Chrome

Chrome Adds Warning For Extensions That Take Over Your Proxy Settings (bleepingcomputer.com) 8

An anonymous reader writes: "Google engineers have added two new features to the Chrome browser that will alert users of extensions that hijack proxy settings or the new tab page," reports Bleeping Computer. Google has been testing these two techniques sparingly with a small subset of users for more than a year, but they have now landed in Google Canary. The techniques are used by malicious Chrome extensions to hijack traffic and insert ads, or to redirect search traffic to affiliate search engine programs. The addition of these popup alerts are part of Google's plan to fight malicious Chrome extensions that have been starting to plague the Web Store.
Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg Says Facebook Will Add Subscriptions For News Stories (mashable.com) 30

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mashable: After years of simply forcing news organizations to heel to the almighty algorithm and craft their content for the News Feed, Facebook has added several features in the hopes of winning back the love of publishers. One of the biggest changes to come is subscriptions via Facebook. Here's how it works: Publishers using Instant Articles, Facebook's fast-loading article pages, will be able to have a paywall (certain number of articles per month) or have locked articles (freemium model). For either case, Facebook users will be prompted to subscribe to read more. All payments will be processed directly via publishers' websites, and Facebook will not take a cut -- at least not now. "If people subscribe after seeing news stories on Facebook, the money will go directly publishers who work hard to uncover the truth, and Facebook won't take a cut. We plan to start with a small group of U.S. and European publishers later this year and we'll listen to their feedback," Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post.
Google

Google Invites Users To 'Check If You're Clinically Depressed' (theverge.com) 43

Google will now invite U.S. users to "check if you're clinically depressed" by using a clinically-validated screening questionnaire. "The move announced on Wednesday comes out of work with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and represents the first time that the search giant has promoted a mental health self-assessment tool in search results," reports Financial Times. From the report: The intervention by the world's most popular search engine comes as people increasingly seek medical advice online: Google says one in 20 searches are health-related, although it will not disclose what proportion are about depression. It is also the latest public move by a technology business to take greater responsibility for content that users see on its platform, after criticism that companies such as Facebook and Google failed to help people distinguish verified from false information. A box of verified information about symptoms and treatments for clinical depression already tops U.S. Google search results for "depression" or queries such as "do I have depression." Google does this for other common conditions, including flu and tonsillitis, and symptoms such as headaches, using information provided by the Mayo Clinic, a non-profit medical organization. But for depression it has added a link inviting users to "check if you're clinically depressed." This takes searchers to a questionnaire widely used by doctors to measure levels of depressive symptoms. People who complete the test get a score indicating the severity of their symptoms, which can aid a physician's diagnosis.
Windows

Microsoft .NET Core 2.0 For Linux Released; Redhat Will Bundle Microsoft's .NET (zdnet.com) 80

Billly Gates writes: Microsoft recently released Visual Studio 15.3 for Windows and Visual Studio 7.1 for Mac with .NET core 2.0. In addition to porting Microsoft Code and SQL Server to Linux, they have ported .NET. Redhat will bundle .NET in their software offerings instead of relying on Mono. .NET core is Microsoft's open-source .NET platform which is not based off Mono and available for Linux, Mac, and Windows here.
Bitcoin

Here's Why People Don't Buy Things With Bitcoin (vice.com) 168

An anonymous reader shares a report: One reason for this, if you live in Toronto like me (or anywhere else for that matter), is that there's basically nowhere to spend digital coins in the real world. Coinmap, a service that maps bitcoin-accepting locations all over the world, shows a few places that accept bitcoin in Toronto, but it's clearly out of date -- I called several businesses listed on the site and they had no idea what bitcoin even is. A bigger problem is perfectly illustrated in a Reddit post from Wednesday morning complaining that a bitcoin transaction worth just $9 still hasn't gone through the network after two days of waiting. Two. Days. The likely reason is that the fee attached to the transaction in order to incentivize faster confirmation -- 50 cents, which is about as much of a premium as I'd pay for a $9 transaction -- simply wasn't enough. "Should I have paid $3 on a $9 transfer to get it processed?" the person wrote.
Privacy

Wading Through AccuWeather's Response (daringfireball.net) 59

On Tuesday, ZDNet reported that popular weather app AccuWeather was sending location-identifying information to a monetization firm, even when a person had disabled location data from the app. In a response, AccuWeather said today "if a user opts out of location tracking on AccuWeather, no GPS coordinates are collected or passed without further opt-in permission from the user." But it is misleading people. John Gruber of DaringFireball writes: The accusation has nothing to do with "GPS coordinates." The accusation is that their iOS app is collecting Wi-Fi router names and MAC addresses and sending them to servers that belong to Reveal Mobile, which in turn can easily be used to locate the user. Claiming this is about GPS coordinates is like if they were caught stealing debit cards and they issued a denial that they never stole anyone's cash. The accusation comes from Will Strafech, a respected security researcher who discovered the "actual information" by observing network traffic. He saw the AccuWeather iOS app sending his router's name and MAC address to Reveal Mobile. This isn't speculation. They were caught red-handed. GPS information is more precise, and if you grant the AccuWeather app permission to access your location (under the guise of showing you local weather wherever you are, as well as localized weather alerts), that more precise data is passed along to Reveal Mobile as well. But Wi-Fi router information can be used to locate you within a few meters using publicly available databases. Seriously, go ahead and try it yourself: plug your Wi-Fi router's BSSID MAC address into this website, and there's good chance it'll pinpoint your location on the map. "Other data, such as Wi-Fi network information that is not user information, was for a short period available on the Reveal SDK, but was unused by AccuWeather," the company writes. In what way is the name and MAC address of your router not "user information"? And saying the information was "unused by AccuWeather" is again sleight of hand. The accusation is not that AccuWeather itself was using the location of the Wi-Fi router, but that Reveal Mobile was. Here are Reveal Mobile's own words about how they use location data.
Google

Google Unveils a New, Cheaper Networking Option For Cloud Customers: the Public Internet (geekwire.com) 16

Google Cloud Platform customers will have a new option when selecting the type of network used to deliver their traffic to their users: they can keep using Google's network, or they can save some money with the new option of using public transit networks. An anonymous reader shares a report: Google has long argued that one of the best reasons to use its public cloud service is the strength of its fiber network, developed and enhanced for more than a decade to support the global data centers powering its search engine. But there are some applications that don't require that level of performance, and so Google is now offering a cheaper networking service -- costing between 24 percent to 33 percent less -- that uses the transit networks that deliver the bulk of traffic to internet service providers, said Prajakta Joshi, product manager for cloud networking at Google. The new "Standard Tier" should offer performance comparable to what customers would experience through "other cloud providers," Joshi said, although both Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure operate fiber networks outside of the public internet.
Microsoft

Microsoft Will Never Again Sneakily Force Windows Downloads on Users (betanews.com) 145

A reader shares a report Windows users in Germany were particularly unimpressed when Microsoft forcibly downloaded many gigabytes of files to upgrade from Windows 7 and 8 to Windows 10. Having held out for 18 months, and losing its case twice, Microsoft has finally agreed to stop its nefarious tactics. After a lengthy battle with Germany's Baden-Wurtenberg consumer rights center, Microsoft made the announcement to avoid the continuation of legal action. A press release on the Baden-Wurtenberg website reveals that Microsoft has announced it will no longer download operating system files to users' computers without their permission: Microsoft will not download install files for new operating systems to a user system's hard disk without a user's consent. The consumer rights center hoped for this resolution to be reached much sooner, but Microsoft's decision will please the courts and could have a bearing on how the company acts in other countries.
Businesses

Apple Puts Brakes on Self-driving Car Project, Report Says (theguardian.com) 67

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) 27

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.
The Internet

How a Tax Inspector Used Google Search To Locate the Founder of SilkRoad (bbc.com) 85

An anonymous reader shares a report: You could buy any drug imaginable, wherever you were in the world, on the Silk Road website. Hidden on the dark web, it made millions of dollars every week. The US government had been trying to shut it down for more than two years when tax agent Gary Alford was brought in to try to trace the money which passed through the site. In his spare time, Gary started searching Google to try to find the mysterious mastermind behind the site: Dread Pirate Roberts. And he was successful. Gary spent hours trawling the internet for the first ever mention of Silk Road. He says he came across a posting on Bitcoin forum. In the post, Roberts had shared his Gmail account. That escalated the investigation. Gary spoke with BBC describing the rest.
Firefox

Mozilla Testing an Opt-Out System For Firefox Telemetry Collection (bleepingcomputer.com) 200

An anonymous reader writes: "Mozilla engineers are discussing plans to change the way Firefox collects usage data (telemetry), and the organization is currently preparing to test an opt-out clause so they could collect more data relevant to the browser's usage," reports Bleeping Computer. "In a Google Groups discussion that's been taking place since Monday, Mozilla engineers cite the lack of usable data the Foundation is currently receiving via its data collection program. The problem is that Firefox collects data from a very small fraction of its userbase, and this data may not be representative of the browser's real usage." Mozilla would like to fix this by flipping everyone's telemetry setting to enabled and adding an opt-out clause. Engineers also plan to embed Google's RAPPAR project [1, 2] for anonymous data collection.
Sony

Sony Blocks Yet Another Game From Cross-Console Play With Xbox One (arstechnica.com) 144

"Back in June, Sony told Eurogamer that the company did not have 'a profound philosophical stance' against letting PS4 users play games with those on other platforms," reports Ars Technica. "That said, the company's continued refusal to allow for cross-console play between PS4 and Xbox One players has become an absolute and unmistakable trend in recent months." The latest game to be denied by Sony for cross-console play is Ark: Survival Evolved, which comes out of a two-year early access period next week on Windows, Mac, PS4, and Xbox One. From the report: In a Twitter response posted over the weekend, Ark lead designer and programmer Jeremy Stieglitz said that cross-platform play between PS4 and Xbox One is "working internally, but currently Sony won't allow it." This isn't a huge surprise, considering that the developers of Rocket League, Minecraft, and Gwent have made similar statements in recent months. Since Microsoft very publicly opened Xbox Live to easy cross-platform play back in March, Sony has said that it's "happy to have a conversation" about the issue, but it has failed to follow through by allowing any linkage between the two competing consoles (cross-platform play between the PS4 and PC has been available in certain games since the PS4's launch, though).

The question continues to be why, exactly, Sony seems so reluctant to allow any games to work between its own PlayStation Network and Microsoft's Xbox Live. Speaking with Eurogamer in June, Sony's Jim Ryan suggested that, in the case of Minecraft, Sony was wary to expose that game's young players to "external influences we have no ability to manage or look after." Ryan also told Eurogamer that cross-platform decisions were "a commercial discussion between ourselves and other stakeholders." That suggests there may be some financial issues between the parties involved that are preventing cross-console play from moving forward. Perhaps Sony wants someone else to pay for the work required to get its network talking to Microsoft's? The bottom line, though, might be that Sony just doesn't want to partially give away its sizable advantage in console sales by letting Microsoft hook into that vast network of players.

Businesses

German Company Building An Electric 'Air Taxi' Makes Key Hires From Gett, Airbus and Tesla (techcrunch.com) 68

Lilium, the Germany company known for building an electric "air taxi," is announcing a number of key hires from notable companies in the transportation space. While the company is still in its early days, it is ambitiously striving to make flying cars a reality. Back in April, the company launched its first public (and successful) test flight in Germany. TechCrunch reports: [The key hires] are Dr Remo Gerber, former MD for Western Europe at Gett, who joins Lilium as Chief Commercial Officer; Dirk Gebser, who takes up the position of VP of Production and previously held manufacturing executive roles at Airbus and Rolls Royce; and Meggy Sailer, who joined Lilium as Head of Recruitment in February and was formerly Tesla's Head of Talent EMEA. In a call with Gerber, he told me he was "super happy" to be joining the German startup, noting that there are very few companies in Europe with the same level of ambition. "It is definitely the most fascinating job I could have ever imagined," he says, audibly excited. "I've done quite a few things in my time and I've seen quite a few companies but never anything even remotely like that." To add a little color, Gerber pointed out that his training is in physics ("a long time ago") and that his grandfather was a pilot in World War II, and his uncle also a pilot. This, and the first time he saw the Lilium jet fly, made the opportunity to join a startup building a new kind of air travel "irresistible."
Software

Slashdot Asks: What Are Your Favorite Android Oreo Features? (thehackernews.com) 262

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.

Robotics

Autonomous Forklift May Eat Up Warehouse Jobs (technologyreview.com) 120

Jamie Condliffe reports via MIT Technology Review: Seegrid, a provider of material-handling equipment, takes the kinds of forklifts that move 8,000-pound loads around warehouses and makes them autonomous. It does that by popping five stereo cameras on top of the vehicles, having a human drive them around to map a space, and then using image recognition systems similar to those in autonomous cars to navigate the facilities. (Unlike autonomous cars that use sensors like radar and lidar, Seegrid can use just cameras, because lighting conditions in warehouses are more consistent than those on the open road.) But while it's easy enough to have a forklift move objects from one side of a factory to another, reliably loading and unloading them poses a bigger challenge. Other robots designed to haul loads like this tend to pick things up from below, rather than spearing pallets with forks. So autonomous forklifts usually require humans to be present during pickup and dropoff to make sure nothing goes wrong. Seegrid's new GP8 Series 6 forklift has been engineered to reverse its forks into pallets, pick them up, and set them down without a human in the loop.
The Almighty Buck

Medium Will Now Pay Writers Based On How Many 'Claps' They Get (theverge.com) 125

Medium is getting creative with how they're paying its writers. The San Francisco-based online publishing platform will determine how much an author is paid by how many claps a story receives. Claps are basically Medium's equivalent of a Like, and they recently replaced the "recommend" feature -- a little heart button at the end of each article. The Verge reports: The site wants people to send authors claps to show how much they enjoy reading each article. Now, those claps are actually going to mean something. Medium pays authors by dividing up every individual subscriber's fee between the different articles they've read that month. But rather than doing an even division between articles, Medium will weight payments toward whichever articles a subscriber gives the most claps to. It's not clear exactly how much each individual clap tips the scale, but you can be sure that writers will be asking readers to click that button. It's a pretty strange way to implement payments, since it relies on a really arbitrary metric that individual subscribers might use in really different and inconsistent ways. Time spent on page and whether someone shared an article probably would have been useful metrics by which to tell how much a reader enjoyed a piece, but maybe that makes too much sense for a startup in the middle of its second business model pivot. On the positive side, claps can help Medium surface content that people are enjoying and get it in front of more readers.
Android

Sony Loses Class Action Lawsuit In Waterproof Claims For Original Xperia Z Line (xda-developers.com) 23

Sony has lost a class action lawsuit for claiming its Xperia phones were "waterproof," when in reality they were only "water resistant." If you happen to own one of the original Xperia Z smartphones, you may be owed up to $300. XDA Developers reports: Arguably, one of the pioneers in the consumer sector for more "rugged" devices (or at the very least IP certification) has to be Sony. Back in 2012, they introduced the Xperia Z line of the devices, which marked a turning point for Sony in most of its philosophy as well as its design language. They completely overhauled the look and feel of the devices they had in favor of the glass slab that they offer even in today's phones and tablets. Despite its fragile appearance, most of their offerings were drop-tested and were able to withstand a substantial amount of mistreatment. On top of all that, the Sony Xperia Z was the first commercially available phone from Sony to me, marketed as "water resistant" with an IP56 rating for water and dust ingress (which isn't really much, but at least it would keep your phone going in spite of an accidental drop in the beach or in the pool). However, the phone was advertised in such a way that it it looked as if the device was waterproof and not water resistant (there is a big difference). This led to a lot of water-damaged devices, which Sony did nothing about and eventually, a class action lawsuit was filed (and won) against Sony.

According to the settlement, there were 24 models affected (ironically, the original Z is not listed as being one of them) starting from the ZR, which was a close cousin of the original Z and going all the way to the Xperia Z5, along with a few tablets as well. The settlement goes on to state that there are a few things that, if you were affected, you can opt for: Warranty extension for up to a year if the device is within warranty period; Warranty extension for up to 6 months if the device is no longer under warranty; Up to 50% of MSRP as refund for compensation if the device is listed among the ones on the Sony lawsuit. If you are going for the cash alternative, you do have a deadline to meet, which is January 30, 2018. Whichever course of action you do decide to take, please make sure that you understand the entire lawsuit document before doing anything!

Crime

Iowa Computer Programmer Gets 25 Years For Lottery Scam (desmoinesregister.com) 124

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Des Moines Register: Eddie Tipton, the Iowa brainpower behind a case of multi-state lottery fraud, will spend up to 25 years in prison for rigging "random" drawing jackpots. It's unknown how many years Tipton will actually spend in prison. He could be paroled within three or four years, his attorneys noted. Tipton, 54, was a longtime computer programmer in the Iowa offices of the Multi-State Lottery Association who installed software that allowed him to pick winning numbers in some of the nation's most popular lottery drawings. His scam began to unravel following unsuccessful attempts to anonymously collect a $16.5 million Hot Lotto ticket that was purchased at a Des Moines convenience store in 2010. "I certainly regret," Tipton said. "It's difficult even saying that. With all the people I know behind me that I hurt and I regret it. I'm sorry."
The Courts

Justice Department Walks Back Demand For Information On Anti-Trump Website (theverge.com) 125

After issuing a warrant to DreamHost for "all files" related to an anti-trump website, the Justice Department says it's scaling back a demand for information from hosting service DreamHost. The Verge reports: In a legal filing today, the Justice Department argues that the warrant was proper, but also says DreamHost has since brought up information that was previously "unknown." In light of that, it has offered to carve out information demanded in the warrant, specifically pledging to not request information like HTTP logs tied to IP addresses. The department says it is only looking for information related to criminal activity on the site, and says that "the government is focused on the use of the Website to organize, to plan, and to effect a criminal act -- that is, a riot." Peaceful protestors, the government argues, are not the targets of the warrant. The filing asks the court to proceed with the new, less burdensome request, which, apart from the carved-out sections, still requests "all records or other information, pertaining to the Account, including all files, databases, and database records stored by DreamHost in relation to that Account." It's unclear if DreamHost will continue to fight the new demand.

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