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Democrats

Tech Takes Its K-12 CS Education and Immigration Crisis To the DNC (cnet.com) 11

theodp writes: In early 2013, Code.org and FWD.us coincidentally emerged after Microsoft suggested tech's agenda could be furthered by creating a crisis linking U.S. kids' lack of computer science savvy to tech's need for tech worker visas. Three years later, CNET's Marguerite Reardon reports that tech took its K-12 computer science and immigration crisis to the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, where representatives from Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon called for the federal government to invest in more STEM education and reform immigration policies -- recurring themes the industry hopes to influence in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. "We believe in the importance of high-skilled immigration coupled with investments in education," said Microsoft President Brad Smith, repeating the Microsoft National Talent Strategy. The mini-tech conference also received some coverage in the New Republic, where David Dayen argues that the DNC is one big corporate bride.
Businesses

Tesla and Autopilot Supplier Mobileye Split Up After Fatal Crash (usatoday.com) 62

An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: Tesla and Mobileye, one of the top suppliers to its Autopilot partial self-driving system, are parting ways in the wake of the May accident that killed an owner of one of its electric Model S sedans. Mobileye is considered a leader in developing the equipment that will be needed for fully self-driving cars. The Israeli tech company will continue to support and maintain current Tesla products, including upgrades that should help the Autopilot system with crash avoidance and to better allow the car to steer itself, said Chairman Amnon Shashua in releasing the company's second-quarter earnings Tuesday. Shashua said moving cars to higher levels of self-driving capability "is a paradigm shift both in terms of function complexity and the need to ensure an extremely high level of safety." He added there is "much at stake" in terms of Mobileye's reputation, and that it is best to end the relationship with Tesla by the end of the year. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, meeting with reporters at the company's new battery Gigafactory outside Reno, indicated that Tesla can go forward without Mobileye. "Us parting ways was somewhat inevitable. There's nothing unexpected here from our standpoint," Musk said. "We're committed to autonomy. They'll go their way, and we'll go ours."
The Almighty Buck

Amazon Debuts a Dedicated Shop For Kickstarter Products (techcrunch.com) 16

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Today, Amazon announced it's teaming up with Kickstarter to offer those successful Kickstarter products a way to reach more customers through a dedicated section on Amazon's website. Via www.amazon.com/launchpad/kickstarter, the online retailer is now featuring a group of over 300 Kickstarter products across a variety of categories, like electronics, books, home and kitchen, movies and tv, and more. The products can also be browsed by theme, like STEM products, "Always be Learning," "Exquisite Objects," "Inventing the Future," and "Public Benefit," for example. The new Kickstarter section is actually an expansion on Amazon's Launchpad platform, launched a year ago. In July 2015, the retailer debuted a dedicated portal that offered both marketing and sales for hardware and physical goods from younger tech companies. Today, Amazon says it has now worked with over 100 VCs, accelerators and crowdfunders and has helped more than 1,000 launch products across the U.S., the U.K., China, Germany, and France. All startups who participate in Launchpad receive custom product pages, a comprehensive marketing package, and access to Amazon's global fulfillment network, the retailer notes.
Microsoft

You Can't Turn Off Cortana In the Windows 10 Anniversary Update (pcworld.com) 290

Microsoft will release Windows 10 Anniversary Update next week. Earlier this week we listed some of its best features. PCWorld is now reporting about a major change that may annoy some users: once you've installed the update, Cortana can no longer be disabled. From the article: Cortana, the personal digital assistant that replaced Windows 10's search function and taps into Bing's servers to answer your queries with contextual awareness, no longer has an off switch. The impact on you at home: Similar to how Microsoft blocked Google compatibility with Cortana, the company is now cutting off the plain vanilla search option. That actually makes a certain of amount of sense. Unless you turned off all the various cloud-connected bits of Windows 10, there's not a ton of difference between Cortana and the operating system's basic search capabilities.
Google

Google Play Rolls Out Family Sharing (usatoday.com) 39

Google on Wednesday announced a new Google Play feature dubbed Family Library that allows up to 6 people to share apps, movies, books purchases. It will roll out to people in the next 48 hours in 12 countries (Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, the U.K., and the United States) and requires people to sign up and add family members (you can add your friends as family member). The announcement is mostly in line with a CNET report from earlier this month. USA Today reports: The feature will allow users to share apps, games, movies, TV shows or books from Google Play on Android devices. Movies, TV shows and books can be shared on iOS platforms and the Web. After a user signs up for the Family Library, the person adds up to five family members and decides on the credit card that will be used for the families purchases. Eunice Kim, head of families for Google Play said a unique feature of Google Play compared to other family sharing initiatives is that family members can also choose to pay with their personal credit card or with gift cards. The same user who organized the family can control who below the age of 18 needs permission to purchase content.The feature is strikingly similar to an option in Apple's App Store that does the same thing.
China

Chinese Giant LeEco Buys Vizio For $2 Billion, Gets Instant Foothold In US Market (phonedog.com) 56

Chinese electronics conglomerate LeEco is purchasing American TV manufacturer Vizio for $2 billion, the company announced at a press conference in China on Tuesday. The announcement effectively gives LeEco, formerly known as LeTV, an instant foothold in the U.S. television market. For a refresh, for those who haven't heard much about LeEco, it's one of China's biggest electronics companies. Founded in 2004, it offers a range of services including live-streaming, e-commerce, cloud, smartphones, TV set-top boxes, and smart TVs among many other products and services. One of the recent areas where it has invested its time on is an electric car, which we talked about here a few weeks ago. From a report: Vizio is primarily known for its televisions, like the P-Series sets that we recently unboxed, but they've also dipped their toes into Android. For example, Vizio released a 10-inch tablet a few years ago, and the aforementioned P-Series TV set ships with a 6-inch Android tablet that you use as a remote. Once Vizio is acquired by LeEco, it'll be operated as an independent subsidiary and the current management will remain in California. LeEco CEO Jia Yueting commented on the deal, saying, "We hope that we can use the ecosystem model and create a great integration between Vizio and LeEco and create new values for U.S. users."Having talked to the executives of LeEco in the past few months, I understand that the company intends to bring its products to the American market before its rival Xiaomi does. Xiaomi also intends to bring its smartphones and TVs to the U.S. and European market, but is currently dealing with different regulations.
Android

Motorola Confirms That It Will Not Commit To Monthly Security Patches (arstechnica.com) 152

If you are planning to purchase the Moto Z or a Moto G4 smartphone, be prepared to not see security updates rolling out to your phone every month -- and in a timely fashion. After Ars Technica called out Motorola's security policy as "unacceptable" and "insecure," in a recent review, the company tried to handle the PR disaster, but later folded. In a statement to the publication, the company said: Motorola understands that keeping phones up to date with Android security patches is important to our customers. We strive to push security patches as quickly as possible. However, because of the amount of testing and approvals that are necessary to deploy them, it's difficult to do this on a monthly basis for all our devices. It is often most efficient for us to bundle security updates in a scheduled Maintenance Release (MR) or OS upgrade. As we previously stated, Moto Z Droid Edition will receive Android Security Bulletins. Moto G4 will also receive them.Monthy security updates -- or the lack thereof -- remains one of the concerning issues that plagues the vast majority of Android devices. Unless it's a high-end smartphone, it is often rare to see the smartphone OEM keep the device's software updated for more than a year. Even with a flagship phone, the software update -- and corresponding security patches -- are typically guaranteed for only 18 to 24 months. Reports suggest that Google has been taking this issue seriously, and at some point, it was considering publicly shaming its partners that didn't roll out security updates to their respective devices fast enough.
Security

Pop Star Tells Fans To Send Their Twitter Passwords, But It Might Be Illegal (arstechnica.com) 113

Cyrus Farivar, reporting for Ars Technica: As a new way to connect with his fans, Jack Johnson -- one half of the pop-rap duo Jack & Jack, not to be confused with the laid back Hawaiian singer-songwriter of the same name -- has spent the last month soliciting social media passwords. Using the hashtag #HackedByJohnson, the performer has tweeted at his fans to send him their passwords. (Why he didn't go for the shorter and catchier #JackHack, we'll never know.) Then, Johnson posts under his fans' Twitter accounts, leaving a short personalized message, as them. While Johnson and his fans likely find this password sharing silly and innocuous, legal experts say that Jack Johnson, 20, may be opening himself up to civil or criminal liability under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a notorious anti-hacking statute that dates back to the 1980s. "While the entertainer in question likely considers this password collection to be a harmless personalized promotional activity, there may indeed be legal implication of both the fans' and the entertainer's conduct," Andrea Matwyshyn, a law professor at Northeastern University, told Ars.
Transportation

Amazon Partners With UK Government To Test Drone Deliveries (usatoday.com) 44

An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: [Recent rules from the Federal Aviation Administration mean delivery by drone is years away in the United States, but packages may be winging their way to customers sooner rather than later in the United Kingdom, where Amazon just got permission to begin a new trial of its delivery drones.] The U.K. Civil Aviation Authority gave Amazon permission to test several key drone delivery parameters. They include sending drones beyond the line of sight of their operator in rural and suburban areas, testing sensor performance to make sure the drones can identify and avoid obstacles and allowing a single operator to manage multiple highly-automated drones. U.S. rules are outlined in a 624-page rulebook from the Federal Aviation Administration. They allow commercial drones weighing up to 55 pounds to fly during daylight hours. The aircraft must remain within sight of the operator or an observer who is in communication with the operator. The operators must be pass an aeronautics test every 24 months for a certificate as well as a background check by the Transportation Security Administration. The rules govern commercial flights, such as for aerial photography or utilities inspection. Amazon's goal is to use drones to deliver packages up to 5 pound to customers in 30 minutes or less. Amazon released a statement today detailing its partnership with the UK Government that may one day turn its Prime Air drone delivery service into reality.
Iphone

Suspect Required To Unlock iPhone Using Touch ID in Second Federal Case (9to5mac.com) 229

An anonymous reader shares a report on 9to5Mac: A second federal judge has ruled that a suspect can be compelled to unlock their iPhone using their fingerprint in order to give investigators access to data which can be used as evidence against them. The first time this ever happened in a federal case was back in May, following a District Court ruling in 2014. The legal position of forcing suspects to use their fingerprints to unlock devices won't be known with certainty until a case reaches the U.S. Supreme Court, but lower court rulings so far appear to establish a precedent which is at odds with that concerning passcodes. Most constitutional experts appear to believe that the Fifth Amendment prevents a suspect from being compelled to reveal a password or passcode, as this would amount to forced self-incrimination -- though even this isn't certain. Fingerprints, in contrast, have traditionally been viewed as 'real or physical evidence,' meaning that police are entitled to take them without permission.Ars Technica has more details.
Microsoft

Windows 10 Anniversary Update: the Best New Features (theverge.com) 364

A year after the release of Windows 10, Microsoft is gearing up for Anniversary Update, the first major update to the company's desktop operating system. Ahead of the public release of Anniversary Update on August 2, Microsoft provided media outlets with the Anniversary Update, and their first impressions and reviews are out. The Verge has listed the big changes Windows 10 Anniversary ships with. From the article: Windows Ink: Windows Ink is without a doubt the best part of the Anniversary Update. It's essentially a central location to find built-in or third-party apps that work with your stylus. You can use the new sticky notes to note down reminders, and they'll even transform into true reminders as Cortana understands what you write.
Microsoft Edge extensions: If you're a fan of Chrome extensions, then you'll be glad to hear that they're heading to Microsoft's Edge browser. The Anniversary Update brings support for extensions, and it's now up to third-party developers to fill the Windows Store with their add-ons.
Cortana improvements: Microsoft's digital assistant, Cortana, debuted on Windows 10 last year, and the software maker is bringing it to the lock screen with the Anniversary Update. You'll be able to ask it to make a note, play music, set a reminder, and lots more without ever logging in. Cortana is also getting a little more intelligent, with the ability to schedule appointments in Outlook or options to send friends a document you were working on a week ago.
Dark theme and UI tweaks: You can switch on what I call even darker mode in settings, and it will switch built-in apps that typically use a white background over to black.
Other improvements include things like Windows 10's ability to set your time zone automatically, and opening up of Windows Hello, the biometric feature to apps and websites. Additionally, the Xbox One is getting Windows apps. The Verge adds, "It feels like a promise that was made years ago, but it's finally coming true with the Anniversary Update. As Windows 10 now powers the Xbox One, Microsoft will start rolling out an update to its console to provide support for Cortana on Xbox One and the new universal apps." Microsoft is also adding Bash, the Linux command line to Windows with the new update. It's an optional feature and users will need to enable it to use it. Users will also be able to "project to PC," a feature that will allow one to easily find a PC to project to from a phone or another PC. There's also a new Skype app, and syncing of notifications between PC and phone is getting better.
Going by the reviews, it appears Windows 10 Anniversary Update is substantially more stable, and has interesting new features. You can read the first impressions of it on ZDNet, and review on PCWorld.
Microsoft

Microsoft Can't Shield User Data From Government, Says Government (bloomberg.com) 190

Microsoft is now arguing in court that their customers have a right to know when the government is reading their e-mail. But "The U.S. said federal law allows it to obtain electronic communications without a warrant or without disclosure of a specific warrant if it would endanger an individual or an investigation," according to Bloomberg. An anonymous reader quotes their report: The software giant's lawsuit alleging that customers have a constitutional right to know if the government has searched or seized their property should be thrown out, the government said in a court filing... The U.S. says there's no legal basis for the government to be required to tell Microsoft customers when it intercepts their e-mail... The Justice Department's reply Friday underscores the government's willingness to fight back against tech companies it sees obstructing national security and law enforcement investigations...

Secrecy orders on government warrants for access to private e-mail accounts generally prohibit Microsoft from telling customers about the requests for lengthy or even unlimited periods, the company said when it sued. At the time, federal courts had issued almost 2,600 secrecy orders to Microsoft alone, and more than two-thirds had no fixed end date, cases the company can never tell customers about, even after an investigation is completed.

Yahoo!

Once Valued at $125B, Yahoo's Web Assets To Be Sold To Verizon For $4.83B, Companies Confirm 205

The reports were spot on. Verizon Communications on Monday announced that it plans to purchase Yahoo's Web assets for a sum of $4.83 billion in cash. The multi-billion dollars deal will get Verizon Yahoo's core internet business and some real estate. The announcement also marks a remarkable fall for the Silicon Valley web pioneer, which once had a market capitalization of more than $125 billion. For Verizon, the deal adds another piece to the mammoth digital media and advertising empire it owns. The deal is expected to close early 2017. CNBC reports: The transaction is seen boosting Verizon's AOL internet business, which the company acquired last year for $4.4 billion, by giving it access to Yahoo's advertising technology tools, as well as other assets such as search, mail, messenger and real estate. It also marks the end of Yahoo as an operating company, leaving it only as the owner of a 35.5 percent stake in Yahoo Japan, as well as its 15 percent interest in Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba. In December, Yahoo scrapped plans to spin off its Alibaba stake after investors worried about whether that transaction could have been carried out on a tax-free basis. It instead decided to explore a sale of its core assets, spurred on by activist hedge fund Starboard Value. Forbes has called it one of the "saddest $5B deals in tech history."Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who was expected to leave -- or get fired -- said she intends to stay. "For me personally, I'm planning to stay," Mayer said in a note on Yahoo's Tumblr page. "I love Yahoo, and I believe in all of you. It's important to me to see Yahoo into its next chapter."
Medicine

Can Computerized Brain Training Prevent Dementia? (newyorker.com) 49

"Researchers believe they have found a link between speed-of-processing training and a reduction in cognitive decline among the elderly," reports the New Yorker. An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes an article about how this new long-term study actually contradicts much of the previous science. In October of 2014 a group of more than seventy academics published what they called a consensus statement, asserting that playing brain games had been shown to improve little more than the ability to play brain games... no brain game, nor any drug, dietary supplement, or lifestyle intervention, had ever been shown in a large, randomized trial to prevent dementia...until today, when surprising new results were announced at the Alzheimer's Association annual meeting, in Toronto.
Nearly 3,000 participants with an average age of 73.6 participated in the study, with some receiving "speed of processing" training -- and some later receiving four hours of additional training. "The researchers calculated those who completed at least some of these booster sessions were 48% less likely to be diagnosed with dementia after ten years than their peers in the control group." Signatories of the 2014 consensus statement panning brain games are now calling these new results "remarkable" and "spectacular".
Hardware

Transistors Will Stop Shrinking in 2021, Moore's Law Roadmap Predicts (ieee.org) 128

Moore's Law, an empirical observation of the number of components that could be built on an integrated circuit and their corresponding cost, has largely held strong for more than 50 years, but its days are really numbered now. The prediction of the 2015 International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors, which was only officially made available this month, says that transistor could stop shrinking in just five years. From an article on IEEE: After 2021, the report forecasts, it will no longer be economically desirable for companies to continue to shrink the dimensions of transistors in microprocessors. Instead, chip manufacturers will turn to other means of boosting density, namely turning the transistor from a horizontal to a vertical geometry and building multiple layers of circuitry, one on top of another. These roadmapping shifts may seem like trivial administrative changes. But "this is a major disruption, or earthquake, in the industry," says analyst Dan Hutcheson, of the firm VLSI Research. U.S. semiconductor companies had reason to cooperate and identify common needs in the early 1990s, at the outset of the roadmapping effort that eventually led to the ITRS's creation in 1998. Suppliers had a hard time identifying what the semiconductor companies needed, he says, and it made sense for chip companies to collectively set priorities to make the most of limited R&D funding.It still might not be the end of Moore's remarkable observation, though. The report adds that processors could still continue to fulfill Moore's Law with increased vertical density. The original report published by ITRS is here.

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