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Google

Google Apologises For Photos App's Racist Blunder 209 209

Mark Wilson writes: Google has issued an apology after the automatic tagging feature of its Photos apps labeled a black couple as "gorillas". This is not the first time an algorithm has been found to have caused racial upset. Earlier in the year Flickr came under fire after its system tagged images of concentration camps as sports venues and black people as apes. The company was criticized on social networks after a New York software developer questioned the efficacy of Google's algorithm. Accused of racism, Google said that it was "appalled" by what had happened, branding it as "100% not OK".
News

Analysis: Iran's Nuclear Program Has Been an Astronomical Waste 267 267

Lasrick writes: Business Insider's Armin Rosen uses a fuel-cost calculator from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to show that Iran's nuclear program has been "astronomically costly" for the country. Rosen uses calculations from this tool to hypothesize that what Iran "interprets as the country's 'rights' under the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty is a diplomatic victory that justifies the outrageous expense of the nuclear program." Great data crunching.
Safari

Is Safari the New Internet Explorer? 283 283

An anonymous reader writes: Software developer Nolan Lawson says Apple's Safari has taken the place of Microsoft's Internet Explorer as the major browser that lags behind all the others. This comes shortly after the Edge Conference, where major players in web technologies got together to discuss the state of the industry and what's ahead. Lawson says Mozilla, Google, Opera, and Microsoft were all in attendance and willing to talk — but not Apple.

"It's hard to get insight into why Apple is behaving this way. They never send anyone to web conferences, their Surfin' Safari blog is a shadow of its former self, and nobody knows what the next version of Safari will contain until that year's WWDC. In a sense, Apple is like Santa Claus, descending yearly to give us some much-anticipated presents, with no forewarning about which of our wishes he'll grant this year. And frankly, the presents have been getting smaller and smaller lately."

He argues, "At this point, we in the web community need to come to terms with the fact that Safari has become the new IE. Microsoft is repentant these days, Google is pushing the web as far as it can go, and Mozilla is still being Mozilla. Apple is really the one singer in that barbershop quartet hitting all the sour notes, and it's time we start talking about it openly instead of tiptoeing around it like we're going to hurt somebody's feelings."
The Military

Test Pilot: the F-35 Can't Dogfight 741 741

schwit1 sends this report from the War Is Boring column: A test pilot has some very, very bad news about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The pricey new stealth jet can't turn or climb fast enough to hit an enemy plane during a dogfight or to dodge the enemy's own gunfire, the pilot reported following a day of mock air battles back in January. And to add insult to injury, the JSF flier discovered he couldn't even comfortably move his head inside the radar-evading jet's cramped cockpit. "The helmet was too large for the space inside the canopy to adequately see behind the aircraft." That allowed the F-16 to sneak up on him. The test pilot's report is the latest evidence of fundamental problems with the design of the F-35 — which, at a total program cost of more than a trillion dollars, is history's most expensive weapon. Your tax dollars at work.
Crime

Uber France Leaders Arrested For Running Illegal Taxi Company 318 318

An anonymous reader writes: Two Uber executives were arrested by French authorities for running an illegal taxi company and concealing illegal documents. This is not the first time Uber has run into trouble in France. Recently, taxi drivers started a nation-wide protest, blocking access to Roissy airport and the nation's interior minister issued a ban on UberPop. A statement from an Uber spokesperson to TechCrunch reads: "Our CEO for France and General Manager for Western Europe were invited to a police hearing this afternoon; following this interview, they were taken into custody. We are always available to answer all the questions on our service, and available to the authorities to solve any problem that could come up. Talks are in progress. In the meantime, we keep working in order to make sure that both our customers and drivers are safe following last week’s turmoils."
Power

Bill Gates Investing $2 Billion In Renewables 278 278

An anonymous reader writes: Bill Gates has dumped a billion dollars into renewables, and now he's ready to double down. Gates announced he will increase his investment in renewable energy technologies to $2 billion in an attempt to "bend the curve" on limiting climate change. He is focusing on risky investments that favor "breakthrough" technologies because he thinks incremental improvements to existing tech won't be enough to meet energy needs while avoiding a climate catastrophe. He says, "There's no battery technology that's even close to allowing us to take all of our energy from renewables and be able to use battery storage in order to deal not only with the 24-hour cycle but also with long periods of time where it's cloudy and you don't have sun or you don't have wind. Power is about reliability. We need to get something that works reliably." At the same time, Gates rejected calls to divest himself and his charitable foundation of investments in fossil fuel companies.
Bitcoin

Greek Financial Crisis Is an Opportunity For Bitcoin 358 358

An anonymous reader writes: Greece's economy has been in trouble for several years, now, and a major vote next weekend will shake it up even further. The country can't pay its debts, and the upcoming referendum will decide whether they face increased austerity measures or start the process of exiting the Euro. One side effect of the crisis is that alternative currencies like Bitcoin suddenly look much more attractive as the "normal" currencies become unstable. "Tony Gallippi, the co-founder of bitcoin payment processor Bitpay, tweeted on Sunday night that he expected the price of bitcoin to rise to between $610 and $1,250 if Greece exits the Euro. The currency is currently worth $250. Part of the reason why the crisis is so tempting for proponents of the cryptocurrency is the echoes of a previous crisis in the Eurozone: the banking collapse in Cyprus in 2013, which saw that nation also impose capital controls to prevent massive outflows of currency from the panicking country. That collapse came at the same time as the first major boom in the price of bitcoin, which began the year at less than $20 and peaked at ten times that by early April – before it all came crashing down."
Government

How Uber Takes Over a City 226 226

schwit1 suggests Bloomberg's story on one aspect of Uber's corporate behavior that may leave a sour taste in the mouth of anyone who'd like to believe the Uber-vs.-the-Cartels narrative. The company hired David Plouffe, known for managing Barack Obama's rise to fame, and many others as well, to help them navigate inevitable and ongoing moves for regulation. The scale is impressive; according to the article: Over the past year, Uber built one of the largest and most successful lobbying forces in the country, with a presence in almost every statehouse. It has 250 lobbyists and 29 lobbying firms registered in capitols around the nation, at least a third more than Wal-Mart Stores. That doesn't count municipal lobbyists. In Portland, the 28th-largest city in the U.S., 10 people would ultimately register to lobby on Uber's behalf. And while the article focuses mostly on the example of Portland, the effort is ongoing and nationwide.
Microsoft

New Leaked Build Is Evidence That Windows 10 Will Be Ready By July 29 293 293

Ammalgam writes: A new pre-released build of Microsoft's latest Operating System Windows 10 leaked to the internet today. The build (10151) shows a more refined and significantly faster user interface than previous versions of the product. Microsoft seem to be focused on last minute refinements of the UI at this point and the product looks almost ready for prime time. A picture gallery of Windows 10 build 10151 can be found here.
Build

Ask Slashdot: For What Are You Using 3-D Printing? 264 264

An anonymous reader writes: I've been thinking about getting a 3-D printer for a while: the quality is rising, the software is better, STL files really do seem a sufficiently good standard ("sufficiently standard," that is — I'm not worried that printers are going to stop supporting it anytime soon), and prices have dropped quite a bit. Importantly to me, it also seems like less of a jumping-off-a-cliff decision, since I can get a completely assembled one from places as wild and crazy as ... the Home Depot (not that I plan to). However, even the stretchiest practical things I can think of to print can't truly actually justify the price, and that's OK — I hope not to require enough replacement knobs and chess pieces to necessarily *need* one, and playing around with it is the main likely upshot, which I'm OK with. But still, I'd like to hear what uses you have been putting your 3-D printer to, including printers that aren't yours but belong to a hackerspace, public library, eccentric neighbor, etc. What actually practical / useful tasks have you been using 3-D printing for, and with what printer technology? What playful purposes? It's OK if you just keep printing out those chess pieces and teapots, but I'm curious about less obvious reasons to have one around. (And I might just use the local Tech Shop's anyhow, but the question still applies.) If you've purchased a 3D printer, are you happy with the experience? If so, or if not, what kind did you get?
AI

WSJ Overstates the Case Of the Testy A.I. 209 209

mbeckman writes: According to a WSJ article titled "Artificial Intelligence machine gets testy with programmer," a Google computer program using a database of movie scripts supposedly "lashed out" at a human researcher who was repeatedly asking it to explain morality. After several apparent attempts to politely fend off the researcher, the AI ends the conversation with "I'm not in the mood for a philosophical debate." This, says the WSJ, illustrates how Google scientists are "teaching computers to mimic some of the ways a human brain works."

As any AI researcher can tell you, this is utter nonsense. Humans have no idea how the human, or any other brain, works, so we can hardly teach a machine how brains work. At best, Google is programming (not teaching) a computer to mimic the conversation of humans under highly constrained circumstances. And the methods used have nothing to do with true cognition.

AI hype to the public has gotten progressively more strident in recent years, misleading lay people into believing researchers are much further along than they really are — by orders of magnitude. I'd love to see legitimate A.I. researchers condemn this kind of hucksterism.
ISS

A Failure For SpaceX: Falcon 9 Explodes During Ascension 308 308

MouseR writes with bad news about this morning's SpaceX launch: About 2:19 into its flight, Falcon 9 exploded along stage 2 and the Dragon capsule, before even the stage 1 separation. Telemetry and videos are inconclusive, without further analysis as to what went wrong. Everything was green lights. This is a catastrophe for SpaceX, which enjoyed, until now, a perfect launch record. TechCrunch has coverage of the failure, which of course also means that today's planned stage one return attempt has failed before it could start; watch this space for more links. Update: 06/28 15:06 GMT by T : See also stories at NBC News, The Washington Post, and the Associated Press (via ABC News). According to the Washington Post, what was a catastrophe for this morning's launch is only a setback for the ISS and its crew, rather than a disaster: A NASA slide from an April presentation said that with current food levels, the space station would reach what NASA calls “reserve level” on July 24 and run out by Sept. 5, according to SpaceNews. [NASA spokeswoman Stephanie] Schierholz said, however, that the supplies would last until the fall, although she could not provide a precise date. Even if something were to go wrong with the SpaceX flight, she said, there are eight more scheduled this year, including several this summer, “so there are plenty of ways to ensure the station continues to be well-supplied.” Of note: One bit of cargo that was aboard the SpaceX craft was a Microsoft Hololens; hopefully another will make it onto one of the upcoming supply runs instead.

Elon Musk has posted a note on the company's Twitter channel: "Falcon 9 experienced a problem shortly before first stage shutdown. Will provide more info as soon as we review the data."
Facebook

FB Reveals Woeful Diversity Numbers 254 254

theodp writes: There's more work to do," said Facebook's Global Director of Diversity Maxine Williams, who issued a straight-out-of-How-to-Lie-With-Statistics diversity update on Thursday that essentially consisted of a handful of bar charts labeled with only percentages for select measures of the social networking giant's current demographics. In search of real numbers, the Guardian turned to Facebook's most recent Equal Employment Opportunity report filing, which showed that the ranks of black employees swelled by a grand total of seven (7) (1 woman) in the year covered by the filing, during which time Facebook saw an overall headcount increase of 1,231. Comparing Facebook's new bar charts of US tech employees to those issued last year shows the proportion of Hispanic and Black employees remained flat at 3% and 1% respectively, while a decline in the proportion of white employees from 53% to 51% was offset by an increase in the proportion of Asian employees from 41% to 43%.
Transportation

Aiming To Beat Tesla's "3", Chevy Tests and Teases a Cheaper 200-Mile Electric Car 247 247

PC Magazine is one of many to note Chevrolet's upcoming effort to beat Tesla's Model 3 to market with a car that is "affordable" (a lot more affordable than the Model S) but which tops the 200-mile range that right now only Tesla beats in a widely available pure electric car. The Model 3 is expected to feature many of the features of the currently Tesla S variants, but in a smaller package and with a much lower price tag. The linked article features GM-supplied video of Chevy's all-elecric bolt, about which it says The car maker doesn't reveal much beyond what we already know: 200-plus-mile range and a starting price tag of $30,000. The video shows various Chevy engineers putting the camouflage-wrapped Bolt EV through its paces—climbing hills, accelerating, and coming to a stop, as well as enduring extreme heat and charging.
Windows

Ask Slashdot: Are Post-Install Windows Slowdowns Inevitable? 512 512

blackest_k writes: I recently reinstalled Windows 7 Home on a laptop. A factory restore (minus the shovelware), all the Windows updates, and it was reasonably snappy. Four weeks later it's running like a slug, and now 34 more updates to install. The system is clear of malware (there are very few additional programs other than chrome browser). It appears that Windows slows down Windows! Has anyone benchmarked Windows 7 as installed and then again as updated? Even better has anybody identified any Windows update that put the slug into sluggish? Related: an anonymous reader asks: Our organization's PCs are growing ever slower, with direct hard-drive encryption in place, and with anti-malware scans running ever more frequently. The security team says that SSDs are the only solution, but the org won't approve SSD purchases. It seems most disk scanning could take place after hours and/or under a lower CPU priority, but the security team doesn't care about optimization, summarily blaming sluggishness on lack of SSDs. Are they blowing smoke?