The Almighty Buck

Messenger App Kik Debuts Its Own Digital Currency (bloomberg.com) 5

The messaging app Kik Interactive has decided to create its own digital currency. Kik's plans are for an "initial coin offering," a process by which it sells tokens that can be used to buy services on its platform. "The idea is that as more and more people use Kik, the value of those tokens, called 'Kin,' will rise in value," reports TechCrunch. From the report: Kik, which has raised about $120 million (in real money) from investors including Tencent Holdings Ltd., could serve to add a new layer of legitimacy to the process. "Kik will be the largest install base of cryptocurrency users in the world," Chief Executive Officer Ted Livingston said. "Kin, on day one will be the most-used cryptocurrency in the world." The move comes as Kik finally reveals how many people actually use its app regularly each month: 15 million. That's a far-cry from the 300 million total registered users number it was sharing around this time last year. Kik plans to gift a certain amount of Kin to each user. They'll be able use the new currency to buy games, live video streams and other digital products. The company's goal is to attract new merchants to sell on the platform, creating a snowball effect where Kin becomes more valuable and more sellers pile onto Kik, increasing its popularity.
Earth

Scientists Develop Technology That Burns Natural Gas With No CO2 Emissions (scienceblog.com) 57

New submitter Ben Sullivan writes: Researchers and engineers in Vienna have developed a way to burn natural gas without releasing CO2 into the air through a combustion method called chemical looping combustion (CLC). In this process, CO2 can be isolated during combustion without having to use any additional energy, which means it can then go on to be stored. The method had already been applied successfully in a test environment, and has now been upscaled to allow use in up to a 10 MW facility. ScienceBlog.com reports: "A granulate made of metal oxide circulates between the two chambers and is responsible for transporting oxygen from air to fuel: 'We pump air through one chamber, where the particles take up oxygen. They then move on to the second chamber, which has natural gas flowing through it. Here is where the oxygen is released, and then where flameless combustion takes place, producing CO2 and water vapor,' explains Stefan Penthor from the Institute of Chemical Engineering at TU Wien. The separation into two chambers means there are two separate flue gas streams to deal with too: air with a reduced concentration of oxygen is discharged from one chamber, water vapor and CO2 from the other. The water vapor can be separated quite easily, leaving almost pure CO2, which can be stored or used in other technical applications."
China

Chinese Company Offers Free Training For US Coal Miners To Become Wind Farmers (qz.com) 123

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: If you want to truly understand what's happening in the energy industry, the best thing to do is to travel deep into the heart of American coal country, to Carbon County, Wyoming (yes, that's a real place). The state produces most coal in the US, and Carbon County has long been known (and was named) for its extensive coal deposits. But the state's mines have been shuttering over the past few years, causing hundreds of people to lose their jobs in 2016 alone. Now, these coal miners are finding hope, offered from an unlikely place: a Chinese wind-turbine maker wants to retrain these American workers to become wind-farm technicians. It's the perfect metaphor for the massive shift happening in the global energy markets. The news comes from an energy conference in Wyoming, where the American arm of Goldwind, a Chinese wind-turbine manufacturer, announced the free training program. More than a century ago, Carbon County was home to the first coal mine in Wyoming. Soon, it will be the site of a new wind farm with hundreds of Goldwind-supplied turbines.
Transportation

Amazon's Drive-Up Grocery Stores Are Now Open To the Public In Seattle (theverge.com) 21

Amazon has opened two drive-up grocery stores to the public that will allow Amazon Prime subscribers to place an online order and choose a two-hour pickup window for when they'd like to drive over and retrieve it. The Verge reports: Despite the stores being called "AmazonFresh Pickup," a membership to the company's home delivery grocery service isn't required. But if you do pay for AmazonFresh (an extra $14.99 per month on top of Prime's usual cost), your groceries will be ready within 15 minutes. Regular Prime customers have to wait at least two hours before the earliest pickup window becomes available. According to The Seattle Times, the first time you visit one of the two AmazonFresh Pickup locations, a concierge will enter your name and vehicle's license plate number into Amazon's systems. That way, during subsequent visits a license plate reader will automatically identify you and signal to employees that they should bring your order out to your car. The Times notes that this license plate scanning can be disabled from Amazon's website.
Security

More Than Half of Streaming Users In US Are Sharing Their Passwords, Says Report (streamingobserver.com) 47

A new study conducted by Fluent shows a majority of Americans are sharing passwords to their streaming video services. While millennials lead the pack, non-millennials are doing the same. Streaming Observer reports: Nearly 3 out of every 4 (72% exactly) Americans who have cable also have access to at least one streaming service and 8% of cable subscribers plan to eliminate their service in the next year. But that doesn't necessarily mean they're paying for their streaming service. New numbers from a study conducted by Fluent show that the majority of Americans are sharing passwords to their streaming video services. Well over half of millennials (aged 18-34) -- 60% -- are either using someone someone else's password or giving their password to someone else. And just under half -- 48% -- of non-millennials are doing the same. The study also revealed that the main factor in what drives consumers to sign up for streaming video services is price, with 34% of Americans saying that low cost was the primary factor. That number jumps to 38% among millennials. When you take in to account that some streaming TV services start with prices as low as $20, it makes sense that price is the biggest issue. Convenience was the next biggest factor, coming in at just below 25%.
Facebook

Facebook's Instant Articles Platform To Support Google AMP, Apple News (techcrunch.com) 18

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: One of the problems publishers face today in making their content more readable on mobile devices is that there are multiple, competing formats available for this purpose. Facebook has Instant Articles, Google is spearheading the AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) project, and the Apple News Format optimizes content for iOS devices. Facebook is today taking a crack at a solution to this problem by rolling out support for both AMP and soon Apple News as a part of its open source Instant Articles software development kit. The updated SDK will now include an extension that lets publishers build content that's publishable in all three formats, beginning with support for Google's AMP in addition to Facebook's own Instant Articles. In the weeks ahead it will also include support for publishing to Apple News, though the company didn't provide an exact launch date for when that feature would be added.
Debian

Devuan Jessie 1.0 Officially Released (softpedia.com) 138

prisoninmate quotes a report from Softpedia: Announced for the first time back in November 2014, Devuan is a Debian fork that doesn't use systemd as init system. It took more than two and a half years for it to reach 1.0 milestone, but the wait is now over and Devuan 1.0.0 stable release is here. Based on the packages and software repositories of the Debian GNU/Linux 8 "Jessie" operating system, Devuan 1.0.0 "Jessie" is now considered the first stable version of the GNU/Linux distribution, which stays true to its vision of developing a free Debian OS without systemd. This release is recommended for production use. As Devuan 1.0.0 doesn't ship with systemd, several adjustments needed to be made. For example, the distro uses a systemd-free version of the NetworkManager network connection manager and includes several extra libsystemd0-free packages in its repository.
Government

Proposed Active-Defense Bill Would Allow Destruction of Data, Use of Beacon Tech (onthewire.io) 55

Trailrunner7 quotes a report from On the Wire: A bill that would allow victims of cybercrime to use active defense techniques to stop attacks and identify attackers has been amended to require victims to notify the FBI of their actions and also add an exemption to allow victims to destroy their data once they locate it on an attacker's machine. The Active Cyber Defense Certainty Act, drafted by Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) in March, is designed to enable people who have been targets of cybercrime to employ certain specific techniques to trace the attack and identify the attacker. The bill defines active cyber defense as "any measure -- (I) undertaken by, or at the direction of, a victim"; and "(II) consisting of accessing without authorization the computer of the attacker to the victim" own network to gather information in order to establish attribution of criminal activity to share with law enforcement or to disrupt continued unauthorized activity against the victim's own network." After releasing an initial draft of the bill in March, Rep. Tom Graves held a public event in Georgia to collect feedback on the legislation. Based on that event and other feedback, Graves made several changes to the bill, including the addition of the notification of law enforcement and an exception in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for victims who use so-called beaconing technology to identify an attacker. "The provisions of this section shall not apply with respect to the use of attributional technology in regard to a defender who uses a program, code, or command for attributional purposes that beacons or returns locational or attributional data in response to a cyber intrusion in order to identify the source of the intrusion," the bill says.
Android

T-Mobile's 'Digits' Program Revamps the Phone Number (arstechnica.com) 44

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: T-Mobile has announced the launch of its "Digits" program, coming May 31. Digits is a revamp of how T-Mobile phone numbers work, virtualizing customer numbers so they can work across multiple devices. It sounds a lot like Google Voice -- rather than having a phone number tied to a single SIM card or a device, numbers are now account-based, and you can "log in" to your phone number on several devices. T-Mobile says the new phone number system will work "across virtually all connected devices," allowing multiple phones, tablets, and PCs to get texts and calls. This means T-Mobile needs apps across all those platforms, with the press release citing "native seamless integration" in Samsung Android phones, Android and iOS apps, and a browser interface for PCs. The new phone number system is free to all T-Mobile customers. Customers can also buy an extra phone number for $10 or by signing up to the $5-per-month "T-Mobile One Plus" package, which is a bundle of extra features like a mobile hotspot and in-flight Wi-Fi.
Privacy

83 Percent Of Security Staff Waste Time Fixing Other IT Problems (betanews.com) 138

An anonymous reader shares a report: A new survey of security professionals reveals that 83 percent say colleagues in other departments turn to them to fix personal computer problems. The study by security management company FireMon shows a further 80 percent say this is taking up more than an hour of their working week, which in a year could equate to more than $88,000. For organizations, eight percent of professionals surveyed helping colleagues out five hours a week or more could be costing over $400,000. Organizations are potentially paying qualified security professionals salaries upwards of $100,000 a year and seeing up to 12.5 percent of that investment being spent on non-security related activities.
Mozilla

Firefox Marketing Head Expresses Concerns Over Google's Apparent 'Only Be On Chrome' Push (medium.com) 166

Eric Petitt, head up Firefox marketing, writing in a blog: I use Chrome every day. Works fine. Easy to use. There are multiple things that bug me about the Chrome product, for sure, but I'm OK with Chrome. I just don't like only being on Chrome. And that's what Chrome wants. It wants you to only use Chrome. Chrome is not evil, it's just too big for its britches. Its influence on the internet economy and individuals is out of balance. Chrome, with 4 times the market share of its nearest competitor (Firefox), is an eight-lane highway to the largest advertising company in the world. Google built it to maximize revenue from your searches and deliver display ads on millions of websites. To monetize every... single... click. And today, there exists no meaningful safety valve on its market dominance. Beyond Google, the web looks more and more like a feudal system, where the geography of the web has been partitioned off by the Frightful Five. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon are our lord and protectors, exacting a royal sum for our online behaviors. We're the serfs and tenants, providing homage inside their walled fortresses. Noble upstarts are erased or subsumed under their existing order. (Footnote: Petitt has made it clear that the aforementioned views are his own, and not those of Mozilla.)
Businesses

Apple's Jonathan Ive Says Immigration Vital For UK Firms (bbc.com) 111

The UK must keep its doors open to top talent from around the world if its technology firms are to thrive, Apple's chief designer has told the BBC. An anonymous reader shares the article: Sir Jonathan Ive, who has just been appointed Chancellor of the Royal College of Art, also said that technology hubs like Silicon Valley had a "tremendous cultural diversity". Some technology firms fear they may lose access to talent after Brexit. "That general principle [on access] is terribly important for creating a context for multiple companies to grow and in a healthy way explore and develop new products and new product types," Sir Jonathan told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Sir Jonathan said the UK had a "fabulous tradition of design education", but that it needed to do more to become a technology hub on a par with Silicon Valley in California, where the likes of Apple, Facebook and Google are based. "I think Silicon Valley has infrastructures to support start-up companies... ranging from technological support through to funding," he said. "And there is the sense that failure isn't irreversible, so very often people will work on an idea, and there isn't the same sense of stigma when one idea and perhaps one company doesn't work out."
Education

It's Time For Academics To Take Back Control Of Research Journals (theguardian.com) 61

Stephen Curry, a professor of structural biology at Imperial College London, has a piece on The Guardian today in which he outlines the history of the relationship between commercial interests, academic prestige and the circulation of research. An excerpt from the article: "Publish or perish" has long been the mantra of seeking to make a success of their research career. Reputations are built on the ability to communicate something new to the world. Increasingly, however, they are determined by numbers, not by words, as universities are caught in a tangle of management targets composed of academic journal impact factors, university rankings and scores in the government's research excellence framework. The chase for metricised success has been further exacerbated by the takeover of scholarly publishing by profit-seeking commercial companies, which pose as partners but no longer seem properly in tune with academia. Evidence of the growing divergence between academic and commercial interests is visible in the secrecy around negotiations on subscription and open access charges. It's also clear from the popularity among academics of the controversial site Sci-Hub, which has made over 60m research articles freely available on the internet. Over-worked researchers could be forgiven for thinking that the time-honoured mantra has morphed to "publish, and perish anyway."
Android

And Now, a Brief Definition of the Web (theverge.com) 60

Dieter Bohn, writing for The Verge: Traditionally, we think of the web as a combination of a set of specific technologies paired with some core philosophical principles. The problem -- the reason this question even matters -- is that there are a lot of potential replacements for the parts of the web that fix what's broken with technology, while undermining the principles that ought to go with it. [...] A lot of tech companies are flailing around looking for ways to fix this problem. There are web apps that work in Chrome but not really all that well elsewhere. There are Instant Articles in Facebook and AMP pages on Google. There are Instant Android apps that stream to your phone over the internet instead of being installed, which go away when you're done with them just like a browser tab. Google claims to be trying to bring some of the open ethos of the web to smart speakers. Hell, go back to 2014 and you'll find Apple pundit John Gruber arguing we should consider apps and "anything transmitted using HTTP and HTTPS" as part of the web. [...] And now, a brief definition of the web: To count as being part of the web, your app or page must: 1. Be linkable, and 2. Allow any client to access it. That's it.
Businesses

The Cable TV Industry Is Getting Even Less Popular (fortune.com) 95

Aaron Pressman, writing for Fortune: It seems nobody loves their cable TV or home Internet provider. Wireless carriers, however, are on the upswing.That's the news from the huge annual survey of 43 industries from the American Customer Satisfaction Index. In 2017, cable operators and ISP tied for last place, with an average customer satisfaction rating of just 64 percent. The wireless industry was still near the bottom of the rankings, in 38th place, just below the U.S. postal system. But its 73 percent score was up almost three percentage points from last year. Many of the same companies, like Comcast and Verizon, dominate both fields, ACSI noted. And neither industry offer much choice to consumers, with most localities having only one or two cable and Internet providers. The cable industry's rating slipped 1.5 percentage points from last year, while the rating for ISPs was unchanged.
AI

Google AI AlphaGo Wins Again, Leaves Humans In the Dust (cnet.com) 129

Google's AlphaGo has defeated the world's best Go player in the second out of three games, scoring an overall win for the artificial intelligence algorithm in the fiendishly complex board game. CNET adds: The human gave it his all. "Incredible," wrote DeepMind founder and CEO Demis Hassabis on Twitter while the match was underway. "According to AlphaGo evaluations Ke Jie is playing perfectly at the moment." The match took place over a year after AlphaGo bested Lee Sedol, one of the world's top Go players, in four out of five matches in March 2016. It also beat European champion Fan Hui 5-0 in October 2015. The match was being played in China, the place where the abstract and intuitive board game was born. The government, however, isn't a big fan of letting its citizens know about the battle and has censored all the livestreams in the country.
Facebook

How Facebook Flouts Holocaust Denial Laws Except Where It Fears Being Sued (theguardian.com) 275

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Facebook's policies on Holocaust denial will come under fresh scrutiny following the leak of documents that show moderators are being told not to remove this content in most of the countries where it is illegal. The files explain that moderators should take down Holocaust denial material in only four of the 14 countries where it is outlawed. One document says the company "does not welcome local law that stands as an obstacle to an open and connected world" and will only consider blocking or hiding Holocaust denial messages and photographs if "we face the risk of getting blocked in a country or a legal risk." A picture of a concentration camp with the caption "Never again Believe the Lies" was permissible if posted anywhere other than the four countries in which Facebook fears legal action, one document explains. Facebook contested the figures but declined to elaborate. Documents show Facebook has told moderators to remove dehumanizing speech or any "calls for violence" against refugees. Content "that says migrants should face a firing squad or compares them to animals, criminals or filth" also violate its guidelines. But it adds: "As a quasi-protected category, they will not have the full protections of our hate speech policy because we want to allow people to have broad discussions on migrants and immigration which is a hot topic in upcoming elections." The definitions are set out in training manuals provided by Facebook to the teams of moderators who review material that has been flagged by users of the social media service. The documents explain the rules and guidelines the company applies to hate speech and "locally illegal content," with particular reference to Holocaust denial. One 16-page training manual explains Facebook will only hide or remove Holocaust denial content in four countries -- France, Germany, Israel and Austria. The document says this is not on grounds of taste, but because the company fears it might get sued.
Space

Boeing Will Make the Military's New Hypersonic Spaceplane (theverge.com) 83

The Department of Defense has selected Boeing to make a new hypersonic spaceplane that can be reused frequently over a short period of time to deliver multiple satellites into orbit. "DARPA, the agency that tests new advanced technologies for the military, has picked Boeing's design concept, called the Phantom Express, to move forward as part of the agency's Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program," reports The Verge. From the report: The goal of DARPA's XS-1 program is to create a spacecraft that's something of a hybrid between an airplane and a traditional vertical rocket. The spaceplane is meant to take off vertically and fly uncrewed to high altitudes above Earth. From there, the vehicle will release a mini-rocket -- a booster with an engine that can propel a satellite weighing up to 3,000 pounds into orbit. As the booster deploys the satellite, the spaceplane will then land back on Earth horizontally just like a normal airplane -- and then be fueled up for its next mission. DARPA wants the turnaround time between flights to last just a few hours. But perhaps the most audacious goal is the price DARPA wants for each flight. The agency is aiming for the spaceplane to cost $5 million per mission, a significant bargain considering most orbital rockets cost tens to hundreds of millions of dollars to launch. And Boeing says it's up to the task. "Phantom Express is designed to disrupt and transform the satellite launch process as we know it today, creating a new, on-demand space-launch capability that can be achieved more affordably and with less risk," Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works, said in a statement.
The Internet

Manchester Attack Could Lead To Internet Crackdown (independent.co.uk) 367

New submitter boundary writes: The UK government looks to be about to put the most egregious parts of the Investigative Powers Act into force "soon after the election" (which is in a couple of weeks) in the wake of the recent bombing in Manchester. "Technical Capability Orders" require tech companies to break their own security. I wonder who'll comply? The Independent reports: "Government will ask parliament to allow the use of those powers if Theresa May is re-elected, senior ministers told The Sun. 'We will do this as soon as we can after the election, as long as we get back in,' The Sun said it was told by a government minister. 'The level of threat clearly proves there is no more time to waste now. The social media companies have been laughing in our faces for too long.'"
Databases

Vermont DMV Caught Using Illegal Facial Recognition Program (vocativ.com) 107

schwit1 quotes a report from Vocativ: The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles has been caught using facial recognition software -- despite a state law preventing it. Documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont describe such a program, which uses software to compare the DMV's database of names and driver's license photos with information with state and federal law enforcement. Vermont state law, however, specifically states that "The Department of Motor Vehicles shall not implement any procedures or processes that involve the use of biometric identifiers." The program, the ACLU says, invites state and federal agencies to submit photographs of persons of interest to the Vermont DMV, which it compares against its database of some 2.6 million Vermonters and shares potential matches. Since 2012, the agency has run at least 126 such searches on behalf of local police, the State Department, FBI, and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

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