Technology

What Comes After User-Friendly Design? (fastcodesign.com)

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan, writing for FastCoDesign: "User-friendly" was coined in the late 1970s, when software developers were first designing interfaces that amateurs could use. In those early days, a friendly machine might mean one you could use without having to code. Forty years later, technology is hyper-optimized to increase the amount of time you spend with it, to collect data about how you use it, and to adapt to engage you even more. [...] The discussion around privacy, security, and transparency underscores a broader transformation in the typical role of the designer, as Khoi Vinh, principal designer at Adobe and frequent design writer on his own site, Subtraction, points out. So what does it mean to be friendly to users-er, people-today? Do we need a new way to talk about design that isn't necessarily friendly, but respectful? I talked to a range of designers about how we got here, and what comes next.
AI

Google's AI Boss Blasts Musk's Scare Tactics on Machine Takeover (bloomberg.com) 34

Mark Bergen, writing for Bloomberg: Elon Musk is the most-famous Cassandra of artificial intelligence. The Tesla chief routinely drums up the technology's risks in public and on Twitter, where he recently called the global race to develop AI the "most likely cause" of a third world war. Researchers at Google, Facebook and other AI-focused companies find this irritating. John Giannandrea, the head of search and AI at Alphabet's Google, took one of the clearest shots at Musk on Tuesday -- all while carefully leaving him unnamed. "There's a huge amount of unwarranted hype around AI right now," Giannandrea said at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco. "This leap into, 'Somebody is going to produce a superhuman intelligence and then there's going to be all these ethical issues' is unwarranted and borderline irresponsible."
Privacy

In a 'Plot Twist', Wikileaks Releases Documents It Claims Detail Russia Mass Surveillance Apparatus (techcrunch.com) 49

WikiLeaks, believed by many to be a Kremlin front, surprised some observers Tuesday morning (Snowden called it a "plot twist") when it released documents linking a Russian tech company with access to thousands of citizens' telephone and internet communications with Moscow. From a report: Writing a summary of the cache of mostly Russian-language documents, Wikileaks claims they show how a long-established Russian company which supplies software to telcos is also installing infrastructure, under state mandate, that enables Russian state agencies to tap into, search and spy on citizens' digital activity -- suggesting a similar state-funded mass surveillance program to the one utilized by the U.S.'s NSA or by GCHQ in the U.K. (both of which were detailed in the 2013 Snowden disclosures). The documents which Wikileaks has published (there are just 34 "base documents" in this leak) relate to a St. Petersburg-based company, called Peter-Service, which it claims is a contractor for Russian state surveillance. The company was set up in 1992 to provide billing solutions before going on to become a major supplier of software to the mobile telecoms industry.
The Internet

Internet Is Having a Midlife Crisis (bbc.com) 75

An anonymous reader shares a report: The rise of cyber-bullying and monopolistic business practices has damaged trust in the internet, pioneering entrepreneur Baroness Lane-Fox has told the BBC. The Lastminute.com founder also called for a "shared set of principles" to make the web happier and safer. She said the internet had done much good over the last 30 years. But she said too many people had missed out on the benefits and it was time to "take a step back". "The web has become embedded in our lives over the last three decades but I think it's reached an inflexion point, or a sort of midlife crisis," she told Radio 4's Today programme. Baroness Lane-Fox co-founded travel booking site Lastminute.com in 1998 before going on to sell the firm for 577m pound seven years later. She described the early days of the internet as being "full of energy and excitement," and akin to the "wild West". "There was this feeling that suddenly, with this access to this new technology, you could start a business from anywhere," she said. However, she said that while technology had become a hugely important sector of the UK economy, it had not fulfilled its early potential.
The Almighty Buck

Cities Are Competing to Give Amazon the 'Mother of All Civic Giveaways' (vice.com) 171

Louise Matsakis, reporting for Motherboard: Amazon announced earlier this month that it was looking to build a second headquarters outside Seattle, where more than 40,000 of the company's more than 380,000 employees currently work. The tech giant is searching for a locale with at least a million people, a diverse population, and excellent schools, among other qualifications. It gave municipalities six weeks -- until October 19 -- to submit a proposal to be chosen. Local governments in more than 100 American and Canadian cities, including places like San Diego, Chicago, Dallas, and Detroit, quickly scrambled to outline why they should be home to Amazon's new corporate office, which is expected to employ up to 50,000 workers. The mayor of Washington D.C., Muriel Bowser, even made a scripted video for Amazon explaining why the capital should be picked. It featured an Echo, Amazon's smart speaker. But experts who have studied Amazon's business practices say having one of the most tax-allergic corporations in the world come to your hometown might not actually be a good thing.
The Almighty Buck

Stack Overflow Launches Salary Calculator For Developers (stackoverflow.com) 69

An anonymous reader writes: Stack Overflow today launched Salary Calculator, a tool that lets developers check out typical salaries across the industry. The calculated results are based on five factors: location, education, years of professional coding experience, developer type, and technologies used professionally. Stack Overflow is releasing the tool because it believes developers should be empowered with more information around job searches, careers, and salary. The company noticed ads on Stack Overflow Jobs that include salary information get 75 percent more clicks than ads without salary information. Even in cases when the salary range is below average, the ads still get 60 percent more clicks.
Data Storage

Apple File System in macOS High Sierra Won't Work With Fusion Drives (arstechnica.co.uk) 86

An anonymous reader shares a report: MacOS High Sierra will come out of beta and roll out to the public next week. If you have previously installed the beta version, you may need to take extra steps before installing the release so your Fusion Drive-toting machine doesn't experience any negative consequences. Apple announced that the new Apple File system (APFS) won't immediately support Fusion Drives and will only support systems with all-flash built-in storage in the initial release of High Sierra. Those who tested out the beta versions of macOS High Sierra had their Fusion Drives converted to the new APFS. However, support was removed from the most recent beta versions, and it isn't coming back with the public release of High Sierra. Apple provided a set of instructions to help those users convert their Fusion Drives back from APFS to the standard HFS+ format before installing the High Sierra update. The instructions include backing up data using Time Machine, creating a bootable installer, reformatting the machine using Disk Utility, and reinstalling the operating system update.
Entertainment

Sonos To Launch a Wireless Speaker That Would Support Multiple Voice Assistants (yahoo.com) 28

Sonos, a mid- to high-end speaker manufacturer, released an updated privacy policy for its speakers that almost certainly confirms that the company will release a speaker with Amazon's Alexa voice assistant built into the device in the near term. From a report: Though many devices that integrate with Alexa have been announced and are starting to come to market, this is one of the higher-profile examples and could be instructive for smart-speaker designers. The company first announced its intention to add voice-assistant integration to its speakers over a year ago, but didn't give any specific time frame for that step. And an FCC filing from the company that surfaced a few weeks ago showed that it is looking into systems that would support multiple voice assistants, so a user could potentially have the option to choose between Amazon's Alexa or Google's Assistant, depending on what other devices they own and what platform they prefer.
Iphone

Developer Marco Arment Shares Thoughts On iPhone X's Notch (marco.org) 154

Developer Marco Arment writes about the infamous notch on the iPhone X, which Apple has told developers to embrace rather than ignore: This is the new shape of the iPhone. As long as the notch is clearly present and of approximately these proportions, it's unique, simple, and recognizable. It's probably not going to significantly change for a long time, and Apple needs to make sure that the entire world recognizes it as well as we could recognize previous iPhones. That's why Apple has made no effort to hide the notch in software, and why app developers are being told to embrace it in our designs. That's why the HomePod software leak depicted the iPhone X like this: it's the new basic, recognizable form of the iPhone. Apple just completely changed the fundamental shape of the most important, most successful, and most recognizable tech product that the world has ever seen.
Chrome

Google Chrome Most Resilient Against Attacks, Researchers Find (helpnetsecurity.com) 91

Between Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Internet Explorer, Chrome has been found to be the most resilient against attacks, an analysis by security researchers has found. Firefox, Safari, and Opera were not included in the test. From a report: "Modern web browsers such as Chrome or Edge improved security in recent years. Exploitation of vulnerabilities is certainly more complex today and requires a higher skill than in the past. However, the attack surface of modern web browsers is increasing due to new technologies and the increasing complexity of web browsers themselves," noted Markus Vervier, Managing Director of German IT security outfit X41 D-Sec (and one of the researchers involved in the analysis). The researchers' aim was to determine which browser provides the highest level of security in common enterprise usage scenarios.
Encryption

Why You Shouldn't Use Texts For Two-Factor Authentication (theverge.com) 93

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: A demonstration video posted by Positive Technologies (and first reported by Forbes) shows how easy it is to hack into a bitcoin wallet by intercepting text messages in transit. The group targeted a Coinbase account protected by two-factor authentication, which was registered to a Gmail account also protected by two-factor. By exploiting known flaws in the cell network, the group was able to intercept all text messages sent to the number for a set period of time. That was enough to reset the password to the Gmail account and then take control of the Coinbase wallet. All the group needed was the name, surname and phone number of the targeted Bitcoin user. These were security researchers rather than criminals, so they didn't actually steal anyone's bitcoin, although that would have been an easy step to take. At a glance, this looks like a Coinbase vulnerability, but the real weakness is in the cellular system itself. Positive Technologies was able to hijack the text messages using its own research tool, which exploits weaknesses in the cellular network to intercept text messages in transit. Known as the SS7 network, that network is shared by every telecom to manage calls and texts between phone numbers. There are a number of known SS7 vulnerabilities, and while access to the SS7 network is theoretically restricted to telecom companies, hijacking services are frequently available on criminal marketplaces. The report notes of several ways you can protect yourself from this sort of attack: "On some services, you can revoke the option for SMS two-factor and account recovery entirely, which you should do as soon as you've got a more secure app-based method established. Google, for instance, will let you manage two-factor and account recovery here and here; just set up Authenticator or a recovery code, then go to the SMS option for each and click 'Remove Phone.'"
Medicine

Bacteria In Tumors Can Inactivate Common Chemotherapy Drugs, Study Suggests (arstechnica.com) 32

Researchers caught the bacteria Mycoplasma hyorhinis hiding out among cancer cells, thwarting chemotherapy drugs intended to treat the tumors they reside in. The findings have been published this week in Science. Ars Technica reports: Drug resistance among cancers is a "foremost challenge," according to the study's authors, led by Ravid Straussman at the Weizmann Institute of Science. Yet the new data suggest that certain types of drug-resistant cancers could be defeated with a simple dollop of antibiotics alongside a chemotherapy regimen. Dr. Straussman and his colleagues got a hunch to look for the bacteria after noticing that, when they grew certain types of human cancer cells together in lab, the cells all became more resistant to a chemotherapy drug called gemcitabine. This is a drug used to treat pancreatic, lung, breast, and bladder cancers and is often sold under the brand name Gemzar. The researchers suspected that some of the cells may secrete a drug-busting molecule. So they tried filtering the cell cultures to see if they could catch it. Instead, they found that the cell cultures lost their resistance after their liquid broth passed through a pretty large filter -- 0.45 micrometers. This would catch large particles -- like bacteria -- but not small molecules, as the researchers were expecting.

Looking closer, the researchers noticed that some of their cancer cells were contaminated with M. hyorhinis. And these bacteria could metabolize gemcitabine, rendering the drug useless. When the researchers transplanted treatable cancer cells into the flanks of mice -- some with and some without M. hyorhinis -- the bacteria-toting tumors were resistant to gemcitabine treatment.

Bitcoin

Ethereum Will Match Visa In Scale In a 'Couple of Years,' Says Founder (techcrunch.com) 103

Ethereum's founder, Vitalik Buterin, believes that his cryptocurrency has the potential to replace things like credit card networks and gaming servers. He even goes as far to say that Ethereum will replace Visa in "a couple of years," though he later clarified that "ethereum *will have Visa-scale tx capacity*, not that it will 'replace Visa.'" TechCrunch reports: "There's the average person who's already heard of bitcoin and the average person who hasn't," he said. His project itself builds upon that notion by adding more utility to the blockchain, thereby creating something everyone will want to hear about. "Where Ethereum comes from is basically you take the idea of crypto economics and the kinds of economic incentives that keeps things like bitcoin going to create decentralized networks with memory for a whole bunch of applications," he said. "A good blockchain application is something that needs decentralization and some kind of shared memory." That's what he's building and hopes others will build on the Ethereum network.

Right now the network is a bit too slow for most mainstream applications. "Bitcoin is processing a bit less than 3 transactions per second," he said. "Ethereum is doing five a second. Uber gives 12 rides a second. It will take a couple of years for the blockchain to replace Visa." Buterin doesn't think everything should run on the blockchain but many things can. As the technology expands it can grow to replace many services that require parallelization -- that is programs that should run at the same time.

Communications

T-Mobile To Increase Deprioritization Threshold To 50GB This Week (tmonews.com) 60

After raising its deprioritization threshold to 32GB in May, it looks like T-Mobile will bump it up to 50GB on September 20th, according to a TmoNews source. The move will widen the gap between T-Mobile and its competition. For comparison, Sprint's deprioritization threshold is currently 23GB, while AT&T and Verizon's are both 22GB. TmoNews reports: It's said that this 50GB threshold won't change every quarter and no longer involves a specific percentage of data users. As with the current 32GB threshold, customers that exceed this new 50GB deprioritization threshold in a single month may experience reduced speeds in areas where the network is congested. T-Mobile hasn't issued an announcement regarding this news, but the official @TMobileHelp account recently tweeted "Starting 9/20, the limit will be increased!" in response to a question about this news.

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