AI

AI-Assisted Fake Porn Is Here and We're All Screwed (vice.com) 228

New submitter samleecole shares a report from Motherboard: There's a video of Gal Gadot having sex with her stepbrother on the internet. But it's not really Gadot's body, and it's barely her own face. It's an approximation, face-swapped to look like she's performing in an existing incest-themed porn video. The video was created with a machine learning algorithm, using easily accessible materials and open-source code that anyone with a working knowledge of deep learning algorithms could put together. It's not going to fool anyone who looks closely. Sometimes the face doesn't track correctly and there's an uncanny valley effect at play, but at a glance it seems believable. It's especially striking considering that it's allegedly the work of one person -- a Redditor who goes by the name 'deepfakes' -- not a big special effects studio that can digitally recreate a young Princess Leia in Rouge One using CGI. Instead, deepfakes uses open-source machine learning tools like TensorFlow, which Google makes freely available to researchers, graduate students, and anyone with an interest in machine learning. Anyone could do it, and that should make everyone nervous.
Music

Apple Buys Shazam To Boost Apple Music (bloomberg.com) 29

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Apple agreed to acquire music-identification service Shazam, taking ownership of one of the first apps to demonstrate the power of the iPhone, recognizing songs after hearing just a few bars of a tune. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but a person familiar with the situation said Apple is paying about $400 million for the U.K.-based startup. That would be one of Apple's largest acquisitions ever, approaching the size of its 1996 purchase of Next Computer Inc. which brought co-founder Steve Jobs back to the company. That transaction would be worth more than $600 million in today's dollars. The Shazam app uses the microphone on a smartphone or computer to identify almost any song playing nearby, then points users to places they can listen to it in future, such as Apple Music or Google's YouTube.

"Apple Music and Shazam are a natural fit, sharing a passion for music discovery and delivering great music experiences to our users," Apple said in an emailed statement on Monday. "We have exciting plans in store, and we look forward to combining with Shazam upon approval of today's agreement. Since the launch of the App Store, Shazam has consistently ranked as one of the most popular apps for iOS," Apple also said. "Today, it's used by hundreds of millions of people around the world, across multiple platforms." The acquisition would help Apple embed that capability more deeply into its music offerings. The company's digital assistant Siri gained Shazam integration in 2014, so users could ask it what song is playing in the background.

Google

Google Releases Tool To Help iPhone Hackers (vice.com) 50

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, writing for Motherboard: Google has released a powerful tool that can help security researchers hack and find bugs in iOS 11.1.2, a very recent version of the iPhone operating system. The exploit is the work of Ian Beer, one of the most prolific iOS bug hunters, and a member of Google Project Zero, which works to find bugs in all types of software, including that not made by Google. Beer released the tool Monday, which he says should work for "all devices." The proof of concept works only for those devices he tested -- iPhone 7, 6s and iPod touch 6G -- "but adding more support should be easy," he wrote. Last week, Beer caused a stir among the community of hackers who hack on the iPhone -- also traditionally known as jailbreakers -- by announcing that he was about to publish an exploit for iOS 11.1.2. Researchers reacted with excitement as they realized the tool would make jailbreaking and security research much easier.
NASA

Google's Machine Learning Is Analyzing Data From NASA's Kepler Space Telescope (nasa.gov) 27

NASA writes: NASA will host a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EST Thursday, Dec. 14, to announce the latest discovery made by its planet-hunting Kepler space telescope. The discovery was made by researchers using machine learning from Google. Machine learning is an approach to artificial intelligence, and demonstrates new ways of analyzing Kepler data... When Kepler launched in March 2009, scientists didn't know how common planets were beyond our solar system. Thanks to Kepler's treasure trove of discoveries, astronomers now believe there may be at least one planet orbiting every star in the sky.
Space.com adds: Kepler spots alien worlds by noticing the tiny brightness dips they cause when they cross the face of their host star from the spacecraft's perspective. Kepler is the most accomplished planet hunter in history. It has found more than 2,500 confirmed alien worlds -- about 70 percent of all known exoplanets -- along with a roughly equal number of "candidates" that await confirmation by follow-up observations or analyses. The vast majority of these discoveries have come via observations that Kepler made during its original mission, which ran from 2009 to 2013. Study of these data sets is ongoing; over the past few years, researchers have used improved analysis techniques to spot many exoplanets in data that Kepler gathered a half-decade ago or more.
Space.com describes Thursday's announcement as an exoplanet discovery. (Earlier they reported on the discovery of "a possibly habitable alien world" about 2.2 times the size of earth orbiting a dwarf star "within the range of distances where liquid water could exist on a world's surface".)

Slashdot reader schwit1 points out that other less-credible sites speculate NASA's announcement will be "a major discovery about life beyond earth."
IOS

Top iOS Apps of 2017: Bitmoji Beats Snapchat, YouTube, and Facebook Messenger (cnn.com) 27

An anonymous reader quotes CNN: Apple has unveiled its list of most downloaded iOS apps of the year, and topping the list is free custom emoji app Bitmoji... Bitmoji soared to the top of the list, thanks to an integration with Snapchat. (Snapchat's parent company acquired Bitmoji last year for an unknown amount)... Users must download the Bitmoji app to use it with Snapchat.

Fittingly, the main Snapchat app took second place, despite a tough year on Wall Street that was attributed to slow user growth. Snapchat was the most downloaded app of 2016. Google's YouTube took the number three spot this year, while Facebook's Messenger and Instagram placed fourth and fifth, respectively.

Toys

Ask Slashdot: Are There Any Good Smartwatches Or Fitness Trackers? 250

"What's your opinion on the current state of smartwatches?" asks long-time Slashdot reader rodrigoandrade. He's been researching both smartwatches and fitness trackers, and shares his own opinions: - Manufacturers have learnt from Moto 360 that people want round smartwatches that actually look like traditional watches, with a couple of glaring exceptions....

- Android Wear 2.0 is a thing, not vaporware. It's still pretty raw (think of early Android phones) but it works well. The LG Sport Watch is the highest-end device that supports it.

- LTE-enabled smartwatches finally allow you to ditch your smartphone, if you wish. Just pop you nano SIM in it and party on. The availability is still limited to a few SKUs in some countries, and they're ludicrously expensive, but it's getting there.

Keep reading for his assessment of four high-end choices -- and share your own opinions in the comments.
Bug

Google Glitch Took Thousands of Chromebooks Offline (geekwire.com) 77

Slashdot reader Bismillah was the first to notice stories about Chromebooks going offline. GeekWire reports: Tens of thousands, perhaps millions, of Google Chromebooks, widely prized by schools due to their low cost and ease of configuration, were reported to be offline for several hours on Tuesday. The apparent cause? A seemingly botched WiFi policy update pushed out by Google that caused many Chromebooks to forget their approved network connection, leaving students disconnected.
Google eventually issued a new network policy without the glitch -- but not everyone was satisfied. The Director of Technology at one school district complains Google waited three and a half hours before publicly acknowledging the problem -- adding that "manually joining a WiFi network on 10,000+ Chromebooks is a nightmare."
Android

Google Puts Android Accessibility Crackdown On Hold (slashgear.com) 28

Last month, Google issued a warning to Android app developers that they will no longer be able to access Android accessibility service functions in their apps, unless they can demonstrate that those functions are specifically used to help users with "disabilities." Since a lot of password managers use the Accessibility API, as well as poplar apps like Tasker automation and Greenify battery saver, there was a large amount of backlash from developers and users alike. According to SlashGear, Google is putting the Android accessibility crackdown on hold. From the report: Google has now sent another email that basically says "we'll think about it." It is evaluating "responsible and innovative use" of those services on a case to case basis. It is also requiring developers to explicitly inform users why they are asking for accessibility permissions rather than just informing them. This, of course, puts a heavier burden on Google, as it has to be more involved in the screening of apps rather than just rely on good ol' machine learning and automation. Developers and users probably won't mind, if it means still having access to those features that make Android a platform above all the rest.
Chrome

Chrome 63 Offers Even More Protection From Malicious Sites, Using Even More Memory (arstechnica.com) 63

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: To further increase its enterprise appeal, Chrome 63 -- which hit the browser's stable release channel yesterday -- includes a couple of new security enhancements aimed particularly at the corporate market. The first of these is site isolation, an even stricter version of the multiple process model that Chrome has used since its introduction. Chrome uses multiple processes for several security and stability reasons. On the stability front, the model means that even if a single tab crashes, other tabs (and the browser itself) are unaffected. On the security front, the use of multiple processes makes it much harder for malicious code from one site to steal secrets (such as passwords typed into forms) of another. [...]

Naturally, this greater use of multiple processes incurs a price; with this option enabled, Chrome's already high memory usage can go up by another 15 to 20 percent. As such, it's not enabled by default; instead, it's intended for use by enterprise users that are particularly concerned about organizational security. The other new capability is the ability for administrators to block extensions depending on the features those extensions need to use. For example, an admin can block any extension that tries to use file system access, that reads or writes the clipboard, or that accesses the webcam or microphone. Additionally, Google has started to deploy TLS 1.3, the latest version of Transport Layer Security, the protocol that enables secure communication between a browser and a Web server. In Chrome 63, this is only enabled between Chrome and Gmail; in 2018, it'll be turned on more widely.

Android

Android 8.0 Oreo For Android Wear Released (9to5google.com) 9

According to a Google developer, Android 8.0 Oreo is rolling out to Android Wear devices starting today. The developer said "timing is determined by each watch's manufacturer." 9to5Google notes that there are "no major redesigns with Oreo for the wearable platform," but there are some useful tweaks. From the report: There is a new option to disable touch-to-wake called "Touch lock" in Settings that Google positions as being useful in wet conditions. Google has added the ability to control the strength of vibrations for incoming notifications. Referred to as the "Vibration pattern," options include Normal, Long, and Double. Meanwhile, there is now a toggle to manually enable the "Battery saver," instead of having to wait until the device hits a low charge. This mode disables Vibration, Location services, Wi-Fi & mobile usage, Data & app updates, and the Always-on display. Meanwhile, the update includes notification channels for apps that should provide more granular user control. Google also shared that Wear is now available in seven new countries and languages: Belgium (Dutch), Czech Republic (Czech), El Salvador (Spanish), Honduras (Spanish), Nigeria (English), Paraguay (Spanish), and Portugal (Portuguese).
Google

Inside Oracle's Cloak-and-dagger Political War With Google (recode.net) 84

schwit1 shares a Recode report: The story that appeared in Quartz this November seemed shocking enough on its own: Google had quietly tracked the location of its Android users, even those who had turned off such monitoring on their smartphones. But missing from the news site's report was another eyebrow-raising detail: Some of its evidence, while accurate, appears to have been furnished by one of Google's fiercest foes: Oracle. For the past year, the software and cloud computing giant has mounted a cloak-and-dagger, take-no-prisoners lobbying campaign against Google, perhaps hoping to cause the company intense political and financial pain at a time when the two tech giants are also warring in federal court over allegations of stolen computer code. Since 2010, Oracle has accused Google of copying Java and using key portions of it in the making of Android. Google, for its part, has fought those claims vigorously. More recently, though, their standoff has intensified. And as a sign of the worsening rift between them, this summer Oracle tried to sell reporters on a story about the privacy pitfalls of Android, two sources confirmed to Recode.
Google

Google's Mobile Search Results Now Include Videos Of Celebrities Answering Your Questions (techcrunch.com) 63

Google is testing a new feature that will allow celebrities and other notable figures to answer users' search queries directly in the form of "selfie" videos posted in the Google Search results. From a report: The company says this program is initially being piloted on mobile with a handful of people for now, including Priyanka Chopra, Will Ferrell, Tracee Ellis Ross, Gina Rodriguez, Kenan Thompson, Allison Williams, Nick Jonas, Mark Wahlberg, James Franco, Seth MacFarlane, Jonathan Yeo and Dominique Ansel. Of course, the celebs aren't answering users' queries in real-time. Instead, Google has had them pre-record their videos in response to what it already knows are some of fans' most-asked questions typed into the Google search box.
Businesses

Judge Dismisses Lawsuit That Claims Google Paid Female Employees Less Than Male Colleagues (cnn.com) 254

A California judge has rejected a class action claim against Google for alleged gender inequity. In September, three female Google employees filed a lawsuit against Google, claiming the search giant "engaged in systemic and pervasive pay and promotion discrimination." They sought class action status on behalf of women who have worked at Google in California for the past four years. CNN reports: This week, a judge rejected their request to make the suit a class action. A judge ruled that the class was "overbroad," stating that it "does not purport to distinguish between female employees who may have valid claims against Google based upon its alleged conduct from those who do not." Jim Finberg, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said his clients plan to file an amended complaint seeking class action certification. He said it will address the court's ruling and make "clear that Google violates the California Equal Pay Act throughout California and throughout the class period by paying women less than men for substantially equal work in nearly every job classification."
The Internet

EU Urges Internet Companies To Do More To Remove Extremist Content (reuters.com) 78

Internet groups such as Facebook, Google's YouTube and Twitter need to do more to stem the proliferation of extremist content on their platforms, the European Commission said after a meeting on Wednesday. From a report: Social media companies have significantly boosted their resources to take down violent and extremist content as soon as possible in response to growing political pressure from European governments, particularly those hit by militant attacks in recent years. But Julian King, EU security commissioner, said that while a lot of progress had been made, additional efforts were needed. "We are not there yet. We are two years down the road of this journey: to reach our final destination we now need to speed up our work," King said in his closing speech at the third meeting of the EU Internet Forum, which brings together the Commission, EU member states, law enforcement and technology companies. The EU has said it will come forward with legislation next year if it is not satisfied with progress made by tech companies in removing extremist content, while a German online hate speech law comes into effect on Jan. 1.
AI

Google's DeepMind AI Becomes a Superhuman Chess Player In a Few Hours (theverge.com) 93

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: In a new paper published this week, DeepMind describes how a descendant of the AI program that first conquered the board game Go has taught itself to play a number of other games at a superhuman level. After eight hours of self-play, the program bested the AI that first beat the human world Go champion; and after four hours of training, it beat the current world champion chess-playing program, Stockfish. Then for a victory lap, it trained for just two hours and polished off one of the world's best shogi-playing programs named Elmo (shogi being a Japanese version of chess that's played on a bigger board). One of the key advances here is that the new AI program, named AlphaZero, wasn't specifically designed to play any of these games. In each case, it was given some basic rules (like how knights move in chess, and so on) but was programmed with no other strategies or tactics. It simply got better by playing itself over and over again at an accelerated pace -- a method of training AI known as "reinforcement learning."
Facebook

Facebook and YouTube Are Full of Pirated Video Streams of Live NFL Games (cnbc.com) 231

Pirated video streams of televised National Football League games are widespread on Facebook and on Google's YouTube service, CNBC has found. From a report: Using technology from these internet giants, thousands of football fans were able to watch long segments of many contests free of charge during the league's Week 13 schedule of games last Thursday and Sunday. Dozens of these video streams, pirated from CBS and NBC broadcasts, featured ads from well-known national brands interspersed with game action. This online activity comes as the league struggles with declining ratings that have been blamed variously on player protests during the national anthem and revelations about former players suffering from a brain disease caused by concussions. Yet this illegal distribution of NFL content may also be crimping the league's viewer numbers.
Businesses

Facebook Tops List of Best Places To Work -- Again (cnet.com) 102

From a report: If you work at Facebook, count yourself pretty lucky. And not just for the free meals, on-site health care or new-parent benefits. But those things probably factor into the social-networking giant being named the best place to work in 2018 by jobs site Glassdoor. And it's probably been a good experience for a while, seeing how this is the third year in a row Facebook has been atop Glassdoor's list of 100 best places to work. If you don't work at Facebook, there might still be hope for you. Glassdoor said there were 40 newcomers on this year's list, including video game maker Blizzard Entertainment (at No. 28 on the list) and wireless carrier T-Mobile (No. 79). There are also three veterans that have made the list every year since it was introduced 10 years ago, including management-consulting firm Bain & Company (No. 2), search giant Google (No. 5) and Apple (No. 84).
The Almighty Buck

'We Could Fund a Universal Basic Income With the Data We Give Away To Facebook and Google' (thenextweb.com) 583

Tristan Greene reports via The Next Web: A universal basic income (UBI), wherein government provides a monthly stipend so citizens can afford a home and basic necessities, is something experts believe would directly address the issue of unemployment and poverty, and possibly even eliminate hundreds of other welfare programs. It may also be the only real solution to the impending automation bonanza. According to AI expert Steve Fuller, the problem is, giving people money when they lose jobs won't fix the issue, it's a temporary solution and we need permanent ones. Sounds fair, and he even has some ideas on how to accomplish this end: "We could hold Google and Facebook and all those big multinationals accountable; we could make sure that people, like those who are currently 'voluntarily' contributing their data to pump up companies' profits, are given something that is adequate to support their livelihoods in exchange."

It's an interesting idea, but difficult to imagine it's implementation. If the government isn't assigning a specific stipend value, we'll have to be compensated individually by companies. One way to do this, is by emulating the old coal mining company scrip scams of early last century. Employees working for companies would be paid in currency only redeemable at the company store. This basically created a system where a company could tax its own workers for profit. Google, for example, could use a system like that and say "opt-in for $10 worth of Google Play music for free," if they wanted to. Which doesn't help pay the bills when machines replace you at work, but at least you'll be able to voice search for your favorite songs. Another idea is to charge companies an automation tax, but again there's concerns as to how this would be implemented. A solution that combines government oversight with a tax on AI companies -- a UBI funded by the dividends of our data -- may be the best option. To be blunt: we should make Google, Microsoft, Facebook and other such AI companies pay for it with a simple data tax.

Chrome

Google Wants Progressive Web Apps To Replace Chrome Apps (androidpolice.com) 153

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Android Police: The Chrome Web Store originally launched in 2010, and serves a hub for installing apps, extensions, and themes packaged for Chrome. Over a year ago, Google announced that it would phase out Chrome apps on Windows, Mac, and Linux in 2018. Today, the company sent out an email to developers with additional information, as well as news about future Progressive Web App support. The existing schedule is mostly still in place -- Chrome apps on the Web Store will no longer be discoverable for Mac, Windows, and Linux users. In fact, if you visit the store right now on anything but a Chromebook, the Apps page is gone. Google originally planned to remove app support on all platforms (except Chrome OS) entirely by Q1 2018, but Google has decided to transition to Progressive Web Apps:

"The Chrome team is now working to enable Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) to be installed on the desktop. Once this functionality ships (roughly targeting mid-2018), users will be able to install web apps to the desktop and launch them via icons and shortcuts; similar to the way that Chrome Apps can be installed today. In order to enable a more seamless transition from Chrome Apps to the web, Chrome will not fully remove support for Chrome Apps on Windows, Mac or Linux until after Desktop PWA installability becomes available in 2018. Timelines are still rough, but this will be a number of months later than the originally planned deprecation timeline of 'early 2018.' We also recognize that Desktop PWAs will not replace all Chrome App capabilities. We have been investigating ways to simplify the transition for developers that depend on exclusive Chrome App APIs, and will continue to focus on this -- in particular the Sockets, HID and Serial APIs."

Android

Qualcomm Announces Latest Snapdragon 845 Processor (9to5google.com) 37

The processor to power the next generation of Android flagship smartphones has been announced today. Qualcomm unveiled the new Snapdragon 845 processor at the 2017 Snapdragon Tech Summit, where Microsoft announced it was working with its PC partners to bring Windows 10 to Qualcomm's ARM processors. While more technical details of the chip will be announced tomorrow, we do know that the Snapdragon 845 processor is based on a 10nm processor and will feature the latest X20 LTE modem for gigabit connectivity speeds. Generally speaking, the new processor will bring improved performance, better power efficiency, and improved image processing.

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