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Electronic Frontier Foundation

Troll With 'Stupid Patent' Sues EFF. EFF Sues Them Back (arstechnica.com) 68

"The Electronic Frontier Foundation has sued an Australian company that it previously dubbed as a 'classic patent troll' in a June 2016 blog post entitled: Stupid Patent of the Month: Storage Cabinets on a Computer." An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: Last year, that company, Global Equity Management (SA) Pty. Ltd. (GEMSA), managed to get an Australian court to order EFF to remove its post -- but EFF did not comply. In January 2017, Pasha Mehr, an attorney representing GEMSA, further demanded that the article be removed and that EFF pay $750,000. EFF still did not comply. The new lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco on Wednesday, asks that the American court declare the Australian ruling unenforceable in the U.S.
GEMSA's attorneys reportedly threatened to have the EFF's post de-indexed from search engine listings -- on the basis of the Australian court order -- so now the EFF "seeks a court order declaring the Australian injunction 'repugnant' to the U.S. Constitution and unenforceable in the United States."

The Register reports that GEMSA has already sued 37 companies, "including big-name tech companies Airbnb, Uber, Netflix, Spotify, and eBay. In each case, GEMSA accused the company's website design of somehow trampling on the GUI patent without permission." But things were different after the EFF's article, according to Courthouse News. "GEMSA said the article made it harder to enforce its patents in the United States, citing its legal opponents' 'reduced interest in pursuing pre-trial settlement negotiations.'"
Advertising

Burger King Won't Take a Hint; Alters TV Ad To Evade Google's Block (washingtonpost.com) 606

ewhac writes: Earlier this week, Burger King released a broadcast television ad that opened with an actor saying, "Ok, Google, what is the Whopper?" thereby triggering any Google Home device in hearing range to respond to the injected request with the first line from the Whopper's Wikipedia page. Google very properly responded to the injection attack by fingerprinting the sound sample and blocking it from triggering responses. However, it seems Burger King and/or its ad agency are either unwilling or congenitally incapable of getting the hint, and has released an altered version of the ad to evade Google's block. According to spokesperson Dara Schopp, BK regards the ad as a success, as it has increased the brand's "social conversation" on Twitter by some 300%. It seems that Burger King thinks that malware-laden advertising infesting webpages is a perfectly wonderful idea (in principle, at least), and has taken it to the next level by reaching through your TV speakers and directly messing with your digital devices. You may wish to consider alternate vendors for your burger needs.
Robotics

A New Survey Shows Consumers Are Not That Freaked Out By Tech (fastcompany.com) 52

Lippincott, a global creative consultancy, asked 2,000 "leading edge" consumers in the U.S. whether they were excited to welcome our robot overlords or terrified of them. A report on FastCompany adds: Some of their findings go against conventional wisdom, like the belief that consumers are scared about the future. Turns out 80 percent said they are excited about changes in technology. Some 78 percent feel more powerful and in control of their lives thanks to the support from smart machines, artificial intelligence, and robotics. There is some anxiety about the incursion of tech into our lives, with over 40 percent reporting that they are scared about changes to the economy, society, culture, and the government. Despite that, 64 percent of them still expect that the world will be better in 10 years than it is today.
Google

Google Is Working On a Tool For Managing Job Applicants (axios.com) 64

Google is quietly testing "Google Hire," a job applicant tracking system that appears to rival services like Greenhouse and Lever, Axios is reporting. From the report: The service lets employers post job listings, then accept and manage applications, according to job listing links spotted by Axios reader Colin Heilbut. So far, several tech companies seem to be using (or testing) Google Hire, including Medisas, Poynt, DramaFever, SingleHop, and CoreOS.
Microsoft

New Processors Are Now Blocked From Receiving Updates On Old Windows (arstechnica.com) 236

halfEvilTech writes: Last year, Microsoft announced they were planning on blocking OS updates on newer Intel CPU's, namely the 7th Generation Kaby Lake processors. Ars Technica reports: "Now, the answer appears to be 'this month.' Users of new processors running old versions of Windows are reporting that their updates are being blocked. The block means that systems using these processors are no longer receiving security updates." While Windows 7 has already ended mainstream support, the same can't be said for Windows 8.1 which is still on mainstream support until January of next year.
Microsoft

Microsoft Kills Off Security Bulletins (computerworld.com) 89

Microsoft has officially retired the security bulletins this week, which were issued to detail "each month's slate of vulnerabilities and accompanying patches for customers -- especially administrators responsible for companies' IT operations," writes Gregg Keizer via Computerworld. "The move to a bulletin-less Patch Tuesday brought an end to months of Microsoft talk about killing the bulletins that included an aborted attempt to toss them." From the report: Microsoft announced the demise of bulletins in November, saying then that the last would be posted with January's Patch Tuesday, and that the new process would debut Feb. 14. A searchable database of support documents would replace the bulletins. Accessed through the "Security Updates Guide" (SUG) portal, the database's content can be sorted and filtered by the affected software, the patch's release date, its CVE (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures) identifier, and the numerical label of the KB, or "knowledge base" support document. SUG's forerunners were the web-based bulletins that have been part of Microsoft's patch disclosure policies since at least 1998. Microsoft did such a good job turning out those bulletins that they were considered the aspirational benchmark for all software vendors.In February Microsoft canceled that month's Patch Tuesday just hours before the security updates were to reach customers, making the bulletins' planned demise moot. Microsoft kept the bulletins the following month as well, saying it wanted to give users more time to prepare for the change to SUG. Finally, when Microsoft yesterday shipped cumulative security updates for Windows, Internet Explorer, Office and other products, it omitted the usual bulletins.
Android

Samsung Is Delaying the 'Voice' Part of Its New Bixby Voice Assistant (washingtonpost.com) 38

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Washington Post: A much-touted feature of Samsung's next smartphones isn't going to work as advertised when the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ launch April 21. Samsung said it's delaying the launch of voice-command capabilities for its Bixby voice assistant in English, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Although some of its features will still work, the report said, Bixby -- Samsung's answer to Apple's Siri -- won't be able to respond to any user voice commands, perhaps until as late as May. The Korean-language version of Bixby will have all of its features at launch, the Journal report said. The reason this is a big deal is because Samsung has touted Bixby as a big new feature for the Galaxy S8. Not only is it baked into the software, but it features a dedicated Bixby button on the lefthand side of the phone. The new assistant is designed to "perform almost every task that the app normally supports using touch," according to PhoneDog. "It'll be able to understand the current context and the state of the app that you're in without interrupting the work that you're doing," and will be able to "understand commands with incomplete commands, meaning you don't have to remember the exact phrase that you have to say to perform a task with an assistant."
Google

Silicon Valley Kicks Off Fight On Net Neutrality (cnn.com) 126

Web companies met with FCC Ajit Pai on Tuesday and urged him not to gut the net neutrality rules that protect their traffic, a week after he met with broadband providers that have tried to kill the Obama-era regulations. From a report: The Internet Association, a trade group representing companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon, stressed the importance of defending current net neutrality rules in a meeting with Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai on Tuesday. "The internet industry is uniform in its belief that net neutrality preserves the consumer experience, competition and innovation online," the group said in the meeting, according to a filing with the FCC. "Existing net neutrality rules should be enforced and kept in tact." The net neutrality rules, approved by the FCC in 2015, are intended to keep the internet open and fair. The rules prevent internet providers from playing favorites by deliberately speeding up or slowing down traffic from specific websites and apps. This is the first face-to-face encounter between the tech association and the new FCC head. It comes on the heels of reports Pai met with the telecom industry to discuss changing how the rules are enforced, potentially weakening them.
Google

How Google Book Search Got Lost (backchannel.com) 46

Google Books was the company's first moonshot. But 15 years later, the project is stuck in low-Earth orbit, argues an article on Backchannel. From the article: When Google Books started almost 15 years ago, it also seemed impossibly ambitious: An upstart tech company that had just tamed and organized the vast informational jungle of the web would now extend the reach of its search box into the offline world. By scanning millions of printed books from the libraries with which it partnered, it would import the entire body of pre-internet writing into its database. [...] Two things happened to Google Books on the way from moonshot vision to mundane reality. Soon after launch, it quickly fell from the idealistic ether into a legal bog, as authors fought Google's right to index copyrighted works and publishers maneuvered to protect their industry from being Napsterized. A decade-long legal battle followed -- one that finally ended last year, when the US Supreme Court turned down an appeal by the Authors Guild and definitively lifted the legal cloud that had so long hovered over Google's book-related ambitions. But in that time, another change had come over Google Books, one that's not all that unusual for institutions and people who get caught up in decade-long legal battles: It lost its drive and ambition. Google stopped updating Books blog in 2012, and folded it into the main Google Search blog. The author reports that Google still has people working on Book Search, and they are adding new books, but the pace is rather slower.
Canada

Canada Hid the Konami Code In Its Commemorative $10 Bill Launch (engadget.com) 78

The Bank of Canada has hid a "Konami Code" Easter egg on its website celebrating their new $10 bank note. The Konami Code is a cheat code that appears in many Konami video games, allowing players to press a sequence of buttons on their game controller to enable the cheat. "The Bank of Canada's web team thought the Konami code [Easter egg] was a fun way to celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary of Confederation," Bank of Canada spokeswoman Josianne Menard told CTV news. Engadget reports: On top of being laden with anti-counterfeiting tech that makes it extremely difficult to copy (holograms, raised ink, color-changing images and polymer materials), the new ten is a who's who and what's what of Canadian history. It features Canada's founding Prime Minister John A. MacDonald, Agnes Macphail, first woman parliamentarian, and Indigenous peoples pioneer James Gladstone, known in his Blackfoot language as Akay-na-muka. It also shows Canada's prairies, the coastal mountains of British Columbia, the Canadian Shield, Atlantic coast, northern lights, Metis Assomption Sash, maple leaf and much more (no poutine, though). All of that is squeezed on the 152.4 x 69.85 mm note -- that's exactly 6 x 2.75 inches, because Canada uses the metric system but probably still buys its printing presses from the U.S. The Konami code is in keeping with Canada's tradition of doing cute, pop-culture things with its history.
Facebook

Facebook Has Reached Its Microsoft Bing Moment -- History Shows the Results Won't Be Pretty (cnbc.com) 150

As we noted recently, Facebook continues to duplicate every core feature that rival app Snapchat adds to its service. A new report, which cites multiple Facebook employees, sheds more light into how Facebook operates. The company, the report claims, created a "Teens Team" to figure out how to grab teenagers back from Snapchat, and has been up front about its tactics within the company: The internal mantra among some groups is "don't be too proud to copy." Matt Rosoff, an editor at CNBC says this whole tactics by Facebook is nothing new in the tech industry. From the article: Flash back to the early 2000s, when Microsoft was the undisputed king of the tech industry, with two unassailable monopolies -- operating systems and productivity apps for personal computers. It faced a lot of competitors, but the one that scared it the most was Google, which was in a completely different business. Google didn't start by creating alternatives to Windows and Office, although it did so later. Instead, it created a suite of online services -- first search, followed by email and maps -- that threatened the entire purpose of a personal computer. Why rely on Microsoft software running locally when you could get so much done with web apps? Microsoft's response? Trying to build the exact same service that made Google famous -- a search engine, first known as MSN Search, later rebranded to Bing. Eleven years later, Bing is a small minority player in search, with less than 10 percent market share on the desktop and less than 1 percent in mobile.
Businesses

Google Schools US Government About Gender Pay Gap (cnet.com) 238

Google wants the US government to know that it takes gender pay equity very seriously -- and is baffled by the contention that a gap exists at the tech giant. From a report: In responding to allegations lodged by the US Department of Labor that Google systematically pays its female employees less than it pays men, the search giant said in a blog post that employee gender doesn't factor into compensation decisions. Google described the process that it arrives at suggested compensation as "extremely scientific and robust," relying on the employee's role, job level and location, as well as recent performance ratings. What isn't considered in determining pay is whether the employee is male or female -- that information is masked out to those making the compensation decisions, Eileen Naughton, Google vice president for People Operations, explained in the post late Tuesday. "The analysts who calculate the suggested amounts do not have access to employees' gender data," Naughton wrote. "An employee's manager has limited discretion to adjust the suggested amount, providing they cite a legitimate adjustment rationale.
The Courts

DMCA 'Safe Harbor' Up In the Air For Online Sites That Use Moderators (arstechnica.com) 96

"The Digital Millennium Copyright Act's so-called 'safe harbor' defense to infringement is under fire from a paparazzi photo agency," reports Ars Technica. "A new court ruling says the defense may not always be available to websites that host content submitted by third parties." The safe harbor provision "allow[s] websites to be free from legal liability for infringing content posted by their users -- so long as the website timely removes that content at the request of the rights holder," explains Ars. From the report: [A] San Francisco-based federal appeals court is ruling that, if a website uses moderators to review content posted by third parties, the safe harbor privilege may not apply. That's according to a Friday decision in a dispute brought by Mavrix Photographs against LiveJournal, which hosts the popular celebrity fan forum "Oh No they Didn't." The site hosted Mavrix-owned photos of Beyonce Knowles, Katy Perry, and other stars without authorization. LiveJournal claimed it was immune from copyright liability because it removed the photos. Mavrix claimed that the site's use of voluntary moderators removed the safe-harbor provision. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Mavrix to a degree, but the court wants to know how much influence the moderators had on what was and was not published. With that, the court sent the case back to a lower court in Los Angeles to figure that out, perhaps in a trial. The highly nuanced decision overturned a lower court ruling that said LiveJournal was protected by safe harbor. The lower court said LiveJournal does not solicit any specific infringing material from its users or edit the content of its users' posts.
Businesses

Sleep Is the New Status Symbol (nytimes.com) 117

The New York Times has a good story on how sleep is increasingly becoming a big business -- and the tech industry is rushing in to tweak our natural rhythms. From the article: At M.I.T.'s Media Lab, the digital futurist playground, David Rose is investigating swaddling, bedtime stories and hammocks, as well as lavender oil and cocoons. [...] Meanwhile, at the University of California, Berkeley, Matthew P. Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology and the director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory there, is working on direct current stimulation as a cure for sleeplessness in the aging brain. [...] In Paris, Hugo Mercier, a computer science engineer, has invested in sound waves. He has raised over $10 million to create a headband that uses them to induce sleep. [...] Ben Olsen, an Australian entrepreneur, hopes to introduce Thim, a gadget you wear on your finger that uses sound to startle you awake every three minutes for an hour, just before you go to sleep. [...] Sleep entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley and beyond have poured into the sleep space, as branders like to say -- a $32 billion market in 2012 -- formerly inhabited by old-style mattress and pharmaceutical companies.
DRM

American Farmers Are Still Fighting Tractor Software Locks (npr.org) 316

Manufacturers lock consumers into restrictive "user agreements," and inside "there's things like you won't open the case, you won't repair," complains a U.S. advocacy group called The Repair Association. But now the issue is getting some more attention in the American press. An anonymous reader quotes NPR: Modern tractors, essentially, have two keys to make the engine work. One key starts the engine. But because today's tractors are high-tech machines that can steer themselves by GPS, you also need a software key -- to fix the programs that make a tractor run properly. And farmers don't get that key.

"You're paying for the metal but the electronic parts technically you don't own it. They do," says Kyle Schwarting, who plants and harvests fields in southeast Nebraska... "Maybe a gasket or something you can fix, but everything else is computer controlled and so if it breaks down I'm really in a bad spot," Schwarting says. He has to call the dealer. Only dealerships have the software to make those parts work, and it costs hundreds of dollars just to get a service call. Schwarting worries about being broken down in a field, waiting for a dealer to show up with a software key.

The article points out that equipment dealers are using those expensive repair calls to offset slumping tractor sales. But it also reports that eight U.S. states, including Nebraska, Illinois and New York, are still considering bills requiring manufacturers to sell repair software, adding that after Massachusetts passed a similar lar, "car makers started selling repair software."
Google

DeepMind Open Sources 'Sonnet' Library For Easier Creation Of Neural Networks (fossbytes.com) 17

"We are very excited about contributions from the community," announced Alphabet's DeepMind, open sourcing a new library to make it easier to build complex TensorFlow neural networks. An anonymous reader writes: "DeepMind foresees Sonnet to be used by the community as a research propellant," reports FossBytes. "Also, it would allow easy sharing of other models created by DeepMind with the community." Sonnet uses an object-oriented approach, a recent blog post explained, pointing to more details on GitHub. "The main principle of 'Sonnet' is to first construct Python objects which represent some part of a neural network, and then separately connect these objects into the TensorFlow computation graph."

DeepMind sees this as part of their broader commitment to open source AI research. "In recent months we've also open-sourced our flagship platform DeepMind Lab, and are currently working with Blizzard to develop an open source API that supports AI research in StarCraft II."

Businesses

Staples Tries Co-Working Spaces To Court Millennials And Entrepreneurs (pilotonline.com) 177

Are there any Slashdot readers who are doing their work in co-working spaces? An anonymous reader writes: Staples office-supply stores is aggressively repositioning its brand to entice new customers like tech entrepreneurs and small businesses, reports The New York Times. "A case in point: Staples' partnership with Workbar, a Boston-based co-working company founded in 2009... Workbar attracts the coveted millennial generation, as well as entrepreneurs, a potential pipeline for new small business customers." Three co-working spaces have now been added to Staples stores, including their original flagship store in Boston, and the Times spotted funky art, skylights, an artificial putting green, as well as gourmet coffee "and -- on some nights -- happy hours with beer and wine."

"This blend of old and new shows how Staples Inc. is digging up its roots as one of the first, and most successful, big-box retailers. Under Shira Goodman, the company's new chief executive officer, Staples hopes it can reverse its years of declining sales, unlike so many other retailers left for dead in the internet age."

The company also reports online orders already make up 60% of their sales, which they hope to push to 80% by 2020, according to the Motley Fool. "Selling products, 50% of which are outside of traditional office supply categories, to businesses large and small has proven to be a resilient business for Staples."
Media

Walt Mossberg Is Retiring (theverge.com) 37

Walt Mossberg, a well-respected and long-time tech journalist, announced via The Verge that he will be retiring in June of this year. In his announcement post, he starts by reflecting on where it all began: It was a June day when I began my career as a national journalist. I stepped into the Detroit Bureau of The Wall Street Journal and started on what would be a long, varied, rewarding career. I was 23 years old, and the year was 1970. That's not a typo. So it seems fitting to me that I'll be retiring this coming June, almost exactly 47 years later. I'll be hanging it up shortly after the 2017 edition of the Code Conference, a wonderful event I co-founded in 2003 and which I could never have imagined back then in Detroit. I didn't make this decision lightly or hastily or under pressure. It emerged from months of thought and months of talks with my wise wife, my family, and close friends. It wasn't prompted by my employer or by some dire health diagnosis. It just seems like the right time to step away. I'm ready for something new.
Government

Senate Confirms Neil Gorsuch To Supreme Court (washingtonpost.com) 450

halfEvilTech quotes a report from Washington Post: The U.S. Senate confirmed Neil M. Gorsuch to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday. On a vote of 54 to 45, senators confirmed Gorsuch, 49, a Denver-based judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. He will become the 113th person to serve on the Supreme Court and is scheduled to be sworn in Monday. Gorsuch's confirmation was the result of a rule change in the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used the power of his position to change the rules of the Senate to lower the threshold on Supreme Court nominations to end debate from 60 to 51 votes. Therefore, "all presidential nominees for executive branch positions and the federal courts need only a simple majority vote to be confirmed by senators," reports Washington Post.

It is unclear as to what exactly Gorsuch's confirmation means for the tech industry. However, it is certain that Gorsuch will "face cases that demand a solid command of the complex issues digital technology raises, from copyright and privacy to intellectual property rights and data storage," writes Issie Lapowsky via Wired.
Businesses

China Court Orders Samsung Units To Pay $11.6 Million To Huawei Over Patent Case (reuters.com) 42

A Chinese court has ordered Samsung Electronics's mainland subsidiaries to pay 80 million yuan ($11.60 million) to Huawei Technologies for patent infringement, the China firm's first victory against Samsung on its legal challenges over intellectual property. From a report: Three units of Samsung have been ordered by the Quanzhou Intermediary Court to pay the sum for infringing a patent held by Huawei Device Co Limited, the handset unit of Huawei, the Quanzhou Evening News, a government-run newspaper, said on its website on Thursday. The verdict is the first on several lawsuits of Huawei against the South Korean technology giant. Huawei filed lawsuits against Samsung in May in courts in China and the United States -- the first by it against Samsung -- claiming infringements of smartphone patents. Samsung subsequently countersued Huawei in China for IP infringement.

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