William Shatner Criticizes Facebook Hoax Ad Announcing His Death (people.com) 23

"William Shatner is alive and well -- in fact, he turned 87 on Thursday, so the actor was not pleased when he saw an ad on Facebook sharing a story about his alleged death," writes the Hollywood Reporter. An anonymous reader quotes People: "@WilliamShatner I thought you might want to know you're dead," a Twitter user wrote, along with a screenshot of the ad. Less than a half hour later, Shatner posted his own message calling out the social media company for spreading the phony news... "Thought you were doing something about this?" he wrote. Several hours after Shatner's tweet, Facebook's director of product management Rob Leathern messaged the actor to let him know that the ad had been removed. "Thank you," Shatner replied. "I'm not planning on dying so please continue to block those kinds of ads..." Fortunately, Shatner's in good company when it comes to celebrity death hoaxes... News of Sylvester Stallone's fake death originally began circulating on Facebook in 2016.
In late 2016 Mark Zuckerberg posted that "We take misinformation seriously..." while adding that "we know people want accurate information. We've been working on this problem for a long time and we take this responsibility seriously." Ironically, that announcement appeared next to a similar fake ad announcing that Hugh Hefner was dead, though at the time Hefner was very much alive.

"We've made significant progress," Zuckerberg's post continued, "but there is more work to be done."

Dropbox IPOs. Its Founders Are Now Billionaires (cnbc.com) 30

Yesterday Dropbox finally launched its stock on NASDAQ. Reuters reports: Dropbox Inc's shares closed at $28.42, up more than 35 percent in their first day of trading on Friday, as investors rushed to buy into the biggest technology initial public offering in more than a year even as the wider sector languished... At the stock's opening price, Dropbox had a market valuation of $12.67 billion, well above the $10 billion valuation it had in its last private funding round... It has yet to turn a profit, which is common for startups that invest heavily in growth. As a public company Dropbox will be under pressure to quickly trim its losses. The 11-year old company reported revenue of $1.11 billion in 2017, up from $844.8 million a year earlier. Its net loss nearly halved from $210.2 million in 2016.
CNBC reports that Y Combinator almost passed on a chance to invest in Dropbox -- which became its first IPO ever -- "because it had misgivings about bringing on a solo entrepreneur." After Drew Houston, the creator of Dropbox, scrambled to find a co-founder in time for his in-person interview, the company was admitted into YC in 2007. Four years later, venture capitalists poured money into Dropbox at a $4 billion valuation. YC has since become a power player in Silicon Valley, helping spawn numerous companies valued at over $1 billion today including Stripe, Airbnb, Instacart and Coinbase. It also backed Twitch, which Amazon acquired in 2014 for about $970 million, and the self-driving tech start-up Cruise, which GM bought in 2016 for over $1 billion. But in its 13-year history, YC had yet to see any of its companies go public until Dropbox's stock market debut on Friday...

Houston is now worth over $3 billion and co-founder Arash Ferdowsi owns shares valued at more than $1 billion.

Dropbox's Twitter feed posted a video from their NASDAQ debut, adding "We're so thankful for the 500 million registered users who helped us get here."

Uber's Self-Driving Cars Were Struggling Before Arizona Crash (nytimes.com) 123

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: Uber's robotic vehicle project was not living up to expectations months before a self-driving car operated by the company struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Ariz. The cars were having trouble driving through construction zones and next to tall vehicles, like big rigs. And Uber's human drivers had to intervene far more frequently than the drivers of competing autonomous car projects. Waymo, formerly the self-driving car project of Google, said that in tests on roads in California last year, its cars went an average of nearly 5,600 miles before the driver had to take control from the computer to steer out of trouble. As of March, Uber was struggling to meet its target of 13 miles per "intervention" in Arizona (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source), according to 100 pages of company documents obtained by The New York Times and two people familiar with the company's operations in the Phoenix area but not permitted to speak publicly about it. Yet Uber's test drivers were being asked to do more -- going on solo runs when they had worked in pairs. And there also was pressure to live up to a goal to offer a driverless car service by the end of the year and to impress top executives.

British Scientists Develop Wearable MRI Scanner (wcax.com) 27

British scientists have invented a new type of brain scanner that patients can wear on their head allowing them to move while being tested. "Neuroscientists will be able to envisage a whole new world of experiments where we try to work out what a brain is doing but whilst a person is behaving naturally," said Matt Brookes, a physicist at the University of Nottinham. CBS reports: The device, which looks like a prop from a budget sci-fi movie or phantom of the opera, is in fact the latest thing in brain scanning. "I think in terms of mapping brain activity, brain function, this represents a step change," said Brookes. Because you can do this while wearing it -- play bat and ball, or even drink a cup of tea. It was at Nottingham University in the early 70s that the MRI was first developed. Now the wearable 'MEG' system has the potential to open a whole new field of brain scanning. The scanner records the magnetic field produced by brain activity and can show precisely where in the brain these movements are being controlled. The area of the brain shown in blue is where wrist and arm movements are controlled while playing bat and ball.

One Startup is Using Phone Calls and Other Inexpensive Means To Save TB Patients (microsoft.com) 24

Tuberculosis (TB) is one of most common causes of death globally. In 2016 alone, more than 10.4 million people fell sick to TB and 1.7 million TB-related deaths were reported. The WHO says India, in particular, and developing markets, in general, lead the count for the occurrence of TB in the world even as the local authorities provide free and effective medications to anyone who is ill. From a report: "One of the biggest barriers to recovery from TB is medication adherence," explains Microsoft Researcher Bill Thies, who is also the Chairman and Co-founder of Everwell Health Solutions, a Bangalore-based healthcare start-up. "Patients have to take daily drugs for a full six months, or else they do not fully recover, and are at risk of developing drug resistance. While medication adherence might sound like a simple problem, it turns out to be an enormously complex and heavily studied multi-disciplinary problem. If patients start feeling better after a few weeks, how can we convince them to take toxic drugs for another five months -- especially if patients have little or no understanding of germs and antibiotic resistance?"

The popular recommended practice to ensure medication adherence is Directly Observed Treatment or DOTS, which involves the patients going to a healthcare centre where they ingest the medication in front of a health worker. As it was implemented at the start of their work, patients needed to visit the centre three times per week for the first two months and once a week for the remaining four months. The system involves an unnecessary burden on the patients, who are typically from low-income groups -- every visit means travel expense and loss of work.
There are ways to ensure that a patient has taken medication on time -- we have things like smart pills, and you can send texts to people to remind them about the pills -- but in places like India, these solutions are beyond the reach of people. So in 2013, Thies and his colleagues, along with Microsoft Research Program Manager and TEM collaborator, started a project called 99DOTS to explore if any low-cost tech solution could be employed. They did find one, and it involves making a "missed call" to people. Here's the fascinating story of what happened next.
The Military

Britain's Plan To Build a 2,000 Foot Aircraft Carrier Almost Entirely From Ice (bbc.com) 50

dryriver writes from a report via the BBC: In World War 2, Britain was losing the Battle of the Atlantic, with German U-boats sinking ship after ship. Enter Project Habakkuk, the incredible plan to build an aircraft carrier from ice. The British government wanted a better way of battling German U-boats and needed an aircraft carrier invulnerable to torpedoes and bombs. Inventor Geoffrey Pyke came up with the idea of using solid blocks of ice, strengthened with sawdust, creating the material Pykrete, to build a ship big enough for bombers to land on. Winston Churchill became interested in the plan after Pyke pitched it to him. The proposed ship was to be 610 meters (2,013 feet) long and weigh 1.8 Million tons, considerably larger and heavier than today's biggest ships. It would have hull armor 12 meters (40 feet) thick. Work on building a proof-of-concept prototype started at Patricia Lake, Canada. But when it became clear that the finished aircraft carrier would take until 1945 to build, and cost 10 million pounds, the British government cancelled the project in 1943, and the prototype in Canada was scuppered.

New York Councilman Proposes Bill That Would Grant NYC Workers 'Right To Disconnect' (vice.com) 68

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: New York City councilman Rafael Espinal released a "Right to Disconnect" bill on Thursday, advocating for the rights of employees to stop answering work-related emails and other digital messages, like texts, after official work hours. "Our work lives have spilled into our personal lives because of technology," he told me. "It's time we unblur and strike a clear line." Brooklyn-based Espinal said he got the idea from France, where a bill passed early last year by the Ministry of Labor requires companies of over 50 employees to define out-of-office email rules. He wanted to create a similar guideline so that workers would not be penalized for disconnecting after work hours. But that's France -- known for joie de vivre -- and this is New York, known for not sleeping.

Answering work emails after work hours, or during weekends, or on vacation, has become par for the course here, and across the US. Statistics rarely account for the extra hours spent managing post-office work -- by most official counts, Americans work the same number of hours -- around 39 to 47 per week -- just as we did in the 1950s. But those of us living it know this isn't true: technology has completely changed the way we work, and burnout is rampant among American workers. If Espinal were able to implement the bill, it would face similar challenges to its European counterparts. Critics say the legislation in France has no teeth, and companies are still allowed to define their own guidelines, leaving room for exploitation. And the New York version of the "Right to Disconnect" bill includes exemptions for jobs that require 24-hour on-call periods.


Spotify Says 2 Million Users Hacked Apps To Suppress Ads On Its Free Service (engadget.com) 52

Earlier this month, Spotify revealed that it had begun cracking down on people using hacked versions of apps. These apps allowed users with free accounts to suppress advertising and take advantage of paid features. Now, Spotify has disclosed just how many people have been taking advantage of this hack: around 2 million users. Engadget reports: That's not an insignificant number, and it's understandable why Spotify is cracking down on them. As the company explains in an amended F1 filing with the SEC this week, these users forced the company to adjust its metrics and key performance indicators. The disclosure notes, "Unauthorized access to our Service may cause us to misstate key performance indicators, which once discovered, corrected, and disclosed, could undermine investor confidence in the integrity of our key performance indicators and could cause our stock price to drop significantly." As a result, Spotify has adjusted its monthly active users from 159 million at the end of 2017 to 157 million.

Apple To Unveil a Cheaper iPad Next Week At Its Educational Event 55

Apple is holding an education-focused event on Tuesday where it's expected to launch a "low-cost iPad" alongside new education software. The goal is to win back students and teachers who have adopted similar products/services from rivals Google and Microsoft. Bloomberg reports: In its first major product event of the year, Apple will return to its roots in the education market. The event on Tuesday at Lane Technical College Prep High School in Chicago will mark the first time Apple has held a product launch geared toward education since 2012 when it unveiled a tool for designing e-books for the iPad. It's also a rare occasion for an Apple confab outside its home state of California. In Chicago, the world's most-valuable technology company plans to show off a new version of its cheapest iPad that should appeal to the education market, said people familiar with the matter. The company will also showcase new software for the classroom, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private plans. Apple declined to comment.

Facebook Gets Hit With Four Lawsuits Over Cambridge Analytica Scandal (sfgate.com) 77

Facebook has had a terrible week. Since it was revealed that political data firm Cambridge Analytica obtained information about 50 million Facebook users, the social media company has been in damage control mode, apologizing for its mistakes and conducting forensic audits to determine exactly what happened. SFGate reports today that Facebook "has been hit with four lawsuits in federal court in San Francisco and San Jose thus far this week." From the report: One lawsuit was filed by a Facebook user who claims the Menlo Park company acted with "absolute disregard" for her personal information after allegedly representing that it wouldn't disclose the data without permission or notice. That lawsuit, filed by Lauren Price of Maryland in San Jose on Tuesday, seeks to be a class action on behalf of up to 50 million people whose data was allegedly collected from Facebook by London-based Cambridge Analytica. The lawsuit says that during the 2016 election, Price was "frequently targeted with political ads while using Facebook." It seeks financial restitution for claims of unfair business practices and negligence. Both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica are named as defendants. Cambridge Analytica also announced today that the company will undergo an independent third-party audit to determine whether it still holds any data covertly obtained from Facebook users. "We take the disturbing recent allegations of unethical practices in our non-U.S. political business very seriously," CEO Alexander Tayler writes. "The Board has launched a full and independent investigation into SCL Elections' past practices, and its findings will be shared publicly."

UPDATE: Eighteen enforcement officers have entered the Cambridge Analytica headquarters in London's West End to search the premises after the data watchdog was granted a warrant to examine its records, reports The Guardian.

School Pays To Get an Algorithm To Scan Students' Social Media For Threats and Suicide Risks Posts (wbur.org) 72

When someone visits the buildings of Shawsheen Valley Technical High School in Billerica, as they walk through the secure foyer, they have to get their driver's license or another state-issued ID scanned. But the secure foyer does kind of a high-level national background check, too, explains Superintendent Tim Broadrick. From a report: The "LobbyGuard" scanner is the size of a computer tablet. It scans a driver's license, takes a picture of the school visitor and if all is OK with the person's background check, almost instantly clears the person to enter the school. An employee behind a window then pushes a button and unlocks the door to the school hallway. Amid nationwide concern about school shootings, there's talk at Shawsheen Tech of covering the wall of glass in the lobby with a special film to make it harder for a bullet to pierce. There's also a police officer -- known as a school resource officer -- stationed at the school. He has an office in the lobby. And the school has adopted another security measure to try to protect students from attacks -- one you can't see. It's a computer program designed to detect threats against the school in social media posts. And it runs 24/7.

"It's receiving and filtering and then gives us alerts when certain kinds of public communication are detected," Broadrick explains. Shawsheen Tech buys the social media scanning service from a Vermont-based company called Social Sentinel. It's one of many technology firms doing some form of social media scanning or monitoring. Social Sentinel claims it's the only one with expertise in protecting schools. Shawsheen Tech has about 1,300 students. It pays Social Sentinel approximately $10,000 per year, according to Broadrick.


Firefox In 2018: We'll Tackle Bad Ads, Breach Alerts, Autoplay Video, Says Mozilla (zdnet.com) 73

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: Firefox maker Mozilla has outlined its 2018 roadmap to make the web less intrusive and safer for users. First up, Mozilla says it will proceed and implement last year's experiment with a breach alerts service, which will warn users when their credentials have been leaked or stolen in a data breach. Mozilla aims to roll out the service around October. Breach Alerts is based on security consultant Troy Hunt's data breach site Have I Been Pwned. Firefox will also implement a similar block on autoplay video to the one Chrome 66 will introduce next month, and that Safari already has. However, Dotzler says Firefox's implementation will "provide users with a way to block video auto-play that doesn't break websites". This feature is set to arrive in Firefox 62, which is scheduled for release in May.

After Firefox 62 the browser will gain an optional Chrome-like ad filter and several privacy-enhancing features similar to those that Apple's WebKit developers have been working on for Safari's Intelligent Tracking Prevention. By the third quarter of 2018, Firefox should also be blocking ad-retargeting through cross-domain tracking. It's also going to move all key privacy controls into a single location in the browser, and offer more "fine-grained" tracking protection. Dotzler says Mozilla is in the "early stages" of determining what types of ads Firefox should block by default. Also on the roadmap is a feature that arrived in Firefox 59, released earlier this month. A new Global Permissions feature will help users avoid having to deny every site that requests permission for location, camera, microphone and notifications. Beyond security and privacy, Mozilla plans to build on speed-focused Quantum improvements that came in Firefox 57 with smoother page rendering.


EA Created An AI That Taught Itself To Play Battlefield (kotaku.com) 49

Electronic Arts' Search for Extraordinary Experiences (SEED) Division has created a "self-learning AI-agent" that has managed to teach itself how to play Battlefield 1 multiplayer. From a report: In this blog post, Magnus Nordin from SEED details how his team, inspired by Google's work with old Atari games, wondered "how much effort it would take to have a self-learning agent learn to play a modern and more complex first person AAA game like Battlefield." So they tried to find out. The results are an "agent" that, while inferior to human players, "is pretty proficient at the basic Battlefield gameplay." The agent changes behaviour if it's low on health or ammo, and while more complex behaviours like knowing the details of each map are beyond it (at the moment), EA has found that "while the human players outperformed the agents, it wasn't a complete blowout by any stretch."

Ask Slashdot: Is Beaming Down In Star Trek a Death Sentence? 397

Artem Tashkinov writes: Some time ago, Ars Technica ran a monumental article on beaming of consciousness in Star Trek and its implications, and more importantly, whether it's plausible to achieve that without killing a person in the process.

It seems possible in the Star Trek universe. However, currently physicists find the idea absurd and unreal because there's no way you can transport matter and its quantum state without first destroying it and then recreating it perfectly, due to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. The biggest conundrum of all is the fact that pretty much everyone understands that consciousness is a physical state of the brain, which features continuity as its primary principle; yet it surely seems like copying the said state produces a new person altogether, which brings up the problem of consciousness becoming local to one's skull and inseparable from gray matter. This idea sounds a bit unscientific because it introduces the notion that there's something about our brain which cannot be described in terms of physics, almost like soul.

This also brings another very difficult question: how do we know if we are the same person when we wake up in the morning or after we were put under during general anesthesia? What are your thoughts on the topic?

Some Galaxy S9/S9+ Units Have Large Dead Zones On the Touchscreen (androidpolice.com) 30

hyperclocker shares a report from Android Police: The touchscreen on your phone is the primary way you interact with it, so it absolutely needs to work. That makes problems like so-called "dead zones" or ignored/unregistered inputs among the most annoying out there. Based on reports, many are running into those types of touchscreen input problems with Samsung's Galaxy S9+. It's tough to tell precisely how common the problem might be. Few users are as apt to report issues as Pixel-purchasers, so we can't quite compare things against our coverage for Google's hardware. But from what we have seen in places like Reddit, it's reasonably widespread. The problem manifests as you'd expect: a chunk of the touchscreen's digitizer just doesn't seem to work. Interestingly, not all users are reporting issues with the same physical areas of the display. For some, it's the top of the screen that isn't accepting input -- resulting in an inability to pull down the notification tray -- but for others, it's the bottom of the screen that's wonking out in the traditional keyboard input area. A few people have been able to diminish the effect by cranking up the touchscreen sensitivity, and there's at least one report of a factory reset fixing things. But for many, the problem persists between wipes. Worse, some people with the problem have experienced further issues seeking help via Samsung's support process if a trade-in was involved. Samsung has released a statement concerning these reports: "At Samsung, customer satisfaction is core to our business and we aim to deliver the best possible experience. We are looking into a limited number of reports of Galaxy S9/S9+ touchscreen responsiveness issues. We are working with affected customers and investigating. We encourage any customer with questions to contact us directly at 1-800-SAMSUNG."

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