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Cellphones

Apple Edits iPhone 6's Protruding Camera Out of Official Photos

Posted by Soulskill
from the truthiness-in-advertising dept.
Sockatume writes: If you've been browsing Apple's site leading up to the iPhone 6 launch, you might've noticed something a little odd. Apple has edited the handset's protruding camera out of every single side-on view of the phone. (The camera is, necessarily, retained for images showing the back of the device.) The absence is particularly conspicuous given the number of side views Apple uses to emphasize the device's thinness.
Businesses

New Global Plan Would Crack Down On Corporate Tax Avoidance 39

Posted by Soulskill
from the bring-our-benjamins-home dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Reuters reports that plans for a major rewriting of international tax rules have been unveiled by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that could eliminate structures that have allowed companies like Google and Amazon to shave billions of dollars off their tax bills. For more than 50 years, the OECD's work on international taxation has been focused on ensuring companies are not taxed twice on the same profits (and thereby hampering trade and limit global growth). But companies have been using such treaties to ensure profits are not taxed anywhere. A Reuters investigation last year found that three quarters of the 50 biggest U.S. technology companies channeled revenues from European sales into low tax jurisdictions like Ireland and Switzerland, rather than reporting them nationally.

For example, search giant Google takes advantage of tax treaties to channel more than $8 billion in untaxed profits out of Europe and Asia each year and into a subsidiary that is tax resident in Bermuda, which has no income tax. "We are putting an end to double non-taxation," says OECD head of tax Pascal Saint-Amans.For the recommendations to actually become binding, countries will have to encode them in their domestic laws or amend their bilateral tax treaties. Even if they do pass, these changes are likely 5-10 years away from going into effect.
Speaking of international corporate business: U.K. mainframe company Micro Focus announced it will buy Attachmate, which includes Novell and SUSE.
Robotics

Developing the First Law of Robotics 67

Posted by Soulskill
from the thou-shalt-not-kill-all-humans dept.
wabrandsma sends this article from New Scientist: In an experiment, Alan Winfield and his colleagues programmed a robot to prevent other automatons – acting as proxies for humans – from falling into a hole. This is a simplified version of Isaac Asimov's fictional First Law of Robotics – a robot must not allow a human being to come to harm. At first, the robot was successful in its task. As a human proxy moved towards the hole, the robot rushed in to push it out of the path of danger. But when the team added a second human proxy rolling toward the hole at the same time, the robot was forced to choose. Sometimes, it managed to save one human while letting the other perish; a few times it even managed to save both. But in 14 out of 33 trials, the robot wasted so much time fretting over its decision that both humans fell into the hole. Winfield describes his robot as an "ethical zombie" that has no choice but to behave as it does. Though it may save others according to a programmed code of conduct, it doesn't understand the reasoning behind its actions.

+ - New Global Plan Would Crack Down On Corporate Tax Avoidance

Submitted by HughPickens.com
HughPickens.com (3830033) writes "Reuters reports that plans for a major rewriting of international tax rules have been unveiled by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that could eliminate structures that have allowed companies like Google and Amazon to shave billions of dollars off their tax bills. For more than 50 years, the OECD’s work on international taxation has been focused on ensuring companies are not taxed twice on the same profits hampering trade and limit global growth. But companies have been using such treaties to ensure profits are not taxed anywhere. A Reuters investigation last year found that three quarters of the 50 biggest U.S. technology companies channelled revenues from European sales into low tax jurisdictions like Ireland and Switzerland, rather than reporting them nationally. For example, search giant Google takes advantage of tax treaties to channel more than $8 billion in untaxed profits out of Europe and Asia each year and into a subsidiary that is tax resident in Bermuda, which has no income tax. “We are putting an end to double non-taxation,” says OECD head of tax Pascal Saint-Amans.

For the recommendations to actually become binding countries will have to encode them in their domestic laws or amend their bilateral tax treaties. The OECD says that it plans to hold an international conference on amending the network of existing tax treaties. Sol Picciotto, an emeritus professor at Lancaster University in Britain, says the recommendations are at least five to 10 years from becoming law, and that the jury is still out on whether they will accomplish their stated goals. “These are just tweaks,” says Picciotto. “They’re trying to repair an old motorcar, but what they need is a new engine.”"

+ - Ethical trap: robot paralysed by choice of who to save->

Submitted by wabrandsma
wabrandsma (2551008) writes "From New Scientist:

Can a robot learn right from wrong? Attempts to imbue robots, self-driving cars and military machines with a sense of ethics reveal just how hard this is

In an experiment, Alan Winfield and his colleagues programmed a robot to prevent other automatons – acting as proxies for humans – from falling into a hole. This is a simplified version of Isaac Asimov's fictional First Law of Robotics – a robot must not allow a human being to come to harm.

At first, the robot was successful in its task. As a human proxy moved towards the hole, the robot rushed in to push it out of the path of danger. But when the team added a second human proxy rolling toward the hole at the same time, the robot was forced to choose. Sometimes, it managed to save one human while letting the other perish; a few times it even managed to save both. But in 14 out of 33 trials, the robot wasted so much time fretting over its decision that both humans fell into the hole.

Winfield describes his robot as an "ethical zombie" that has no choice but to behave as it does. Though it may save others according to a programmed code of conduct, it doesn't understand the reasoning behind its actions. Winfield admits he once thought it was not possible for a robot to make ethical choices for itself. Today, he says, "my answer is: I have no idea".

As robots integrate further into our everyday lives, this question will need to be answered. A self-driving car, for example, may one day have to weigh the safety of its passengers against the risk of harming other motorists or pedestrians. It may be very difficult to program robots with rules for such encounters."

Link to Original Source

+ - Micron Releases 16nm Process SSDs With Dynamic Flash Programming->

Submitted by Lucas123
Lucas123 (935744) writes "Micron's newest client flash drive line, the M600, uses its first 16nm process technology and dynamic write acceleration firmware that allows the flash to be programmed as SLC or MLC instead of using overprovisioning or reserving a permanent pool of flash cache to accelerate writes. The ability to dynamically program the flash reduces power use and improves write performance as much as 2.8 times over models without the feature, according to Jon Tanguy, Micron's senior technical marketing engineer. The new lithography process technology also allowed Micron to reduce the price of the flash drive to 45 cents a gigabyte, meaning a 1TB 2.5-in SATA SSD now retails for $450."
Link to Original Source

+ - The FBI Just Finished Its Insane New Facial Recognition System->

Submitted by Advocatus Diaboli
Advocatus Diaboli (1627651) writes ""After six years and over one billion dollars in development, the FBI has just announced that its new biometric facial recognition software system is finally complete. Meaning that, starting soon, photos of tens of millions of U.S. citizen's faces will be captured by the national system on a daily basis. The Next Generation Identification (NGI) program will logs all of those faces, and will reference them against its growing database in the event of a crime. It's not just faces, though. Thanks to the shared database dubbed the Interstate Photo System (IPS), everything from tattoos to scars to a person's irises could be enough to secure an ID. What's more, the FBI is estimating that NGI will include as many as 52 million individual faces by next year, collecting identified faces from mug shots and some job applications. So if you apply for any type of job that requires fingerprinting, for instance, those prints (which will now also likely be asked for along with a photo) will be sent off to the government for processing."

Here are two recent and related news items.

Boston police used facial recognition software on thousands of people at a music festival (http://theweek.com/speedreads/index/266552/speedreads-boston-police-used-facial-recognition-software-on-thousands-of-people-at-a-music-festival)

"Attendees of last year's Boston Calling music festival were — without their knowledge — test subjects for the Boston Police Department's new facial recognition software. The IBM program — which also analyzes each individual's build, clothes, and skin color — captured video of thousands of people, 50 hours of which is still intact."

and

General Motors May Be The First To Offer Cars That Detect Distracted Drivers (http://www.washingtonpost.com/cars/general-motors-may-be-the-first-to-offer-cars-that-detect-distracted-drivers/2014/09/02/d00b5bc4-32b9-11e4-9f4d-24103cb8b742_story.html)

"According to CNBC, the technology will come from an Australian firm called Seeing Machines. It will take the form of a series of cameras paired with facial recognition software — kind of like the software that Facebook uses to auto-tag your friends in photos, but in this case, it'll take note of things like the rotation of the driver's head and how often he/she blinks. That will help the system determine whether a driver is looking at the road, at a cell phone, or even nodding off. If the situation proves dire enough, the system could theoretically slow the vehicle and force the driver to pull over — not unlike a certain attention-powered car we've seen before.""

Link to Original Source
Open Source

New Release of MINIX 3 For x86 and ARM Is NetBSD Compatible 68

Posted by timothy
from the big-and-fancy dept.
An anonymous reader writes MINIX 3 is a small POSIX-compliant operating system aimed at high reliability (embedded) applications. A major new version of MINIX 3 (3.3.0) is now available for download at www.minix3.org. In addition to the x86, the ARM Cortex A8 is now supported, with ports to the BeagleBoard and BeagleBones available. Finally, the entire userland has been redone in 3.3.0 to make it NetBSD compatible, with thousands of NetBSD packages available out of the box. MINIX 3 is based on a tiny (13 KLoC) microkernel with the operating system running as a set of protected user-mode processes. Each device driver is also a separate process. If a driver fails, it is automatically and transparently restarted without rebooting and without applications even noticing, making the system self-healing. The full announcement, with links to the release notes and notes on installation, can be found at the Minix Google Groups page.
The Internet

AT&T Proposes Net Neutrality Compromise 204

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-aim-the-gun,-we'll-pull-the-trigger dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The net neutrality debate has been pretty binary: ISPs want the ability to create so-called "fast lanes," and consumers want all traffic to be treated equally. Now, AT&T is proposing an alternative: fast lanes under consumer control. Their idea would "allow individual consumers to ask that some applications, such as Netflix, receive priority treatment over other services, such as e-mail or online video games. That's different from the FCC's current proposal, which tacitly allows Internet providers to charge content companies for priority access to consumers but doesn't give the consumers a choice in the matter."

AT&T said, "Such an approach would preserve the ability of Internet service providers to engage in individualized negotiations with [content companies] for a host of services, while prohibiting the precise practice that has raised 'fast lane' concerns." It's not perfect, but it's probably the first earnest attempt at a compromise we've seen from either side, and it suggests the discussion can move forward without completely rejecting one group's wishes.

+ - AT&T's Proposes Net Neutrality Compromise->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "The net neutrality debate has been pretty binary of late. ISPs want the ability to create so-called "fast lanes," and consumers want all traffic to be treated equally. Now, AT&T is proposing another alternative: fast lanes under consumer control. Their idea would "allow individual consumers to ask that some applications, such as Netflix, receive priority treatment over other services, such as e-mail or online video games. That's different from the FCC's current proposal, which tacitly allows Internet providers to charge content companies for priority access to consumers but doesn't give the consumers a choice in the matter." AT&T sayd, "Such an approach would preserve the ability of Internet service providers to engage in individualized negotiations with [content companies] for a host of services, while prohibiting the precise practice that has raised 'fast lane' concerns." It's not perfect, but it's probably the first earnest attempt at a compromise we've seen from either side, and it suggests the discussion can move forward without completely rejecting one group's wishes."
Link to Original Source

+ - Ask Slashdot: Have you experienced Fear Driven Development (FDD) ?-> 1

Submitted by nerdyalien
nerdyalien (1182659) writes "Few years back, I worked for a large-scale news-media related web development project in a South-East Asian country. Despite formally adopting Agile/Scrum as the SDLC, development was driven based on fear imposed by managers, and architects who were proficient in ADD — A**hole Driven Development. Project ran 4x over its initial estimation, and not to forget those horrendous 18 hours/day, 6 days/week shifts with pizza dinners. For better or worse, I was asked to leave half way thru the project due to a row with the manager; which followed with poor performance reviews and delayed promotion. Are FDD and ADD here to stay ?"
Link to Original Source
Australia

NSW Police Named as FinFisher Spyware Users 56

Posted by samzenpus
from the oh-watching-the-places-you'll-go dept.
Bismillah writes Wikileaks' latest release of documents shows that the Australian New South Wales police force has spent millions on licenses for the FinFisher set of law enforcement spy- and malware tools — and still has active licenses. What it uses FinFisher, which has been deployed against dissidents by oppressive regimes, for is yet to be revealed. NSW Police spokesperson John Thompson said it would not be appropriate to comment "given this technology relates to operational capability".
Robotics

MIT's Cheetah Robot Runs Untethered 81

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-skynet-totally-needs-cheetahs-too dept.
An anonymous reader writes: It's easy to make a robot walk, but hard to keep it from falling over. We've seen a number of crazy robot prototypes, but they're usually tethered and/or stuck on a treadmill. Now, researchers from MIT have developed an algorithm that allows their giant robot cheetah to run around outdoors at up to 10mph. They expect the robot to eventually hit speeds of 30mph. "The key to the bounding algorithm is in programming each of the robot's legs to exert a certain amount of force in the split second during which it hits the ground, in order to maintain a given speed: In general, the faster the desired speed, the more force must be applied to propel the robot forward. ... Kim says that by adapting a force-based approach, the cheetah-bot is able to handle rougher terrain, such as bounding across a grassy field." The MIT cheetah-bot also runs on a custom electric motor, which makes it significantly quieter than gas-powered robots. "Our robot can be silent and as efficient as animals. The only things you hear are the feet hitting the ground."

+ - MIT's Cheetah Robot Runs Untethered->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "It's easy to make a robot walk, but hard to keep it from falling over. We've seen a number of crazy robot prototypes, but they're usually tethered and stuck on a treadmill. Now, researchers from MIT have developed an algorithm that allows their giant robot cheetah to run around outdoors at up to 10mph. They expect the robot to eventually hit speeds of 30mph. "The key to the bounding algorithm is in programming each of the robot’s legs to exert a certain amount of force in the split second during which it hits the ground, in order to maintain a given speed: In general, the faster the desired speed, the more force must be applied to propel the robot forward. ... Kim says that by adapting a force-based approach, the cheetah-bot is able to handle rougher terrain, such as bounding across a grassy field." The MIT cheetah-bot also runs on a custom electric motor, which makes it significantly quieter than gas-powered robots. "Our robot can be silent and as efficient as animals. The only things you hear are the feet hitting the ground.""
Link to Original Source
Games

The Growing Illusion of Single Player Gaming 238

Posted by Soulskill
from the forcing-introverts-to-play-with-introverts dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Multiplayer modes used to be an extra part of most games — an optional addition that the developers could build (or not) as they saw fit. These days, it's different: many games are marketed under the illusion of being single-player, when their focus has shifted to an almost mandatory multiplayer mode. (Think always-online DRM, and games as services.) It's not that this is necessarily bad for gameplay — it's that design patterns are shifting, and if you don't like multiplayer, you're going to have a harder time finding games you do like.

The article's author uses a couple recent major titles as backdrop for the discussion: "With both Diablo III and Destiny, I'm not sure where and how to attribute my enjoyment. Yes, the mechanics of both are sound, but given the resounding emptiness felt when played solo, perhaps the co-op element is compensating. I'd go so far as to argue games can be less mechanically compelling, so long as the multiplayer element is engaging. The thrill of barking orders at friends can, in a way, cover design flaws. I hem and haw on the quality of each game's mechanics because the co-op aspect literally distracted me from engaging with them to some degree."

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