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Privacy

Amazon Brings Alexa To Hotels (zdnet.com) 42

Amazon is finally bringing Alexa to the hotel room. The e-commerce giant announced Tuesday the launch of Alexa for Hospitality, a specialized version of the voice assistant that integrates into popular hotel software systems for guest services. From a report: Housed inside of an Echo device, Alexa for Hospitality is functionally identical to the Alexa used in homes, except tailored to a hotel's service options. Guests can tell Alexa to order room service, book a spa appointment, call for housekeeping, provide directions, or play music in their room, for example. On the privacy side, Amazon said hotels will not have access to voice recordings of Alexa interactions or responses, and recordings of Alexa commands are remotely wiped when the guest checks out of the hotel. However, hotels can use Alexa for Hospitality to "measure engagement through analytics and adapt services based on guest feedback," Amazon said. Alexa for Hospitality is available to hotels, vacation rentals, and other hospitality providers starting today, with Marriott International signed up to deploy the service across its hotel portfolio this summer.
Sci-Fi

5 Star Trek Shows in Development, 1 Could Star Patrick Stewart, Reports Say (gizmodo.com) 77

An anonymous reader writes: In the wake of shocking allegations against Star Trek: Discovery's showrunners, producer Alex Kurtzman recently took over the role of showrunning the latest Trek series' sophomore season. But according to multiple reports today, he's just signed a new deal with CBS that could usher in multiple new Star Trek shows. Variety reports that Kurtzman has inked a $25 million deal with CBS as part of a five-year plan to bring more Trek shows to TV in the wake of Discovery's success. According to the site, five series are currently in early development: A teen-oriented series set at Starfleet Academy from Stephanie Savage and Josh Schwartz, the duo behind the recent Dynasty reboot and Marvel's Runaways adaptation. A limited series with a currently confidential plot. A limited series based around the beloved character Khan, from the original Star Trek and the classic film The Wrath of Khan -- something that's been rumored for a while as being spearheaded by Wrath of Khan director Nicholas Meyer. An animated series with another currently confidential plot.
Television

Cord-cutting Report: Streaming Services Will Be 25% of the Pay-TV market by 2023 (fastcompany.com) 36

UBS is increasing its outlook for streaming TV services such as Sling TV and DirecTV Now, estimating that such services will make up 25% of the pay-TV market in five years. Meanwhile, USB expects traditional TV subscriptions to decline 4.1% over the next year alone. From the report: Here are some other takeaways from UBS's report: Although Google hasn't disclosed subscriber numbers for YouTube TV, UBS estimates that the service has 750,000 subscribers after one year. That would put it just behind Hulu (800,000 subscribers), which launched around the same time. Sling TV remains in the lead with 2.3 million subscribers after three years, and DirecTV Now is catching up with 1.5 million subscribers in 16 months. PlayStation Vue still has just 700,000 subscribers after three years. A survey by UBS found that one in three respondents were likely or very likely to subscribe to a streaming TV bundle. (Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV were the top two potential picks among these respondents, suggesting that they'll play catch up with their rivals over time.)
United States

White House Issues Strategies To Combat Growing Orbital Debris Risks (wsj.com) 54

White House space officials have explicitly ruled out international treaties to combat hazards from orbital debris, even as they roll out strategies to revamp U.S. responses to the growing problem. From a report: President Donald Trump on Monday signed a directive formally establishing the Department of Commerce as the lead agency in providing collision-risk data to commercial satellite operators. The order, as expected, also calls for stepped-up efforts to develop voluntary industry standards covering satellite construction, orbit locations, and de-orbit plans -- all intended to reduce collision risks posed by aging satellites and thousands of pieces of debris circling the earth. Mr. Trump said the changes, among others he is championing, aim to ensure that "America will always be first in space" in both military and commercial arenas. The Pentagon will continue to maintain the central catalog of orbiting spacecraft and debris posing potential hazards to U.S. government and private satellites. But commerce department officials will have the authority to pass on that information to the industry, combined with data gathered from private or foreign government sources. Further reading: President Trump Directs Pentagon To Create New 'Space Force' Military Branch.
Australia

Bricked iPhones With 'Error 53' Just Cost Apple $6.7 Million in Australia (betanews.com) 65

Apple has been hit with an AUS $9 million ($6.7 million) fine for misleading customers in Australia. More than two years ago Apple started to "brick" iPhones that had been fixed at non-authorized third-party repairers, generating an Error 53. From a report: Apple admitted to intentionally preventing certain repaired iPhones and iPads from working for security reasons, but later apologized and issued a fix. However, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) sued Apple for "misleading or deceptive conduct," and now an Australian court has hit the iPhone-maker with a multi-million dollar fine.
Businesses

BitTorrent is Selling For $140M To Justin Sun and Tron (techcrunch.com) 39

BitTorrent, an early mover (and currently the largest player) in decentralised computing architecture to distribute and store data, is being sold for $140 million in cash to Justin Sun and his blockchain media startup Tron, TechCrunch has learned. From a report: Variety yesterday reported that a sale of the company to Sun closed last week, without naming a price, following rumors that circulated for at least a month that the two were in negotiations. Shareholders have now been sent the paperwork to sign off on the deal, and that has detailed the $140 million price. Some are, we understand, still disputing the terms, as more than one person claims to have made the introduction between Sun and BitTorrent. A source says it's unlikely that the disputes will actually kill the acquisition, given how long BitTorrent has been looking for a buyer. BitTorrent most recently said it has about 170 million users of its products.
Communications

Verizon To End Location Data Sales To Brokers (apnews.com) 26

Verizon is pledging to stop sales through intermediaries of data that pinpoints the location of mobile phones to outside companies, the Associated Press reported Tuesday. From the report: It is the first major U.S. wireless carrier to step back from a business practice that has drawn criticism for endangering privacy. The data has allowed outsiders to track wireless devices without their owners' knowledge or consent. Verizon, the nation's largest mobile carrier measured by subscribers, said that about 75 companies have obtained its customer data from two little-known California-based brokers that it supplies directly -- LocationSmart and Zumigo. The company made its disclosure in a letter to Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who has been probing the phone location-tracking market. Last month, Wyden revealed abuses in the lucrative but loosely regulated field involving Securus Technologies and its affiliate 3C Interactive. Verizon says their contract was approved only for the location tracking of outside mobile phones called by prison inmates. After a thorough review of its program, Verizon notified LocationSmart and Zumigo, both privately held, that it intends to "terminate their ability to access and use our customers' location data as soon as possible," wrote Verizon's chief privacy officer, Karen Zacharia.
Google

Google Has A New Podcast App. It Also Hopes To Diversify Podcasting. (buzzfeed.com) 88

An anonymous reader shares a report: Google now has its own podcast app called, well, Google Podcasts, and if you have an Android phone, you can head over to the Play Store and get it right now. Google Podcasts does most things you would expect a podcast app to do. It lets you subscribe to and download podcasts; it learns from your listening history and suggests new ones you might like; and, if you're a podfaster, it lets you speed shows up. Most of these have been things you can already do right from within the Google app on your Android phone -- but now you get a shiny new app to do it with. For Google, the app represents an ambitious goal: to double worldwide podcast listenership. [...] Google is working with an independent global advisory board and industry experts to bring in more creators from underrepresented backgrounds such as women, people of color, and people from other countries into podcasting. Other players in the space such as Spotify and WNYC have already made efforts to spotlight these voices in the podcasting ecosystem. As part of this new program, Google will create curriculums to teach people podcasting basics, develop training programs, and also lower barriers to entry by helping out with equipment like microphones. Details about the program and specific plans to diversify outreach were not yet available. Google says it currently has no plans to release the podcast app to Apple's App Store.
AI

New IBM Robot Holds Its Own In a Debate With a Human (nbcnews.com) 149

PolygamousRanchKid shares a report: The human brain may be the ultimate super computer, but artificial intelligence is catching up so fast, it can now hold a substantive debate with a human, according to audience feedback. IBM's Project Debater made its public debut in San Francisco Monday afternoon, where it squared off against Noa Ovadia, the 2016 Israeli debate champion and in a second debate, Dan Zafrir, a nationally renowned debater in Israel. The AI is the latest grand challenge from IBM, which previously created Deep Blue, technology that beat chess champion Garry Kasparov and Watson, which bested humans on the game show Jeopardy.

In its first public outing, Project Debater turned out to be a formidable opponent, scanning the hundreds of millions of newspaper and journal articles in its memory to quickly synthesize an argument on a topic and position it was assigned on the spot. "Project Debater could be the ultimate fact-based sounding board without the bias that often comes from humans," said Arvind Krishna, director of IBM Research. An audience survey taken before and after each debate found that Project Debater better enriched the audience's knowledge as it argued in favor of subsidies for space exploration and in favor of telemedicine, but that the human debaters did a better job delivering their speeches.

The AI isn't trained on topics -- it's trained on the art of debate. For the most part, Project Debater spoke in natural language, choosing the same words and sentence structures as a native English speaker. It even dropped the odd joke, but with the expected robotic delivery. IBM's engineers know the AI isn't perfect. Just like humans, it makes mistakes and at times, repeats itself. However, the company believes it could have a broad impact in the future as people now have to be more skeptical as they sort out fact and fiction. "Project Debater must adapt to human rationale and propose lines of argument that people can follow," Krishna said in a blog post. "In debate, AI must learn to navigate our messy, unstructured human world as it is -- not by using a pre-defined set of rules, as in a board game."

United States

McDonald's To Test Plastic-Straw Alternatives in US Later This Year (usatoday.com) 213

Under pressure by environmentalists, McDonald's has announced that it will start testing alternatives to plastic straws at select locations in the U.S. later this year. From a report: The burger giant also announced that it will adopt more eco-friendly paper straws across all its 1,361 restaurants in the United Kingdom and Ireland, a region where the company started testing the alternative to plastic straws earlier this year. The regional rollout begins in September. Single-use straws are the scourge of the packaging-waste world because they don't easily biodegrade and aren't really necessary for most people when it comes to gulping a soft drink. The activist group SumOfUs estimates that every day, McDonald's alone dispenses millions of plastic straws that customers soon discard, leaving them to litter beaches or clog waterways and fill trash dumps.
Crime

Ex-CIA Employee Charged In Major Leak of Agency Hacking Tools (washingtonpost.com) 102

schwit1 shares a report from The Washington Post: Federal prosecutors on Monday charged a former CIA employee with violations of the Espionage Act (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source) and related crimes in connection with the leak last year of a collection of hacking tools that the agency used for spy operations overseas.

Joshua Adam Schulte, who worked for a CIA group that designs computer code to spy on foreign adversaries, was charged in a 13-count superseding indictment with illegally gathering and transmitting national defense information and other related counts in connection with what is considered to be one of the most significant leaks in CIA history. The indictment accused Schulte of causing sensitive information to be transmitted to an organization, which is not named in the indictment but is thought to be WikiLeaks.

Intel

Shots Fired Again Between CPU Vendors AMD and Intel (tomshardware.com) 122

Highdude702 shares a report from Tom's Hardware: AMD's feud with Intel took an interesting turn today as the company announced that it would swap 40 Core i7-8086K's won from Intel's sweepstakes with a much beefier Threadripper 1950X CPU. At Computex 2018, Intel officially announced it was releasing the Core i7-8086K, a special edition processor that commemorates the 40th anniversary of the 8086, which debuted as the first x86 processor on June 8, 1978. Now AMD is offering to replace 40 of the winners' chips with its own 16-core 32-thread $799 Threadripper processors, thus throwing a marketing wrench into Intel's 40th-anniversary celebration.

AMD has a list of the complete terms and conditions on its site. But it is also noteworthy that "winners" of AMD's competing sweepstakes will have to pony up for a much more expensive X399 motherboard with the TR4 socket, which currently retail for more than $300, instead of Intel's less-expensive 300-series motherboards. Regardless, those who do swap their Intel Core silicon for an AMD Threadripper chip will gain 10 cores and quad-channel memory, not to mention quite a bit of resale value.
In response, Slashdot reader Highdude702 said: "AMD is shooting back at Intel like its easy for them, even though 40 out of 8086 is kind of stingy. They are acting like they have the horsepower now. I believe it is going to be an interesting time for consumers and enthusiasts coming soon. Maybe we will even get better prices."

Intel responded via its official verified "Intel Gaming" Twitter account, tweeting: ".@AMDRyzen, if you wanted an Intel Core i7-8086K processor too, you could have just asked us. :) Thanks for helping us celebrate the 8086!"
The Internet

Kickstarter Bets On 'Wired' Arduino-Compatible IoT Platform 124

L-One-L-One writes: Most IoT home projects today are based on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, and friends. But this is not always the ideal solution: you end up swapping batteries frequently, which becomes annoying quite quickly. You also have to deal with signal strength issues and interferences. To address this problem, a new Kickstarter campaign called NoCAN is proposing an Arduino-compatible internet-of-things platform based on wired connections that combine networking and power in one cable. The platform uses a set of cheap Arduino-compatible nodes controlled through a Raspberry Pi. The network uses CAN-bus and offers a publish/subscribe mechanism like MQTT and over-the-network firmware updates. It can also be controlled by a smartphone or tablet. Even with such features, can it succeed in going against the all-wireless trend? We'll know in a few weeks.
Businesses

Elon Musk Emails Employees About 'Extensive and Damaging Sabotage' By Employee (cnbc.com) 408

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Tesla CEO Elon Musk sent an email to all employees on Monday morning about a factory fire, and seemed to reference possible sabotage. Now, CNBC has learned that Musk also sent an e-mail to all employees at Tesla late on Sunday night alleging that he has discovered a saboteur in the company's ranks. Musk said this person had conducted "quite extensive and damaging sabotage" to the company's operations, including by changing code to an internal product and exporting data to outsiders. In the email, Musk said "the investigation will continue in depth this week" to "figure out if [the saboteur] was acting alone or with others at Tesla and if he was working with any outside organizations [that want Tesla to disappear]." You can read the full email via CNBC's report.
Government

Senate Votes To Reinstate ZTE Ban That's Nearly Shut Down the Company (theverge.com) 144

The U.S. Senate has voted to reinstate a ban on ZTE that prevents the Chinese telecom company from buying U.S. components and using U.S. software. As The Verge notes, "it's still not clear if the reversal will make it into law: it has to clear a conference with the House, and then avoid a veto from President Trump, who advocated for cutting a deal that would lift the ban." From the report: ZTE was hit with the trade ban by the U.S. Commerce Department in April after failing to following through with a punishment for violating sanctions on Iran and North Korea. That ban essentially shut down ZTE, which relies on U.S. parts like Qualcomm processors. Shortly thereafter, Trump said he would cut a deal to revive the company, and a deal was reached -- with additional penalties that the department said were uniquely stringent -- earlier this month.

But senators on both sides of the aisle immediately threatened to stop the deal and reinstate the ban, citing ZTE as a national security risk. And ultimately, a bipartisan group worked to get legislation introduced. The Senate voted 85 to 10 in support of reinstating the ban. It was included as an amendment on the National Defense Authorization Act, a must-pass piece of legislation that has already moved through the House.

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