Businesses

Apple Puts Brakes on Self-driving Car Project, Report Says (theguardian.com) 70

Apple is following the road taken by Waymo, the autonomous vehicle subsidiary of Google-parent Alphabet, and downshifting on its still-unannounced self-driving car project, according to a report in the New York Times. From a report: The company has been working on its automotive technology under the internal code name "Project Titan" since at least 2014, and once intended to build its own vehicle from start to finish, creating a true "Apple Car." Now it's put the car-building side of the project on hold, perhaps indefinitely, as it instead focuses on creating and perfecting the software and hardware necessary to get a self-driving car on the streets. Apple is now planning on working with other car-makers to get its self-driving tech into the garages and driveways of customers, according to the paper. One upcoming example of that collaboration: an autonomous shuttle service that will ferry employees back and forth between the company's Silicon Valley offices in Palo Alto and Cupertino. That project, which will use conventional cars with self-driving kit bolted on, is known as "Pail", standing for Palo Alto to Infinite Loop, the street address of the company's main campus. The name highlights the delays in the project, since Apple's main campus is already in the process of being moved to Apple Park, an enormous ring-shaped office down the road.
The Internet

Wal-Mart To Enter Voice-Shopping Market Via Google Platform (reuters.com) 28

Wal-Mart Stores is teaming up with Google to enter the nascent voice-shopping market, currently dominated by Amazon.com, adding another front to Wal-Mart's battle with the online megastore. From a report: Google, which makes the Android software used to run most of the world's smartphones, will offer hundreds of thousands of Walmart items on its voice-controlled Google Assistant platform from late September, Walmart's head of e-commerce, Marc Lore, wrote in a blog post on Wednesday. Lore, who joined the world's largest retailer after it bought his e-commerce company Jet.com, said Wal-Mart would offer a wider selection than any retailer on the platform. Amazon, whose voice-controlled aide Alexa allows users to shop from the retailer, has the lion's share of the U.S. voice-controlled device industry, with its Echo devices accounting for 72.2 percent of the market in 2016, far ahead of the Google Home gadget's 22 percent, according to research firm eMarketer.
Software

Slashdot Asks: What Are Your Favorite Android Oreo Features? (thehackernews.com) 266

Yesterday, Android O officially became Android Oreo and started rolling out to Pixel and Nexus devices. While there are many new features available in the new OS, we thought we'd ask you: what are your favorite Android Oreo features? The Hacker News highlights eleven of the new features "that make Android even better" in their report: 1. No More 'Install From Unknown Sources' Setting: Prior to Android Oreo, third-party app installation requires users to enable just one setting by turning on "Install from unknown sources" -- doesn't matter from where the user has downloaded an APK file, i.e. from a browser, Bluetooth, transferred from a computer via USB or downloaded using another app. Android 8.0 Oreo has completely changed the way this feature works, bringing a much smarter and safer system called "Install other apps," in which a user has to manually permit 3rd-party app installation from different sources.
2. Autofill API Framework: Android 8.0 Oreo brings a built-in secure AutoFill API that allows users-chosen password manager to store different types of sensitive data, such as passwords, credit card numbers, phone numbers, and addresses -- and works throughout the entire system.
3. Picture-in-Picture: With Android Oreo, you can view a YouTube video while reading through a report in Word or be chatting on WhatsApp on your Android device -- thanks to Picture-in-Picture (PIP) feature.
4. Google Play Protect: Play Protect helps in detecting and removing harmful applications with more than 50 billion apps scanned every day.
5. Wi-Fi Aware (Neighborhood Aware Networking -- NAN): Android Oreo has added support for a new connectivity feature called Wi-Fi Aware, also known as Neighborhood Aware Networking (NAN), which allows apps and devices to automatically find, connect to, and share data with each other directly without any internet access point or cellular data.
6. Android Instant Apps: With Android 8.0 Oreo, you can now access a range of Instant Apps without downloading them.
7. Battery-Saving Background Limits: Google has blocked apps from reacting to "implicit broadcasts" and carrying out certain tasks when they are running in the background in an effort to enhance the battery life of Android device. Besides this, Android Oreo will also limit some background services and location updates when an app is not in use.
8. AI-based Smart Text Selection: Android Oreo brings the 'Smart Text Selection' feature, which uses Google's machine learning to detect when something like physical addresses, email addresses, names or phone numbers is selected, then automatically suggests the relevant information on other apps.
9. Notification Dots (Limit notifications): Oreo introduces Notification Dots that offers you to manage each app individually with "fine-grained control," allowing you to control how many notifications you see and how they come through.
10. Find my Device: Google has introduced a new feature, called Find my Device, which is a similar feature to Apple's Find my iPhone and allows people to locate, lock and wipe their Android devices in the event when they go missing or get stolen.
11. New Emoji and Downloadable Fonts: Android Oreo introduces 60 new emoji and a redesign of the current "blob" characters. The update also offers new color support to app developers and the ability to change or animate the shape of icons in their apps.

Data Storage

Ask Slashdot: What Are Some Cloud Backup Solutions That You Recommend? 226

New submitter OneHundredAndTen writes: After having used the services of CrashPlan for my backups for a few years now, I have just learned that CrashPlan is exiting the home backup business. Although this won't be happening for another 14 months, they have the chutzpah of recommending a provider (Carbonite) that does not support Linux. Looking in the net, there are not so many alternatives available -- unless you go with somebody that charges you $5/mo and up for a measly 100GB, or (occasionally) 1TB. Fine for a little phone, but not for the several TB worth of video I have shot over the years.

Anybody aware of decent cloud backup solutions that support Linux, and that offer a maximum backup capacity that is not ridiculously small?
Reader cornjones asks a similar question: My use case:
Backups for several computers, both at my house and scattered family machines
Encrypted locally by a key I set, only encrypted bits are stored offsite
I have a copy of my data onsite. I primarily want to protect against lost drives or fire (or ransomware attack)
Ideally, I would be able to point it at a NAS, which I don't have now.
The plan I was on was 10 computers, unlimited data, for 4 years @ $429. Lower is better, but I am willing to pay in that range.
Across my machines, I probably have about 1TB of bulk storage and 10 or so machines w/, say, 60GB backups each.
Robotics

Bricklaying Robots and Exoskeletons Are the Future of the Construction Industry (vice.com) 223

David Silverberg reports via Motherboard: One of the most staid and digitally conservative industries is on the verge of a robotic makeover. The global construction space isn't known for ushering new tech into their workforce, but a painful labour shortage, calls for increased worker safety and more low-cost housing, and the need to catch up to other tech-savvy sectors is giving upstarts in robotics and exoskeletons their big moment. The construction industry isn't immune to this phenomenon, but robots and humans may increasingly work hand-in-hand in industrial sectors, according to Brian Turmail, senior executive director of public affairs at the Associated General Contractors of America. This is especially true when the construction industry en masse uses exoskeleton vests, which aim to assist workers with heavy loads and thus reduce their risk of injury.

The Hadrian X is a bricklaying robot courtesy Australia's Fastbrick Robotics, which uses its 30-meter metal arm to lay bricks at a rate of 1,000 bricks per hour, compared to a human worker's average of 1,000 a day. Due for release in late 2017, Hadrian X can read a 3D CAD model of the house and then it follows those instructions precisely, working day and night. New York-based Construction Robotics has also developed its take on a bricklaying robot. SAM can lay 3,000 bricks a day, and the company said it's about time this industry got a whiff of the change almost every other market has been seeing.

Iphone

iPhone 8's 3D Face Scanner Will Work In 'Millionths of a Second' (phonearena.com) 154

According to a report by the Korea Herald, Apple's upcoming iPhone 8 will ditch the fingerprint identification in favor of 3D face recognition, which will work "in the millionths of a second." PhoneArena reports: The Samsung Galaxy series were among the first mainstream devices to feature iris recognition, but the speed and accuracy of the current technology leave a lot to be desired, and maybe that is why current phones ship with an eye scanner AND a fingerprint reader. The iPhone 8, on the other hand, is expected to make a full dive into 3D scanning. Both Samsung and Apple are rumored to have tried to implement a fingerprint scanner under the display glass, but failed as the technology was not sufficiently advanced. The new iPhone will also introduce 3D sensors on both its front and back for Apple's new augmented reality (AR) platform. This latest report also reveals that Apple will not use curved edges for its iPhone 8 screen, but will instead use a flat AMOLED panel. The big benefit of using AMOLED for Apple thus is not the curve, but its thinner profile compared to an LCD screen.
Google

Supreme Court Asked To Nullify the Google Trademark (arstechnica.com) 195

Is the term "google" too generic and therefore unworthy of its trademark protection? That's the question before the US Supreme Court. From a report: What's before the Supreme Court is a trademark lawsuit that Google already defeated in a lower court. The lawsuit claims that Google should no longer be trademarked because the word "google" is synonymous to the public with the term "search the Internet." "There is no single word other than google that conveys the action of searching the Internet using any search engine," according to the petition to the Supreme Court. It's perhaps one of the most consequential trademark case before the justices since they ruled in June that offensive trademarks must be allowed. The Google trademark dispute dates to 2012 when a man named Chris Gillespie registered 763 domain names that combined "google" with other words and phrase, including "googledonaldtrump.com."
Space

How the Voyager Golden Record Was Made (newyorker.com) 118

Fascinating article on The New Yorker about how the Voyager Golden Record was made: The Voyagers' scientific mission will end when their plutonium-238 thermoelectric power generators fail, around the year 2030. After that, the two craft will drift endlessly among the stars of our galaxy -- unless someone or something encounters them someday. With this prospect in mind, each was fitted with a copy of what has come to be called the Golden Record. Etched in copper, plated with gold, and sealed in aluminum cases, the records are expected to remain intelligible for more than a billion years, making them the longest-lasting objects ever crafted by human hands. We don't know enough about extraterrestrial life, if it even exists, to state with any confidence whether the records will ever be found. They were a gift, proffered without hope of return. I became friends with Carl Sagan, the astronomer who oversaw the creation of the Golden Record, in 1972. He'd sometimes stop by my place in New York, a high-ceilinged West Side apartment perched up amid Norway maples like a tree house, and we'd listen to records. Lots of great music was being released in those days, and there was something fascinating about LP technology itself. A diamond danced along the undulations of a groove, vibrating an attached crystal, which generated a flow of electricity that was amplified and sent to the speakers. At no point in this process was it possible to say with assurance just how much information the record contained or how accurately a given stereo had translated it. The open-endedness of the medium seemed akin to the process of scientific exploration: there was always more to learn.
Music

What Happened To Winamp? (arstechnica.com) 332

Winamp was released more than 20 years ago, and last week marked the 15th anniversary of the release of Winamp3. An anonymous Slashdot reader tries to explain what finally happened to Winamp: AOL planned to discontinue Winamp in November of 2013, but instead sold it to the Belgian online radio service Radionomy. The last update on Winamp's Twitter account was September of 2015, though it announced that they were looking for a new senior C++ developer. Then in December of 2015 Vivendi Group became that company's majority shareholder, stirring hopes that the company might one day launch a revamped version of the classic mp3 player from 1997.

So did they? Radionomy's Winamp page is still showing download links -- though they now lead instead to a forum post which says "code licensed to the previous owner" is being removed or replaced. But that post has been updated five times -- as recently as last October -- with "info about the next Winamp release," each linking to a thread on Winamp's forums which offer tantalizing glimpses into a still-ongoing development process. And last October a Winamp dev posted on Twitter that "a Winamp 5.8 public beta release could be imminent," while the web page at Winamp.com still says "There's more coming soon," with a background image of a llama.

"There's no reason that Winamp couldn't be in the position that iTunes is in today if not for a few layers of mismanagement by AOL that started immediately upon acquisition," their first general manager told Ars Technica in 2012. (Winamp's developers had been earning $100,000 a month just from $10 shareware checks before AOL acquired the company in 1999 for $100 million.) In May TechRadar wrote that Winamp "is still a great media player...but it now relies on third-party extensions to add features found as standard in more modern players."

I still remember all the visualizations and custom skins -- but does this bring back any memories for anyone else? Leave your thoughts in the comments. And what mp3-playing software are you using today?
Open Source

Ask Slashdot: What Would You Pay To See Open Sourced? 478

jbrase writes: It's in the interest of the open-source community to make open-source development as profitable as possible. One potential means of making money from open source is crowdfunding, [but] proprietary vendors aren't likely to be enthusastic about using their flagship product to try out a relatively untested business model. Crowdfunding the open source release of legacy technologies of historical significance could provide a low-risk way for vendors to experiment with making money by crowdfunding: The product has already turned them a profit.

With that, I'd like to ask Slashdot readers, what would you pay to see open sourced?

Slashdot reader jonwil left a comment suggesting old games ("where the game is no longer being developed/worked on and where the engine/tech is no longer being used for anything"). But the sky's the limit here, so leave your own best answers in the comments. What would you pay to see open sourced?
Crime

FBI Warns US Private Sector To Cut Ties With Kaspersky (cyberscoop.com) 171

An anonymous reader quotes CyberScoop: The FBI has been briefing private sector companies on intelligence claiming to show that the Moscow-based cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab is an unacceptable threat to national security, current and former senior U.S. officials familiar with the matter tell CyberScoop... The FBI's goal is to have U.S. firms push Kaspersky out of their systems as soon as possible or refrain from using them in new products or other efforts, the current and former officials say.

The FBI's counterintelligence section has been giving briefings since beginning of the year on a priority basis, prioritizing companies in the energy sector and those that use industrial control (ICS) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems. In light of successive cyberattacks against the electric grid in Ukraine, the FBI has focused on this sector due to the critical infrastructure designation assigned to it by the Department of Homeland Security... The U.S. government's actions come as Russia is engaged in its own push to stamp American tech giants like Microsoft out of that country's systems.

Meanwhile Bloomberg Businessweek claims to have seen emails which "show that Kaspersky Lab has maintained a much closer working relationship with Russia's main intelligence agency, the FSB, than it has publicly admitted" -- and that Kaspersky Lab "confirmed the emails are authentic."

Kaspersky Lab told ZDNet they have not confirmed the emails' authenticity. A representative for Kaspersky Lab says that the company does not have "inappropriate" ties with any government, adding that "the company does regularly work with governments and law enforcement agencies around the world with the sole purpose of fighting cybercrime."
United States

Wisconsin Lawmakers Vote To Pay Foxconn $3 Billion To Get New Factory (arstechnica.com) 245

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Wisconsin Assembly voted 59-30 on Thursday to approve a bill to give incentives worth $3 billion to Taiwan-based Foxconn so that the company would open its first U.S. plant in the state. Foxconn, best known for supplying parts of Apple's iPhones, will open the $10 billion liquid-crystal display plant in 2020, according to Reuters. The bill still has to be approved by a joint finance committee and the state Senate. Both houses of Wisconsin's legislature are controlled by Republicans, and the deal is supported by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican who negotiated the deal. The vote was largely, but not entirely, along party lines. Three Democrats joined 56 Republicans in supporting the deal. Two Republicans and 28 Democrats voted against it. Opponents said the deal wasn't a good use of taxpayer funds. The $3 billion incentives package includes about $2.85 billion in cash payments from taxpayers and tax breaks valued at about $150 million. The state is also waiving certain environmental rules.
Google

Google Explains Why It Banned the App For Gab, a Right-Wing Twitter Rival (arstechnica.com) 530

AmiMoJo shares a report from Ars Technica: When right-wing trolls and outright racists get kicked off of Twitter, they often move to Gab, a right-wing Twitter competitor. Gab was founded by Andrew Torba, who says it's devoted to unfettered free expression online. The site also hosts controversial right-wing figures like Milo Yiannopoulos, Andrew 'weev' Auernheimer and Andrew Anglin, editor of the neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer. On Thursday, Gab said that Google had banned its Android app from the Google Play Store for violating Google's ban on hate speech. The app's main competitor, Twitter, hosts accounts like the American Nazi Party, the Ku Klux Klan, and the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, yet the Twitter app is still available on the Google Play store. Apple has long had more restrictive app store policies, and it originally rejected the Gab app for allowing pornographic content to be posted on the service -- despite the fact that hardcore pornography is readily available on Twitter. In an email to Ars, Google explained its decision to remove Gab from the Play Store: "In order to be on the Play Store, social networking apps need to demonstrate a sufficient level of moderation, including for content that encourages violence and advocates hate against groups of people. This is a long-standing rule and clearly stated in our developer policies. Developers always have the opportunity to appeal a suspension and may have their apps reinstated if they've addressed the policy violations and are compliant with our Developer Program Policies."
Businesses

A 'Netflix Tax'? Yes, and It's Already a Thing in Some States (usatoday.com) 131

An anonymous reader shares a report: Your monthly bill for Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and other streaming entertainment services could go up soon as states such as Illinois try to find ways to offset declining sales taxes and other revenue shortfalls. Chicago, Pennsylvania and Florida have already passed a so-called Netflix tax, and cities such as Pasadena, Calif. have broached the issue. These taxes can translate to additional fees of less than $1 each month to consumers. But over the months -- and tacked onto multiple streaming subscriptions -- they might add up to $50 or more each year. Netflix, consumer tax groups and tech trade organizations have voiced their opposition to such taxes, warning they can be unfair and deter innovation. Some opponents have initiated legal challenges, and at least one state has shelved plans after a court decision. But state and local governments aren't likely to halt fresh efforts as falling pay-TV subscriptions and video rentals mean there's less opportunity to tax cable bills or charge sales tax at the cash register.
AT&T

Judge Dismisses AT&T's Attempt To Stall Google Fiber Construction In Louisville (arstechnica.com) 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: AT&T has lost a court case in which it tried to stall construction by Google Fiber in Louisville, Kentucky. AT&T sued the local government in Louisville and Jefferson County in February 2016 to stop a One Touch Make Ready Ordinance designed to give Google Fiber and other new ISPs quicker access to utility poles. But yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge David Hale dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice, saying AT&T's claims that the ordinance is invalid are false. "We are currently reviewing the decision and our next steps," AT&T said when contacted by Ars today. One Touch Make Ready rules let ISPs make all of the necessary wire adjustments on utility poles themselves instead of having to wait for other providers like AT&T to send work crews to move their own wires. Without One Touch Make Ready rules, the pole attachment process can cause delays of months before new ISPs can install service to homes. Google Fiber has continued construction in Louisville despite the lawsuit and staff cuts that affected deployments in other cities.

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