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Iphone

Apple's iPhone 8 To Replace Touch ID Home Button With 'Function Area' (appleinsider.com) 114

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Apple Insider: Apple will ditch the home button when it debuts a new 'iPhone 8' model later this year, and will dedicate the extra screen real estate to an area for virtual buttons, according to KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Adding detail to his previous predictions regarding the next-generation handset, Kuo in a note to investors obtained by AppleInsider said the full-screen design will allow Apple to integrate a "function" area never seen in an iPhone. The device is expected to adopt a 5.8-inch OLED panel in a form factor similar to the current 4.7-inch iPhone 7. Despite having extended screen real estate as compared to current iPhone models, the actual active display area on "iPhone 8" will be closer to 5.15 inches on the diagonal, with the remaining bottom portion dedicated to system functions like virtual buttons. While Kuo failed to elaborate on an exact implementation, the note suggests Apple plans to hardcode a set of always-on, static system controls into iOS. Whether the so-called "function area" is capable of switching to an active display mode for in-app activities like watching videos or playing games, remains to be seen. With the deletion of current Touch ID technology, Kuo believes "iPhone 8" will incorporate new bio-recognition assets to take over device security and Apple Pay authentication duties. The analyst did not offer predictions on the type of biometric tech Apple intends to use, but a report earlier today said the company could integrate a 3D laser scanning module capable of facilitating facial recognition and augmented reality applications. Kuo in a note last month said Apple might integrate a dual biometric system utilizing optical fingerprint readers and facial recognition hardware.
Government

Bipartisan Bill Seeks Warrants For Police Use of 'Stingray' Cell Trackers (usatoday.com) 113

Tulsa_Time quotes a report from USA Today: A bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers introduced legislation Wednesday requiring police agencies to get a search warrant before they can deploy powerful cellphone surveillance technology known as "stingrays" that sweep up information about the movements of innocent Americans while tracking suspected criminals. "Owning a smartphone or fitness tracker shouldn't give the government a blank check to track your movements," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee who introduced the bill with Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and John Conyers, D-Mich. "Law enforcement should be able to use GPS data, but they need to get a warrant. This bill sets out clear rules to make sure our laws keep up with the times." The legislation introduced Wednesday, called the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance (GPS) Act, would require a warrant for all domestic law enforcement agencies to track the location and movements of individual Americans through GPS technology without their knowledge. It also aims to combat high-tech stalking by creating criminal penalties for secretly using an electronic device to track someone's movements.
Transportation

Dutch Town Pilots Lightlines To Help Distracted Smartphone Users Cross the Road (autoexpress.co.uk) 115

An anonymous reader writes: A Dutch municipality has introduced pedestrian traffic lights specifically designed to help smartphone users avoid stepping into traffic by displaying a colorful strip of light on the pavement. Built by Dutch firm HIG Traffic Systems, the new +LightLine light comes with a LED strip that illuminates the pavement with a horizontal strip before the road crossing. Smartphone users looking at their phone will see the color of the strip beneath their feet before stepping out into the road.
Transportation

Brazil Judge Rules Uber Drivers Are Employees, Deserve Benefits (reuters.com) 131

An anonymous reader shares a Reuters report: A Brazilian judge ruled that a driver using the Uber ride-hailing app is an employee of the San Francisco-based company and is entitled to workers' benefits, adding to the global debate over labor rights for drivers on the platform. Uber said on Tuesday it would appeal the decision by Judge Marcio Toledo Goncalves, who issued the ruling late Monday in a labor court in Minas Gerais state. Goncalves ordered Uber to pay one driver around 30,000 reais ($10,000) in compensation for overtime, night shifts, holidays and expenses such as gasoline, water and candy for passengers. The consequences for Uber, if the ruling is upheld, could be far greater if more drivers follow suit and if state and federal regulators and tax agencies start treating it, as the judge suggested, as a transportation company rather than a tech firm.
Android

Google's Not-so-secret New OS (techspecs.blog) 128

According to reports late last year, Google is working on a new operating system called Andromeda. Much about it is still unknown, but according to the documentations Google has provided on its website, it's clear that the Fuchsia is the actual name of the operating system, and the kernel is called Magenta. A tech enthusiast dug around the documentations to share the followings: To my naive eyes, rather than saying Chrome OS is being merged into Android, it looks more like Android and Chrome OS are both being merged into Fuchsia. It's worth noting that these operating systems had previously already begun to merge together to an extent, such as when the Android team worked with the Chrome OS team in order to bring Update Engine to Nougat, which introduced A/B updates to the platform. Google is unsurprisingly bringing up Andromeda on a number of platforms, including the humble Intel NUC. ARM, x86, and MIPS bring-up is exactly what you would expect for an Android successor, and it also seems clear that this platform will run on Intel laptops. My best guess is that Android as an API and runtime will live on as a legacy environment within Andromeda. That's not to say that all development of Android would immediately stop, which seems extremely unlikely. But Google can't push two UI APIs as equal app frameworks over the long term: Mojo is clearly the future. Ah, but what is Mojo? Well it's the new API for writing Andromeda apps, and it comes from Chromium. Mojo was originally created to "extract a common platform out of Chrome's renderer and plugin processes that can support multiple types of sandboxed content."
Microsoft

Microsoft Calls For 'Digital Geneva Convention' (usatoday.com) 146

Microsoft is calling for a digital Geneva Convention to outline protections for civilians and companies from government-sponsored cyberattacks. In comments Tuesday at the RSA security industry conference in San Francisco, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said the rising trend of government entities wielding the internet as a weapon was worrying. From a report on USA Today: In the cyber realm, tech must be committed to "100% defense and zero percent offense," Smith said at the opening keynote at the RSA computer security conference. Smith called for a "digital Geneva Convention," like the one created in the aftermath of World War II which set ground rules for how conduct during wartime, defining basic rights for civilians caught up armed conflicts. In the 21st century such rules are needed "to commit governments to protect civilians from nation-state attacks in times of peace," a draft of Smith's speech released to USA TODAY said. This digital Geneva Convention would establish protocols, norms and international processes for how tech companies would deal with cyber aggression and attacks of nations aimed at civilian targets, which appears to effectively mean anything but military servers.
Google

Engineers On Google's Self-Driving Car Project Were Paid So Much That They Quit (theverge.com) 95

According to a new report from Bloomberg, most of the money Google spent on it self-driving car project, now spun off into a new entity called Waymo, has gone to engineers and other staff. While it has helped retain a lot of influential and dedicated workers in the short run, it has resulted in many staffers leaving the company in the long run due to the immense financial security. The Verge reports: Bloomberg says that early staffers "had an unusual compensation system" that multiplied staffers salaries and bonuses based on the performance of the self-driving project. The payments accumulated as milestones were reached, even though Waymo remains years away from generating revenue. One staffer eventually "had a multiplier of 16 applied to bonuses and equity amassed over four years." The huge amounts of compensation worked -- for a while. But eventually, it gave many staffers such financial security that they were willing to leave the cuddly confines of Google. Two staffers that Bloomberg spoke to called it "F-you money," and the accumulated cash allowed them to depart Google for other firms, including Chris Urmson who co-founded a startup with ex-Tesla employee Sterling Anderson, and others who founded a self-driving truck company called Otto which was purchased by Uber last year, and another who founded Argo AI which received a $1 billion investment from Ford last week.
Privacy

Encrypted Email Is Still a Pain in 2017 (incoherency.co.uk) 216

Bristol-based software developer James Stanley, who used to work at Netcraft, shares how encrypted emails, something which was first introduced over 25 years ago, is still difficult to setup and use for even reasonably tech savvy people. He says he recently tried to install Enigmail, a Thunderbird add-on, but not only things like GPG, PGP, OpenPGP were -- for no reason -- confusing, Enigmail continues to suffer from a bug that takes forever in generating keys. From his blog post: Encrypted email is nothing new (PGP was initially released in 1991 -- 26 years ago!), but it still has a huge barrier to entry for anyone who isn't already familiar with how to use it. I think my experience would have been better if Enigmail had generated keys out-of-the-box, or if (a.) gpg agreed with Enigmail on nomenclature (is it a secring or a private key?) and (b.) output the paths of the files it had generated. My experience would have been a lot worse had I not been able to call on the help of somebody who already knows how to use it.
Businesses

Bay Area Tech Job Growth Has Rapidly Decelerated (mercurynews.com) 161

An anonymous reader shares a MercuryNews report: Job growth in the tech industry used to zoom like a race car, but these days, hiring by this principal driver of the Bay Area's economy chugs along more like a family SUV. The technology industry's job growth in the nine-county region has dramatically decelerated, according to this newspaper's analysis of figures released by state labor officials and Beacon Economics. Tech's annual job growth throttled back to 3.5 percent, or 26,700 new jobs, in 2016. That's much slower than the 6 percent annual gain of 42,300 jobs in 2015, or the 6.4 percent gain in 2014. And while the industry's 3.5 percent growth last year is still a sturdy annual pace, Bay Area technology companies have already disclosed plans to slash about 2,000 jobs in the first three months of 2017.
Displays

Magic Leap CEO Defends His AR Company After Leaked Photo (mashable.com) 62

Saturday Business Insider claimed that augmented reality company Magic Leap was "scrambling to finish a working prototype before an important board meeting next week," publishing a photo described by their source as an early January prototype. An anonymous reader quotes Mashable: The image depicts a man with a kit on his back that looks as if it's in the early stages of development, but [CEO Rony] Abovitz's tweet suggested it was not intended as consumer technology. "The photo you are all excited about is NOT what you think it is," he wrote. "The photo shows an @magicleap R&D test rig where we collect room/space data for our machine vision/machine learning work. We do this in order to understand lighting, texture, various surfaces." As Mashable noted earlier, the leaked photo has done little to assuage fears the company's technology has been overhyped... A December report in The Information raised questions about whether Magic Leap was ready for primetime amid concerns that much of its work could not be commercialised or miniaturised. Two former employees also reportedly told the outlet a promotional video showing the technology in action was in fact created by the special effects company, Weta Workshop.
Magic Leap raised $1.39 billion from investors (including Google), and Abovitz's last tweet Saturday reassured fans that "We will not let you down." Mashable even suggested that "this might just be a bit of clever marketing spin by Magic Leap to greatly lower expectations before unveiling a polished product in the coming months... The worst case scenario is that this does represent the latest version of the company's prototype meant for consumers, in which case there's very little chance we will see a Magic Leap device available to consumers any time in 2017."
Government

CS Professor Argues Silicon Valley Is Exploiting Both H-1B Visas And Workers (huffingtonpost.com) 318

schwit1 quotes Norm Matloff, a CS professor at the University of California at Davis, on H-1B visa programs: The Trump administration has drafted a new executive order that could actually mean higher wages for both foreign workers and Americans working in Silicon Valley. The Silicon Valley companies, of course, will not be happy if it goes into effect... Their lobbyists claim there is a "talent shortage" among Americans and thus that the industry needs more of such work visas. This is patently false. The truth is that they want an expansion of the H-1B work visa program because they want to hire cheap, immobile labor -- i.e., foreign workers.

To see how this works, note that most Silicon Valley firms sponsor their H-1B workers, who hold a temporary visa, for U.S. permanent residency (green card) under the employment-based program in immigration law. EB sponsorship renders the workers de facto indentured servants; though they have the right to move to another employer, they do not dare do so, as it would mean starting the lengthy green card process all over again.

Computerworld also argues this year's annual H-1B visa lottery "may be different, because of President Donald Trump," reporting that the lottery has historically favored the largest firms heavily. "In the 2015 fiscal year, for instance, the top 10 firms received 38% of all the H-1B visas in computer occupations alone. All these firms, except for Amazon and to a partial extent IBM, are outsourcers."
Twitter

Twitter Announces (More) Hate-Speech Fighting Tools (Again) (cnn.com) 340

Building on anti-harassment tools announced in November, Twitter is now "trying to shake its reputation as a haven for online harassment" with still more new internal algorithms and features, reports CNN. An anonymous reader quotes their report: The changes include preventing serial abusers from creating new accounts, a new "safe search" function and blocking potentially abusive and "low-quality" tweets from appearing in conversations, Twitter's engineering chief Ed Ho said in a blog post. Twitter is working on identifying users that have been permanently suspended and prevent them from creating new accounts, Ho said. This new measure specifically targets "accounts that are created only to abuse and harass others," he said, a problem that has long plagued the platform.

The new safe search function prevents tweets that are abusive, or from blocked and muted accounts, from appearing in users' search results. Those tweets can still be found if people want to see them, but they "won't clutter search results any longer," Ho said. And Twitter will now collapse tweet replies that are potentially abusive or low quality -- like duplicate tweets or content that appears to be automated. But those tweets "will still be accessible to those who seek them out," Ho said.

The blog post announces Twitter's ultimate goal is "a significant impact that people can feel," arguing that freedom of speech for all viewpoints is "put in jeopardy when abuse and harassment stifle and silence those voices."
Earth

Four of Iceland's Main Volcanoes Are All Preparing For Eruption (icelandmonitor.mbl.is) 136

Vulcanologists always watch Iceland carefully -- it's the one exposed place on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, with 130 different volcanoes -- and something big may be brewing. Applehu Akbar writes: Now that four of Iceland's largest volcanoes are showing signs of impending eruption, the world may be in for another summer of ash. Katla, Hecla, Bárðarbunga and Grímsvötn have all had major activity in the past, including vast floods from melting glaciers, enough ash to ground aircraft over all of Europe, volumes of sulfur that have induced global nuclear winter for a decade at a time, and clouds of poisonous fluoride gas. When the mountains of Iceland speak, the whole world listens.
Eruptions are already overdue for both Hekla and Katla -- Hekla's magma chamber has filled up, and Katla last erupted in 1918. "The Katla eruption would lead to the melting of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, resulting in a glacial flood," reports Tech Times, "likely to hit areas where large crowds are found at any given point of time, especially the black sand beaches of Sólheimasandur and the village of Vik in Southern Iceland."
Android

Oracle Refuses To Accept Android's 'Fair Use' Verdict, Files Appeal (wsj.com) 155

An anonymous reader quotes the Wall Street Journal: The seven-year legal battle between tech giants Google and Oracle just got new life. Oracle on Friday filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that seeks to overturn a federal jury's decision last year... The case has now gone through two federal trials and bounced around at appeals courts, including a brief stop at the U.S. Supreme Court. Oracle has sought as much as $9 billion in the case.

In the trial last year in San Francisco, the jury ruled Google's use of 11,000 lines of Java code was allowed under "fair use" provisions in federal copyright law. In Oracle's 155-page appeal on Friday, it called Google's "copying...classic unfair use" and said "Google reaped billions of dollars while leaving Oracle's Java business in tatters."

Oracle's brief also argues that "When a plagiarist takes the most recognizable portions of a novel and adapts them into a film, the plagiarist commits the 'classic' unfair use."
Transportation

Ford Just Invested $1 Billion In Self-Driving Cars (usatoday.com) 113

An anonymous reader quote USA Today: Ford Motor is betting $1 billion on the world's self-driving car future. The Detroit automaker announced Friday that it would allocate that sum over five years to a new autonomous car startup called Argo AI, which is headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pa., and will have offices in Michigan and California. Ford's financial outlay is part of a continuing investment strategy anchored to transforming the car and truck seller into a mobility company with a hand in ride-hailing, ride-sharing and even bicycle rentals.
Lucas123 writes: Argo AI founders CEO Bryan Salesky, and COO Peter Rander are alumni of Carnegie Mellon National Robotics Engineering Center and former leaders on the self-driving car teams of Google and Uber, respectively. Argo AI's team will include roboticists and engineers from inside and outside of Ford working to develop a new software platform for Ford's fully autonomous vehicle, expected in 2021. Ford said it could also license the software to other carmakers.
Australia

Australia's Retailers Join the Local Giant Banks in Their Battle With Apple Pay (nfcworld.com) 68

More trouble for Apple in Down Under. The $300 billion retail sector has hit back at Apple, saying the global tech giant is trying to freeload on the payments infrastructure built by banks and retailers and restricting iPhone access to payments terminals will hinder loyalty schemes. From a report: The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has come out in support of the group of four Australian banks seeking stronger negotiation powers with Apple over the introduction of Apple Pay in the country, saying they believe access to the NFC functionality in the iPhone would allow retailers to provide "a richer and more convenient customer experience." The ARA, which represents 5,000 independent and national retailers, says access to the NFC functionality will allow retailers to "develop or participate in mobile wallets that provided a consistent and fully integrated experience to all users regardless of their choice of smartphones" while also allowing loyalty programs, coupons and rewards to be "more effectively integrated into these mobile wallets." "In our view -- for as long as Apple Pay remains the only app that can use the iPhone's NFC functionality -- the potential for innovation in mobile wallets and mobile payments will be limited," the ARA says in a submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Microsoft

Microsoft Allowed To Sue US Government Over Email Surveillance (bloomberg.com) 56

A judge has ruled that Microsoft is allowed to sue the U.S. government over a policy that prevents the tech company from telling its users when their emails are being intercepted. From a report on Bloomberg: The judge said Microsoft has at least made a plausible argument that federal law muzzles its right to speak about government investigations, while not ruling on the merits of the case. "The public debate has intensified as people increasingly store their information in the cloud and on devices with significant storage capacity," U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle said in Thursday's ruling. "Government surveillance aided by service providers creates unique considerations because of the vast amount of data service providers have about their customers."
Facebook

How Tech Ate the Media and Our Minds (axios.com) 82

From a report: On average, we check our phones 50 times each day -- with some studies suggesting it could three times that amount. We spend around 6 hours per day consuming digital media. As a result, the human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds to eight seconds since 2000, while the goldfish attention span is nine seconds. And we just mindlessly pass along information without reading or checking it. Columbia University found that nearly 60 percent of all social media posts are shared without being clicked on.
The Almighty Buck

eBay Founder Pledges $500,000 To Test Universal Basic Income Program In Kenya (mashable.com) 399

"Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar is the latest tech bigwig to get behind the concept [of universal basic income]," reports Mashable. "His philanthropic investment firm, the Omidyar Network, announced Wednesday that it will give nearly half a million dollars to a group testing the policy in Kenya." The money will come from the Omidyar Network and be doled out to people living in Kenya through a program called GiveDirectly. Mashable reports: Universal basic income is the notion that a government should guarantee every citizen a yearly sum of money, no strings attached. The thinking is that such a program would relieve economic stress as automation technology severely reduces the demand for labor. Theories along these lines have existed for centuries, but their proponents have never had much luck convincing governments to give them a shot. Thus, the only data on real-world effects come from a few scattered experiments throughout the years. GiveDirectly is looking to add to that knowledge with one of the biggest trials of a basic income system in history. The group recently launched a 12-year pilot program in which it plans to give 6,000 Kenyans regular stipends for the entire duration. Around 20,000 more will receive at least some form of cash transfer. The Omidyar Network is hoping the study will help advance the debate around basic income from broad theoretical terms to more practical considerations. "While the discussion has generated a lot of heat, it hasn't produced very much light," wrote the Omidyar Network's Mike Kubzansky and Tracy Williams in a blog post announcing the pledge. "There is very little research and empirical evidence on how and when UBI could best be used."
Transportation

Watchdog Group Wants Uber's Self-Driving Trucks Off the Road (usatoday.com) 113

New submitter Kemtores quotes a report from USA Today: A few months ago, the ride-hailing giant announced that it would begin testing self-driving Volvo SUVs in this hilly city, but a day later that process was halted after the DMV said Uber had not applied for the proper permits. Uber moved its fleet to Arizona. Uber cars laden with sensors still troll San Francisco, but the company said it is only for mapping purposes. Now a southern California non-profit that has long raised concerns about the safety of autonomous vehicles has asked the DMV to look closer at the operations of Otto, a self-driving truck company that Uber bought last year for $670 million. Otto made headlines in October when it completed a 120-mile beer run with a large semi-tractor in Colorado. But Consumer Watchdog's John Simpson charged in a letter to DMV director Jean Shiomoto that in fact Otto's testing here did violate the law by operating in autonomous mode, offering proof in the form of documentation Otto submitted to Colorado officials that described a process where the driver hit a button and let the truck do the work.

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