Geek Stuff

Burning All Fossil Fuels Would Scorch Earth, Says Study

Slashdot -

mspohr quotes a report from Phys.Org: A new study published in the Journal Nature Climate Change shows our precarious climate condition: "Using up all known fossil fuel reserves would render Earth even more unlivable than scientists had previously projected, researchers said on Monday. Average temperatures would climb by up to 9.5 degrees Celsius (17 degrees Fahrenheit) -- five times the cap on global warming set at climate talks in Paris in December, they reported. In the Arctic region -- already heating at more than double the global average -- the thermometer would rise an unimaginable 15 C to 20 C." This would make most of Earth uninhabitable to humans (although the dinosaurs seemed to do fine with it 65 million years ago). The report also stated that if fossil fuel trends go unchanged, ten times the 540 billion tons of carbon emitted since the start of industrialization would be reached near the end of the 22nd century. For comparison, "older models had projected that depleting fossil fuel reserves entirely would heat the planet by 4.3 C to 8.4 C. The new study revises this to between 6.4 C and 9.5 C," writes Phys.Org.

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Facebook Is Tweaking Trending Topics To Counter Charges of Bias

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An anonymous reader writes: Facebook has said once again in an open letter to Sen. John Thune, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, that its Trending Topics section is free of any political bias or manipulation. But in response to Gizmodo's report that Facebook employees were suppressing conservative news stories, Facebook is revamping how editors find trending stories. "We could not fully exclude the possibility of isolated improper actions or unintentional bias in the implementation of our guidelines or policies," Facebook general Counsel Colin Stretch wrote. Of course, Facebook is going to train the human editors who work on their trending section; they're also going to abandon several automated tools it used to find and categorize trending news in the past. Recode provides some examples, writing, "[Facebook] will no longer use its "1K list," a group of 1,000 websites it used to help verify headlines." Facebook will also get rid of several top publications, including the New York Times and CNN.

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Hacker Phineas Fisher is Trying To Start a 'Hack Back' Political Movement

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: The hacker who breached Hacking Team and FinFisher is trying to get more people to "hack back" and fight "the system." For some, thanks to his targeted attacks and sophisticated political views, Phineas Fisher is quickly becoming the most influential hacktivist of the last few years. In response to his most recent hack where he released a 39-minute how-to video showing how to strip data from targeted websites, specifically a website of the Catalan police union, Phineas Fisher told Motherboard, "Everything doesn't have to be big. I wanted to strike a small blow at the system, teach a bit of hacking with the video, and inspire people to take action." Biella Coleman, professor at McGill University in Montreal, believes Phineas Fisher has a good chance of inspiring a new generation of hacktivists and "setting the stage for other hackers to follow in his footsteps." She says he has been better at choosing targets and justifying his actions with more rounded and sophisticated political and ethical views than Anonymous and LulzSec-inspired hackers. Phineas Fisher told Motherboard, "I don't want to be the lone hacker fighting the system. I want to inspire others to take similar action, and try to provide the information so they can learn how."

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Facebook Acquires VR Audio Company, Launches 'Facebook 360 Spatial Workstation'

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An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Verge: Facebook is looking to improve its virtual-reality audio experience with the acquisition of Two Big Ears. Facebook is rereleasing Two Big Ears' "Spatial Workstation" software as the Facebook 360 Spatial Workstation, reports VentureBeat. The software is designed to "make VR audio succeed across all devices and platforms," and Two Big Ears developers will be merged with Facebook's Oculus team of employees. The acquisition of Two Big Ears is being made by Facebook and not Oculus -- the program is branded as a Facebook product, focused on 360-degree video and VR. The Spatial Workstation was first released last fall and was a platform for mixing audio that sounded realistically three-dimensional. Two Big Ears will provide "support in accordance with your current agreement" for the next 12 months to those who purchased a paid license to the old workstation. The company says it "will continue to be platform and device agnostic," not being locked into the Rift or Gear VR. Facebook did not disclose the sum of the acquisition. Two Big Ears was previously partnered with YouTube to help bring 360-degree live streaming and spatial audio to the site.

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Researchers Set World Record Wireless Data Transmission Rate of 6 GB/Sec Over 37 KM

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Daily: Transmitting the contents of a conventional DVD in under ten seconds by radio transmission is incredibly fast -- and a new world record in wireless data transmission. With a data rate of 6 Gigabit per second over a distance of 37 kilometers, a collaborative project with the participation of researchers from the University of Stuttgart and the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics IAF exceeded the state of the art by a factor of 10. The extremely high data rates of 6 Gbit/s was achieved by the group through efficient transmitters and receivers at a radio frequency of 71-76 GHz in the so-called E band, regulated for terrestrial and satellite broadcasting. The circuits are based on two innovative transistor technologies developed and manufactured by the project partner Fraunhofer IAF. In the transmitter the broadband signals are amplified to a comparatively high transmission power of up to 1 W with the help of power amplifiers on the basis of the novel compound semiconductor gallium-nitride. A highly directive parabolic antenna emits the signals. Built into the receiver are low-noise amplifiers on the basis of high-speed transistors using indium-gallium-arsenide-semiconductor layers with very high electron mobility. They ensure the detection of the weak signals at high distance. The transmission of high quantities of data by radio over large distances serves a high number of important application areas: the next generation of satellite communication requires an ever-increasing data offload from earth observation satellites down to earth. Supplying the rural area and remote regions with fast Internet is possible as shown in the trial. Earlier this year, engineers at the University of Illinois were able to set a record for fiber-optic data transmission, transmitting 57Gbps of error-free data at room temperature.

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Apple Sued Over iPhones Making Calls, Sending Email

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune: A company that seemingly does nothing but license patents or, if necessary, sue other companies to get royalties, has taken aim at Apple. But here's the kicker: the lawsuit alleges that Apple's last several iPhones and iPads violate a slew of patents related to seemingly standard features, including the ability to place calls as well as sending and receiving emails. A total of six patent infringement claims were brought against Apple by Corydoras Technologies on May 20, according to Apple-tracking site Patently Apple, which obtained a copy of the lawsuit. According to Patently Apple, the counts against Apple cover every iPhone dating back to the iPhone 4 and every iPad dating back to the iPad 2. In addition to taking issue with Apple's devices placing calls, the lawsuits also allege that the tech giant violates patents Corydoras holds related to video calling, which is similar to Apple's FaceTime, as well as displaying a person's geographic location through a feature like Find My iPhone and the ability to block unwanted calls. Last year, Apple was ordered to pay $533 million to Smartflash LLC for allegedly violating three patents related to copy protection.

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FBI Wants Biometric Database Hidden From Privacy Act

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Trailrunner7 quotes a report from onthewire.io: The FBI is working to keep information contained in a key biometric database private and unavailable, even to people whose information is contained in the records. The database is known as the Next Generation Identification System (NGIS), and it is an amalgamation of biometric records accumulated from people who have been through one of a number of biometric collection processes. That could include convicted criminals, anyone who has submitted records to employers, and many other people. The NGIS also has information from agencies outside of the FBI, including foreign law enforcement agencies and governments. Because of the nature of the records, the FBI is asking the federal government to exempt the database from the Privacy Act, making the records inaccessible through information requests. From the report: "The bureau says in a proposal to exempt the database from disclosure that the NGIS should be exempt from the Privacy Act for a number of reasons, including the possibility that providing access 'could compromise sensitive law enforcement information, disclose information which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of another's personal privacy; reveal a sensitive investigative technique; could provide information that would allow a subject to avoid detection or apprehension; or constitute a potential danger to the health or safety of law enforcement personnel, confidential sources, and witnesses.'" RT released a similar report on the matter.

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Chilean Bid to Help Authors Will Chill Audiovisual Content Online

EFF's Deeplinks -

Authors around the world are realizing the benefits of sharing their work in new ways, finding new audiences by refusing to articipate in traditional methods of distribution and licensing.  But a new proposal in Chile could undermine those choices, at least for Chilean creators.

In pursuing copyright reform around the world, we usually stress the need to balance the rights of users with those of copyright owners. But it's also important to balance the rights of authors with those of copyright owners. Many people understandable think they are the same people. But they often aren't.  Authors (including artists, songwriters and filmmakers) routinely give up their copyrights to large companies in exchange for those companies handling the marketing and management of their work. If the terms of this exchange are unfair, because of the company's greater bargaining power, this can leave the author in a precarious position (the story of Little Richard selling the rights to Tutti Frutti for $50 is illustrative).

A current proposal in Chile shows how hard it is to address this tension without trampling on the rights of secondary users and undermining the burgeoning efforts to give authors more choices about how their works might be handled.

Existing Chilean law give the performers of audiovisual works a right to receive compensation when their performances are broadcast, rented or made available to the public. The kicker is that this right to compensation is independent of the copyright—even if the performer transfers their copyright to someone else, they are still entitled to the royalties, and the law doesn't even permit them to waive that right (presumably because they could easily be coerced into waiving it). This, in itself, is problematic, for reasons that we've explained when writing about a similar proposal for U.S. law (though in the case of that U.S. proposal, the right could at least be waived or assigned). The problems with the U.S. proposal that we described also apply to the existing Chilean law:

Performers (or, in many cases, the companies to which they transfer their rights) could create new roadblocks to the creation of parodies, mash-ups or new versions of their performances, independent of copyright. It would further complicate the process of clearing rights to audiovisual works, and cast a new legal cloud of uncertainty over the activities of creators, producers, and journalists who build on audiovisual works in compliance with copyright law.

In Chile's case this much has been law since 2008. But it's about to get a whole lot worse. The House of Representatives of the Chilean Congress recently approved an amendment to the law that would extend the unwaivable right to remuneration to authors of audiovisual works, and require a copyright collecting society to administer those rights.  It would mean that all of the contributors to an audiovisual performance whom the law regards as authors (which includes the music composer, the scriptwriter, the choreographer, and the director) would all be entitled to payment whenever their work is used online, even if they never asked for payment and don't want it. This would apply for the duration of the copyright, and would apply both to local and foreign works.

This might sound like a benefit to authors, but it comes at a very high price for the public and for authors themselves. This change, if it came into effect, would prevent anyone whose work is performed from effectively dedicating that work to the public domain, or licensing it under a free license, such as a Creative Commons license. Yet in the words of the Public Domain Manifesto, "The voluntary relinquishment of copyright and sharing of protected works are legitimate exercises of copyright exclusivity," and should be respected by the law. Why? Because authors very frequently have motivations other than monetary remuneration for creating audiovisual works, such as self-expression, obtaining recognition from their peers, telling a story or teaching a message. Many of these motivations are better served by allowing works to be copied, shared, and modified freely, rather than by locking them away and demanding payment. The proposed amendment to Chilean law would extinguish this option for millions of authors of audiovisual works.

The results won't be limited to individual creators, but will also impact upon online platforms that facilitate access to audiovisual works—indeed, these are doubtless the real intended target of the amendment. If the Senate passes the bill, Chilean collecting societies will soon after present the major audiovisual sharing websites, such as YouTube, with a bill for the remuneration of all of millions of hours of authored audiovisual content made available through that platform. YouTube can probably afford to pay the freight, but smaller sites will not. We can only speculate about how much of this booty would end up going back to the authors, and how much would end up lining the pockets of the collecting society.

This is the wrong solution to the problem of unfair treatment of authors of audiovisual works, because it disregards the wishes of those authors, and restricts access to their content; perhaps even shutting down entire Internet platforms. (We've seen this before, when legislators carelessly brought in new copyright-like rights for a special interest group.) Better solutions might lie outside of copyright law altogether, such as making it easier for authors to challenge unfair publishing contracts.

The amendment bill is currently before the Chilean senate, and we may have as little as two weeks to stop it. If you would like to help, especially if you are Chilean or if you are an author or represent authors who will be impacted by this bill, now is the time to speak up and take action.

We will be updating this post with a link to an open letter to Chilean authorities as soon as it is available. You can follow EFF's Twitter account for an update.


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Americans Used Nearly 10 Trillion Megabytes of Mobile Data Last Year

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An anonymous reader writes: A report from CTIA released Monday found that consumers have nearly doubled their consumption of mobile data last year. It found that last month, consumers chugged down 804 billion megabytes of data, which adds up to a total of 9.65 billion gigabytes. The numbers are especially significant when compared to previous years. "From December 2013 to December 2014, U.S. data consumption grew by about 26 percent. But over the following year, it grew by 137 percent," writes Washington Post. YouTube and Netflix account for over half of North American internet traffic at peak hours, according to the networking equipment firm Sandvine. That figure spikes to 70 percent when streaming audio is part of the mix. The wireless industry as a result raked in nearly $200 billion last year alone, which is a 70 percent jump compared to a decade ago. The numbers are likely to rise as more and more devices become connected to the internet. With news of films from Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Pixar coming to Netflix this September, we're likely to see mobile data use increase even more this year.

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September: Netflix Will 'Become Exclusive US Pay TV Home of Films From Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Pixar'

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: The licensing deal between Netflix and Disney for the rights to all new films that hit movie theaters in 2016 is nothing new. What is new is when exactly the deal will come into effect. "From September onwards, Netflix will become the exclusive U.S. pay TV home of the latest films from Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilms and Pixar," said Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos in a blog post. This will only apply to new theatrical releases because separate licensing deals are in place for other Disney content. The exclusive partnership with Disney does also extend into original programming. Netflix's partnership with Disney is part of a bigger plan to host more unique content that rival services do not offer.

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Google's 'Science Journal' App Turns Your Android Device Into A Laboratory

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An anonymous reader writes about Google's latest 'Science Journal' app that was released at the end of Google I/O last week: Google has launched its 'Science Journal' app that can essentially turn your Android device into a tricorder of sorts. The app uses the sensors in your smartphone to gather, graph and visualize data. For example, you can use Google's Science Journal app to measure sound in a particular area over a particular period of time, or the movement of the device's internal accelerometers. The app is fairly basic to start, but Google is working to expand its functionality. It's even partnering with San Francisco's Exploratorium to develop external kits that can be used with the app -- which includes various microcontrollers and other sensors. As part of its Google Field Trip Days initiative, which allows students from underserved communities to attend a local museum for no cost and includes transportation and lunch, Google sent out 120,000 kits to local science museums. They also sent out 350,000 different pairs of safety glasses to schools, makerspaces, and Maker Faires worldwide, to ultimately help young students work on even bigger projects. You can download the app from the Play Store and start experimenting here.

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Windows 10 now supports smaller screens (and Win10 Mobile supports bigger ones)

Liliputing -

Microsoft has updated its Windows 10 hardware requirements in a few surprising ways.

When the operating system launched last summer, Microsoft released hardware requirements stating that the desktop version of Windows 10 would be able to run on devices with 8 inch or larger screens, and that if you wanted a smaller device, you should opt for Windows 10 Mobile — which would only support devices with screen sizes less than 8 inches

Now Microsoft has adjusted its hardware requirements so that there’s a bit of overlap: you can have bigger tablets running Windows 10 Mobile or smaller devices running Windows 10 desktop.

Continue reading Windows 10 now supports smaller screens (and Win10 Mobile supports bigger ones) at Liliputing.

Amazon Stops Giving Refunds When an Item's Price Drops After You Purchase It

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Amazon has for years issued refunds to users when the price of an item drops after they've purchased it. But lately the e-commerce giant hasn't been doing that on a number of products, except for televisions, according to price-tracking companies. Recode reports: The move may have something to do with the rise of startups that track prices for Amazon customers and automatically request refunds when appropriate. One of them, a Santa Monica-based startup called Earny that is backed by the startup incubator Science, first pointed out the change. Earny scours a customer's email inbox for digital receipts, and then continuously checks the price on a retailer's website to see if it drops.

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H5OS browser-based mobile OS may be dead

Liliputing -

Acadine Technologies has been working on a new mobile operating system called H5OS, and the company launched the first version in February. Now it looks like that first version may also be the last, because Acadine has run into funding troubles, and CNET reports the company is laying off staff.

Work on H5OS has also reportedly been halted, at least for now.

The operating system is designed to run apps written using web technologies including HTML5, and H5OS is based on the same Boot2Gecko source code as Firefox OS… another browser-based operating system that’s had a rough go of it.

Continue reading H5OS browser-based mobile OS may be dead at Liliputing.

Pac-Man 256 Coming To PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC With Multiplayer

Slashdot -

Pac-Man is coming to gaming consoles. Publisher Bandai Namco announced on Monday that Pac-Mac 256 will be launching on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on June 21. The VentureBeat reports: The console version of Pac-Man 256 will include a four-player local co-op game where you and your friends will have to collaborate to eat as many pellets as possible while collectively avoiding ghosts. This means that you can have up to four people sitting together on a couch and playing the game simultaneously. Each person controls a Pac-Man, and you will work together to avoid the ghosts. Because it is "local" co-op, this isn't an online mode, and you should instead think of it as something to do at a party... if you're cool like me and play video games at parties.

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Windows Phone Market Share Sinks Below 1 Percent

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Tom Warren, reporting for The Verge: Worldwide smartphone sales increased by nearly 4 percent in the recent quarter, but Microsoft's Windows Phone OS failed to capitalize on the growth and dropped below 1 percent market share. Gartner's latest smartphone sales report provides the latest proof of the obvious: Windows Phone is dead. Gartner estimates that nearly 2.4 million Windows Phones were sold in the latest quarter, around 0.7 percent market share overall. That's a decrease from the 2.5 percent market share of Windows Phone back in Q1 2015.

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Android N adds side-by-side Chrome browser window support

Liliputing -

One of the most exciting new features coming to Android this summer is the addition of support for multi-window views, allowing you to interact with two apps at the same time. Sure, some Android phone makers have offered their own multi-window software for years, but soon it’ll be baked right into the operating system,

There were early versions of multi-window mode included in the first and second developer preview versions of Android N.

Continue reading Android N adds side-by-side Chrome browser window support at Liliputing.

Sorry, There's Nothing Magical About Breakfast

Slashdot -

Is breakfast the most important meal of the day? Plenty of people certainly believe that, but according to a new report, that notion is based on "misinterpreted research and biased studies." The New York Times has run a piece authored by Aaron E. Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, who looked into numerous studies -- and found flaws in them -- to conclude that breakfast isn't as important after all. (Could be paywalled; alternate source) He writes: The [reports] improperly used causal language to describe their results. They misleadingly cited others' results. And they also improperly used causal language in citing others' results. People believe, and want you to believe, that skipping breakfast is bad. Carroll also points out a conflict in many of such studies: most of them have been funded by the food industry. He concludes: The bottom line is that the evidence for the importance of breakfast is something of a mess. If you're hungry, eat it. But don't feel bad if you'd rather skip it, and don't listen to those who lecture you. Breakfast has no mystical powers.

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Fancy is a $225 compact PC that runs Chromium, Ubuntu, or Android

Liliputing -

The developer behind Chromium OS for SBC offers software that makes it easy to effectively turn a $35 Raspberry Pi into a Chromebox.

But if you want a more powerful computer, developer Dylan Callahan has announced another option: a small computer called Fancy which measures about 8.7″ x 8.4″ x 3.1″ and which has an AMD quad-core x86 processor.

It sells for $225 and the Fancy desktop can run Chromium OS, Android, or Ubuntu software.

Continue reading Fancy is a $225 compact PC that runs Chromium, Ubuntu, or Android at Liliputing.

Google Plans To Bring Password-Free Logins To Android Apps By Year-End

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader shares a report on TechCrunch: Google's plan to eliminate passwords in favor of systems that take into account a combination of signals -- like your typing patterns, your walking patterns, your current location, and more -- will be available to Android developers by year-end, assuming all goes well in testing this year. In an under-the-radar announcement Friday afternoon at the Google I/O developer conference, the head of Google's research unit ATAP (Advanced Technology and Projects) Daniel Kaufman offered a brief update regarding the status of Project Abacus, the name for a system that opts for biometrics over two-factor authentication. With Project Abacus, users would unlock devices or sign into applications based on a cumulative "Trust Score." This score would be calculated using a variety of factors, including your typing patterns, current location, speed and voice patterns, facial recognition, and other things.The Trust API will be available to developers, who can then implement that into their apps. The company says that developers will have the option to adjust the threshold required for a trust score.

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