AI

Google's Duplex AI Robot Will Warn That Calls Are Recorded (bloomberg.com) 27

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: On Thursday, the Alphabet Inc. unit shared more details on how the Duplex robot-calling feature will operate when it's released publicly, according to people familiar with the discussion. Duplex is an extension of the company's voice-based digital assistant that automatically phones local businesses and speaks with workers there to book appointments. At Google's weekly TGIF staff meeting on Thursday, executives gave employees their first full Duplex demo and told them the bot would identify itself as the Google assistant. It will also inform people on the phone that the line is being recorded in certain jurisdictions, the people said.
Transportation

Utilities, Tesla Appeal Federal Rollback of Auto Emissions Standards (arstechnica.com) 118

A coalition of utilities and electric vehicle makers, including Tesla, are petitioning the EPA to reconsider its recent plan to roll back auto emissions standards. In April, the EPA said that it would relax greenhouse gas emissions standards that had been put in place for model year 2022-2025 vehicles. Ars Technica reports: The National Coalition for Advanced Transportation (NCAT) represents 12 utilities as well as Tesla, electric truck maker Workhorse, and EV charging network EVgo. NCAT earlier this month asked the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, DC to review the EPA's latest efforts to relax the Obama-era fuel economy standards.

The coalition challenge to the EPA follows a similar challenge made by 17 states, including California. The utilities' efforts show that they're interested in protecting one of the major projected avenues for growth in electricity demand. Electricity consumption has stagnated in the U.S. as efficiency measures take effect and, in some states, solar panels make it easier for residents to buy less electricity from the local utility.

AI

AI Can't Reason Why (wsj.com) 185

The current data-crunching approach to machine learning misses an essential element of human intelligence. From a report: Amid rapid developments and nagging setbacks, one essential building block of human intelligence has eluded machines for decades: Understanding cause and effect. Put simply, today's machine-learning programs can't tell whether a crowing rooster makes the sun rise, or the other way around. Whatever volumes of data a machine analyzes, it cannot understand what a human gets intuitively. From the time we are infants, we organize our experiences into causes and effects. The questions "Why did this happen?" and "What if I had acted differently?" are at the core of the cognitive advances that made us human, and so far are missing from machines.

Suppose, for example, that a drugstore decides to entrust its pricing to a machine learning program that we'll call Charlie. The program reviews the store's records and sees that past variations of the price of toothpaste haven't correlated with changes in sales volume. So Charlie recommends raising the price to generate more revenue. A month later, the sales of toothpaste have dropped -- along with dental floss, cookies and other items. Where did Charlie go wrong? Charlie didn't understand that the previous (human) manager varied prices only when the competition did. When Charlie unilaterally raised the price, dentally price-conscious customers took their business elsewhere. The example shows that historical data alone tells us nothing about causes -- and that the direction of causation is crucial.

Google

Google Is Making An AR Headset With New Qualcomm Chips (theverge.com) 11

Google is reportedly working on a standalone augmented reality headset that will use new Qualcomm chips. "It will be built by Taiwanese computer maker Quanta," reports The Verge. "The project is still in its early stages, according to documents obtained by WinFuture." From the report: The AR headset is supposed to be similar to Microsoft's HoloLens, a headset that came out in 2016 and is aimed at design, training, and industrial use. The Google AR headset that's in development will reportedly be self-contained and powered by a Qualcomm chip, rather than tethered to another device. It will also include cameras and microphones. The headset is currently going by the name "Google A65." There's no release date yet for the Google A65 as it's still in the prototype stage, according to WinFuture. The headset won't only operate like a HoloLens, but it will use the same chips. HoloLens is rumored to be getting an update this year, with a new ARM-powered design and an improved field of view. The Qualcomm chips that will reportedly be used in both the new HoloLens and the new Google headset are the Qualcomm QSC603 four-core chips, based on ARM architecture.
Transportation

Elon Musk Pitches 150 MPH Rides In Boring Company Tunnels For $1 (engadget.com) 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: At The Boring Company Information Session not all of the talk centered on flamethrowers. Elon Musk and project leader Steve Davis described many details of their visions for an underground network that could alleviate traffic problems in big cities. Musk said "we're not suggesting this to the exclusion of other approaches," but did take a moment to call out flying taxi solutions (like Uber Elevate) right off the bat due to danger and noise.

Earlier in the evening Musk retweeted an LA Metro tweet that said it's coordinating with The Boring Company on its test and said the two will be "partners" going forward. Much of what Musk discussed about how his concept in-city Loop would work has been answered in concept videos and the company's FAQ, but he specifically said that the plan is for rides that cost a $1, and carry up to 16 passengers through hundreds of tunnels to those small, parking space-size tunnels located throughout a city. Test runs in the loop have already hit a couple of hundred miles an hour, and Musk's plan is for vacuum Hyperloop tubes between cities that enable travel in pressurized carts at up to 300 MPH. That's compared to 150 MPH in the in-city Loop carts, all without slowing down due to traffic or anything else. The main concern is hitting speeds that are still comfortable for people inside.
The timeframe for when the "weird little Disney ride in the middle of LA" will be available to the public is unclear.
Crime

Alleged Owners of Mugshots.com Have Been Arrested For Extortion (lawandcrime.com) 101

Reader schwit1 writes: The alleged owners of Mugshots.com have been charged and arrested. These four men Sahar Sarid, Kishore Vidya Bhavnanie, Thomas Keesee, and David Usdan only removed a person's mugshot from the site if this individual paid a "de-publishing" fee, according to the California Attorney General on Wednesday. That's apparently considered extortion. On top of that, they also face charges of money laundering, and identity theft.

If you read a lot of articles about crime, then you're probably already familiar with the site (which is still up as of Friday afternoon). They take mugshots, slap the url multiple times on the image, and post it on the site alongside an excerpt from a news outlet that covered the person's arrest. According to the AG's office, the owners would only remove the mugshots if the person paid a fee, even if the charges were dismissed. This happened even if the suspect was only arrested because of "mistaken identity or law enforcement error." You can read the affidavit here.

Businesses

The Internet of Trash: IoT Has a Looming E-Waste Problem (ieee.org) 78

As we add computing and radios to more things, we're also adding to the problem of e-waste. The United Nations found that people generated 44.7 million metric tons of e-waste globally in 2016, and expects that to grow to 52.2 million metric tons by 2021. From a report: There are two issues. We're adding semiconductors to products that previously had none, and we're also shortening the life of devices as we add more computing, turning products that might last 15 years into ones that must be replaced every five years. In fact, many small connected devices such as trackers, jewelry, or wearables are designed to fail once the battery dies. At that point, the consumer tosses it out and buys another.
Programming

Ask Slashdot: What's the Most Sophisticated Piece of Software Ever Written? (quora.com) 233

An anonymous reader writes: Stuxnet is the most sophisticated piece of software ever written, given the difficulty of the objective: Deny Iran's efforts to obtain weapons grade uranium without need for diplomacy or use of force, John Byrd, CEO of Gigantic Software (formerly Director of Sega and SPM at EA), argues in a blog post, which is being widely shared in developer circles, with most agreeing with Byrd's conclusion.

He writes, "It's a computer worm. The worm was written, probably, between 2005 and 2010. Because the worm is so complex and sophisticated, I can only give the most superficial outline of what it does. This worm exists first on a USB drive. Someone could just find that USB drive laying around, or get it in the mail, and wonder what was on it. When that USB drive is inserted into a Windows PC, without the user knowing it, that worm will quietly run itself, and copy itself to that PC. It has at least three ways of trying to get itself to run. If one way doesn't work, it tries another. At least two of these methods to launch itself were completely new then, and both of them used two independent, secret bugs in Windows that no one else knew about, until this worm came along."

"Once the worm runs itself on a PC, it tries to get administrator access on that PC. It doesn't mind if there's antivirus software installed -- the worm can sneak around most antivirus software. Then, based on the version of Windows it's running on, the worm will try one of two previously unknown methods of getting that administrator access on that PC. Until this worm was released, no one knew about these secret bugs in Windows either. At this point, the worm is now able to cover its tracks by getting underneath the operating system, so that no antivirus software can detect that it exists. It binds itself secretly to that PC, so that even if you look on the disk for where the worm should be, you will see nothing. This worm hides so well, that the worm ran around the Internet for over a year without any security company in the world recognizing that it even existed."
What do Slashdot readers think?
Operating Systems

Canonical Shares Desktop Plans For Ubuntu 18.10 (ubuntu.com) 79

Canonical's Will Cooke on Friday talked about the features the company is working on for Ubuntu 18.10 "Cosmic Cuttlefish" cycle. He writes: We're also adding some new features which we didn't get done in time for the main 18.04 release. Specifically: Unlock with your fingerprint, Thunderbolt settings via GNOME Control Center, and XDG Portals support for snap.

GNOME Software improvements
We're having a week long sprint in June to map out exactly how we want the software store to work, how we want to present information and to improve the overall UX of GNOME Software. We've invited GNOME developers along to work with Ubuntu's design team and developers to discuss ideas and plan the work. I'll report back from the sprint in June.

Snap start-up time
Snapcraft have added the ability for us to move some application set up from first run to build time. This will significantly improve desktop application first time start up performance, but there is still more we can do.

Chromium as a snap
Chromium is becoming very hard to build on older releases of Ubuntu as it uses a number of features of modern C++ compilers. Snaps can help us solve a lot of those problems and so we propose to ship Chromium only as a snap from 18.10 onwards, and also to retire Chromium as a deb in Trusty. If you're still running Trusty you can get the latest Chromium as a snap right now.
In addition, Ubuntu team is also working on introducing improvements to power consumption, adding support for DLNA, so that users could share media directly from their desktop to DLNA clients (without having to install and configure extra packages), and improved phone integration by shipping GS Connect as part of the desktop, the GNOME port of KDE Connect. Additional changelog here.
Businesses

Data Science is America's Hottest Job (bloomberg.com) 78

Anonymous readers share a report: It turns out that even in the wake of Facebook's privacy scandal and other big-data blunders, finding people who can turn social-media clicks and user-posted photos into monetizable binary code is among the biggest challenges facing U.S. industry. People with data science bona fides are among the most sought-after professionals in business, with some data science Ph.Ds commanding as much as $300,000 or more from consulting firms.

Job postings for data scientists rose 75 percent from January 2015 to January 2018 at Indeed.com, while job searches for data scientist roles rose 65 percent. A growing specialty is "sentiment analysis," or finding a way to quantify how many tweets are trashing your company or praising it. A typical data scientist job pays about $119,000 at the midpoint of salaries and rises to $168,000 at the 95th percentile, according to staffing agency Robert Half Technology.

Security

A Bug in Keeper Password Manager Leads To Sparring Over 'Zero-Knowledge' Claim (zdnet.com) 47

Keeper, a password manager maker that recently and controversially sued a reporter, has fixed a bug that a security researcher claimed could have allowed access to a user's private data. From a report: The bug -- which the company confirmed and has since fixed -- filed anonymously to a public security disclosure list, detailed how anyone controlling Keeper's API server could gain access to the decryption key to a user's vault of passwords and other sensitive information. The researcher found the issue in the company's Python-powered script called Keeper Commander, which allows users to rotate passwords, eliminating the need for hardcoded passwords in software and systems.

According to the write-up, the researcher said it's possible that someone in control of Keeper's API -- such as employees at the company -- could unlock an account, because the API server stores the information used to produce an intermediary decryption key. "What seems to appear in the code of Keeper Commander from November 2015 to today is blind trust of the API server," said the researcher.

Facebook

Facebook's Android App Is Asking for Superuser Privileges, Users Say (bleepingcomputer.com) 183

Catalin Cimpanu, reporting for BleepingComputer: The Facebook Android app is asking for superuser permissions, and a bunch of users are freaking out about granting the Facebook app full access to their device, an understandable reaction following the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal. "Grants full access to your device," read the prompts while asking users for superuser permissions. These popups originate from the official Facebook Android app (com.facebook.katana) and are started appearing last night [UTC timezone], continuing throughout the day. Panicked users took to social media, Reddit, and Android-themed forums to share screengrabs of these suspicious popups and ask for advice on what's going on.
Music

'Yanny vs. Laurel' Reveals Flaws In How We Listen To Audio (theproaudiofiles.com) 232

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few days, you've probably heard about the controversy over "Yanny" and "Laurel." The internet has been abuzz over an audio clip in which the name being said depends on the listener. Some hear "Laurel" while others hear "Yanny." Ian Vargo, an audio enthusiast who spends most of his working hours of the day listening to and editing audio, helps explain why we hear the name that we do: Human speech is actually composed of many frequencies, in part because we have a resonant chest cavity which creates lower frequencies, and the throat and mouth which creates higher frequencies. The word "laurel" contains a combination of both which are therefore present in the original recording at vocabulary.com, but the clip that you most likely heard has accentuated higher frequencies due to imperfections in the audio that were created by data compression. To make it worse, the playback device that many people first heard the audio clip playing out of was probably a speaker system built into a cellular phone, which is too small to accurately recreate low frequencies.

This helpful interactive tool from The New York Times allows you to use a slider to more clearly hear one or the other. Pitch shifting the audio clip up seems to accentuate "laurel" whereas shifting it down accentuates "yanny." In summary, this perfect storm of the human voice creating both low and high frequencies, the audio clip having been subject to data compression used to create smaller, more convenient files, and our tendency to listen out of devices with subpar playback components lead to an apparent near-even split of the population hearing "laurel" or "yanny."

Android

With Steam Link App, Your Smartphone Can Be An Imperfect Gaming Monitor (arstechnica.com) 47

Ars Technica's Kyle Orland shares his experience with Valve's recently announced Steam Link app, which lets users play games running on a PC via a tablet, mobile phone, or Apple TV on the same network. The app launches today for Android 5.0+ devices; iOS support is "pending further review from Apple." From the report: Valve isn't kidding when it says a Wi-Fi router in the 5Ghz band is required for wireless streaming. I first tested iPad streaming on the low-end 2.4Ghz router provided with my Verizon FiOS subscription (an Actiontec MI424WR), with a wired Ethernet connection to my Windows gaming rig on the other end. The Steam Link network test warned me that "your network may not work well with Steam Link," thanks to 1- to 2-percent frame loss and about 15ms of "network variance," depending on when I tested. Even graphically simple games like The Binding of Isaac ran at an unplayably slowed-down rate on this connection, with frequent dropped inputs to boot.

Switching over to a 5GHz tri-band router (The Netgear Nighthawk X6, to be precise), the same network test reported a "fantastic" connection that "look[s] like it will work well with Steam." On this router, remotely played games ran incredibly smoothly at the iPad's full 1080p resolution, with total round-trip display latency ranging anywhere from 50 to 150ms, according to Steam Link's reports (and one-way "input lag" of less than 1ms). At that level of delay, playing felt practically indistinguishable from playing directly on the computer, with no noticeable gameplay impact even on quick-response titles like Cuphead.

XBox (Games)

Microsoft Announces Xbox Adaptive Controller For Players With Disabilities (theverge.com) 19

A new Xbox controller designed for people with disabilities has been announced by Microsoft today. The Xbox Adaptive Controller features two large programmable buttons and 19 jacks that can be connected to a range of joysticks, buttons, and switches to make it easier for a wider range of people to play games on Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs. The Verge reports: "I can customize how I interface with the Xbox Adaptive Controller to whatever I want," says Solomon Romney, a Microsoft Store learning specialist who was born without fingers on his left hand. "If I want to play a game entirely with my feet, I can. I can make the controls fit my body, my desires, and I can change them anytime I want. You plug in whatever you want and go. It takes virtually no time to set it up and use it. It could not be simpler."

The focus is on connectivity and customizability, with players able to build a setup that works for their capabilities and needs. It won't be an all-in-one solution for many games, but through the use of peripherals and the Xbox's system-level button remapping, the possibilities could be endless. The Xbox Adaptive Controller will cost $99.99 and goes on sale later this year.

Advertising

Ads Are Coming To Facebook Stories (techcrunch.com) 31

Facebook Stories has reached 150 million daily active users after launching nearly 14 months ago. So what's the next logical step after reaching such a milestone? Advertisements. According to TechCrunch, Facebook Stories will start testing its first ads today in the U.S., Mexico and Brazil. From the report: They're 5- to 15-second video ads users can skip, and while there's no click-through or call to action now, Facebook plans to add that in the coming months. Advertisers can easily extend their Instagram Stories ads to this new surface, or have Facebook automatically reformat their News Feed ads with color-matched borders and text at the bottom. Facebook also plans to give businesses more metrics on their Stories performance to convince them the feature is worth their ad dollars.
Wireless Networking

Ask Slashdot: Which Is the Safest Router? 379

MindPrison writes: As ashamed as I am to admit it -- a longtime computer user since the Commodore heydays, I've been hacked twice recently and that has seriously made me rethink my options for my safety and well-being. So, I ask you dear Slashdot users, from one fellow longtime Slashdotter to another: which is the best router for optimal safety today?
Privacy

Cell Phone Tracking Firm Exposed Millions of Americans' Real-time Locations (zdnet.com) 39

Earlier this week, ZDNet shed some light on a company called LocationSmart that is buying your real-time location data from four of the largest U.S. carriers in the United States. The story blew up because a former police sheriff snooped on phone location data without a warrant, according to The New York Times. ZDNet is now reporting that the company "had a bug in its website that allowed anyone to see where a person is located -- without obtaining their consent." An anonymous reader shares an excerpt: "Due to a very elementary bug in the website, you can just skip that consent part and go straight to the location," said Robert Xiao, a PhD. student at the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, in a phone call. "The implication of this is that LocationSmart never required consent in the first place," he said. "There seems to be no security oversight here." The "try" website was pulled offline after Xiao privately disclosed the bug to the company, with help from CERT, a public vulnerability database, also at Carnegie Mellon. Xiao said the bug may have exposed nearly every cell phone customer in the U.S. and Canada, some 200 million customers.

The researcher said he started looking at LocationSmart's website following ZDNet's report this week, which followed from a story from The New York Times, which revealed how a former police sheriff snooped on phone location data without a warrant. The sheriff has pleaded not guilty to charges of unlawful surveillance. He said one of the APIs used in the "try" page that allows users to try the location feature out was not validating the consent response properly. Xiao said it was "trivially easy" to skip the part where the API sends the text message to the user to obtain their consent. "It's a surprisingly simple bug," he said.

Chrome

Google Chrome To Remove 'Secure' Indicator From HTTPS Pages in September (bleepingcomputer.com) 101

Google announced Thursday it plans to drop the "Secure" indicator from the Chrome URL address bar -- starting with Chrome v68, set for release in July -- and only show a lock icon when the user is navigating to an HTTPS-secured website. From a report: The move is scheduled to take effect with the release of Chrome 69, scheduled for September, this year. Emily Schechter, Product Manager for Chrome Security, said the company is now comfortable making this move as a large chunk of Chrome's traffic is now via HTTPS. Since most traffic is HTTPS anyway, it's not necessary to draw the user's attention to the "Secure" indicator anymore.
Businesses

Faster Flights Are Coming With New Satellite Tracking Technology (bloomberg.com) 34

An anonymous reader shares a report: The company that provides the U.K.'s air-traffic control service is taking a 10 percent stake in Aireon, a U.S. firm that's building a satellite-based tracking system and will offer commercial services to controllers starting next year. Aireon plans to use a constellation of 66 Iridium Communications. Next satellites in low Earth orbit to track aircraft. Iridium has 50 in orbit already, 47 of which are operational. Each carries equipment to offer aircraft position data to ground controllers.

Iridium plans to launch five additional satellites on May 22 from California, completing its full network later this year. Aireon said 70 percent of the world's airspace lacks satellite tracking or airline surveillance coverage, including most oceans and parts of Africa and Latin America.

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