Facebook

Facebook Announces That It Has Invented a New Unit of Time (theverge.com) 48

Facebook has announced a new unit of time, called Flicks. "According to the GitHub page documenting Flicks, a Flick is 'the smallest time unit which is LARGER than a nanosecond,' defined as 1/705,600,000 of a second," reports The Verge. (For comparison, a nanosecond is 1/1,000,000,000 of a second, making a Flick roughly 1.41723356 nanoseconds long.) From the report: Now, you may be sitting there wondering what was wrong with regular seconds that Facebook had to go and invent its own unit, especially since the second is one of the few units that is universal across SI and imperial units. The name itself is a portmanteau of the phase "frame-tick," which is also why you might want to use them. Flicks are designed to help measure individual frame duration for video frame rates. So whether your video is 24hz, 25hz, 30hz, 48hz, 50hz, 60hz, 90hz, 100hz, or 120hz, you'll be able to use Flicks to ensure that everything is in sync while still using whole integers (instead of decimals). Programmers already use built in tools in C++ to manage these sorts of exact frame syncing, especially when it comes to designing visual effects in CGI, but the most exact timing possible in C++ is nanoseconds, which doesn't divide evenly into most frame rates. The idea to create a new unit of time to solve this problem dates back to last year, when developer Christopher Horvath posted about it on Facebook.
Power

Trump Administration Approves Tariffs of 30 Percent On Imported Solar Panels (axios.com) 83

The Trump administration just approved tariffs of 30% on imported solar panels. Axios explains why it matters: "Most of the American solar industry has opposed tariffs on panels, saying they would raise prices and hurt the sector. A small group of solar panel manufacturers argued -- successfully -- that an influx of cheap imports, largely from China or Chinese-owned companies, was hurting domestic manufacturing. It's also part of President Trump's broader trade agenda against China." From the report: The tariffs would last for four years and decline in increments of 5% from 30%: 25%, 20% and finally 15% in the fourth year. The tariffs are lower than the 35% the U.S. International Trade Commission had initially recommended last year, per Bloomberg. This is actually the third, and broadest, set of tariffs the U.S. government has issued on solar imports in recent years. The Obama administration issued two earlier rounds of tariffs on a narrower set of imports. Monday's action also imposed import tariffs on washing machines, a much lower profile issue than solar energy.
Facebook

Rupert Murdoch Pushes Facebook To Pay For News To Guarantee Quality (bloomberg.com) 55

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Rupert Murdoch, the media billionaire who controls the Wall Street Journal, called on Facebook to begin paying publishers fees to carry the news that its users post and share online in a sign of the print industry's growing frustration with social media. "If Facebook wants to recognize 'trusted' publishers then it should pay those publishers a carriage fee similar to the model adopted by cable companies," Murdoch, the executive chairman of News Corp. said Monday in a statement. "The publishers are obviously enhancing the value and integrity of Facebook through their news and content but are not being adequately rewarded for those services." "Facebook and Google have popularized scurrilous news sources through algorithms that are profitable for these platforms but inherently unreliable," Murdoch said. "Recognition of a problem is one step on the pathway to cure, but the remedial measures that both companies have so far proposed are inadequate, commercially, socially and journalistically." Murdoch, who also leads 21st Century Fox, called for a system similar to that in cable television, where large distributors like Comcast and AT&T pay fees to the TV network owners that attract their viewers.
Cloud

UK Hospitals Can Now Store Confidential Patient Records In the Public Cloud (zdnet.com) 39

The National Health Service (NHS) has given hospitals the go-ahead to store sensitive patient records in the cloud. "NHS Digital said the advantages of using cloud services include cost savings associated with not having to buy and maintain hardware and software, and availability of backup and fast system recovery," reports ZDNet. "'Together these features cut the risk of health information not being available due to local hardware failure,' said the report." From ZDNet: Rob Shaw, deputy chief executive at NHS Digital, said: "It is for individual organizations to decide if they wish to use cloud and data offshoring but there are a huge range of benefits in doing so, such as greater data security protection and reduced running costs when implemented effectively." The UK government introduced a 'cloud first' policy for public sector IT in 2013, and NHS Choices and NHS England's Code4Health initiative are already successfully using the cloud. NHS Digital's guidance said that the NHS and social care providers may use cloud computing services for NHS data, although data must only be hosted within the European Economic Area, a country deemed adequate by the European Commission, or in the U.S. where covered by Privacy Shield.
Government

Montana Becomes First State To Implement Net Neutrality After FCC Repeal (thehill.com) 94

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) signed an executive order on Monday requiring internet service providers with state contracts to abide by net neutrality principles. The order makes his state the first to push back on the Federal Communications Commission's decision to repeal the open internet rules last month. The order says that in order to receive a contract with the state government, internet service providers must not engage in blocking or throttling web content or create internet fast lanes. Those practices were all banned under the Obama-era 2015 net neutrality order. Bullock's office said the executive order goes into effect immediately, but there will be a six-month grace period for companies to ensure that they're in compliance. The governor said on Monday that he is encouraging his counterparts and legislators in other states to follow suit, promising to personally email a copy of his order to any who ask for it. Further reading: The New York Times
China

China, Unhampered by Rules, Races Ahead in Gene-Editing Trials (wsj.com) 127

U.S. scientists helped devise the Crispr biotechnology tool. First to test it in humans are Chinese doctors (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative link). WSJ reports: In a hospital west of Shanghai, Wu Shixiu since March has been trying to treat cancer patients using a promising new gene-editing tool. U.S. scientists helped devise the tool, known as Crispr-Cas9, which has captured global attention since a 2012 report said it can be used to edit DNA. Doctors haven't been allowed to use it in human trials in America. That isn't the case for Dr. Wu and others in China. In a quirk of the globalized technology arena, Dr. Wu can forge ahead with the tool because he faces few regulatory hurdles to testing it on humans. [...] There is little doubt China was first out of the block testing Crispr on humans. Nine trials in China are listed in a U.S. National Library of Medicine database. The Wall Street Journal found at least two other hospital trials, including one beginning in 2015 -- a year earlier than previously reported. Journal reporting found at least 86 Chinese patients have had their genes edited.
Businesses

'Reskilling Revolution Needed for the Millions of Jobs at Risk Due To Technological Disruption' (weforum.org) 329

A new report, published by The World Economic Forum on Monday estimates that 1.4 million U.S. jobs will be hit by automation between now and 2026. Of those, 57 percent belong to women. Without re-education, 16 percent of affected workers will have no job prospects, the study finds. A further 25 percent would have one to three job options. The report adds The positive finding from the report is that with adequate reskilling, 95% of the most immediately at-risk workers would find good-quality, higher-wage work in growing job families. Report highlights the urgent need for a massive reskilling programme, safety nets to support workers while they reskill, and support with job-matching.
Microsoft

Microsoft Unveils Windows 10 S Laptops Starting at $189 and New Office 365 Tools for Students (venturebeat.com) 93

An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft today unveiled new Windows 10 S devices from Lenovo and JP, starting at $189, aimed at the education market. The company also announced new Office 365 learning tools for students. The news mirrors Microsoft's firstline workers push in September, which saw new Windows 10 S devices starting at $275. The company is now simply doing the same as part of its latest EDU push, and it's not mincing words when it comes to explaining its target audience: "schools who don't want to compromise on Chromebooks."

Microsoft unveiled four new Windows 10 devices that are all supposed to offer more than Chrome OS. Two are standard laptops: the Lenovo 100e powered by Intel Celeron Apollo Lake for $189 and JP's Classmate Leap T303 with Windows Hello for $199. The other two are 2-in-1s: the Lenovo 300e convertible with pen support for $279 and the Trigono V401 with pen and touch for $299. All four are spill resistant, ruggedized for students, and promise long battery life to avoid having wires all over the classroom.

Google

Google's $20 Million Race To the Moon Will End With No Winner -- and Google is OK With That (cnbc.com) 78

Michael Sheetz, reporting for CNBC: More than ten years after it was announced -- and extended over and over -- the Google-sponsored race to win $20 million by landing on the moon will end with no winners. The four teams racing to win the Google Lunar Xprize, which requires a company to land a spacecraft on the moon by March 31, are either short of money or unable to launch this year, three people familiar with the matter told CNBC. Meanwhile, Google -- which extended the deadline from 2012 to 2014 and then eventually to 2018 -- is not willing to push out the date further. "Google does not have plans at this time to extend the deadline again, however we are so thrilled with the progress made by these teams over the last ten years," a Google spokesperson said in a statement to CNBC. The commercial space industry has written off the Lunar Xprize as improbable, and not worth pursuing, according to sources.
Facebook

Facebook Says It Can't Guarantee Social Media is Good For Democracy (reuters.com) 195

Facebook said on Monday that it could offer no assurance that social media was on balance good for democracy, but noted that it was trying what it could to stop alleged meddling in elections by Russia or anyone else. From a report: The sharing of false or misleading headlines on social media has become a global issue, after accusations that Russia tried to influence votes in the United States, Britain and France. Moscow denies the allegations.

Facebook, the largest social network with more than 2 billion users, addressed social media's role in democracy in blog posts from a Harvard University professor, Cass Sunstein, and from an employee working on the subject. "I wish I could guarantee that the positives are destined to outweigh the negatives, but I can't," Samidh Chakrabarti, a Facebook product manager, wrote in his post. Facebook, he added, has a "moral duty to understand how these technologies are being used and what can be done to make communities like Facebook as representative, civil and trustworthy as possible."

Facebook

Facebook VP Says Company Won't Use Experts To Fix Fake News Because It is Worried About Criticism (theoutline.com) 143

Joshua Topolsky, writing for The Outline: According to Axios reporter Ina Fried, the vice president of global communications, marketing, and public policy (phew!) at Facebook shook off suggestions that the network should use outside media literacy watch dogs as opposed to outsourcing its "fake news" problem to a "statistically representative" group of its own users. While speaking at the tech conference DLD (Digital Life Design) in Munich, he revealed that the real motivation behind the company's decision was one based almost entirely on optics. This shouldn't come as much of a surprise, as the company has been totally ignorant and outrageously slow in accepting responsibility for what has been a disaster for its users. While Twitter is turning to media literacy groups such as Common Sense Media and the National Association for Media Literacy for solutions to its own troll and fake news epidemic, Facebook continues to cower behind a broken concept that the company is a neutral platform where all of its participants are equally weighted.
The Media

LWN.Net Celebrates Its 20th Birthday (lwn.net) 23

Free software/Linux news site LWN.net just celebrated its 20th birthday, with publisher Jonathan Corbet calling the last two decades "an amazing journey." LWN published the first edition of their weekly newsletter on January 22, 1998, and Corbet (who also contributes to the Linux kernel) writes today that "It has been quite a ride. We in the free-software community set out to change the world, and we succeeded beyond our wildest expectations."

Here's how he described their second edition the next week... We were arguably helped by the lead news in that edition: Netscape's decision to open-source its "Communicator" web browser. That quickly brought the world's attention to open-source software, though that term would not be invented for a few months yet, and to Linux in particular. LWN was a shadow of what it is now, but it was evidently good enough to ride on that wave and establish itself as a part of the Linux community.
Corbet reviews the highlights. ("Companies discovered our little hobbyist system and invested billions into it, massively accelerating development at all levels of the system...") But he also adds that "Through all of this, we also got to learn some lessons about successfully running a community information source on the net." For the last 16 years the site has supported itself with $7.00-a-month subscriptions, offering early access to their Weekly Edition plus subscriber-only mailing lists, "allowing our content to quickly become part of the community record."

Plus, through events around the world, "we have met -- and become friends with -- many of our readers and many people in the community as a whole. This community is an amazing group of people; it has been a honor and a joy to be a part of it..."

"The free-software community's work is not done, and neither is ours. "
Bitcoin

More Wall Street Pundits Caution Against Investing In Bitcoins (cnbc.com) 171

Peter Boockvar is the Chief Investment Officer of Bleakley Financial Group, a $3.5B wealth management firm -- and he predicts "an epic crash will hit the cryptocurrency market," according to CNBC. "He isn't sure if it'll come to a grinding halt or be a slow and steady drop -- but he says it's coming." "When something goes parabolic like this has, it typically ends up to where that parabola began," he said on CNBC's "Futures Now." Boockvar, a CNBC contributor, contends bitcoin is in danger of dropping 90 percent from current levels. He calls it a classic bubble. "I wouldn't be surprised if over the next year it's down to $1,000 to $3,000," he added. That's where bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency player, was trading less than 12 months ago. Friday afternoon it was trading above $11,000.
Meanwhile, today the International Business Times chronicled the predictions of tech billionaire Mark Cuban. In June of last year as bitcoin was climbing toward the $3,000 threshold, Cuban cautioned potential investors about jumping in on the bandwagon... "[C]rypto is like gold. More religion than asset. Except of course gold makes nice jewelry." He told his followers at the time that he wasn't questioning the value of Bitcoin but was questioning the "valuation" and said , "I think it's in a bubble. I just don't know when or how much it corrects." Cuban suggested that when everyone is "bragging about how easy they are making [money]," that indicates there is a bubble happening...

Still, the Dallas Mavericks owner was open to the idea of using cryptocurrencies as a volatile investment vehicle. "If you're a true adventurer and you really want to throw the Hail Mary, you might take 10 percent and put it in Bitcoin or Ethereum," he said. Cuban also cautioned, "If you do that, you've got to pretend you've already lost your money"... Showing just have far Cuban has come on bitcoin and cryptocurrency, he announced earlier this week that his Dallas Mavericks will accept bitcoin and Ethereum as a method to pay for tickets starting next season. Even if the tech investor doesn't fully believe in cryptocurrency, he's clearly willing to try to profit off it...

United Kingdom

Facebook Reopens Probe Into Russian Involvement in Brexit (techcrunch.com) 280

An anonymous reader quotes TechCrunch: Facebook has said it will conduct a wider investigation into whether there was Russian meddling on its platform relating to the 2016 Brexit referendum vote in the UK. Wednesday its UK policy director Simon Milner wrote to a parliamentary committee that's been conducting a wide-ranging enquiry into fake news -- and whose chair has been witheringly critical of Facebook and Twitter for failing to co-operate with requests for information and assistance on the topic of Brexit and Russia -- saying it will widen its investigation, per the committee's request. Though he gave no firm deadline for delivering a fresh report -- beyond estimating "a number of weeks".

It's not clear whether Twitter will also bow to pressure to conduct a more thorough investigation of Brexit-related disinformation. At the time of writing the company had not responded to our questions either. At the end of last year committee chair Damian Collins warned both companies they could face sanctions for failing to co-operate with the committee's enquiry -- slamming Twitter's investigations to date as "completely inadequate", and expressing disbelief that both companies had essentially ignored the committee's requests... Independent academic studies have suggested there was in fact significant tweet-based activity generated around Brexit by Russian bots."

Theresa May has said Russia's attempts to "sow discord" in the West could not go unchallenged, and warned Vladimir Putin, "We know what you are up to."

Facebook's response complained that a new investigation "requires detailed analysis of historic data by our security experts, who are also engaged in preventing live threats to our service."
Graphics

Can A New Open Photo File Format Replace JPEGs? (cnet.com) 251

Got lossless compression? An anonymous reader quotes CNET: Google, Mozilla and others in a group called the Alliance for Open Media are working on a rival photo technology. In testing so far, the images are 15 percent smaller than Apple's HEIC photo format, said Tim Terriberry, a Mozilla principal research engineer working on the project. But smaller sizes are just the beginning... it's got a strong list of allies, an affinity for web publishing and modern features that could make it the best contender yet for overcoming JPEG's 1990s-era shortcomings... JPEG isn't just limited by needlessly large file sizes. It's also weak when it comes to supporting a wider range of bright and dark tones, a broader spectrum of colors, and graphic elements like text and logos...

The HEIC's new rival is from the Alliance for Open Media, a group whose top priority is a video compression technology called AV1 that's free of patent licensing requirements. It's got heavy hitters on board, including top browser makers Google, Microsoft, Mozilla and the most recent new member, Apple -- though Apple's plans haven't been made public. And it's got major streaming-video companies, too: Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Facebook, videoconferencing powerhouse Intel and Google's YouTube. And with the support of chip designers Intel, Nvidia and Arm, AV1 should get the hardware acceleration that's crucial to making video easy on our laptop and phone batteries.

To use Apple's HEIC, "makers of software, processors and phones must jump through a lot of hoops to license patents," which CNET predicts "means HEIC will have trouble succeeding on the web: patent barriers are antithetical to the web's open nature."

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