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Google

Google Tests A Software That Judges Hollywood's Portrayal of Women 96

Slashdot reader theodp writes: Aside from it being hosted in a town without a movie theater, the 2016 Bentonville Film Festival was also unusual in that it required all entrants to submit "film scripts and downloadable versions of the film" for judgment by "the team at Google and USC", apparently part of a larger Google-funded research project with USC Engineering "to develop a computer science tool that could quickly and efficiently assess how women are represented in films"...

Fest reports noted that representatives of Google and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy appeared in a "Reel vs. Real Diversity" panel presentation at the fest, where the importance of diversity and science to President Obama were discussed, and the lack of qualified people to fill 500,000 U.S. tech jobs was blamed in part on how STEM careers have been presented in film and television... In a 2015 report on a Google-sponsored USC Viterbi School of Engineering MacGyver-themed event to promote women in engineering, USC reported that President Obama was kept briefed on efforts to challenge media's stereotypical portrayals of women. As for its own track record, Google recently updated its Diversity page, boasting that "21% of new hires in 2015 were women in tech, compared to 19% of our current population"....
Television

Welcome To 1986: Inside 'Halt And Catch Fire's' High-Tech Time Machine (fastcompany.com) 44

The third season of AMC's technology drama "Halt and Catch Fire" painstakingly recreated Silicon Valley and San Francisco in 1986. Long-time Slashdot reader harrymcc shares his first-person report: The new episodes...are rich with carefully-researched plot points, dialogue, and sets full of vintage technology (including a startup equipped with real Commodore 64s and a recreated IBM mainframe). I visited the soundstage in Atlanta where the producers have recreated Northern California in the 1980s, and spoke with the show's creators and stars about the loving attention they devote to getting things right.
Harry argues that the show "is in part about how we got from the past to the present," and writes that he saw several 5 1/4-inch floppy disks "including Memorex, 3M, and BASF FlexyDisk," plus "a manual for Frogger for the Atari 2600, a copy of a spreadsheet program known as MicroPro CalcStar...and countless other little pieces of history."
Databases

100 Arrested In New York Thanks To Better Face-Recognition Technology (arstechnica.com) 71

New York doubled the number of "measurement points" used by their facial recognitation technology this year, leading to 100 arrests for fraud and identity theft, plus another 900 open cases. An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In all, since New York implemented facial recognition technology in 2010, more than 14,000 people have been hampered trying to get multiple licenses. The newly upgraded system increases the measurement points of a driver's license picture from 64 to 128.

The DMV said this vastly improves its chances of matching new photographs with one already in a database of 16 million photos... "Facial recognition plays a critical role in keeping our communities safer by cracking down on individuals who break the law," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement. "New York is leading the nation with this technology, and the results from our use of this enhanced technology are proof positive that its use is vital in making our roads safer and holding fraudsters accountable."

At least 39 US states use some form of facial recognition software, and New York says their new system also "removes high-risk drivers from the road," stressing that new licenses will no longer be issued until a photo clears their database.
Bitcoin

Kim Dotcom Will Revive Megaupload, Linking File Transfers To Bitcoin Microtransactions (fortune.com) 66

Long-time Slashdot reader SonicSpike quotes an article from Fortune: The controversial entrepreneur Kim Dotcom said last month that he was preparing to relaunch Megaupload, the file-sharing site that U.S. and New Zealand authorities dramatically shut down in 2012, with bitcoins being involved in some way... This system will be called Bitcache, and Dotcom claimed its launch would send the bitcoin price soaring way above its current $575 value.

The launch of Megaupload 2.0 will take place on January 20, 2017, he said, urging people to "buy bitcoin while cheap, like right now, trust me..." Crucially, Dotcom said the Bitcache system would overcome bitcoin's scaling problems. "It eliminates all blockchain limitations," he claimed.

Every file transfer taking place over Megaupload "will be linked to a tiny Bitcoin micro transaction," Dotcom posted on Twitter. His extradition trial begins Monday, and he's asking the court to allow live-streaming of the trial "because of global interest in my case." Meanwhile, the FBI apparently let the registration lapse on the Megaupload domain, which they seized in 2012, and Ars Technica reports that the site is now full of porn ads.
Facebook

Facebook Says Humans Won't Write Its Trending Topic Descriptions Anymore (recode.net) 76

Following a former Facebook journalist's report that the company's workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network's Trending Topics section, the company has been in damage control mode. First, the company announced it would tweak its Trending Topics section and revamp how editors find trending stories. Specifically, they will train the human editors who work on Facebook's trending section and abandon several automated tools it used to find and categorize trending news in the past. Most recently, Facebook added political scenarios to its orientation training following the concerns. Now, it appears that Facebook will "end its practice of writing editorial descriptions for topics, replacing them with snippets of text pulled from news stories." Kurt Wagner, writing for Recode: It's been more than three months since Gizmodo first published a story claiming Facebook's human editors were suppressing conservative news content on the site's Trending Topics section. Facebook vehemently denied the report, but has been dealing with the story's aftermath ever since. On Friday, Facebook announced another small but notable change to Trending Topics: Human editors will no longer write the short story descriptions that accompany a trending topic on the site. Instead, Facebook is going to use algorithms to "pull excerpts directly from stories." It is not, however, cutting out humans entirely. In fact, Facebook employees will still select which stories ultimately make it into the trending section. An algorithm will surface popular stories, but Facebook editors will weed out the inappropriate or fake ones. "There are still people involved in this process to ensure that the topics that appear in Trending remain high-quality," the company's blog reads.
United Kingdom

British Companies Are Selling Advanced Spy Tech To Authoritarian Regimes (vice.com) 56

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Since early 2015, over a dozen UK companies have been granted licenses to export powerful telecommunications interception technology to countries around the world, Motherboard has learned. Many of these exports include IMSI-catchers, devices which can monitor large numbers of mobile phones over broad areas. Some of the UK companies were given permission to export their products to authoritarian states such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Egypt; countries with poor human rights records that have been well-documented to abuse surveillance technology. In 2015, the UK's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) started publishing basic data about the exportation of telecommunications interception devices. Through the Freedom of Information Act, Motherboard obtained the names of companies that have applied for exportation licenses, as well as details on the technologies being shipped, including, in some cases, individual product names. The companies include a subsidiary of defense giant BAE Systems, as well as Pro-Solve International, ComsTrac, CellXion, Cobham, and Domo Tactical Communications (DTC). Many of these companies sell IMSI-catchers. IMSI-catchers, sometimes known as "Stingrays" after a particularly popular brand, are fake cell phone towers which force devices in their proximity to connect. In the data obtained by Motherboard, 33 licenses are explicitly marked as being for IMSI-catchers, including for export to Turkey and Indonesia. Other listings heavily suggest the export of IMSI-catchers too: one granted application to export to Iraq is for a "Wideband Passive GSM Monitoring System," which is a more technical description of what many IMSI-catchers do. In all, Motherboard received entries for 148 export license applications, from February 2015 to April 2016. A small number of the named companies do not provide interception capabilities, but defensive measures, for example to monitor the radio spectrum.
Earth

SpaceX Dragon Returns Home From ISS (floridatoday.com) 44

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Florida Today: A SpaceX Dragon capsule that helped prepare the International Space Station for future commercial astronaut flights has returned to Earth after a stay of more than month-long mission. A robotic arm released the unmanned capsule packed with 3,000 pounds of cargo at 6:11 a.m. EDT, then fired thrusters several times to move a safe distance away from the station orbiting about 250 miles up. The departure began a less than six-hour journey that culminated in a Pacific Ocean splashdown at 11:47 a.m. EDT, about 300 miles southwest of Baja, California. The Dragon launched from Cape Canaveral early July 18 on a Falcon 9 rocket and berthed at the station two days later. Among the cargo brought back from space Friday were a dozen mice from a Japanese science experiment -- the first brought home alive in a Dragon. Samples from mice euthanized as part of an experiment by pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly also were on board. Results were returned from an experiment that studied the behavior of heart cells in microgravity, and from research into the composition of microbes in the human digestive system, NASA said. Findings from both could help keep astronauts healthy during deep space exploration missions. SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station next Saturday, Sept. 3.
The Almighty Buck

Amazon Is Testing a 30-Hour, 75% Salary Workweek (washingtonpost.com) 174

Amazon is planning a pilot program in which a select group of workers will need to work for 30 hours a week, instead of the usual 40 to 70 hours, and make 75 percent of the salary + benefits (alternate source). From the report:Currently, the pilot program will be small, consisting of a few dozen people. These teams will work on tech products within the human resources division of the company, working Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with additional flex hours. Their salaries will be lower than 40-hour workers, but they will have the option to transition to full-time if they choose. Team members will be hired from inside and outside the company. As of now, Amazon does not have plans to alter the 40-hour workweek on a companywide level, the spokesman said.
Android

Facebook's WhatsApp Data Gambit Faces Federal Privacy Complaint (vice.com) 93

Sam Gustin, writing for Motherboard: Facebook's decision to begin harvesting data from its popular WhatsApp messaging service provoked a social media uproar on Thursday, and prompted leading privacy advocates to prepare a federal complaint accusing the tech titan of violating US law. On Thursday morning, WhatsApp, which for years has dined out on its reputation for privacy and security, announced that it would begin sharing user phone numbers with its Menlo Park-based parent company in an effort "to improve your Facebook ads and products experiences." Consumer privacy advocates denounced the move as a betrayal of WhatsApp's one billion users -- users who had been assured by the two companies that "nothing would change" about the messaging service's privacy practices after Facebook snapped up the startup for a whopping $19 billion in 2014. "WhatsApp users should be shocked and upset," Claire Gartland, Consumer Protection Counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a leading US consumer advocacy group, told Motherboard. "WhatsApp obtained one billion users by promising that it would protect user privacy. Both Facebook and WhatsApp made very public promises that the companies would maintain a separation. Those were the key selling points of the deal."
Crime

US Unveils Charges Against KickassTorrents, Names Two More Defendants (arstechnica.com) 110

A total of three men are said to be operators of file-sharing site KickassTorrents (KAT), according to U.S. prosecutors. Last month, federal authorities arrested the 30-year-old Ukrainian mastermind of KAT, Artem Vaulin, and formally charged him with one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and two counts of criminal copyright infringement. Two other Ukrainians were named in the new indictment (PDF): Levgen (Eugene) Kutsenko and Oleksander (Alex) Radostin. While only Vaulin has been arrested, bench warrants have been issue for the arrest of all three men. Ars Technica reports: "Prosecutors say the three men developed and maintained the site together and used it to 'generate millions of dollars from the unlawful distribution of copyright-protected media, including movies, [...] television shows, music, video games, computer software, and electronic books.' They gave out 'Reputation' and 'User Achievement' awards to users who uploaded the most popular files, including a special award for users who had uploaded more than 1,000 torrents. The indictment presents a selection of the evidence that the government intends to use to convict the men, and it isn't just simple downloads of the copyrighted movies. The government combed through Vaulin's e-mails and traced the bitcoins that were given to him via a 'donation' button."
Transportation

Singapore Launches World's First 'Self-driving' Taxi Service (theguardian.com) 60

Days before ride-hailing service Uber debuts its self-driving car in Pittsburgh, a company in Singapore has beaten Uber to the race. The Guardian reports: The world's first "self-driving" taxi service has been launched in Singapore -- albeit with a human backup driver and co-pilot on board for the time being. Members of the public selected to take part in the trial would be able to hail a free ride through their smartphones, said nuTonomy, an autonomous vehicle software startup. The cars -- modified Renault Zoe and Mitsubishi i-MiEV electrics -- had a driver in the front prepared to take back the wheel and a researcher in the back watching the car's computers, the company said. Each was fitted with Lidar, a laser-based detection system like radar. An Associated Press reporter taking a ride on Wednesday observed that the safety driver had to step on the brakes once, when a car was obstructing the test car's lane and another vehicle, which appeared to be parked, suddenly began moving in the oncoming lane. The service would start with six cars, growing to a dozen by the end of the year, said nuTonomy, adding that it aimed to have a fully self-driving taxi fleet in Singapore by 2018.
The Almighty Buck

'Legalist' Startup Automates The Lawsuit Strategy Peter Thiel Used To Bankrupt Gawker (gizmodo.com) 242

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Gizmodo: "Two Harvard undergraduates have created a service called Legalist that uses what they call 'data-backed litigation financing,' analyzing civil lawsuits with an algorithm to predict case outcomes and determine which civil lawsuits are worth investing in," reports Gizmodo. The process is very similar to what billionaire Peter Thiel did when he secretly funded a lawsuit from Hulk Hogan against Gawker Media. "Legalist says it uses an algorithm of 58 different variables including, as [Legalist cofounder] Eva Shang told the Silicon Valley Business Journal, who the presiding judge is and the number of cases the judge is currently working on. The algorithm has been fed cases dating back to 1989 and helps people figure out how long a case will last and the risks associated with it. In a presentation at Y Combinator's Demo Day on Tuesday [Legalist was developed as part of Y Combinator's Summer 2016 class], the founders claimed that the startup funded one lawsuit for $75,000 and expects a return of more than $1 million. Shang says the $1.40 is earned for every $1 spent in litigation financing, which can prove to be a profitable enterprise when you're spending hundreds of thousands of dollars." Shang told Business Insider in reference to the Gawker lawsuit, "That's the kind of thing we're staying away from here." The company will supposedly be focusing on commercial and small-business lawsuits, and will not be backing lawsuits by individuals.
Transportation

World's Largest Aircraft Crashes Its Second Flight (theverge.com) 171

Not too long after it completed its first test flight, the Airlander 10 -- the world's largest aircraft -- has crashed its second test flight. Since the 300-foot long aircraft contains 38,000 cubic meters of helium inside its hull, the crash was all but sudden. You can see in a video posted to YouTube from witnesses on the ground that the aircraft slowly descended to the ground, nose first. The BBC has published some close-up photos of the cockpit, which sustained damages. There were no injuries in the crash, according to a tweet from Hybrid Air Vehicles. The company did also deny eyewitness reports of the aircraft being damaged in a collision with a telegraph pole.
Operating Systems

Latest Windows 10 Update Breaks PowerShell (infoworld.com) 211

whoever57 writes: According to a report via InfoWorld, the latest Windows 10 update [KB 3176934] breaks Desired State Configuration (DSC) functionality in PowerShell. Some things that were broken in the prior update, such as support of many webcams and a freeze issue, don't appear to have been fixed in this update. Windows PowerShell Blog reported last night: "Due to a missing .MOF file in the build package, the update breaks DSC. All DSC operations will result in an 'Invalid Property' error. If you are using DSC from or on any Windows client, take the following steps: Uninstall the update if already installed [...]; If using WSUS, do not approve the update. Otherwise, Use Group Policy to set the 'Configure Automatic Updates' to '2 -- Notify for download and notify for install' [...] A fix for this issue will be included in the next Windows update which is due out 8/30/2016."
Transportation

Self-Driving Cars Aren't Going To Be So Great Until We Make Our Maps Better (theverge.com) 146

Uber is debuting its self-driving cars in Pittsburgh this month, a move that has many taxi drivers upset. The Verge's Nilay Patel argues that this move should change the way we think about maps and addresses. He adds that Uber is currently unable to pinpoint his home, and often ends up at the door of a "widely different address." Citing the CEO of a "large ridesharing company", Patel writes that this issue is known as the "egress problem" -- "the way we locate buildings on a map doesn't really describe how people move in and out of those buildings." Though there are workarounds and inventive ways to pinpoint your exact address, Patel argues that when we grow reliant on self-driving cars, things will get far more complicated and futile if we don't make our maps and navigation services better. He writes: Driverless cars are one of the ultimate signifiers of the future -- the real Jetsons stuff. And we're so close to making them happen: tons of cars have sophisticated adaptive cruise control that can basically keep you going on the highway, prototypes of true self-driving cars from Google and others are already on the road, and the momentum is only increasing. But maybe we shouldn't hand control of how we get somewhere to the machines until we're entirely sure the robots know where we're going.

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