough. I ran it by at least four others: Eric Drexler, Mark Miller, and Todd Anderson liked it, while a friend in marketing and public relations felt the term "open" had been overused and abused and believed we could do better. He was right in theory; however, I didn't have a better idea... Later that week, on February 5, 1998, a group was assembled at VA Research to brainstorm on strategy. Attending -- in addition to Eric Raymond, Todd, and me -- were Larry Augustin, Sam Ockman, and attending by phone, Jon "maddog" Hall... Todd was on the ball. Instead of making an assertion that the community should use this specific new term, he did something less directive -- a smart thing to do with this community of strong-willed individuals. He simply used the term in a sentence on another topic -- just dropped it into the conversation to see what happened.... A few minutes later, one of the others used the term, evidently without noticing, still discussing a topic other than terminology. Todd and I looked at each other out of the corners of our eyes to check: yes, we had both noticed what happened...

Toward the end of the meeting, the question of terminology was brought up explicitly, probably by Todd or Eric. Maddog mentioned "freely distributable" as an earlier term, and "cooperatively developed" as a newer term. Eric listed "free software," "open source," and "sourceware" as the main options. Todd advocated the "open source" model, and Eric endorsed this... Eric Raymond was far better positioned to spread the new meme, and he did. Bruce Perens signed on to the effort immediately, helping set up Opensource.org and playing a key role in spreading the new term... By late February, both O'Reilly & Associates and Netscape had started to use the term. After this, there was a period during which the term was promoted by Eric Raymond to the media, by Tim O'Reilly to business, and by both to the programming community. It seemed to spread very quickly.

Peterson remembers that "These months were extremely exciting for open source," adding "Every week, it seemed, a new company announced plans to participate. Reading Slashdot became a necessity, even for those like me who were only peripherally involved. I strongly believe that the new term was helpful in enabling this rapid spread into business, which then enabled wider use by the public."

Wikipedia notes that Linus Torvalds endorsed the term the day after it was announced, that Phil Hughes backed it in Linux Journal, and that Richard Stallman "initially seemed to adopt the term, but later changed his mind."
Bitcoin

Five Major Credit Cards Are Now Blocking Cryptocurrency Purchases (cnbc.com) 253

An anonymous reader quotes CNBC: J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup said Friday they are no longer allowing customers to buy cryptocurrencies using credit cards. "At this time, we are not processing cryptocurrency purchases using credit cards, due to the volatility and risk involved," a J.P. Morgan Chase spokesperson said in a statement to CNBC. "We will review the issue as the market evolves."

A Bank of America spokesperson also said in an email that the bank has decided to decline credit card purchases of cryptocurrencies. Citigroup said in a statement that it has "made the decision to no longer permit credit card purchases of cryptocurrency. We will continue to review our policy as this market evolves." Earlier in January, Capital One Financial said it has decided to ban cryptocurrency purchases with its cards. Discover Financial Services has effectively prohibited cryptocurrency purchases with its credit cards since 2015.

Businesses

Wells Fargo Hit With 'Unprecedented' Punishment Over Fake Accounts (cnn.com) 181

An anonymous reader quotes CNN: The Federal Reserve has dropped the hammer on Wells Fargo, [handing] down unprecedented punishment late Friday for what it called the bank's "widespread consumer abuses," including its notorious creation of millions of fake customer accounts. Wells Fargo won't be allowed to get any bigger than it was at the end of last year -- $2 trillion in assets -- until the Fed is satisfied that it has cleaned up its act. Under pressure from the Fed, the bank agreed to remove three people from the board of directors by April and a fourth by the end of the year. It is the first time the Federal Reserve has imposed a cap on the entire assets of a financial institution, according to a Fed official. "We cannot tolerate pervasive and persistent misconduct at any bank," outgoing Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen said in a statement. Friday was her last day on the job....

Wells Fargo admitted that its workers responded to wildly unrealistic sales goals by creating as many as 3.5 million fake accounts. The bank has also said it forced up to 570,000 customers into unneeded auto insurance... About 20,000 of those customers had their cars wrongfully repossessed in part due to these unwanted insurance charges. In August, Wells Fargo was sued by small business owners who say the bank used deceptive language to dupe mom-and-pop businesses into paying "massive early termination fees." The company was in the headlines again in October for charging about 110,000 mortgage borrowers undue fees.

One U.S. congressman argued that the harsh penalty "demonstrates that we have the tools to rein in Wall Street -- if our regulators have the guts to use them."

Wells Fargo has also spent $3.3 billion on legal bills in just the last three months of 2017.
Crime

Family of 'Swat' Victim Sues Kansas Police, Lawmakers Propose 40-Year Jail Terms (cbsnews.com) 291

An anonymous reader brings more updates about the 'Swat' call that led to a fatal police shooting: The gamer who dared another gamer to send police officers to his home had offered the address where he used to live, until his family was evicted in 2016. While he may also be charged for the fatal shooting that followed, the victim's family has now sued the city of Wichita as well as its police officers, with their attorney saying the city "is trying to put all the blame on the young man in California who placed the swatting call. But let's be clear: the swatter did not shoot the bullet that killed Andy Finch. That was an officer working under the direction of the Wichita Police Department."

The attorney points out that the 911 caller in California provided a description of the house which didn't match the actual house in Kansas, adding "How can Wichita police department officers not be trained to deal with this type of situation...? Prank calls are not new," according to CBS News. "The lawsuit cites FBI crime statistics showing Wichita has a ratio of one shooting death for every 120 officers -- a number that is 11 times greater than the national ratio and 12 times greater than the ratio in Chicago."

Meanwhle, Kansas lawmakers have introduced a new bill proposing a penalty of 10 to 40 years in prison if a swatting call ends in a person's death, which would also cause the offense to be prosecuted as murder.

One lawmaker argues that the bill is necessary because under the current system if a person phones in a swat call, "there's really no consequence for his actions."
United States

Hawaii Missile Alert Worker Fired, Will Sue State for Defamation (khon2.com) 172

This week Hawaii finally fired the employee who issued a false missile alert warning to the entire state, while the head of the state's emergency management agency resigned, another official quit, and a fourth was suspended over the incident. But new details also emerged about the incident:
  • The New York Daily News reports that the warning officer missed those words "because someone in the office picked up the receiver instead of hitting the speaker." And he insists that "I'm really not to blame in this. It was a system failure. And I did what I was trained to do. I can't say that I would do anything differently based on what I saw and heard." His lawyer adds that "The place was a circus and they got their scapegoat... All that was missing were clowns and balloons."
  • The fired worker now plans to sue the state of Hawaii for defamation, and possibly also for libel and slander, according to his lawyer, "because they lied about what happened." He also says that his client has already received numerous death threats.

Crime

Investigators Crack DB Cooper Code, Identify Suspect With Possible CIA Connections (seattlepi.com) 133

An anonymous reader quotes the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: A private investigative team announced Thursday morning that members now believe D.B. Cooper was a black ops CIA operative possibly even involved with Iran-Contra, and that his identity has been actively hidden by government agents. The 40-member cold-case team comprised of several former FBI agents and led by Thomas and Dawna Colbert made its latest reveal after a code breaker working with the team found connections in each of five letters allegedly sent by Cooper in the days following the famed hijacking in 1971.

What's more, several people who knew Colbert's top suspect, a man named Robert W. Rackstraw, have noted possible connections to the CIA and to top-secret operations, Colbert said. "The new decryptions include a dare to agents, directives to apparent partners, and a startling claim that is followed by Rackstraw's own initials: If captured, he expects a get-out-of-jail card from a federal spy agency," Colbert said in a news release... In a brief phone call last year, Rackstraw only told SeattlePI to verify Colbert's claims; he didn't issue a denial, or comment further on Colbert's investigation...

Late last year, Colbert's team obtained a fifth letter allegedly sent by Cooper that Colbert said supports a possible FBI cover-up, but also included random letters and numbers. A code breaker on Colbert's team was able to decode the letters and numbers and find they pointed to three Army units Rackstraw was connected to during his military service in Vietnam. The code was meant to serve as a signal to his co-conspirators that he was alive and well after the jump, Colbert said... Another letter, in which Cooper claimed to be CIA openly, also had the letters "RWR" at the end -- the initials of Robert W. Rackstraw, according to Colbert.

Bitcoin

India Rejects Cryptocurrency, But It Isn't Giving Up On Blockchain (betanews.com) 51

Mark Wilson shares a report from BetaNews: A budget speech given by India's finance minister led to numerous reports that India was banning the use of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum within the country. While Arun Jaitley noted in a speech that the Indian government does not recognize cryptocurrencies as legal tender, his slightly ambiguous language resulted in something of a misunderstanding. Now the Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Committee of the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) has spoken out in an attempt to clarify the issue, and allay fears that Bitcoin et al are on the verge of being banned. At first glance, Jaitley's speech certainly seemed to imply that the Indian government wants to forbid the use of cryptocurrencies. In reality, he merely voiced concern about how cryptocurrencies were being used, and announced vague plans to introduce regulation to stop their use for illegal purposes. Delivering his speech, Jaitley said: "Distributed ledger system or the block chain technology allows organization of any chain of records or transactions without the need of intermediaries. The Government does not consider crypto-currencies legal tender or coin and will take all measures to eliminate use of these cryptoassets in financing illegitimate activities or as part of the payment system. The Government will explore use of block chain technology proactively for ushering in digital economy."
Sony

As Sony CEO Kaz Hirai Steps Down, the Future of Some Products Is In Question (arstechnica.com) 33

After six years with the company, Sony CEO Kaz Hirai will step down from his post on April 1, 2018. He will remain with the company as chairman, and the CEO seat will be filled by current CFO Kenichiro Yoshida. Samuel Axon reports via Ars Technica of the reputation his successor has built for making touch cuts to get back in the black: Hirai is perhaps best known to the general public for his role in the PlayStation business, which is where the majority of his background with the company lies. He was involved in developing the PlayStation's software lineup in the late '90s, and Hirai famously unveiled the PlayStation 3 before he became CEO. That unveiling might better be described as infamous: he announced the console's launch models at the extremely steep prices of $499 and $599, leading to shock and ire in the gaming community. The cheaper of those two was almost a non-starter, lacking Wi-Fi and adequate hard drive storage. That memorable blunder aside, investors in Sony have enjoyed significant gains in the six years since Hirai became CEO -- though the company has only been regaining partial ground since it fell a long way from its peak back in 2000. He has kept Sony's efforts diversified across several markets and products, from computers to Hollywood movies.

But much of the company's success under Hirai can be attributed to two things: the PlayStation division (whose profits rose by 70 percent over the holidays) and image sensors that Sony produces and sells to other companies for inclusion in various devices. Other divisions, like mobile, were de-emphasized as Hirai and Yoshida worked together to get Sony's house in order. [...] In other words, Yoshida made his mark on Sony by helping Hirai make tough calls to make major cuts to get the company on the right track. That effort is ongoing, so expect continuing changes with regards to both Sony's tech and entertainment products.

Power

Tesla Will Sell Solar Panels, Powerwalls At Home Depot (bloomberg.com) 86

Tesla is bringing photovaltaic panels and Powerwall batteries to U.S. retail giant Home Depot. According to Bloomberg, "The tech pioneer is beginning to roll out Tesla-branded selling spaces at 800 of the retailer's locations. The areas, which will be outfitted during the first half of this year, are staffed by Tesla employees and can demonstrate its solar panels and Powerwall battery." From the report: Lowe's -- the second-largest U.S. home-improvement chain, after Home Depot -- has also been in discussions with Tesla about selling its solar products, said people familiar with the situation. At some point, Home Depot may also offer Tesla's much-anticipated solar roof, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private. [The products] will be highlighted in high-profile displays, which are 12 feet tall and 7 feet wide. Some locations will be fitted with visual demonstrations that show how the products work.
The Internet

Bicyclist Protests Net Neutrality By Slowing Traffic Outside the FCC Building (thehill.com) 181

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill: A protester opposed to the Federal Communication Commission's (FCC) net neutrality repeal slowed traffic to a crawl outside the FCC Monday as a demonstration against the repeal. A video released Monday shows Rob Bliss, video director for the website Seriously.TV, setting up traffic cones to block all but one lane for cars, then riding a bike slowly in the lane. Bliss wore a sign encouraging drivers to upgrade to "priority access membership" for $5 a month, which would allow them to drive at normal speeds. The protest was meant to mimic what critics say will be the effect of the net neutrality repeal, which will allow internet service providers to favor certain content or require content providers to pay for faster speeds.
Youtube

YouTube Will Put Disclaimers On State-Funded Broadcasts To Fight Propaganda (arstechnica.com) 126

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: YouTube's latest strategy to fight the spread of misinformation involves putting a disclaimer on videos from certain news sources. The online video website announced it will start labeling videos posted by state-funded broadcasters to alert viewers that the content is, in some part, funded by a government source. YouTube will begin labeling videos today, and the policy extends to outlets including the US's Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and the Russian government broadcaster RT. According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, PBS videos will now have the label "publicly funded American broadcaster," while RT will have this disclaimer: "RT is funded in whole or in part by the Russian government." The new policy is YouTube's way of informing viewers about where the content they're watching is coming from, a piece of information often hidden or left unsought by the viewers themselves. "The principle here is to provide more information to our users, and let our users make the judgment themselves, as opposed to us being in the business of providing any sort of editorial judgment on any of these things ourselves," YouTube Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan told the WSJ.
Youtube

YouTube Warns of 'Consequences' For Creators Who Misbehave (cnbc.com) 174

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has announced that creators whose actions impact negatively on its community will face "consequences." From a report: Wojcicki said the video-sharing platform is developing new policies that "would lead to consequences" if a content creator "does something egregious" that reflects unfavorably on other YouTube creators. YouTube's CEO made the comments in a blog post that detailed a list of the Google-owned firm's priorities for creators in 2018. In January, one of the service's most popular content creators, Logan Paul, published a video that showed the dead body of a man hanging from a tree. Wojcicki did not refer to the Logan Paul incident directly, but said that the misbehavior of some creators could put the broader YouTube community in a negative light. "While these instances are rare, they can damage the reputation and revenue of your fellow creators, so we want to make sure we have policies in place that allow us to respond appropriately," she said.
Earth

Laser Scans Reveal Maya 'Megalopolis' Below Guatemalan Jungle (nationalgeographic.com) 64

Laser-toting archaeologists have discovered an entire new city in the Central American jungle, the National Geographic reported this week. From the report: In what's being hailed as a "major breakthrough" in Maya archaeology, researchers have identified the ruins of more than 60,000 houses, palaces, elevated highways, and other human-made features that have been hidden for centuries under the jungles of northern Guatemala. Using a revolutionary technology known as LiDAR (short for "Light Detection And Ranging"), scholars digitally removed the tree canopy from aerial images of the now-unpopulated landscape, revealing the ruins of a sprawling pre-Columbian civilization that was far more complex and interconnected than most Maya specialists had supposed. "The LiDAR images make it clear that this entire region was a settlement system whose scale and population density had been grossly underestimated," said Thomas Garrison, an Ithaca College archaeologist and National Geographic Explorer who specializes in using digital technology for archaeological research.
Firefox

Firefox 59 Will Stop Websites Snooping on Where You've Just Been (zdnet.com) 121

Firefox 59 will reduce how much information websites pass on about visitors in an attempt to improve privacy for users of its private browsing mode. From a report: When you click a link in your browser to navigate to a new site, the site you go on to visit receives the address of the site you came from, via the so-called "referrer value." While this helps websites understand where visitors are coming from, it can also leak data about the individual browsing, because it tells the site the exact page you were looking at when you clicked the link, said Mozilla. Browsers also send a referrer value when requesting other details like ads, or other social media snippets integrated in a modern website, which means these embedded content features also know exactly what page you're visiting.
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Plummets Below $8,000 For First Time Since November (axios.com) 298

Bitcoin's value dipped $8,000 this morning -- the first time since November 24, according to CNBC -- just hours after the cryptocurrency made news after going under $9,000. From a report: After the news that Bitcoin had headed south of $9,000, CNBC branded the range of $9,000 to $10,000 as "a difficult one for bitcoin to break below" after its surge over $10,000 last year.
Android

LG Settles Bootloop Lawsuit With $425 Cash Or a $700 Rebate Toward a New LG Phone (androidpolice.com) 38

Early last year, a class-action lawsuit was filed against LG over bootloop issues affecting their G4 and V10 smartphones. Now, according to a settlement website set up by the law firm Girard Gibbs, members of the lawsuit have received a settlement offer. The only catch is that the settlement is only for plaintiffs of the initial case. Android Police reports: LG is offering plaintiffs either $425 as a cash settlement or a $700 rebate toward the purchase of a new LG phone. That's pretty generous, and it's clear that's going to help offset some of the anger LG's created with this whole incident. If you're one of the plaintiffs, you don't have to mail in your broken phone or anything, you just get the settlement offer, straight up. Members of the class will be contacted shortly with instructions on how to take advantage of the settlement. Payments will be distributed beginning in March.
Iphone

Apple Begins Selling Refurbished iPhone 7 and 7 Plus Models (macrumors.com) 75

Apple today has added refurbished iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models to its online store for the first time in the United States. MacRumors reports: iPhone 7 models are available in all three storage capacities, including 32GB for $499, 128GB for $589, and 256GB for $679, reflecting savings of 10 percent off Apple's current prices for brand new models. All five colors are currently in stock, including Black, Jet Black, Silver, Gold, and Rose Gold. iPhone 7 Plus models with 32GB or 128GB of storage are available for $599 and $689 respectively, which is also 10 percent off. There are no 256GB models in stock. Available colors include Black, Gold, and Rose Gold. Apple says all refurbished iPhone models are thoroughly inspected, tested, cleaned, and repackaged with a new white box and all manuals and accessories. Apple also installs a new battery and replaces the outer shell, making it nearly impossible to distinguish between a refurbished and brand new iPhone. Any refurbished iPhone model comes with Apple's standard one-year warranty effective on the date the device is delivered. The warranty can be extended to up to two years from the original purchase date with AppleCare+, at a cost of $129 for the iPhone 7 and $149 for the iPhone 7 Plus in the United States.
The Almighty Buck

eBay Is Dumping PayPal For Dutch Rival Adyen (cnn.com) 143

schwit1 shares a report from CNN: EBay, one of the world's biggest online marketplaces, announced Wednesday that it's dropping PayPal as its main partner for processing payments in favor of Dutch company Adyen. In 2002, eBay paid $1.5 billion to buy PayPal, an online payments company whose founders include Silicon Valley heavyweights Elon Musk and Peter Thiel. It proved to be a very successful investment. When eBay spun off PayPal in 2015 -- something investors and analysts had urged it to do -- the payments company's market value was close to $50 billion. It's now above $100 billion. Based in Amsterdam, Adyen already works with other big tech companies including Uber and Netflix. It says it handles more than 200 different payment methods and over 150 currencies. The shift will start gradually in North America later this year and eBay expects most marketplace customers around the world to be using the new system in 2021.
China

This Chinese Math Problem Has No Answer. Perhaps, It Has a Lot of Them. (washingtonpost.com) 443

Fifth-graders in China's Shunqing district were recently asked to answer this question: "If a ship had 26 sheep and 10 goats on board, how old is the ship's captain?" The Washington Post: The apparently unsolvable question sparked a debate over the merits of the Chinese education system and the value it places on the memorization of information over the importance of developing critical thinking skills. "Some surveys show that primary school students in our country lack a sense of critical awareness in regard to mathematics," a statement by the Shunqing Education Department posted Jan. 26 reportedly said. One student offered a pragmatic law-abiding answer: "The captain is at least 18 because he has to be an adult to drive the ship." Meanwhile on Twitter, some have gone with 42, a reference to the science fiction novel "A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," by Douglas Adams, in which 42 is the "Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything." BBC: "If a school had 26 teachers, 10 of which weren't thinking, how old is the principal?" another asked. Some however, defended the school -- which has not been named -- saying the question promoted critical thinking. "The whole point of it is to make the students think. It's done that," one person commented. "This question forces children to explain their thinking and gives them space to be creative. We should have more questions like this," another said.
Earth

Insect Die-off: Even Common Species Are Becoming Rare (sciencedaily.com) 127

Scientists at Senckenberg Nature Research Society and Technical University of Munich (TUM) have been able to show that currently widespread insects are threatened with a serious decline in species diversity in the near future. From the report: The research team lists the fragmentation of habitats and the intensification of agriculture as reasons for the decline of these "generalists." According to the study, published today in the scientific journal Biological Conservation, the genetic diversity among the examined butterfly species is also expected to decline sharply in the future -- as a result, the insects will become more sensitive to environmental changes.
Microsoft

Windows Defender Will Soon Start Removing Applications With Coercive Messaging: Cleaners and Optimizers Put on Notice (cso.com.au) 112

Microsoft is stepping up its efforts to protect Windows users from programs that use fear to convince people to buy or upgrade products. From a report: The Redmond company is taking aim at all software that use scary messaging to convince people to upgrade to a paid product that purportedly fixes a problem detected by a free version. Specifically it is targeting registry cleaners and optimizers, which Microsoft previously didn't endorse but also didn't blacklist them as unwanted programs or malware. That's changing on March 1. "We find this practice problematic because it can pressure customers into making unnecessary purchase decisions," said Barak Shein, a member of the Windows Defender security research team. From March 1 Microsoft's Windows Defender and other security products will "classify programs that display coercive messages as unwanted software, which will be detected and removed," Shein said.
Sci-Fi

Slashdot Asks: What Are Some Sci-Fi Books, Movies, and TV Shows You're Looking Forward To? 364

Even as Hollywood studios report fewer footfalls in theaters, the last few years have arguably been impressive if you're a sci-fi admirer. Last year, we finally got to watch the Blade Runner 2049, and the The Last Jedi and Logan also found plenty of backers. In 2016, Arrival was a home run for many. Star Trek: Discovery, and Stranger Things TV shows continue to receive positive feedback from critics, and the The X-Files is also quickly winning its loyal fans back.

"Artemis" by Andy Weir and "New York 2140" by Kim Stanley have found their ways among best selling books. "Borne" by Jeff VanderMeer, and "Walkaway" by BoingBoing's Cory Doctorow have also been widely loved by the readers.

On that note, what are some movies, TV shows, and books on sci-fi that you are waiting to explore in the next two to three years?

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