Businesses

The Problem, Really, is This Thing Called 'Disruption' (wired.com)

New submitter mirandakatz writes: The word "disruption" is everywhere in tech -- and it's getting founders in trouble. Just look at what happened with Bodega last week: Had the startup not professed to be disrupting the mom-and-pop shops on every corner, it might not have landed itself in such hot water. At Backchannel, veteran Silicon Valley communications whiz Karen Wickre makes the case against "disruption," pointing out that many of today's biggest companies got their starts without claiming to completely upend an existing industry. She writes: "What if Sergey and Larry had touted Google, in 1998, as 'an unprecedented platform for disrupting global advertising?' Do you think Jeff Bezos claimed that Amazon.com was upending global retail? Netflix? Within a few months of its 1997 launch, it did not foresee the actual paradigm shift of media streaming."
Communications

T-Mobile, Sprint Close To Agreeing Deal Terms (reuters.com) 14

From a report: T-Mobile US is close to agreeing tentative terms on a deal to merge with peer Sprint Corp, people familiar with the matter said on Friday, a major breakthrough in efforts to merge the third and fourth largest U.S. wireless carriers. The development follows more than four months of on-and-off talks this year between T-Mobile and Sprint, and comes as the U.S. telecommunications sector seeks ways to tackle investments in 5G technology that will greatly enhance wireless data transfer speeds.
Businesses

London Has Decided To Ban Uber (recode.net) 71

Johana Bhuiyan, writing for Recode: Transport for London, the taxi regulating service in London, announced today that it would not be renewing Uber's license to operate because of concerns over the company's "lack of corporate responsibility" in relation to public safety issues. The ride-hail company, which launched in London in 2012, is appealing the TfL's decision and will be allowed to continue to operate until a court makes a decision on that appeal. That process could take months. London is a significant market for Uber: The company says there are 40,000 drivers and 3.5 million riders on its platform in London. And like New York City, it is one of the most regulated markets where Uber operates. Unlike most markets across the U.S., Uber drivers in London and New York City are required to participate in government administered background checks.
The Almighty Buck

Why You Shouldn't Imitate Bill Gates If You Want To Be Rich (bbc.com) 123

dryriver writes: BBC Capital has an article that debunks the idea of "simply doing what highly successful people have done to get rich," because many of those "outliers" got rich under special circumstances that are not possible to replicate. An excerpt: "Even if you could imitate everything Gates did, you would not be able to replicate his initial good fortune. For example, Gates's upper-class background and private education enabled him to gain extra programming experience when less than 0.01% of his generation then had access to computers. His mother's social connection with IBM's chairman enabled him to gain a contract from the then-leading PC company that was crucial for establishing his software empire. This is important because most customers who used IBM computers were forced to learn how to use Microsoft's software that came along with it. This created an inertia in Microsoft's favor. The next software these customers chose was more likely to be Microsoft's, not because their software was necessarily the best, but because most people were too busy to learn how to use anything else. Microsoft's success and marketshare may differ from the rest by several orders of magnitude but the difference was really enabled by Gate's early fortune, reinforced by a strong success-breeds-success dynamic."
AI

A New Zealand Company Built An AI Baby That Plays the Piano (bloomberg.com) 64

pacopico writes: A New Zealand company called Soul Machines has built a disturbingly lifelike virtual baby powered by artificial intelligence software. According to a Bloomberg story, the baby has learned to read books, play the piano and draw pictures. The work is built off the research of Mark Sagar, the company's CEO, who is on a quest to mimic human consciousness in a machine. Sagar used to work at Weta creating lifelike faces for films like King Kong and Avatar and is now building these very realistic looking virtual avatars and pumping them full of code that not only handles things like speech but that also replicates the nervous system and brain function. The baby, for example, has virtual dopamine receptors that fire when it feels joy from playing the piano. What could go wrong?
Space

Most Powerful Cosmic Rays Come From Galaxies Far, Far Away (space.com) 53

A new study finds the highest-energy cosmic rays to bombard Earth come from galaxies far, far away. Space.com reports: The sun emits relatively low-energy cosmic rays. However, for more than 50 years, scientists have also detected ultra-high-energy cosmic rays, ones far beyond the capability of any particle accelerator on Earth to generate. One way to discover the origins of ultra-high-energy cosmic rays is to study their directions of travel. However, ultra-high-energy cosmic rays only rarely strike Earth's atmosphere, with one hitting any given area about the size of a soccer field about once per century, the researchers said. In order to detect ultra-high-energy cosmic rays, scientists look for the spray of electrons, photons and other particles that result when ultra-high-energy cosmic rays hit the top of Earth's atmosphere. Each of these showers contains more than 10 billion particles, which fly downward in a disk shaped like a giant plate miles wide, according to the statement. Scientists examined the sprays from ultra-high-energy cosmic rays using the largest cosmic-ray observatory yet: the Pierre Auger Observatory built in the western plains of Argentina in 2001. It consists of an array of 1,600 particle detectors deployed in a hexagonal grid over 1,160 square miles (3,000 square kilometers), an area comparable in size to Rhode Island. A connected set of telescopes is also used to see the dim fluorescent light the particles in the sprays emit at night.

The researchers analyzed data collected between 2004 and 2016. During these 12 years, the scientists detected more than 30,000 ultra-high-energy cosmic rays. If ultra-high-energy cosmic rays came from the Milky Way, one might perhaps expect them to come from all across the sky, or perhaps mostly from the direction of the supermassive black hole at the galaxy's center. However, the researchers saw that ultra-high-energy cosmic rays mostly came from a broad area of sky about 90 degrees away from the direction of the Milky Way's core.

Medicine

Fathers Pass On Four Times As Many New Genetic Mutations As Mothers, Says Study (theguardian.com) 121

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Children inherit four times as many new mutations from their fathers than their mothers, according to research that suggests faults in the men's DNA are a driver for rare childhood diseases. Researchers studied 14,000 Icelanders and found that men passed on one new mutation for every eight months of age, compared with women who passed on a new mutation for every three years of age. The figures mean that a child born to 30-year-old parents would, on average, inherit 11 new mutations from the mother, but 45 from the father. Kari Stefansson, a researcher at the Icelandic genetics company, deCODE, which led the study, said that while new mutations led to variation in the human genome, which is necessary for evolution to happen, "they are also believed to be responsible for the majority of cases of rare diseases in childhood." In the study published in Nature, the researchers analyzed the DNA of 1,500 Icelanders and their parents and, for 225 people, at least one of their children. They found that new mutations from mothers increased by 0.37 per year of age, a quarter of the rate found in men. While the vast majority of new mutations are thought to be harmless, occasionally they can disrupt the workings of genes that are important for good health.
Iphone

'Dear Apple, The iPhone X and Face ID Are Orwellian and Creepy' (hackernoon.com) 334

Trent Lapinski from Hacker Noon writes an informal letter to Apple, asking "who the hell actually asked for Face ID?" and calling the iPhone X and new face-scanning security measure "Orwellian" and "creepy": For the company that famously used 1984 in its advertising to usher in a new era of personal computing, it is pretty ironic that 30+ years later they would announce technology that has the potential to eliminate global privacy. I've been waiting 10-years since the first iPhone was announced for a full-screen device that is both smaller in my hand but has a larger display and higher capacity battery. However, I do not want these features at the cost of my privacy, and the privacy of those around me. While the ease of use and user experience of Face ID is apparent, I am not questioning that, the privacy concerns are paramount in today's world of consistent security breaches. Given what we know from Wikileaks Vault7 and the CIA / NSA capabilities to hijack any iPhone, including any sensor on the phone, the very thought of handing any government a facial ID system for them to hack into is a gift the world may never be able to return. Face ID will have lasting privacy implications from 2017 moving forward, and I'm pretty sure I am not alone in not wanting to participate.

The fact of the matter is the iPhone X does not need Face ID, Apple could have easily put a Touch ID sensor on the back of the phone for authentication (who doesn't place their finger on the back of their phone?). I mean imagine how cool it would be to put your finger on the Apple logo on the back of your iPhone for Touch ID? It would have been a highly marketable product feature that is equally as effective as Face ID without the escalating Orwellian privacy implications. [...] For Face ID to work, the iPhone X actively has to scan faces looking for its owner when locked. This means anyone within a several foot range of an iPhone X will get their face scanned by other people's phones and that's just creepy.

The Almighty Buck

Tesla Discontinues Its Most Affordable Model S (engadget.com) 73

Tesla will be discontinuing its cheapest Model S option, the Model S 75, this Sunday. What that means is that the all-wheel-drive version -- the 75D -- will take its place as the low-end Model S sedan, currently listed at a starting price of $74,500. Engadget reports: The move to discontinue the Model S 75 was first announced by Tesla in July after it dropped the price by $5,000 a few months earlier. The removal of the model from Tesla's offerings follows its discontinuation of the Model S 60 and 60D vehicles in April, which at the time were the least expensive Model S options available. As well as streamlining its EV line and making all Model S options all-wheel-drive, knocking off the low-end Model S vehicles is also likely being done to carve out a bigger separation between the Model 3 and Model S lines. Custom orders for the Model S 75 will be taken until Sunday, September 24th and the pre-configured versions will be available for purchase until inventory runs out.
Microsoft

Ford Is Using Microsoft's HoloLens To Design Cars In Augmented Reality (theverge.com) 29

Ford is using Microsoft's HoloLens headset to let designers quickly model out changes to cars, trucks, and SUVs in augmented reality. This allows designers to see the changes on top of an existing physical vehicle, instead of the traditional clay model approach to car design. The Verge reports: Ford is still using clay models, but the HoloLens can be used to augment additional 3D models without having to build every single design prototype with clay. It's one of the more interesting ways we've seen businesses use Microsoft's HoloLens, and it's something customers will never see. Microsoft is planning to hold a Windows Mixed Reality launch event on October 3rd in San Francisco. We're not expecting to hear about a HoloLens successor, but we should get a better idea of what apps and games we'll see coming for Microsoft's Windows Mixed Reality headsets.
Privacy

DC Court Rules Tracking Phones Without a Warrant Is Unconstitutional (cbsnews.com) 67

An anonymous reader writes: Law enforcement use of one tracking tool, the cell-site simulator, to track a suspect's phone without a warrant violates the Constitution, the D.C. Court of Appeals said Thursday in a landmark ruling for privacy and Fourth Amendment rights as they pertain to policing tactics. The ruling could have broad implications for law enforcement's use of cell-site simulators, which local police and federal agencies can use to mimic a cell phone tower to the phone connect to the device instead of its regular network. In a decision that reversed the decision of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and overturned the conviction of a robbery and sexual assault suspect, the D.C. Court of Appeals determined the use of the cell-site simulator "to locate a person through his or her cellphone invades the person's actual, legitimate and reasonable expectation of privacy in his or her location information and is a search."
EU

EU Paid For Report That Said Piracy Isn't Harmful -- And Tried To Hide Findings (thenextweb.com) 116

According to Julia Reda's blog, the only Pirate in the EU Parliament, the European Commission in 2014 paid the Dutch consulting firm Ecorys 360,000 euros (about $428,000) to research the effect piracy had on sales of copyrighted content. The final report was finished in May 2015, but was never published because the report concluded that piracy isn't harmful. The Next Web reports: The 300-page report seems to suggest that there's no evidence that supports the idea that piracy has a negative effect on sales of copyrighted content (with some exceptions for recently released blockbusters). The report states: "In general, the results do not show robust statistical evidence of displacement of sales by online copyright infringements. That does not necessarily mean that piracy has no effect but only that the statistical analysis does not prove with sufficient reliability that there is an effect. An exception is the displacement of recent top films. The results show a displacement rate of 40 per cent which means that for every ten recent top films watched illegally, four fewer films are consumed legally."

On her blog, Julia Reda says that a report like this is fundamental to discussions about copyright policies -- where the general assumption is usually that piracy has a negative effect on rightsholders' revenues. She also criticizes the Commissions reluctance to publish the report and says it probably wouldn't have released it for several more years if it wasn't for the access to documents request she filed in July.
As for why the Commission hadn't published the report earlier, Reda says: "all available evidence suggests that the Commission actively chose to ignore the study except for the part that suited their agenda: In an academic article published in 2016, two European Commission officials reported a link between lost sales for blockbusters and illegal downloads of those films. They failed to disclose, however, that the study this was based on also looked at music, ebooks and games, where it found no such connection. On the contrary, in the case of video games, the study found the opposite link, indicating a positive influence of illegal game downloads on legal sales. That demonstrates that the study wasn't forgotten by the Commission altogether..."
Encryption

Distrustful US Allies Force Spy Agency To Back Down In Encryption Fight (reuters.com) 92

schwit1 shares a report from Reuters: An international group of cryptography experts has forced the U.S. National Security Agency to back down over two data encryption techniques it wanted set as global industry standards, reflecting deep mistrust among close U.S. allies. In interviews and emails seen by Reuters, academic and industry experts from countries including Germany, Japan and Israel worried that the U.S. electronic spy agency was pushing the new techniques not because they were good encryption tools, but because it knew how to break them. The NSA has now agreed to drop all but the most powerful versions of the techniques -- those least likely to be vulnerable to hacks -- to address the concerns.
Firefox

Firefox For iOS Gets Tracking Protection, Firefox Focus For Android Gets Tabs 24

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Mozilla today released Firefox 9.0 for iOS and updated Firefox Focus for Android. The iOS browser is getting tracking protection, improved sync, and iOS 11 compatibility. The Android privacy browser is getting tabs. You can download the former from Apple's App Store and the latter from Google Play. This is the first time Firefox has offered tracking protection on iOS, and Nick Nguyen, vice president of product at Mozilla, notes that it's finally possible "thanks to changes by Apple to enable the option for 3rd party browsers." This essentially means iPhone and iPad users with Firefox and iOS 11 will have automatic ad and content blocking in Private Browsing mode, and the option to turn it on in regular browsing. This is the same feature that's available in Firefox for Android, Windows, Mac, and Linux, as well as the same ad blocking technology used in Firefox Focus for Android and iOS.
Security

Security Researchers Warn that Third-Party GO Keyboard App is Spying on Millions of Android Users (betanews.com) 64

An anonymous reader shares a report: Security researchers from Adguard have issued a warning that the popular GO Keyboard app is spying on users. Produced by Chinese developers GOMO Dev Team, GO Keyboard was found to be transmitting personal information about users back to remote servers, as well as "using a prohibited technique to download dangerous executable code." Adguard made the discovery while conducting research into the traffic consumption and unwanted behavior of various Android keyboards. The AdGuard for Android app makes it possible to see exactly what traffic an app is generating, and it showed that GO Keyboard was making worrying connections, making use of trackers, and sharing personal information. Adguard notes that there are two versions of the keyboard in Google Play which it claims have more than 200 million users in total.

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