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United States

Americans at Risk of Identity Theft as They File their Tax Returns (betanews.com) 13

Ian Barker, writing for BetaNews: As we move into the tax return season a new study reveals that attitudes to identity theft and a pattern of poor practices are leaving much of the public vulnerable. Data security and ID theft protection company CyberScout has carried out its second annual Tax Season Risk Report and finds 58 percent of Americans are not worried about tax fraud in spite of federal reports of 787,000 confirmed identity theft returns in 2016, totaling more than $4 billion in potential fraud. Among other findings are that only 35 percent of taxpayers demand that their preparers use two-factor authentication to protect their clients' personal information. Less than a fifth (18 percent) use an encrypted USB drive to save important documents like tax worksheets, W-2s, 1099s or 1040s. And another 38 percent either store tax documents on their computer's hard drive or in the cloud, approaches that are susceptible to a variety of hacks.
Iphone

iPhone Owners in US Spent $40 Each on Apps in 2016 (cnet.com) 48

Zoey Chong, writing for CNET: iPhone users in the US are spending more and more on apps and in-app purchases. Spending climbed to an average of $40 per person last year, according to research released Monday by Sensor Tower. This is up from $35 in 2015. Gaming continued to lead the way, accounting for more than 80 percent of Apple App Store revenue in the US. Spending in that category increased from $25 on average per person in 2015 to $27 last year. This may not be the biggest surprise, given that 2016 witnessed the rise of Pokemon Go, which crossed $1 billion in revenue worldwide last month.
NASA

Thrilling Discovery of Seven Earth-Sized Planets Orbiting Nearby Star (theguardian.com) 99

At a press conference on Wednesday, NASA scientists announced that they have spotted seven Earth-sized planets orbiting closely around a small, ultra-cool star. The star is 39 light years away. From a report on The Guardian: It is the first time that so many Earth-sized planets have been found in orbit around the same star, an unexpected haul that suggests the Milky Way may be teeming with worlds that, in size and firmness underfoot at least, resemble our own rocky home. The planets closely circle a dwarf star named Trappist-1, which at 39 light years away makes the system a prime candidate to search for signs of life. Only marginally larger than Jupiter, the star shines with a feeble light about 2,000 times fainter than our sun. "The star is so small and cold that the seven planets are temperate, which means that they could have some liquid water and maybe life, by extension, on the surface," said Michael Gillon, an astrophysicist at the University of Liege in Belgium. [...] While the planets have Earth-like dimensions, their sizes ranging from 25 percent smaller to 10 percent larger, they could not be more different in other features. Most striking is how compact the planet's orbits are. Mercury, the innermost planet in the solar system, is six times farther from the sun than the outermost seventh planet is from Trappist-1.
HP

HP Is Advertising Its Real, Modern Printers on This Fake, Awkward '80s Computer Show (adweek.com) 48

T.L. Stanley, writing for AdWeek: It's a fine line between effective '80s homage and clumsy retro spoof, with the latter usually involving a lot of overplayed visual gags like brick-sized cell phones and VHS tapes. Cue pointing and laughing. This new HP video, dubbed "Computer Show," hits the sweet spot perfectly with its recreation of a Reagan-era public access show about technology, but with a fish-out-of-water spin. The host is stuck in time -- stilted stage manner, goofy haircut and all -- but his guests are current-day tech pioneers. Awkward hilarity ensues. The short film, made by Giant Spoon and Sandwich Video for HP, sets up a print-off between HP's PageWide super-fast model and a dot matrix supplied by an employee of the neighborhood "Kwikopy."
Privacy

GE, Intel, and AT&T Are Putting Cameras and Sensors All Over San Diego (fortune.com) 74

An anonymous reader shares a Fortune report: General Electric will put cameras, microphones, and sensors on 3,200 street lights in San Diego this year, marking the first large-scale use of "smart city" tools GE says can help monitor traffic and pinpoint crime, but raising potential privacy concerns. Based on technology from GE's Current division, Intel and AT&T, the system will use sensing nodes on light poles to locate gunshots, estimate crowd sizes, check vehicle speeds and other tasks, GE and the city said on Wednesday. The city will provide the data to entrepreneurs and students to develop applications. Companies expect a growing market for such systems as cities seek better data to plan and run their operations. San Diego is a test of "Internet of things" technology that GE Current provides for commercial buildings and industrial sites.
Verizon

Verizon To Begin 5G User Trials in 11 Markets by Middle of Year (bloomberg.com) 27

Verizon will test faster fifth-generation (5G) mobile broadband service in 11 markets in the first half of this year as the nation's largest wireless carrier tries to take the lead in the 5G race. From a report on Bloomberg: Working with equipment partners including Ericsson and Samsung, Verizon will beam 5G signals to a test group of homes and businesses in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Atlanta; Bernardsville, New Jersey; Brockton, Massachusetts; Dallas; Denver; Houston; Miami; Sacramento, California; Seattle; and Washington, D.C., according to a statement released as part of Mobile World Congress, which starts this week in Barcelona. While 5G service isn't expected to be commercially available until 2020, Verizon and its closest rival, AT&T, are bringing the technology out of the lab and into the hands of actual users to spur development.
United States

US Homeland Security Employees Locked Out of Computer Networks (reuters.com) 80

Dustin Volz, reporting for Reuters: Some U.S. Department of Homeland Security employees in the Washington area and Philadelphia were unable to access some agency computer networks on Tuesday, according to three sources familiar with the matter. It was not clear how widespread the issue was or how significantly it affected daily functions at DHS, a large government agency whose responsibilities include immigration services, border security and cyber defense. In a statement, a DHS official confirmed a network outage that temporarily affected four U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) facilities in the Washington area due to an "expired DHS certificate." Reuters first reported the incident earlier Tuesday, which a source familiar with the matter said also affected a USCIS facility in Philadelphia. Employees began experiencing problems logging into networks Tuesday morning due to a problem related to domain controllers, or servers that process authentication requests, which could not validate personal identity verification (PIV) cards used by federal workers and contractors to access certain information systems, according to the source.
AI

Tinder Wants AI To Set You Up On a Date (bbc.com) 91

Dave Lee, writing for BBC: Tinder is growing up. It's now a serious technology company tackling one of life's most important matters, and is by far the most popular dating app worldwide. After a lot of boardroom musical chairs, Mr Rad is the chairman of both Tinder and Swipe Ventures, the arm of the company designed to buy other dating-related technologies. One of which is artificial intelligence. And its collision with dating might be the most intriguing application of AI yet. "I think this might sound crazy," Mr Rad said on Tuesday at tech conference Start-Up Grind. "In five years time, Tinder might be so good, you might be like "Hey [Apple voice assistant] Siri, what's happening tonight?' "And Tinder might pop up and say 'There's someone down the street you might be attracted to. She's also attracted to you. She's free tomorrow night. We know you both like the same band, and it's playing -- would you like us to buy you tickets?'... and you have a match. "It's a little scary."
AMD

AMD Launches Ryzen, Claims To Beat Intel's Core i7 Offering At Half the Price (hothardware.com) 182

Reader MojoKid writes: AMD CEO, Dr. Lisu Su took to the stage at AMD's Ryzen tech day yesterday and opened the event with official speeds, feeds, pricing, and benchmark scores for the company's upcoming Ryzen series processors. AMD's goal with Ryzen, which is based on its Zen microarchitecture, was a 40% IPC (instructions per clock) uplift. As it turns out, AMD was actually able to increase IPC by approximately 52% with the final shipping product, sometimes more depending on workload type. Dr. Su also showed the first die shot of an 8-core Ryzen processor, disclosing that it consists of approximately 4.8 billion transistors. AMD's flagship Ryzen 7 1800X 8-core/16 thread CPU will have a base clock speed of 3.6GHz, a boost clock of 4.0GHz, and a 95 watt TDP. AMD claims the Ryzen 7 1800X will be the fastest 8-core desktop processor on the market when it arrives. The next member of the line-up is the Ryzen 7 1700X with a base clock of 3.4GHz and a boost clock of 3.8GHz, also with 8 cores and a 95 watt TDP. Finally, the Ryzen 7 1700 – sans X – is also an 8-core / 16-thread CPU, but it has lower 3.0GHz base and 3.7GHz boost clocks, along with a lower 65 watt TDP. AMD took the opportunity to demo the Ryzen 7 1800X and it was approximately 9% faster than the Core i7-6900K running Cinebench R15's multi-threaded test, at about half the cost. And in another comparison, Dr. Su put the 8-core 7 1700 up against the quad-core Core i7-7700K, converting a 4K 60 FPS video down to 1080P and the Ryzen CPU outpaces the Core i7 by 10 full seconds. Pricing for the three initial Ryzen 7 series processors will undercut competing Intel processors significantly. AMD's Ryzen 7 1800X will arrive at $499, Ryzen 7 1700X at $399, and Ryzen 7 1700 at $329. Based on current street prices, Ryzen will be between 20% — 50% lower priced but AMD is claiming performance that's better than Intel at those price points.
Transportation

Uber's Self-Driving Cars Are Now Picking Up Passengers in Arizona (theverge.com) 89

Almost two months to the day after Uber loaded its fleet of self-driving SUVs into the trailer of a self-driving truck and stormed off to Arizona in a self-driving huff, the company is preparing to launch its second experiment (if you don't count the aborted San Francisco pilot) in autonomous ride-hailing. From a report on The Verge: What's different is that this time, Uber has the blessing from Arizona's top politician, Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican, who is expected to be "Rider Zero" on an autonomous trip along with Anthony Levandowski, VP of Uber's Advanced Technologies Group. [...] Starting today, residents of Tempe, Arizona, can hail a self-driving Volvo XC90 SUV on Uber's ride-sharing platform. All trips will include two Uber engineers in the front seats as safety drivers, in the event a human needs to take over control from the vehicle's software. Uber says it hopes to expand the coverage area to other cities in Arizona in the coming weeks.
Google

Google Releases Open Source File Sharing Project 'Upspin' On GitHub (betanews.com) 41

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: Today, Google unveiled yet another way to share files. Called "Upspin," the open source project aims to make sharing easier for home users. With that said, the project does not seem particularly easy to set up or maintain. For example, it uses Unix-like directories and email addresses for permissions. While it may make sense to Google engineers, I am dubious that it will ever be widely used. "Upspin looks a bit like a global file system, but its real contribution is a set of interfaces, protocols, and components from which an information management system can be built, with properties such as security and access control suited to a modern, networked world. Upspin is not an "app" or a web service, but rather a suite of software components, intended to run in the network and on devices connected to it, that together provide a secure, modern information storage and sharing network," says Google. The search giant adds: "Upsin is a layer of infrastructure that other software and services can build on to facilitate secure access and sharing. This is an open source contribution, not a Google product. We have not yet integrated with the Key Transparency server, though we expect to eventually, and for now use a similar technique of securely publishing all key updates. File storage is inherently an archival medium without forward secrecy; loss of the user's encryption keys implies loss of content, though we do provide for key rotation."
Medicine

Studies Show Testosterone Offers Little Benefits To Aging Men (arstechnica.com) 112

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In decades of research, scientists have found only one medical condition that's clearly and effectively treated with testosterone supplements: pathological hypogonadism -- that's low testosterone levels due to disease of the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, or testes. In a series of placebo-controlled, randomized trials, researchers tracked the effect of testosterone on the cognition, bone health, anemia, and cardiovascular health of 788 men for a year. All the men were aged 65 or older and had low testosterone levels that couldn't be explained by anything other than age. The results, reported Tuesday in JAMA and JAMA Internal Medicine, offer mixed results. Among the 493 in the trial who also had age-related memory declines, testosterone didn't have any effect on memory or cognitive abilities. In the study, 247 got testosterone and 246 got a placebo. But for cardiovascular health, there was an effect -- a bad one. Over the year, plaque buildup in the coronary artery -- which is a risk factor for heart disease -- increased in 73 men on testosterone compared with 65 on placebo. However, other studies have found mixed results on this. Longer, bigger trials will be needed to sort out the risks. In the anemia study, testosterone did seem to improve iron levels in men with mild anemia. The bone health study also showed that testosterone could improve bone density. However, it's unclear if those benefits outweigh the possible cardiovascular risks. And other drugs may be more effective at treating anemia and improving bone mass than testosterone.
Cellphones

Cellphones As a Fifth-Order Elaboration of Maxwell's Theory (ieee.org) 112

schwit1 shares a report from IEEE Spectrum that reflects on the "Stages of Electronics" based on James Clerk Maxwell's theory: Now that the world has become addicted to portable electronics, billions of people have come to see the companies providing these gadgets as the most innovative, and the people who head those companies as the most exalted, of all time. "Genius" is a starter category in this discussion. But clever and appealing though today's electronic gadgets may be, to the historian they are nothing but the inevitable fifth-order elaborations of two fundamental ideas: electromagnetic radiation, the theory of which was formulated by James Clerk Maxwell in the 1860s, and miniaturized fabrication, which followed Richard Feynman's 1959 dictum [PDF] that "there's plenty of room at the bottom." Maxwell was a true genius. The history of science offers few examples of work as brilliant as unifying electricity, magnetism, and light as aspects of a single phenomenon: electromagnetic waves. As Max Planck put it, "in doing so he achieved greatness unequalled."

Vaclav Smil writes via IEEE: "As I pass the zombielike figures on the street, oblivious to anything but their cellphone screens, I wonder how many of them know that the most fundamental advances enabling their addictions came not from Nokia, Apple, Google, Samsung, or LG. These companies' innovations are certainly admirable, but they amount only to adding a few fancy upper floors to a magnificent edifice whose foundations were laid by Maxwell 152 years ago and whose structure depends on decades-old advances that made it possible to build electronics devices ever smaller."

The Almighty Buck

The Only Thing, Historically, That's Curbed Inequality: Catastrophe (theatlantic.com) 382

ColdWetDog writes: The Atlantic has an interesting article on how societies have decreased economic equality. From the report: "Calls to make America great again hark back to a time when income inequality receded even as the economy boomed and the middle class expanded. Yet it is all too easy to forget just how deeply this newfound equality was rooted in the cataclysm of the world wars. The pressures of total war became a uniquely powerful catalyst of equalizing reform, spurring unionization, extensions of voting rights, and the creation of the welfare state. During and after wartime, aggressive government intervention in the private sector and disruptions to capital holdings wiped out upper-class wealth and funneled resources to workers; even in countries that escaped physical devastation and crippling inflation, marginal tax rates surged upward. Concentrated for the most part between 1914 and 1945, this 'Great Compression' (as economists call it) of inequality took several more decades to fully run its course across the developed world until the 1970s and 1980s, when it stalled and began to go into reverse. This equalizing was a rare outcome in modern times but by no means unique over the long run of history. Inequality has been written into the DNA of civilization ever since humans first settled down to farm the land. Throughout history, only massive, violent shocks that upended the established order proved powerful enough to flatten disparities in income and wealth. They appeared in four different guises: mass-mobilization warfare, violent and transformative revolutions, state collapse, and catastrophic epidemics. Hundreds of millions perished in their wake, and by the time these crises had passed, the gap between rich and poor had shrunk."

Slashdot reader ColdWetDog notes: "Yep, the intro is a bit of a swipe at Trump. But this should get the preppers and paranoids in the group all wound up. Grab your foil! Run for the hills!"

Transportation

College Senior Turns His Honda Civic Into a Self-Driving Car Using Free Hardware, Software (technologyreview.com) 116

holy_calamity writes: University of Nebraska student Brevan Jorgenson swapped the rear-view mirror in his 2016 Honda Civic for a home-built device called a Neo, which can steer the vehicle and follow traffic on the highway. Jorgenson used hardware designs and open-source software released by Comma, a self-driving car startup that decided to give away its technology for free last year after receiving a letter asking questions about its functionality from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Jorgenson is just one person in a new hacker community trying to upgrade their cars using Comma's technology. "A Neo is built from a OnePlus 3 smartphone equipped with Comma's now-free Openpilot software, a circuit board that connects the device to the car's electronics, and a 3-D-printed case," reports MIT Technology Review. The report notes that Neodriven, a startup based in Los Angeles, has recently started selling a pre-built Neo device that works with Comma's Openpilot software, but it costs $1,495.

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