Transportation

How Flying Seriously Messes With Your Mind and Body (bbc.com) 45

dryriver writes: BBC Future has an interesting piece about how traveling in an airliner does strange things to people's minds and bodies, such as far more people starting to cry while watching even mildly emotional movies on airplanes than what is normal, some passengers experiencing decreases in acuity of sight, taste and smell (airline meals are over-seasoned to compensate for this), unusual tiredness or desire to sleep, your skin drying out by up to 37% percent and possibly becoming itchy, and some people breaking wind far more often than they normally would. Here is an excerpt form the report: "There can be no doubt that aircraft cabins are peculiar places for humans to be. They are a weird environment where the air pressure is similar to that atop an 8,000ft-high (2.4km) mountain. The humidity is lower than in some of the world's driest deserts while the air pumped into the cabin is cooled as low as 10C (50F) to whisk away the excess heat generated by all the bodies and electronics onboard. The reduced air pressure on airline flights can reduce the amount of oxygen in passengers' blood between 6 and 25%, a drop that in hospital would lead many doctors to administer supplementary oxygen. There are some studies, however, that show even relatively mild levels of hypoxia (deficiency in oxygen) can alter our ability to think clearly. At oxygen levels equivalent to altitudes above 12,000ft (3.6km), healthy adults can start to show measurable changes in their memory, their ability to perform calculations and make decisions. This is why the aviation regulations insist that pilots must wear supplementary oxygen if the cabin air pressure is greater than 12,500ft. A study in 2007 showed that after about three hours at the altitudes found in airline cabins, people start to complain about feeling uncomfortable."
Robotics

Scientists Create World's First 'Molecular Robot' Capable of Building Molecules (scienmag.com) 32

New submitter re385 shares a report from Science Magazine: Scientists at The University of Manchester have created the world's first "molecular robot" that is capable of performing basic tasks including building other molecules. The tiny robots, which are a millionth of a millimeter in size, can be programmed to move and build molecular cargo, using a tiny robotic arm. Each individual robot is capable of manipulating a single molecule and is made up of just 150 carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen atoms. To put that size into context, a billion billion of these robots piled on top of each other would still only be the same size as a single grain of salt. The robots operate by carrying out chemical reactions in special solutions which can then be controlled and programmed by scientists to perform the basic tasks. In the future such robots could be used for medical purposes, advanced manufacturing processes and even building molecular factories and assembly lines. The research will be published in Nature on Thursday 21st September. "All matter is made up of atoms and these are the basic building blocks that form molecules," explains Professor David Leigh, who led the research at University's School of Chemistry. "Our robot is literally a molecular robot constructed of atoms just like you can build a very simple robot out of Lego bricks. The robot then responds to a series of simple commands that are programmed with chemical inputs by a scientist. It is similar to the way robots are used on a car assembly line. Those robots pick up a panel and position it so that it can be riveted in the correct way to build the bodywork of a car. So, just like the robot in the factory, our molecular version can be programmed to position and rivet components in different ways to build different products, just on a much smaller scale at a molecular level."
Businesses

Google Buys Part of HTC's Smartphone Team For $1.1 Billion (betanews.com) 32

BrianFagioli shares a report from BetaNews: Today, a deal finally happens, but Google didn't buy HTC outright. Strangely, as the deal is laid out, the search giant has seemingly bought HTC employees. Yes, for $1.1 billion, the search giant has sort of purchased human beings -- plus it gets access to some intellectual property. HTC gets a much-needed big influx of cash. "Google and HTC Corporation today announced a definitive agreement under which certain HTC employees -- many of whom are already working with Google to develop Pixel smartphones -- will join Google. HTC will receive $1.1 billion in cash from Google as part of the transaction. Separately, Google will receive a non-exclusive license for HTC intellectual property (IP). The agreement is a testament to the decade-long strategic relationship between HTC and Google around the development of premium smartphones," says HTC.
Advertising

Democrats Ask FEC To Create New Rules To Keep Foreign Influence Off Social Media Ads (thehill.com) 103

Cristina Marcos reports via The Hill: Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday asked the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to establish new guidelines for online advertising platforms that would prevent foreign spending to influence U.S. elections. The move comes after Facebook provided information to Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the FBI's investigation into Russia's election interference, about Russian ad purchases during the 2016 campaign.

"The recent revelations that foreign nationals with suspected ties to the Russian government sought to influence the 2016 election through social media advertisements are deeply concerning and demand a response," 20 House and Senate Democrats wrote in the letter. "We are fast approaching the 2018 election cycle. As such, it is imperative the Federal Election Commission begin this effort in earnest," they wrote. CNN, which first reported on the Democrats' letter, cited Facebook sources saying they expect Congress may try to require disclaimers on online political ads in the future, similar to political television ads. The Democratic lawmakers suggested that any FEC guidance address how foreign actors can use corporate or nonprofit designations to avoid disclosing political spending; what advertisement platforms can do to prevent foreign campaign activity; and possible changes to disclosure standards for political advertisements.

China

China Arms Upgraded Tianhe-2A Hybrid Supercomputer (nextplatform.com) 19

New submitter kipperstem77 shares an excerpt from a report via The Next Platform: The National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) has, according to James Lin, vice director for the Center of High Performance Computing (HPC) at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, who divulged the plans last year, is building one of the three pre-exascale machines [that China is currently investing in], in this case a kicker to the Tianhe-1A CPU-GPU hybrid that was deployed in 2010 and that put China on the HPC map. This exascale system will be installed at the National Supercomputer Center in Tianjin, not the one in Guangzhou, according to Lin. This machine is expected to use ARM processors, and we think it will very likely use Matrix2000 DSP accelerators, too, but this has not been confirmed. The second pre-exascale machine will be an upgrade to the TaihuLight system using a future Shenwei processor, but it will be installed at the National Supercomputing Center in Jinan. And the third pre-exascale machine being funded by China is being architected in conjunction with AMD, with licensed server processor technology, and which everyone now thinks is going to be based on Epyc processors and possibly with Radeon Instinct GPU coprocessors. The Next Platform has a slide embedded in its report "showing the comparison between Tianhe-2, which was the fastest supercomputer in the world for two years, and Tianhe-2A, which will be vying for the top spot when the next list comes out." Every part of this system shows improvements.
Businesses

Amazon Customers Can Now Return Things For Free At Kohl's Or Whole Foods (mashable.com) 26

In addition to any of the hundreds of Whole Foods supermarkets across the country, certain Kohl's stores will now accept returns of "eligible items" as part of a retail partnership between the two companies that began earlier this summer. Mashable reports: Starting next month, more than 80 Kohl's locations in the Chicago and Los Angeles area will begin packing and shipping returns back to the online shopping giant's warehouses free of charge. The stores will even have specially designated parking spots for Amazon returns customers. In exchange, Kohl's is hoping that some of the people this program draws into its stores will be tempted to buy something there along the way. One recent UPS survey found that around 70 percent of consumers tend to make new purchases in the course of returning items in stores. The new array of return options will also help Amazon undercut its arch-rival Walmart, which has staked its big push to catch up with Amazon on the idea that its thousands of stores can serve as waypoints for pick-ups, returns, and more convenient delivery.
Education

Computer Science Degrees Aren't Returning On Investment For Coders, Research Finds (theregister.co.uk) 194

According to a new survey, coders with a bachelor's degree in computer science only earn 3,000 British Pounds (BP) more a year than those who don't have one. The survey of 4,700 developers in the UK was conducted by Stack Overflow, a community site frequented by developers for answers to technical questions. The Register reports the findings: This is despite the average degree now costing 9,000 BP a year in tuition fees alone. Average student debt is now more than 50,000 BP, according the Institute of Fiscal Studies. The research found that the median salary of those who did not have higher education was 35,000 BP per year, while those who gained a bachelor's degree earned 38,000 BP and postgraduates took home 42,000 BP. It found that 48 per cent of developers with less than four years of professional experience currently hold a Computer Science-related undergraduate degree, while 49 per cent had completed an online course instead. The research also found that JavaScript developers were most in demand, with almost 27 per cent of jobs advertised on Stack Overflow now requiring this skill, followed by Java (22 per cent), Python (16 per cent), C# (15 per cent) and ReactJS (9 per cent).
Microsoft

Bill Gates Says He's Sorry About Control-Alt-Delete (qz.com) 205

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: At the Bloomberg Global Business Forum today, Carlyle Group co-founder and CEO David Rubenstein asked Microsoft founder Bill Gates to account for one of the most baffling questions of the digital era: Why does it take three fingers to lock or log in to a PC, and why did Gates ever think that was a good idea? Grimacing slightly, Gates deflected responsibility for the crtl-alt-delete key command, saying, "clearly, the people involved should have put another key on to make that work." Rubenstein pressed him: does he regret the decision? "You can't go back and change the small things in your life without putting the other things at risk," Gates said. But: "Sure. If I could make one small edit I would make that a single key operation." Gates has made the confession before. In 2013, he blamed IBM for the issue, saying, "The guy who did the IBM keyboard design didn't want to give us our single button."
AI

Amazon Is Reportedly Working On Alexa-Enabled Smart Glasses (techcrunch.com) 31

According to the Financial Times (Warning: source paywalled), Amazon is working on building a pair of smart glasses to house its Alexa voice assistant. The report also mentions a home security camera that is in the works, capable of linking up to Amazon's existing Echo connected devices. TechCrunch reports: According to the FT, the smart glasses are intended to be purely an earbuds-free housing for Amazon's Alexa AI -- with a bone-conduction audio system that would enable the wearer to hear Alexa without the need to be wired in. The FT reports the glasses would wirelessly tether to a user's smartphone for connectivity. They are also apparently being designed to look like a regular pair of spectacles, so they could be worn comfortably and unobtrusively. The paper notes that Amazon hired Babak Parviz, founder of Google Glass, in 2014, and says he's been closely involved in the project. It also points to several other Glass researchers, engineers and designers having moved to Amazon's labs -- per analysis of their LinkedIn profiles.
AMD

AMD Opteron Vs EPYC: How AMD Server Performance Evolved Over 10 Years (phoronix.com) 29

New submitter fstack writes: Phoronix has carried out tests comparing AMD's high-end EPYC 7601 CPU to AMD Opteron CPUs from about ten years ago, looking at the EPYC/Opteron Linux performance and power efficiency. Both on the raw performance and performance-per-Watt, the numbers are quite staggering though the single-threaded performance hasn't evolved quite as much. The EPYC 7601 is a $4,200 USD processor with 32 cores / 64 threads. The first of many tests was with NAS Parallel Benchmarks: "For a heavily threaded test like this, going from a single Opteron 2300 series to the EPYC 7601 yielded around a 40x increase in performance," reports Phoronix. "Not bad when also considering it was only a 16x increase in the thread count (4 physical cores to 32 cores / 64 threads). The EPYC 7601 has a lower base clock frequency than the Opteron 2300 CPUs tested but has a turbo/boost frequency higher, among many architectural advantages over these K10 Opterons. With the NASA test's Lower-Upper Gauss-Seidel solver, going from the dual Opteron 2384 processors to a single EPYC 7601 yields around a 25x improvement in performance over the past decade of AMD server CPUs. Or in looking at the performance-per-Watt with the LU.C test, it's also around a 25x improvement over these older Opterons."
IOS

Turning Off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in iOS 11's Control Center Doesn't Actually Turn Off Wi-Fi or Bluetooth (vice.com) 219

An anonymous reader shares a Motherboard report: Turning off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi when you're not using them on your smartphone has long been standard, common sense, advice. Unfortunately, with the iPhone's new operating system iOS 11 - which was released to the general public yesterday - turning them off is not as easy as it used to be. Now, when you toggle Bluetooth and Wi-Fi off from the iPhone's Control Center -- the somewhat confusing menu that appears when you swipe up from the bottom of the phone -- it actually doesn't completely turn them off. While that might sound like a bug, that's actually what Apple intended in the new operating system. But security researchers warn that users might not realize this and, as a consequence, could leave Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on without noticing. Numerous Slashdot readers have complained about this "feature" this week.
GNOME

GNOME Partners With Purism On Librem 5 Linux-based Privacy-focused Smartphone (betanews.com) 81

BrianFagioli writes: The Librem 5 smartphone by Purism has a long and difficult road ahead of it. Competing against the likes of Apple and Google on the mobile market has proven to be a death sentence for many platforms -- including Microsoft with its failed Windows 10 Mobile. Luckily, Purism has found itself a new partner on this project -- one of the most important organizations in the Linux community -- The GNOME Foundation. The GNOME Foundation explains, 'The Librem 5 is a hardware platform the Foundation is interested in advancing as a GNOME/GTK phone device. The GNOME Foundation is committed to partnering with Purism to create hackfests, tools, emulators, and build awareness that surround moving GNOME/GTK onto the Librem 5 phone. As part of the collaboration, if the campaign is successful the GNOME Foundation plans to enhance GNOME shell and general performance of the system with Purism to enable features on the Librem 5.'
Businesses

Slashdot Asks: Why Does Google Want To Purchase HTC? (bloomberg.com) 101

Rumor has it Google is planning to purchase HTC -- or at least a portion of it. The speculation of this has been doing rounds for weeks now, and it reached a new high today after HTC said its stock will stop trading from Thursday, as it prepares to make a "major announcement" tomorrow. Bloomberg reported today: Alphabet's Google is close to acquiring assets from Taiwan's HTC, according to a person familiar with the situation, in a bid to bolster the internet giant's nascent hardware business. HTC, once ranked among the world's top smartphone makers, is holding a town hall meeting Thursday, according to tech website Venture Beat, which cited a copy of an internal invitation. The shares will also be suspended from trading as of Sept. 21 due to a pending announcement, according to the Taiwan stock exchange. Of course Google has made similar moves in the past. It previously owned Motorola for a brief period of time, but that acquisition didn't materialize much. The company has however, since re-hired the Motorola chief it once had, Rick Osterloh, and founded a separate hardware team under his stewardship. Claude Zellweger, the one-time chief designer of HTC Vive, is also now at Google, working on that company's Daydream virtual reality system.

What reasons could Google have to purchase HTC? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Privacy

Popular Steam Extension 'Inventory Helper' Spies On Users, Says Report (windowsreport.com) 66

SmartAboutThings shares a report from Windows Report: If you installed the "Steam Inventory Helper" on your computer, you may want to uninstall it as soon as possible. Recent reports suggest that this extension used to buy and sell digital goods on Steam is spying on its users. Redditor Wartab made a thorough analysis of the tool and reached the following conclusions: The spyware code tracks your every move starting from the moment you visit a website until you leave. It also tracks where you are coming from on the site; Steam Inventory Helper tracks your clicks, including when you are moving your mouse and when you are having focus in an input; When you click a link, it sends the link URL to a background script; Fortunately, the code does not monitor what you type. Apparently, the purpose of this spyware is to collect data about gamers for promotional purposes.
Transportation

Is the World Ready For Flying Cars? (engadget.com) 243

An anonymous reader shares a report from TechCrunch, adding: "Is the world ready for flying cars? Sebastian Thrun, the supposed godfather of autonomous driving, and several other tech investors seem to think so." From the report: At TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017, Thrun talked a lot about flying cars and how that was the future of transportation. So did GGV's Jenny Lee, a prolific investor in China. And so did Steve Jurvetson, one of the original investors in SpaceX. The technical backbone for flying cars seems to be there already -- with drones becoming ever-present and advancements in AI and self-driving cars -- but the time is coming soon that flying cars will be the primary mode of transportation. "I can't envision a future of highways [and being] stuck in cars," Thrun said. "I envision a [future] where you hop in a thing, go in the air, and fly in a straight line. I envision a future where Amazon delivers my food in the air in five minutes. The air is so free of stuff and is so unused compared to the ground, it has to happen in my opinion."

Cars today are forced to move on a two-dimensional plane (ramps, clover intersections and tunnels set aside), and while self-driving cars would make it easier for cars to talk to each other and move more efficiently, adding a third dimension to travel would make a lot of sense coming next. Thrun pointed to airplane transit, which is already a "fundamentally great mass transit system." Jurvetson said he was actually about to ride in a flying car before he "watched it flip over" before arriving to talk about some of the next steps in technology onstage. So, there's work to be done there, but it does certainly seem that all eyes are on flying cars. And that'll be enabled by autonomous driving, which will probably allow flying cars to figure out the most efficient paths from one point to the next without crashing into each other.
Lee said that China is closely analyzing changes in transportation, which might end up leading to flying cars. "I do want to highlight that there's going to be huge disruption within the transportation ecosystem in China," Lee said. "Cars going from diesel to electric. China has about 200 million install base of car ownership. In 2016, only 1 million cars are electric. The Chinese government hopes to install 5 million parking lots that are electric... Even the Chinese OEMs are buying into flying taxis."
Power

Electric Bus Sets Record With 1,101-Mile Trip On a Single Charge (engadget.com) 153

A startup called Proterra has set the world record for the furthest distance any electric vehicle has managed before recharging. The Catalyst E2 Max electric bus drove 1,101.2 miles on a single charge, beating the previous record-holder, a one-seat experimental car nicknamed "Boozer." Engadget reports: Not surprisingly, a bus can hold a much larger battery than just about any regular car. The Catalyst E2 Max carries 660kWh, or nearly nine times the capacity of a 75kWh Tesla Model S. Also, Proterra was driving in optimal conditions, with no passengers, no stops and a gentle test track. It'd be another story with a fully-laden bus wending its way through a city. Even so, that kind of range is very promising. In many cases, it could likely handle a long bus route for several hours -- it might only need to recharge at the end of a driver's shift. While it could take an hour or more to top up even with Proterra's fast charging system, bus drivers are no strangers to changing vehicles. The first E2 series buses are due to reach Los Angeles streets later in 2017, so it might not be long before you can witness this longevity first-hand. The company released a video of the record-setting feat on YouTube.
Twitter

Twitter Suspends 300,000 Accounts Tied To Terrorism In 2017 (bloomberg.com) 69

According to a new transparency report, Twitter said it suspended nearly 300,000 accounts globally linked to terrorism in the first half of the year. The company is improving automation tools used to help block accounts that promote terrorism and violence. Bloomberg reports: Of [the nearly 300,000 accounts that were suspended], roughly 95 percent were identified by the company's spam-fighting automation tools. Meanwhile, the social network said government data requests continued to increase, and that it provided authorities with data on roughly 3,900 accounts from January to June. Twitter said about 75 percent of the blocked accounts this year were spotted before a single tweet was sent, and that 935,897 accounts had been suspended since August 2015, with two-thirds of those coming in the past year. American authorities made 2,111 requests from Twitter from January to June, the most of the 83 countries tracked by the company. Twitter supplied information on users in 77 percent of the inquiries. Japan made 1,384 requests and the U.K. issued 606 requests. Turkish authorities continued a trend of aggressively policing Twitter, making 554 requests for account data and issuing court orders to remove 715 pieces of content. Other governments made only 38 total content-removal requests.
Data Storage

Google, Bing, Yahoo Data Retention Doesn't Improve Search Quality, Study Claims (theregister.co.uk) 36

A new paper released on Monday via the National Bureau of Economic Research claims that retaining search log data doesn't do much for search quality. "Data retention has implications in the debate over Europe's right to be forgotten, the authors suggest, because retained data undermines that right," reports The Register. "It's also relevant to U.S. policy discussions about privacy regulations." From the report: To determine whether retention policies affected the accuracy of search results, Chiou and Tucker used data from metrics biz Hitwise to assess web traffic being driven by search sites. They looked at Microsoft Bing and Yahoo! Search during a period when Bing changed its search data retention period from 18 months to 6 months and when Yahoo! changed its retention period from 13 months to 3 months, as well as when Yahoo! had second thoughts and shifted to an 18-month retention period. According to Chiou and Tucker, data retention periods didn't affect the flow of traffic from search engines to downstream websites. "Our findings suggest that long periods of data storage do not confer advantages in search quality, which is an often-cited benefit of data retention by companies," their paper states. Chiou and Tucker observe that the supposed cost of privacy laws to consumers and to companies may be lower than perceived. They also contend that their findings weaken the claim that data retention affects search market dominance, which could make data retention less relevant in antitrust discussions of Google.
The Courts

Pepe the Frog's Creator Is Sending Takedown Notices To Far-Right Sites (vice.com) 319

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Pepe the Frog creator Matt Furie has made good on his threat to "aggressively enforce his intellectual property." The artist's lawyers have taken legal action against the alt-right. They have served cease and desist orders to several alt-right personalities and websites including Richard Spencer, Mike Cernovich, and the r/the_Donald subreddit. In addition, they have issued Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown requests to Reddit and Amazon, notifying them that use of Pepe by the alt-right on their platforms is copyright infringement. The message is to the alt-right is clear -- stop using Pepe the Frog or prepare for legal consequences. Furie originally created Pepe as a non-political character for his Boy's Club comic, but Pepe later became an internet meme and during the 2016 U.S. presidential election the alt-right movement appropriated the frog in various grotesque and hateful memes.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Resigns From Web Consortium In Wake of EME DRM Standardization (eff.org) 214

New submitter Frobnicator writes: Four years ago, the W3C began standardizing Encrypted Media Extensions, or EME. Several organizations, including the EFF, have argued against DRM within web browsers. Earlier this year, after the W3C leadership officially recommended EME despite failing to reach consensus, the EFF filed the first-ever official appeal that the decision be formally polled for consensus. That appeal has been denied, and for the first time the W3C is endorsing a standard against the consensus of its members.

In response, the EFF published their resignation from the body: "The W3C is a body that ostensibly operates on consensus. Nevertheless, as the coalition in support of a DRM compromise grew and grew -- and the large corporate members continued to reject any meaningful compromise -- the W3C leadership persisted in treating EME as topic that could be decided by one side of the debate. [...] Today, the W3C bequeaths an legally unauditable attack-surface to browsers used by billions of people. Effective today, EFF is resigning from the W3C."
Jeff Jaffe, CEO of W3C said: "I know from my conversations that many people are not satisfied with the result. EME proponents wanted a faster decision with less drama. EME critics want a protective covenant. And there is reason to respect those who want a better result. But my personal reflection is that we took the appropriate time to have a respectful debate about a complex set of issues and provide a result that will improve the web for its users. My main hope, though, is that whatever point-of-view people have on the EME covenant issue, that they recognize the value of the W3C community and process in arriving at a decision for an inherently contentious issue. We are in our best light when we are facilitating the debate on important issues that face the web."

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