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Transportation

Flying Car Prototype Ready By End of 2017, Says Airbus CEO (venturebeat.com) 124

Airbus plans to test a prototype for a self-piloted flying car as a way of avoiding gridlock on city roads by the end of the year, the aerospace group's chief executive said on Monday. From a report: Airbus last year formed a division called Urban Air Mobility that is exploring concepts such as a vehicle to transport individuals or a helicopter-style vehicle that can carry multiple riders. The aim would be for people to book the vehicle using an app, similar to car-sharing schemes. "One hundred years ago, urban transport went underground, now we have the technological wherewithal to go above ground," Airbus CEO Tom Enders told the DLD digital tech conference in Munich, adding he hoped the Airbus could fly a demonstration vehicle for single-person transport by the end of the year. "We are in an experimentation phase, we take this development very seriously," he said, adding that Airbus recognized such technologies would have to be clean to avoid further polluting congested cities.
China

China Orders App Stores To Join Register (bbc.com) 22

China's internet regulator has ordered mobile app stores to register themselves with it immediately. The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said the move would help "promote the healthy and orderly development of the mobile internet." From a report on BBC: Most smartphones in the country run Android, but Google does not operate its Play Store locally, meaning users go elsewhere to add software. A report last year linked this to the spread of malware. Cheetah Mobile Security -- a Beijing-based firm -- reported that more than 1.4 million Chinese users' mobile devices had been struck by infections as of January 2016, making it the worst afflicted nation. India and Indonesia were in second and third place. This follows previous efforts to censor what appears online, including a recent demand that Apple remove the New York Times from the Chinese version of its iOS App Store. The US newspaper was the first to report the watchdog's move outside of China itself. Because of the Play store's absence, Android users in China typically go to stores operated by local tech giants including Tencent, Xiaomi, Baidu and Huawei.
AI

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Warns Against 'Hubris' Amid AI Growth (bloomberg.com) 124

Microsoft and its competitors should eschew artificial intelligence systems that replace people instead of maximizing their time, CEO Satya Nadella said in an interview on Monday. From the report: "The fundamental need of every person is to be able to use their time more effectively, not to say, 'let us replace you'," Nadella said in an interview at the DLD conference in Munich. "This year and the next will be the key to democratizing AI. The most exciting thing to me is not just our own promise of AI as exhibited by these products, but to take that capability and put it in the hands of every developer and every organization. [...] There's a thin line between hubris and confidence," Nadella said. "Always there is risk of hubris coming back, missing trends. The only long-term indicator of success is, âhow good is your internal culture?'" "What I've learned if anything in three years as CEO is, it's not about celebrating one product," he said. "That, to me, is the sign of a company that's built to last. In tech it's even more harsh."
Microsoft

Microsoft's Security Bulletins Will End In February (computerworld.com) 34

Remember how Microsoft switched to cumulative updates? Now Computerworld points out that that's bringing another change. An anonymous reader quotes their report: Microsoft next month will stop issuing detailed security bulletins, which for nearly 20 years have provided individual users and IT professionals information about vulnerabilities and their patches... A searchable database of support documents will replace the bulletins; that database has been available, albeit in preview, since November on the portal Microsoft dubbed the "Security Updates Guide," or SUG. The documents stored in the database are specific to a vulnerability on an edition of Windows, or a version of another Microsoft product. They can be sorted and filtered by the affected software, the patch's release date, its CVE identifier, and the numerical label of the KB, or "knowledge base" support document.
Redmond Magazine reports that Microsoft still plans to continue to issue its security advisories, and to issue "out-of-band" security update releases as necessary.
Education

Google-Funded Project Envisions Nation's Librarians Teaching Kids to Code (ala.org) 194

"We're excited to double down on the findings of Ready to Code 1," says one Google program manager, "by equipping librarians with the knowledge and skills to cultivate computational thinking and coding skills in our youth." theodp writes: Citing the need to fill "500,000 current job openings in the field of computer science," the American Library Association argues in a new whitepaper that "all 115,000 of the nation's school and public libraries are crucial community partners to guarantee youth have skills essential to future employment and civic participation"... The ALA's Google-funded "Libraries Ready to Code" project has entered Phase II, which aims to "equip Master's in Library Science students to deliver coding programs through public and school libraries and foster computational thinking skills among the nation's youth."

"Libraries play a vital role in our communities, and Google is proud to build on our partnership with ALA," added Hai Hong, who leads US outreach on Google's K-12 Education team... "Given the ubiquity of technology and the half-a-million unfilled tech jobs in the country, we need to ensure that all youth understand the world around them and have the opportunity to develop the essential skills that employers -- and our nation's economy -- require."

Transportation

Driverless Electric Shuttle Deployed In Downtown Las Vegas (yahoo.com) 79

schwit1 quotes the Associated Press: There's a new thrill on the streets of downtown Las Vegas, where high- and low-rollers alike are climbing aboard what officials call the first driverless electric shuttle operating on a public U.S. street. The oval-shaped shuttle began running Tuesday as part of a 10-day pilot program, carrying up to 12 passengers for free along a short stretch of the Fremont Street East entertainment district.

The vehicle has a human attendant and computer monitor, but no steering wheel and no brake pedals. Passengers push a button at a marked stop to board it. The shuttle uses GPS, electronic curb sensors and other technology, and doesn't require lane lines to make its way.

The shuttle -- which they've named Arma -- is traveling at 15 miles per hour, and the ride is smooth, according to the mayor of Las Vegas. ("It's clean and quiet and seats comfortably.") They've blocked all the side streets, so the shuttle doesn't have to deal with traffic signals yet, though eventually they'll install special transmitters at every intersection to communicate whether the lights are red or green, and the city plans to deploy more of the vehicles by the end of the year.
Transportation

California's Bullet Train Hurtles Towards a Multibillion-Dollar Overrun (latimes.com) 396

schwit1 quotes the Los Angeles Times: California's bullet train could cost taxpayers 50% more than estimated — as much as $3.6 billion more. And that's just for the first 118 miles through the Central Valley, which was supposed to be the easiest part of the route between Los Angeles and San Francisco. A confidential Federal Railroad Administration risk analysis, obtained by the Times, projects that building bridges, viaducts, trenches and track from Merced to Shafter, just north of Bakersfield, could cost $9.5 billion to $10 billion, compared with the original budget of $6.4 billion.

The federal document outlines far-reaching management problems: significant delays in environmental planning, lags in processing invoices for federal grants and continuing failures to acquire needed property. The California High-Speed Rail Authority originally anticipated completing the Central Valley track by this year, but the federal risk analysis estimates that that won't happen until 2024, placing the project seven years behind schedule.

The whole project is expected to cost more than $68 billion.
Government

Amateur Scientists Find New Clue In D.B. Cooper Case, Crowdsource Their Investigation (kare11.com) 132

Six months after the FBI closed the only unsolved air piracy in American aviation history -- after a 45-year investigation -- there's a new clue. An anonymous reader quotes Seattle news station KING: A band of amateur scientists selected by the Seattle FBI to look for clues in the world's most infamous skyjacking may have found new evidence in the 45-year-old case. They're asking for the public's help because of new, potential leads that could link DB Cooper to the Puget Sound aerospace industry in the early 1970s. The scientific team has been analyzing particles removed from the clip-on tie left behind by Cooper after he hijacked a Northwest Orient passenger jet in November 1971. A powerful electron microscope located more than 100,000 particles on old the JCPenny tie. The team has identified particles like Cerium, Strontium Sulfide, and pure titanium.

Tom Kaye, lead researcher for the group calling itself Citizen Sleuths, says the group is intrigued by the finding, because the elements identified were rarely used in 1971, during the time of Cooper's daring leap with a parachute from a passenger jet. One place they were being used was for Boeing's high-tech Super Sonic Transport plane...

Interestingly, it was even a Boeing aircraft that Cooper hijacked, and witnesses say he wasn't nervous on the flight, and seemed familiar with the terrain below.
Businesses

Someone Is Trying to Sell Those Stolen Three-Screen Razer Laptops in China (geek.com) 48

Just a few days ago, Razer's awesome Project Valerie laptops -- the one with three 4K displays -- were stolen. Now it looks like whoever stole them is trying to sell them. From a report: It turns out that the thief (or thieves) didn't just nab one Project Valerie prototype. They actually got ahold of a pair. Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan understandably wants them back, really, really badly. The company was willing to offer $25,000 to anyone who could offer information that led to the prototypes' return. So where did the laptops end up? Somewhere behind the Great Wall, apparently. Whoever has them isn't trying to quietly fence them in some dark Beijing alleyway, either. They've actually been listed on the immensely popular Chinese e-commerce site Taobao -- where they were spotted by writers at Engadget Chinese and Wccftech.
United States

Congress Will Consider Proposal To Raise H-1B Minimum Wage To $100,000 (arstechnica.com) 527

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: President-elect Donald Trump is just a week away from taking office. From the start of his campaign, he has promised big changes to the US immigration system. For both Trump's advisers and members of Congress, the H-1B visa program, which allows many foreign workers to fill technology jobs, is a particular focus. One major change to that system is already under discussion: making it harder for companies to use H-1B workers to replace Americans by simply giving the foreign workers a raise. The "Protect and Grow American Jobs Act," introduced last week by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. and Scott Peters, D-Calif., would significantly raise the wages of workers who get H-1B visas. If the bill becomes law, the minimum wage paid to H-1B workers would rise to at least $100,000 annually, and be adjusted it for inflation. Right now, the minimum is $60,000. The sponsors say that would go a long way toward fixing some of the abuses of the H-1B program, which critics say is currently used to simply replace American workers with cheaper, foreign workers. In 2013, the top nine companies acquiring H-1B visas were technology outsourcing firms, according to an analysis by a critic of the H-1B program. (The 10th is Microsoft.) The thinking goes that if minimum H-1B salaries are brought closer to what high-skilled tech employment really pays, the economic incentive to use it as a worker-replacement program will drop off. "We need to ensure we can retain the world's best and brightest talent," said Issa in a statement about the bill. "At the same time, we also need to make sure programs are not abused to allow companies to outsource and hire cheap foreign labor from abroad to replace American workers." The H-1B program offers 65,000 visas each fiscal year, with an additional 20,000 reserved for foreign workers who have advanced degrees from US colleges and universities. The visas are awarded by lottery each year. Last year, the government received more than 236,000 applications for those visas.
The Internet

Virginia 'Broadband Deployment Act' Would Kill Municipal Broadband Deployment (arstechnica.com) 199

Virginia lawmakers are considering a bill called the "Virginia Broadband Deployment Act," but instead of resulting in more broadband deployment, the legislation would make it more difficult for municipalities to offer Internet service. From a report: The Virginia House of Delegates legislation proposed this week by Republican lawmaker Kathy Byron would prohibit municipal broadband deployments except in very limited circumstances. Among other things, a locality wouldn't be allowed to offer Internet service if an existing network already provides 10Mbps download and 1Mbps upload speeds to 90 percent of potential customers. That speed threshold is low enough that it can be met by old DSL lines in areas that haven't received more modern cable and fiber networks. Even if that condition is met, a city or town would have to jump through a few hoops before offering service. The municipality would have to pay for a "comprehensive broadband assessment," and then issue a request for proposals giving for-profit ISPs six months to submit a plan for broadband deployment. After receiving proposals from private ISPs, the local government would have to determine whether providing grants or subsidies to a private ISP would be more cost-effective than building a municipal broadband network.
Google

Google's New Compression Tool Uses 75% Less Bandwidth Without Sacrificing Image Quality (thenextweb.com) 103

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Next Web: Google just released an image compression technology called RAISR (Rapid and Accurate Super Image Resolution) designed to save your precious data without sacrificing photo quality. Claiming to use up to 75 percent less bandwidth, RAISR analyzes both low and high-quality versions of the same image. Once analyzed, it learns what makes the larger version superior and simulates the differences on the smaller version. In essence, it's using machine learning to create an Instagram-like filter to trick your eye into believing the lower-quality image is on par with its full-sized variant. Unfortunately for the majority of smartphone users, the tech only works on Google+ where Google claims to be upscaling over a billion images a week. If you don't want to use Google+, you'll just have to wait a little longer. Google plans to expand RAISR to more apps over the coming months. Hopefully that means Google Photos.
Google

Google is Killing Its Solar-Powered Internet Drone Program (businessinsider.com) 59

An anonymous reader writes: Google's "moonshot" X division is ending its Titan drone program, which planned to use solar-powered drones to beam internet down to earth. Google bought Titan Aerospace in 2014. The company was developing solar-powered drones that could fly for several days at a time and take images of earth or beam down internet. When Google reorganized into Alphabet in 2015, Titan was folded into X, the Alphabet division that focuses on wild tech projects in hopes of stumbling on the next big thing.
The Internet

Monopoly May Replace Iconic Pieces With Emoji Faces and Hashtags (cnet.com) 123

Hasbro, the toymaker behind Monopoly, is letting the public decide whether or not they should replace the game's iconic game pieces with new pieces inspired by pop culture and social media. CNNMoney reports: Gamers can visit the Vote Monopoly site and choose from more than 50 new options. The old tokens, including the thimble, top hat and Scottie dog, are also on the table. The voting takes place inside a digital house with shelves and furniture stocked with both classic and newfangled token options. Jazzy music plays in the background as you explore and take a closer look at the figurines. Some aren't too surprising. There's a horse, a sailboat, an airplane, a bike and a helicopter. Two of the stranger options are sliced bread and a fuzzy bunny slipper. Hasbro is offering up a number of tokens that may appeal to tech consumers. There's a cell phone that looks like it came out of the '80s, a television that looks very '50s, and a computer with keyboard that vaguely resembles the first flat-screen iMac. Internet denizens can also vote for a hashtag and emoji options, including a winking smiley-face, thumbs-up symbol, crying-laughing face and a Rich Uncle Pennybags version of an emoji face. Voting is open to internet users worldwide until January 31. The chosen tokens will be part of a fresh Monopoly game due to hit stores this summer, so think long and hard about whether you want to stare at a kissy-face emoji for the next decade or so. A special edition called Token Madness will offer the original tokens as well as the new winners.
Apple

Apple Said To Be Working on AR Glasses With Carl Zeiss (cnet.com) 66

Apple seems behind Microsoft, Google, and Facebook on the nascent augmented reality space, but that could change soon. From a report on CNET: The tech titan is working with the German optics manufacturer Carl Zeiss on a pair of lightweight AR/mixed reality glasses, according to tech evangelist Robert Scoble. The project, which could be announced as early as this year, was confirmed by a Zeiss employee, Scoble wrote in a Facebook post.

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