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Google Uncovers Russia-Bought Ads On YouTube, Gmail and Other Platforms

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 13:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Google has discovered Russian operatives spent tens of thousands of dollars on ads on its YouTube, Gmail and Google Search products in an effort to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a person briefed on the company's probe told Reuters on Monday. The ads do not appear to be from the same Kremlin-affiliated entity that bought ads on Facebook, but may indicate a broader Russian online disinformation effort, according to the source, who was not authorized to discuss details of Google's confidential investigation. The revelation is likely to fuel further scrutiny of the role that Silicon Valley technology giants may have unwittingly played during last year's election. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Moscow's goal was to help elect Donald Trump. Google has uncovered less than $100,000 in ad spending potentially linked to Russian actors, the source said.

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Half the Universe's Missing Matter Has Just Been Finally Found

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 12:10
An anonymous reader shares a report: The missing links between galaxies have finally been found. This is the first detection of the roughly half of the normal matter in our universe -- protons, neutrons and electrons -- unaccounted for by previous observations of stars, galaxies and other bright objects in space. You have probably heard about the hunt for dark matter, a mysterious substance thought to permeate the universe, the effects of which we can see through its gravitational pull. But our models of the universe also say there should be about twice as much ordinary matter out there, compared with what we have observed so far. Two separate teams found the missing matter -- made of particles called baryons rather than dark matter -- linking galaxies together through filaments of hot, diffuse gas. "The missing baryon problem is solved," says Hideki Tanimura at the Institute of Space Astrophysics in Orsay, France, leader of one of the groups. The other team was led by Anna de Graaff at the University of Edinburgh, UK. Because the gas is so tenuous and not quite hot enough for X-ray telescopes to pick up, nobody had been able to see it before.

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Windows 10 Update Removes Windows Media Player

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 11:30
Recently made available Windows 10 update KB4046355 for the Fall Creators Update disables Windows Media Player from the operating system. BetaNews reports: While it could be argued that Windows Media Player is no longer an essential addition to Windows -- there are plenty of quality third-party alternatives, such as VLC Media Player, not to mention the Films & TV app in Windows 10 itself -- many users still rely on it. The feature's removal came to light when users installed KB4046355 on devices running Windows 10 version 1709 -- the Fall Creators Update. This update, referred to as FeatureOnDemandMediaPlayer, removes Windows Media Player from the OS, although it doesn't kill access to it entirely. If you want the media player back you can install it via the Add a Feature setting. Open Settings, go to Apps > Apps & Features, and click on Manage optional features.

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'Blade Runner 2049' Isn't the Movie Denis Villeneuve Wanted to Make

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 10:50
Readers share a Motherboard article: There are seemingly two inescapable realities for big-budget filmmakers in 2017: you have to use existing intellectual property and you must provide spectacle that can lure massive domestic and foreign audiences to the the theater. It seemed that Denis Villeneuve chose wisely when he selected the IP that he would ride into the mainstream. [...] There is much to admire, but as a whole, Blade Runner 2049 works best as a case for why filmmakers like Villeneuve should be given big budgets to try out new concepts rather than retread what's come before them. Just like Arrival was at its best when we saw the elegance of how the space ship and the aliens within it actually functioned, this version of Blade Runner shines when we get to watch how Villeneuve's dystopia operates. Moments of technical brilliance small and large are at the soul of this film. Whether you're watching the creation of robot memories, the execution of an air strike from an effortless, detached distance, or even something as simple as a stroll through a hall of records, the mechanics of this world are jaw-dropping. Ryan Gosling (K) wisely opts for a muted, brooding performance, allowing the world to steal the show while still illustrating the burden of living in it. Even with all of this technical brilliance on display (the costumes, sound, and special effects are brilliant), the baggage of the original film's mythology weighs down Blade Runner 2049. The most burdensome baggage for Villeneuve to carry, sadly, is the Blade Runner story itself.

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Slashdot Asks: Does the World Need a Third Mobile OS?

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 10:10
Now that it is evident that Microsoft doesn't see any future with Windows Phone (or Windows 10 Mobile), it has become clear that there is no real, or potential competitor left to fight Android and iOS for a slice of the mobile operating system market. Mozilla tried Firefox OS, but that didn't work out either. BlackBerry's BBOS also couldn't find enough taker. Ideally, the market is more consumer friendly when there are more than one or two dominant forces. Do you think some company, or individual, should attempt to create their own mobile operating system?

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Office Depot, Best Buy Pull Kaspersky Products From Shelves

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 09:25
Catalin Cimpanu, reporting for BleepingComputer: Both Office Depot and Best Buy have removed Kaspersky Lab products from shelves. The ban has been in effect since mid-September, and the two chains are offering existing Kaspersky customers replacement security software. The first store to remove Kaspersky products from shelves was Best Buy, on around September 8. At the time, the FBI was pressuring the private sector to cut ties with the Russian antivirus maker, which was the subject of a Senate Intelligence Committee on the suspicion it may be collaborating with Russian intelligence agencies. Kaspersky vehemently denied all accusations. A week after Best Buy removed Kaspersky products from shelves, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a Binding Operational Directive published ordering the removal of Kaspersky Lab products off government computers. A day later, Office Depot announced a similar decision to ban the sale of Kaspersky products in its stores. Additionally, Office Depot is letting customers exchange their Kaspersky copy with a one-year license for McAfee LiveSafe.

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SpaceX's Mars Vision Puts Pressure on NASA's Manned Exploration Programs

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 08:45
An anonymous reader shares a report: Entrepreneur Elon Musk's announcement late last month accelerating plans for manned flights to Mars ratchets up political and public relations pressure on NASA's efforts to reach the same goal. With Musk publicly laying out a much faster schedule than NASA -- while contending his vision is less expensive and could be financed primarily with private funds -- a debate unlike any before is shaping up over the direction of U.S. space policy. Industry officials and space experts consider the proposal by Musk's Space Exploration to land people on the red planet around the middle of the next decade extremely optimistic. Some supporters concede the deadline appears ambitious even for reaching the moon, while Musk himself acknowledged some of his projected dates are merely "aspirational." But the National Aeronautics and Space Administration doesn't envision getting astronauts to Mars until at least a decade later, a timeline NASA is finding increasingly hard to defend in the face of criticism that it is too slow.

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Mondays Are the Worst, Data Science Proves

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 08:06
An anonymous shares a report: People who are miserable on Monday have lots of company. It's the worst day of the week for millions, according to researchers at the University of Vermont Complex Systems Center who analyze Twitter messages for happiness sentiment. Mood tends to improve during the rest of the week, peaking on Saturday, before beginning to crash again, according to data based tweets since 2008. In this analysis, the university's "hedonometer" takes a random sample of about 50 million Twitter posts each day, which is roughly 10% of all the site's message traffic. The researchers have assigned average scores to more than 10,000 commonly used words (from 1 to 9, on a scale of increasing happiness), which are used to measure a particular day's happiness. The data can also offer some insight into how populations have responded to major events. The day after the mass shooting in Las Vegas on Oct. 2 was Twitter's saddest day on record, according to the University of Vermont research. Another low was recorded on May 2, 2011, when Osama Bin Laden, the terrorist mastermind behind thousands of murders, was killed. Rather than clear positivity, language used on Twitter "reflected that a very negatively viewed character met a very negative end," according to the researcher's website.

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How Comcast is Shortchanging Customers In Vermont

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 07:20
New submitter mirandakatz writes: Comcast is suing Vermont's Public Utility Commission, claiming -- among many other things -- that its First Amendment rights have been violated. But as Susan Crawford argues at Backchannel, there are far too many holes in that argument. Crawford writes that 'Comcast, which Wall Street knows is essentially an unregulated public utility for high-speed internet access in the areas it covers, has unlimited resources to fight off this public-spirited regulator...[And] although there are many efforts in Vermont to provide fiber (including ECFiber), they're still small: Comcast isn't feeling any pressure to upgrade its lines to fiber. And, as [Craig] Moffett has reported, Comcast from now on will be growing through price hikes, not through building new lines. It's done with building new lines. The whole thing is dispiriting.'

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Latest TVs Are Ready for Their Close-Ups

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 06:40
An anonymous share a WSJ article: The latest televisions have more pixels than ever. But can your eyes detect the difference? The answer is yes -- if you sit close enough. Old TVs had 349,920 pixels. High-definition flat screens bumped up the total to 2 million. Ultrahigh-definition sets inflated it to 8 million. And manufacturers are now experimenting with 8K TVs that have an astounding 33 million pixels. More pixels render hair, fur and skin with greater detail, but the benefit depends on viewing the screen from an ideal distance so the sharpness of the images is clear, but the tiny points of illumination aren't individually distinguishable. According to standards set by the International Telecommunication Union, that ideal distance is 3 times the height of an HDTV screen, 1.5 times the height of a UHDTV screen and .75 times the height of an 8K screen (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; here's a PDF copy of the newspaper). Given those measurements, viewers should sit 6 feet away from a 50-inch HDTV with a 24.5-inch tall screen. But they should sit just 3 feet from a UHDTV of the same size, closer than most Americans prefer.

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Microsoft Exec Says Windows 10 Mobile is No Longer a 'Focus'

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 06:00
From a report: Microsoft's Joe Belfiore informed Twitter users that new features and hardware for Windows 10 Mobile "aren't the focus" any more. There will be fixes and security patches, of course, but you shouldn't expect more than that. As for why the platform has been all but dropped? The executive boils it down to one main reason: the difficulty of getting developers to write apps. Microsoft tried paying companies to produce apps and even wrote them itself when creators couldn't or wouldn't get involved, but the number of users was "too low for most companies to invest." Why build an app for a relatively small bunch of Windows phone owners when there are many more Android and iOS users? Belfiore himself switched to Android for the "app/[hardware] diversity." It's a bit more complicated than that, of course. You can point to a few other factors in Windows' fate on phones, such as slowness in responding to Apple and Google as well as an inconsistent hardware strategy (you could rarely count on getting a timely sequel to a handset you liked). Whatever the reason, it's safe to say that Microsoft isn't just acknowledging that Android and iOS hold a clear lead -- it's quashing any hopes for a comeback, at least for the foreseeable future.

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Microsoft 'Was Sick', CEO Satya Nadella Says In New Book

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 03:34
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has just published a new book called Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft's Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone. An anonymous reader quotes India Today: Nadella's push for cultural shift -- and hiring "learn-it-alls" instead of "know-it-alls" -- is largely meant to jolt enthusiasm for a new era of innovation at the company. Microsoft had long depended on the success of its flagship Windows operating system and the royalties it gets for each PC sold with it. But the global PC market is declining, and Microsoft fell behind as Apple and Google led the shift to smartphones. Nadella doesn't take any shots at Microsoft's co-founder and first CEO Bill Gates -- who wrote the book's foreword -- or Ballmer. But he's frank about their disagreements, especially over Ballmer's disastrous $7.3 billion acquisition of Nokia's phone business in 2014. Nadella also refers to the company's previous organizational structure as a "confederation of fiefdoms" and recounts negative feedback received from employee surveys and emails. "The company was sick," Nadella writes. "Employees were tired. They were frustrated. They were fed up with losing and falling behind despite their grand plans and great ideas. They came to Microsoft with big dreams, but it felt like all they really did was deal with upper management, execute taxing processes and bicker in meetings..." He promises not to squander the new energy felt by employees after years of frustration. So far, it seems to be paying off; Microsoft shares have doubled since he took the top job in early 2014, and the company is attracting buzz for its work in AI, augmented reality and a new effort in futuristic computing. A former Microsoft board member says Nadella "has made people believe in the future of Microsoft in a way that neither Bill nor Steve really did."

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Carbon-Emitting Soil Could Speed Global Warming, Warns 26-Year Study

Sun, 10/08/2017 - 23:34
An anonymous reader quote the Guardian: Warming soil releases more carbon into the atmosphere than previously thought, suggesting a potentially disastrous feedback mechanism whereby increases in global temperatures will trigger massive new carbon releases in a cycle that may be impossible to break... The 26-year study is one of the biggest of its kind, and is a groundbreaking addition to our scant knowledge of exactly how warming will affect natural systems. Potential feedback loops, or tipping points, have long been suspected to exist by scientists, and there is some evidence for them in the geological record. What appears to happen is that once warming reaches a certain point, these natural biological factors kick in and can lead to a runaway, and potentially unstoppable, increase in warming... In the Science study, researchers examined plots of soil in the Harvard Forest in Massachusetts, a mixed hardwood forest in the U.S. They experimented by heating some of the plots with underground cables to 5C above normal levels, leaving others as a control. The long-term study revealed that in the first 10 years there was a strong increase in the carbon released from the heated plots, then a period of about seven years when the carbon release abated. But after this second calmer period, which the scientists attribute to the adjustment of the soil microbes to the warmer conditions, the release of carbon resumed its upward path. From 1991, when the experiment began, the plots subjected to 5C warming lost about 17% of the carbon that had been stored in the top 60cm of the soil, where the greatest concentration of organic matter is to be found... Lead scientist Jerry Melillo, points out that currently 10 billion metric tons of carbon gets released into the atmosphere every year, but "The world's soils contain about 3,500 billion tons of carbon. If a significant amount of that is added to the atmosphere, due to microbial activity, that will accelerate the global warming process. Once this self-reinforcing feedback begins, there is no easy way to turn it off. There is no switch to flip."

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Ask Slashdot: Is Deliberately Misleading People On the Internet Free Speech?

Sun, 10/08/2017 - 19:34
Slashdot reader dryriver writes: Before anyone cries "free speech must always be free," let me qualify the question. Under a myriad of different internet sites and blogs are these click-through adverts that promise quick "miracle cures" for everything from toenail fungus to hair loss to tinnitus to age-related skin wrinkles to cancer. A lot of the ads begin with copy that reads "This one weird trick cures....." Most of the "cures" on offer are complete and utter crap designed to lift a few dollars from the credit cards of hundreds of thousands of gullible internet users. The IQ boosting pills that supposedly give you "amazing mental focus after just 2 weeks" don't work at all. Neither do any of the anti-ageing or anti-wrinkle creams, regardless of which "miracle berry" extract they put in them this year. And if you try to cure your cancer with an Internet remedy rather than seeing a doctor, you may actually wind up dead. So the question -- is peddling this stuff online really "free speech"? You are promising something grandiose in exchange for hard cash that you know doesn't deliver any benefits at all. Long-time Slashdot reader apraetor counters, "But how do you determine what is 'true'?" And Slashdot reader ToTheStars argues "It's already established that making claims about medicine is subject to scrutiny by the FDA (or the relevant authority in your jurisdiction)." But are other things the equivalent of yelling "fire" in a crowded movie theatre? Leave your best thoughts in the comments. Is deliberately misleading people on the internet free speech?

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Linux Now Has its First Open Source RISC-V Processor

Sun, 10/08/2017 - 17:34
"SiFive has declared that 2018 will be the year of RISC V Linux processors," writes Design News. An anonymous reader quotes their report: When it released its first open-source system on a chip, the Freeform Everywhere 310, last year, Silicon Valley startup SiFive was aiming to push the RISC-V architecture to transform the hardware industry in the way that Linux transformed the software industry. Now the company has delivered further on that promise with the release of the U54-MC Coreplex, the first RISC-V-based chip that supports Linux, Unix, and FreeBSD... This latest development has RISC-V enthusiasts particularly excited because now it opens up a whole new world of use cases for the architecture and paves the way for RISC-V processors to compete with ARM cores and similar offerings in the enterprise and consumer space... "The U54 Coreplexes are great for companies looking to build SoC's around RISC-V," Andrew Waterman co-founder and chief engineer at SiFive, as well as the one of the co-creators of RISC-V, told Design News. "The forthcoming silicon is going to enable much better software development for RISC-V." Waterman said that, while SiFive had developed low-level software such as compilers for RISC-V the company really hopes that the open-source community will be taking a much broader role going forward and really pushing the technology forward. "No matter how big of a role we would want to have we can't make a dent," Waterman said. "But what we can do is make sure the army of engineers out there are empowered."

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The Case Against Biometric IDs

Sun, 10/08/2017 - 15:34
"The White House and Equifax Agree: Social Security Numbers Should Go," reads a headline at Bloomberg. Securities lawyer Jerri-Lynn Scofield tears down one proposed alternative: a universal biometric identity system (possibly using fingerprints and an iris scan) with further numeric verification. Presto Vivace shared the article: Using a biometric system when the basic problem of securing and safeguarding data have yet to be solved will only worsen, not address, the hacking problem. What we're being asked to do is to turn over our biometric information, and then trust those to whom we do so to safeguard that data. Given the current status of database security, corporate and governmental accountability, etc.: How do you think that is going to play out...? [M]aybe we should rethink the whole impulse to centralize such data collection, for starters. And, after such a thought experiment, then further focus on obvious measures to safeguard such information -- such as installing regular software patches that could have prevented the Equifax hack -- should be the priority. And, how about bringing back a concept in rather short supply in C-suites -- that of accountability? Perhaps measures to increase that might be a better idea than gee whiz misdirected techno-wizardry... The Equifax hack has revealed the sad and sorry state of cybersecurity. But inviting the biometric ID fairy to drop by and replace the existing Social Security number is not the solution. The article calls biometric identification systems "another source of data to be mined by corporations, and surveilled by those who want to do so. And it would ultimately not foil identity theft." It suggests currently biometric ids are a distraction from the push to change the credit bureau business model -- for example, requiring consumers to opt-in to the collection of their personal data.

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Astronaut Scott Kelly Describes One Year In Space -- And Its After Effects

Sun, 10/08/2017 - 14:29
53-year-old astronaut Scott Kelly shared a dramatic excerpt from his new book Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery in the Brisbane Times, describing his first 48 hours back on earth and what he'd learned on the mission: I push back from the table and struggle to stand up, feeling like a very old man getting out of a recliner... I make it to my bedroom without incident and close the door behind me. Every part of my body hurts. All my joints and all of my muscles are protesting the crushing pressure of gravity. I'm also nauseated, though I haven't thrown up... When I'm finally vertical, the pain in my legs is awful, and on top of that pain I feel a sensation that's even more alarming: it feels as though all the blood in my body is rushing to my legs, like the sensation of the blood rushing to your head when you do a handstand, but in reverse. I can feel the tissue in my legs swelling... Normally if I woke up feeling like this, I would go to the emergency room. But no one at the hospital will have seen symptoms of having been in space for a year... Our space agencies won't be able to push out farther into space, to a destination like Mars, until we can learn more about how to strengthen the weakest links in the chain that make space flight possible: the human body and mind... [V]ery little is known about what occurs after month six. The symptoms may get precipitously worse in the ninth month, for instance, or they may level off. We don't know, and there is only one way to find out... On my previous flight to the space station, a mission of 159 days, I lost bone mass, my muscles atrophied, and my blood redistributed itself in my body, which strained and shrank the walls of my heart. More troubling, I experienced problems with my vision, as many other astronauts had. I had been exposed to more than 30 times the radiation of a person on Earth, equivalent to about 10 chest X-rays every day. This exposure would increase my risk of a fatal cancer for the rest of my life. Kelly says the Space Station crew performed more than 400 experiments, though about 25% of his time went to tracking his own health. "If we could learn how to counteract the devastating impact of bone loss in microgravity, the solutions could well be applied to osteoporosis and other bone diseases. If we could learn how to keep our hearts healthy in space, that knowledge could be useful on Earth." Kelly says he felt better a few months after returning to earth, adding "It's gratifying to see how curious people are about my mission, how much children instinctively feel the excitement and wonder of space flight, and how many people think, as I do, that Mars is the next step... I know now that if we decide to do it, we can."

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42 Solar-Powered Cars Race in 31st Annual 'Solar Challenge' Race

Sun, 10/08/2017 - 13:24
An anonymous reader quotes Engadget: It's a special moment in the history of clean energy: the 30th anniversary World Solar Challenge has begun. A total of 42 solar-powered cars (the largest field to date) left Darwin, Australia on October 8th to travel roughly 1,880 miles to Adelaide. The race officially lasts a week, but it's likely going to end considerably sooner for the front-runners -- the world record holders, Tokai University, took just under 30 hours in 2009... This year, the race regulations are a clear sign of how rapidly solar technology is changing. Teams have to use a smaller solar collector than before: cars in the Challenger class can have no more than 43 square feet of solar cells versus nearly 65 square feet for the previous race, in 2015. That's half the area allowed on cars from the original 1987 race. In other words, technology is advanced enough now (both in solar cells and the underlying vehicle designs) that you don't need a sea of panels to keep a car running.

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Microsoft Develops New Programming Language For Quantum Computers

Sun, 10/08/2017 - 12:19
Microsoft's newest programming language will run on yet-to-be developed quantum computers. An anonymous reader quotes CIO Today: Microsoft said its new quantum computing language, which has yet to be named, is "deeply integrated" into its Visual Basic development environment and does many of the things other standard programming languages do. However, it is specifically designed to allow programmers to create apps that will eventually run on true quantum computers... Like other companies, such as Google and IBM, Microsoft has been working for years to advance quantum computing research to the point where the technology becomes feasible rather than theoretical... Joining Satya Nadella on stage, Fields Medal-winning mathematician Michael Freedman added, "Microsoft's qubit will be based on a new form of matter called topological matter that also has this property that as the information stored in the matter is stored globally, you can't find the information in any particular place..." The programming language is expected to be available as a free preview by the end of the year and "also includes libraries and tutorials so developers can familiarize themselves with quantum computing," Microsoft said.

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CNN Skeptical of Elon Musk's 'Big Promises'

Sun, 10/08/2017 - 11:14
An anonymous reader writes: Tesla's electric semi-truck will be launched three weeks later than planned, CNN reports. It's been bumped to November 16th because Tesla says it's "diverting resources" to address problems with its Model 3 sedan production -- they've produced just 17.3% of the cars they'd planned -- and to make more batteries to send to areas hit by hurricanes. CNN notes Tesla's Model X "didn't start shipping until two years after it was supposed to roll out," and production of its Model S sedan "was also much slower than originally promised." Michelle Krebs, an analyst with Autotrader.com, complains Tesla "may well have far too much on its plate. It should focus and deliver on some key promises." But Elon Musk "has a history of some pretty pie-in-the-sky promises," complained CNN business anchor Maggie Lake, citing Musk's claim that he had verbal approval for an underground hyperloop connecting New York City to Washington D.C. ("This is news to City Hall," said New York's press secretary at the time, and no actual approval has ever been produced.) Lake also noted Musk's promise to fix South Australia's blackout problems by building the world's largest lithium-ion battery within 100 days back in March. Last Friday Tesla signed a contract to begin the work, so the 100-day countdown has begun. CNN's report ran under the headline "Elon Musk: Big Dreamer or Monorail Salesman?" -- referencing a satirical 1993 episode of The Simpson's. "Here's a spoiler alert," the segment concludes. "If you haven't seen that episode...the monorail plan doesn't work out too well. Let's put it that way."

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