Math

How Algorithms May Affect You (phys.org) 85

New submitter Muckluck shares an excerpt from a report via Phys.Org that provides "an interesting look at how algorithms may be shaping your life": When you browse online for a new pair of shoes, pick a movie to stream on Netflix or apply for a car loan, an algorithm likely has its word to say on the outcome. The complex mathematical formulas are playing a growing role in all walks of life: from detecting skin cancers to suggesting new Facebook friends, deciding who gets a job, how police resources are deployed, who gets insurance at what cost, or who is on a "no fly" list. Algorithms are being used -- experimentally -- to write news articles from raw data, while Donald Trump's presidential campaign was helped by behavioral marketers who used an algorithm to locate the highest concentrations of "persuadable voters." But while such automated tools can inject a measure of objectivity into erstwhile subjective decisions, fears are rising over the lack of transparency algorithms can entail, with pressure growing to apply standards of ethics or "accountability." Data scientist Cathy O'Neil cautions about "blindly trusting" formulas to determine a fair outcome. "Algorithms are not inherently fair, because the person who builds the model defines success," she said. Phys.Org cites O'Neil's 2016 book, "Weapons of Math Destruction," which provides some "troubling examples in the United States" of "nefarious" algorithms. "Her findings were echoed in a White House report last year warning that algorithmic systems 'are not infallible -- they rely on the imperfect inputs, logic, probability, and people who design them,'" reports Phys.Org. "The report noted that data systems can ideally help weed out human bias but warned against algorithms 'systematically disadvantaging certain groups.'"
Earth

Scientists Propose Plan To Re-Freeze the Arctic (inhabitat.com) 401

Kristine Lofgren writes: In case you've been under a rock for the past 20 years, the Arctic is melting super fast. Certain *ahem* governments are dragging their feet doing anything about it, which means the planet could be in for a spectacular meltdown within the next 20 years. But a clever bunch of scientists have hatched a plan to re-freeze the Arctic using wind-powered pumps that will bring water to the surface, allowing it to freeze. This new layer of ice could last well into the summer, which is vital, because scientists think summer Arctic ice could be gone by 2030 -- and that causes a whole chain of terrible events that will only make our climate change problem much, much worse. The plan has a $500 billion price tag, but that's pocket change compared to the cost of dealing with an ice-free Arctic. The study has been published in The American Geophysical Union's journal Earth's Future. You can read more about the study via The Guardian.
AT&T

Apple Will Fight 'Right To Repair' Legislation (vice.com) 310

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Apple is planning to fight proposed electronics "Right to Repair" legislation being considered by the Nebraska state legislature, according to a source within the legislature who is familiar with the bill's path through the statehouse. The legislation would require Apple and other electronics manufacturers to sell repair parts to consumers and independent repair shops, and would require manufacturers to make diagnostic and service manuals available to the public. Nebraska is one of eight states that are considering right to repair bills; last month, Nebraska, Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, Kansas, and Wyoming introduced legislation. Last week, lawmakers in Illinois and Tennessee officially introduced similar bills. According to the source, an Apple representative, staffer, or lobbyist will testify against the bill at a hearing in Lincoln on March 9. ATT will also argue against the bill, the source said. The source told me that at least one of the companies plans to say that consumers who repair their own phones could cause lithium batteries to catch fire. So far, Nebraska is the only state to schedule a hearing for its legislation.
Programming

Is IoT a Reason To Learn C? (cio.com) 374

itwbennett writes: Whether or not beginning programmers should learn C is a question that has been roundly debated on Slashdot and elsewhere. The general consensus seems to be that learning it will make you a better programmer -- and it looks good on your resume. But now there might be another reason to learn C: the rapid growth of the internet of things (IoT) could cause a spike in demand for C skills, according to Gartner analyst Mark Driver. "For traditional workloads there is no need to be counting the bytes like there used to be. But when it comes to IoT applications there is that need once again..."
Youtube

Disney, YouTube Cut Ties With PewDiePie, Top YouTube Submitter, Over Anti-Semitic Videos (techcrunch.com) 363

jo7hs2 writes: Disney's Maker Studios has cut ties PewDiePie, the YouTube submitter with 53 million subscribers, over anti-Semitic clips the submitter released earlier in the year. The clips, three videos published in January, have since been removed from the channel. According to TechCrunch, "They included one skit in which [Felix Kjellberg, PewDiePie's real name] paid a Sri Lanka-based group of men to hold up a sign that read 'Death to All Jews,' while another featured a clip of a man dressed as Jesus saying that 'Hitler did absolutely nothing wrong.' Kjellberg used freelance job finding site Fiverr for both clips. He argued that he wasn't serious with either and instead wanted to show the things people will do for money." A spokesperson for Maker Studios, which was acquired by Disney in 2014, told the Wall Street Journal, "Although Felix has created a following by being provocative and irreverent, he clearly went too far in this case and the resulting videos are inappropriate." Writing on his Tumblr blog, Kjellberg said the purpose of the examples was "to show how crazy the modern world is, specifically some of the services available online." He continued, "I picked something that seemed absurd to me -- That people on Fiverr would say anything for 5 dollars. I think it's important to say something and I want to make one thing clear: I am in no way supporting any kind of hateful attitudes."

UPDATE 2/14/17: YouTube has also cut ties with Kjellberg. A YouTube representative confirmed to Business Insider that the company has canceled its YouTube Red original show starring Kjellberg. Business Insider reports: "Kjellberg's show, 'Scare PewDiePie,' was a YouTube original accessible through the company's subscription service, YouTube Red. The show was about to premiere its second season. YouTube is also removing Kjellberg from Google's preferred advertising program, which helps the platform's most popular personalities attract bigger advertisers."
Facebook

Facebook To Autoplay Videos With Sound On By Default (androidandme.com) 116

Currently, Facebook videos autoplay on your News Feed as you scroll up and down. While they eat data and various resources, the saving grace is that they are silent -- that is, until now. Facebook has announced several new changes to its video platform today, including a setting that will autoplay videos with sound turned on by default. Android and Me reports: The audio of videos will fade in and out as you're scrolling through your feed. Fortunately, Facebook will at least make it so that audio won't autoplay if your phone is set to silent. If you're not a fan of this change, there will be a setting to turn audio autoplay off. The change is that it will now be on by default for everyone. Other feature introductions are larger previews for vertical videos, a picture-in-picture mode for videos so you can watch and continue scrolling (and even exit the app without interrupting the video on Android), and a Facebook Video app coming to smart TVs.
AI

AI Software Juggles Probabilities To Learn From Less Data (technologyreview.com) 49

moon_unit2 quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: You can, for instance, train a deep-learning algorithm to recognize a cat with a cat-fancier's level of expertise, but you'll need to feed it tens or even hundreds of thousands of images of felines, capturing a huge amount of variation in size, shape, texture, lighting, and orientation. It would be lot more efficient if, a bit like a person, an algorithm could develop an idea about what makes a cat a cat from fewer examples. A Boston-based startup called Gamalon has developed technology that lets computers do this in some situations, and it is releasing two products Tuesday based on the approach. Gamalon uses a technique that it calls Bayesian program synthesis to build algorithms capable of learning from fewer examples. Bayesian probability, named after the 18th century mathematician Thomas Bayes, provides a mathematical framework for refining predictions about the world based on experience. Gamalon's system uses probabilistic programming -- or code that deals in probabilities rather than specific variables -- to build a predictive model that explains a particular data set. From just a few examples, a probabilistic program can determine, for instance, that it's highly probable that cats have ears, whiskers, and tails. As further examples are provided, the code behind the model is rewritten, and the probabilities tweaked. This provides an efficient way to learn the salient knowledge from the data.
Microsoft

Microsoft Delays February Patch Tuesday Indefinitely (sans.edu) 88

UnderAttack writes: Microsoft today announced that it had to delay its February Patch Tuesday due to issues with a particular patch. This was also supposed to be the first Patch Tuesday using a new format, which led some to believe that even Microsoft had issues understanding how the new format is exactly going to work with no more simple bulletin summary and patches being released as large monolithic updates. Ars Technica notes the importance of this Patch Tuesday as "there's an in-the-wild zero-day flaw in SMB, Microsoft's file sharing protocol, that at the very least allows systems to be crashed." They also elaborate on the way Microsoft is "continuing to tune the way updates are delivered to Windows 7, 8.1, Server 2008 R2, Server 2012, and Server 2012 R2."
Businesses

New Office Sensors Know When You Leave Your Desk (bloomberg.com) 158

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: About a year ago, in a widely reported story, journalists at British newspaper the Telegraph found little black boxes installed under their desks. The devices, which had "OccupEye" emblazoned on them, detected if employees were at their workstations. Not shockingly, writers and editors were suspicious, worried that bosses were monitoring their moves, even their bathroom breaks. The National Union of Journalists complained to management about Big Brother-style surveillance. The company insisted the boxes were intended to reduce energy costs, ensuring that empty cubicles weren't overheated or over-air-conditioned, but the damage was done, and the devices were removed. Sensors that keep tabs on more than temperature are already all over offices -- they're just less conspicuous and don't have names that suggest Bond villains. "Most people, when they walk into buildings, don't even notice them," says Joe Costello, chief executive officer of Enlighted, whose sensors, he says, are collecting data at more than 350 companies, including 15 percent of the Fortune 500. They're hidden in lights, ID badges, and elsewhere, tracking things such as conference room usage, employee whereabouts, and "latency" -- how long someone goes without speaking to another co-worker. Proponents claim the goal is efficiency: Some sensors generate heat maps that show how people move through an office, to help maximize space; others, such as OccupEye, tap into HVAC systems.
Canada

Canada Remains a 'Safe Haven' For Online Piracy, Rightsholders Claim (torrentfreak.com) 134

The MPAA, RIAA and other entertainment industry groups are calling out Canada, claiming that it remains a "safe haven" for copyright infringers and pirate sites, reports TorrentFreak. From the article: One of the main criticisms is that, despite having been called out repeatedly in the past, the country still offers a home to many pirate sites. "For a number of years, extending well into the current decade, Canada had a well-deserved reputation as a safe haven for some of the most massive and flagrant Internet sites dedicated to the online theft of copyright material," IIPA writes. Another disturbing development, according to IIPA, is the emergence of stand-alone BitTorrent applications that allow users to stream content directly through an attractive and user-friendly interface, hinting at Popcorn Time. In addition to the traditional pirate sites that remain in Canada, IIPA reports that several websites offering modified game console gear have also moved there in an attempt to escape liability under U.S. law.
Transportation

Big Week For Drones: Dubai Permits Passenger-Carrying Drone; Kenya Finally Approves Commercial Use (apnews.com) 47

It's shaping up to be a major week for drone enthusiasts. A pilot-less drone designed to carry one passenger at a time is set to start making regular trips in Dubai later this year. In some other news, Kenya has joined the neighbor Rwanda in opening up its skies for commercial drone use. From an AP report: Up, up and away: Dubai hopes to have a passenger-carrying drone regularly buzzing through the skyline of this futuristic city-state in July. The arrival of the Chinese-made EHang 184 -- which already has had its flying debut over Dubai's iconic, sail-shaped Burj al-Arab skyscraper hotel -- comes as the Emirati city also has partnered with other cutting-edge technology companies, including Hyperloop One. The question is whether the egg-shaped, four-legged craft will really take off as a transportation alternative in this car-clogged city already home to the world's longest driverless metro line. From a Quartz report: Flying a drone will soon be legal in Kenya, which has effectively banned the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for anyone outside of the military for the past two years. A spokesperson for the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) said that draft regulations for the commercial use of drones had been approved by security officials. The agency said details of the law would be released soon. The approval comes as regulators elsewhere in Africa have tightened restrictions on UAVs. In Ghana, flying an unregistered drone is punishable by up to 30 years in jail. In Nigeria, operators require permits from the aviation authority as well as the office of the National Security Adviser (the process of getting a permit costs up to $4,000).
China

Around 2.2 Million Deaths in a Year in India and China From Air Pollution (cnbc.com) 123

India is on the verge of overtaking China as the country with the most deaths caused by air pollution, the world's biggest environmental killer, according to research published on Tuesday. From a report: The State of Global Air 2017 report states that extensive, long-term exposure to fine particulate matter contributed to more than four million premature deaths in 2015. The report is a joint effort between the Health Effects Institute and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evalution's Global Burden of Disease Project. "We are seeing increasing air pollution problems worldwide," Dan Greenbaum, president of the Health Effects Institute, said in a statement. "The trends we report show that we have seen progress in some parts of the world -- but serious challenges remain," Greenbaum went on to add. The report's analysis showed that India -- with extra exposure and its aging population -- now competes with China in terms of air pollution health burdens. Both countries saw around 1.1 million early deaths due to air pollution in 2015.
Facebook

Facebook is Bringing Its Social Network To TV, Video App Announced For Apple's and Amazon's Set-Top Boxes (recode.net) 21

Facebook is making perhaps its biggest push yet to turn the social network into a destination for watching video with a new Facebook Video app for smart TVs. From a report on Recode: The social network on Tuesday announced a new app for set-top boxes, including Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and the Samsung Smart TV. The app will let you watch the same kinds of video you can already find on Facebook, but (presumably) on a much larger screen. Dan Rose, Facebook's VP of Partnerships, announced the new app at the Code Media conference at the Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point, Calif. The new app, which will launch "soon," gives Facebook yet another way to reach consumers interested in videos and, most likely, another platform to sell video ads.
Microsoft

Microsoft Calls For 'Digital Geneva Convention' (usatoday.com) 148

Microsoft is calling for a digital Geneva Convention to outline protections for civilians and companies from government-sponsored cyberattacks. In comments Tuesday at the RSA security industry conference in San Francisco, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said the rising trend of government entities wielding the internet as a weapon was worrying. From a report on USA Today: In the cyber realm, tech must be committed to "100% defense and zero percent offense," Smith said at the opening keynote at the RSA computer security conference. Smith called for a "digital Geneva Convention," like the one created in the aftermath of World War II which set ground rules for how conduct during wartime, defining basic rights for civilians caught up armed conflicts. In the 21st century such rules are needed "to commit governments to protect civilians from nation-state attacks in times of peace," a draft of Smith's speech released to USA TODAY said. This digital Geneva Convention would establish protocols, norms and international processes for how tech companies would deal with cyber aggression and attacks of nations aimed at civilian targets, which appears to effectively mean anything but military servers.
Businesses

Delays, Confusion as Toshiba Reports $6 Billion Nuclear Hit and Slides To Loss (reuters.com) 88

Makiko Yamazaki, reporting for Reuters: After a day of delays and confusion, Japan's Toshiba said on Tuesday it expected to book a $6.3 billion hit to its U.S. nuclear unit, a writedown that wipes out its shareholder equity and will drag the group to a full-year loss. Hours earlier on Tuesday, the battered conglomerate rattled investors by failing to release its earnings on schedule, saying initially it was 'not ready' and then announcing later it needed more time to probe its Westinghouse nuclear business after internal reports uncovered potential problems. The figures eventually released were numbers that have yet to be approved by its auditor and Toshiba cautioned investors that a major revision was possible. Fully audited numbers are now not due till March 14 after the firm was granted a reprieve for its formal filing by Japanese regulators. "Finally now people are starting to recognize that internal control problems, the accounting issues and governance issues are very real and no longer abstract," said Zuhair Khan, an analyst at Jefferies in Tokyo. "They impact the viability of the company."
XBox (Games)

Microsoft's 'Forza' Video Game Francise Tops $1 Billion in Sales (xbox.com) 35

Here's another area where Microsoft, whose cloud services are doing very well, continues to make a lot of money: video games. Microsoft has minted its fifth billion-dollar video-game franchise. The "Forza" racing series in December topped $1 billion in lifetime sales since the first game's release 12 years ago, Microsoft said. From company's blogpost: As of December, more than 14 million unique players were involved in the Forza community on Xbox One and Windows 10, the award-winning Forza Horizon 3 sold through 2.5 million units, and Forza continued its run as the best-selling racing franchise of this console generation. Additionally, our online racing community expanded significantly: over three million players joined us online each month and we launched the Forza Racing Championship, an eSports league for players of all skill levels to compete for glory and real-world prizes. "Since the beginning, Forza has combined stunning graphics, racing's leading simulation engine, and an emphasis on fun and accessibility," said Phil Spencer, head of Xbox. "With the Forza series, Turn 10 Studios has built the world's largest racing community. We couldn't be more proud of their success." Other game franchises in Microsoft's billion-dollar club are "Halo," "Minecraft," "Gears of War", and "Age of Empires".
Cloud

Microsoft Launches Outlook.com Premium Email Service, Costs $20 Per Year (thurrott.com) 81

Outlook.com Premium email service, which Microsoft began testing in October, is now available to all. You get the following features with this paid service, via a report: Outlook.com Premium provides a number of useful features: (1) Custom domain support for five users.

(2) Information sharing: Outlook Premium helps you easily share calendars, contacts, and documents (via OneDrive) between those five users.

(3) Ad-free inbox: Like Ad-Free Outlook.com, Outlook Premium offers no "banner ads" for a "distraction-free view of your email, photos, and documents."

Hardware

Iconic Feature Phone Nokia 3310 Coming Back this Month, VentureBeat Says (venturebeat.com) 95

The iconic Nokia 3310 feature phone is all set for a return, according to a report. VentureBeat adds: HMD Global Oy, the Finnish manufacturer with exclusive rights to market phones under the storied Nokia brand, is planning to announce four such handsets at Mobile World Congress later this month, according to a person briefed on the company's plans. Known primarily for its plentiful battery life and nearly indestructible build, the 3310 was released at the turn of the millennium as a replacement to the also-popular 3210.
Businesses

Skype Gets A New Competitor: Amazon Announces Chime (geekwire.com) 88

Amazon has released new service to make voice and video calls and share screen. Called Chime, the service is aimed at business users. It directly competes with well-known players such as Skype, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, Zoom, and Cisco's WebEx, among others. From a report: Amazon Web Services today unveiled Chime, a new service that it says takes the "frustration out of meetings" by delivering video, voice, chat, and screen sharing. Instead of forcing participants to call one another on a dedicated line, Amazon Chime automatically calls all participants at the start of a meeting, so "joining a meeting is as easy as clicking a button in the app, no PIN required," the company said in a press release. Chime also shows a visual roster of participants, and allows participants to pinpoint who exactly on the call is creating annoying background noise.
Databases

Story Of a Country Which Has Built a Centralized Biometrics Database Of 1.1B People But Appears To Be Mishandling It Now (mashable.com) 60

In a bid to get more Indians to have a birth certificate or any sort of ID card, India announced Aadhaar project in 2009. At the time, there were more Indians without these ID cards than those with. As a result of this, much of the government funding for the citizens were disappearing before they could see them. But according to several security experts, lawyers, politicians and journalists, the government is using poor security practices, and this is exposing the biometrics data -- photo, name, address, fingerprint, iris info -- of people at risk. More than 1.1 billion people -- and 99 percent of all adults -- in India have enrolled themselves to the system. From a report: "There are two fundamental flaws in Aadhaar: it is poorly designed, and it is being poorly verified," Member of Parliament and privacy advocate, Rajeev Chandrasekhar told Mashable India. Another issue with Aadhaar is, Chandrasekhar explains, there is no firm legislation to safeguard the privacy and rights of the billion people who have enrolled into the system. There's little a person whose Aadhaar data has been compromised could do. [...] "Aadhaar is remote, covert, and non-consensual," he told Mashable India, adding the existence of a central database of any kind, but especially in the context of the Aadhaar, and at the scale it is working is appalling. Abraham said fingerprint and iris data of a person can be stolen with little effort -- a "gummy bear" which sells for a few cents, can store one's fingerprint, while a high-resolution camera can capture one's iris data. The report goes on to say that the Indian government is also not telling how the data is being shared with private companies. Experts cited in the story have expressed concerns that those companies (some of which are run by people who were previously members of the team which designed the framework of Aadhaar) can store and create a parallel database of their own. On top of that, the government is making Aadhaar mandatory for availing several things including registration for nation-wide examinations, but in the beginning it promised Aadhaar will be used only to help poor get grocery at subsidized prices.
Transportation

Father of Driver In Violent Tesla Crash Blames Sedan's 'Rocket-Ship' Acceleration (autoweek.com) 641

"A Tesla crash that resulted in the deaths of the driver and a passenger in Indianapolis last November is drawing new controversy after the father of one of the victims made comments regarding the role of the Model S in the incident," Autoweek reports. "The crash occurred in downtown Indianapolis on Nov. 3, 2016, with the Model S driven by 27-year-old Casey Speckman striking a tree and catching fire. Speckman was pronounced dead at the scene while her passenger, 44-year-old Kevin McCarthy, succumbed to his injuries after being taken to the hospital." From the report: A report released last week by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department disclosed that Speckman had a blood-alcohol level of 0.21, almost three times the legal limit in the state of Indiana, The Indianapolis Star reports. Another new detail has emerged since the violent crash was first reported: The Tesla could have been been trying to maneuver around a vehicle traveling on the wrong side of the street, suggested by closed-circuit footage obtained by the attorney of the driver's father, Jon Speckman. The coroner's report cited blunt-force injuries caused by the crash as the causes of death for both victims, noting the vehicle's fire as a contributing factor, according to The Indianapolis Star. Jon Speckman recently made comments to the newspaper blaming the acceleration of the Tesla Model S. "Had she been in another vehicle, she would have been alive for me to yell at her for driving after drinking," Speckman told The Indianapolis Star in an interview at his attorney's office. "This is a vehicle that travels from 0 to 60 in 3.1 seconds," Speckman also said during the interview. "She's clearly having to swerve to miss a vehicle going the wrong way on a one-way street. If her foot should happen to hit the accelerator, it's like a rocket ship. I don't know why they have to make a car that does that."
Communications

US National Weather Service Suffered 'Catastrophic' Outage; Website Stopped Sending Forecasts, Warnings (miamiherald.com) 100

jo7hs2 quotes a report from Miami Herald: On a day when a blizzard is pasting Maine and Northern California faces a dire flooding threat, several of the National Weather Service's primary systems for sending out alerts to the public have failed. As of approximately 1:15 p.m. Eastern Time, products from the National Weather Service ceased disseminating over the internet, including forecasts, warnings and current conditions. The Weather Service's public-facing website, Weather.gov, has not posted updated information since the outage began. Ryan Hickman, chief technology officer for Allison House, a weather data provider, called the situation "catastrophic." Hickman said two core routers for transmitting information from the Weather Service offices out to satellites, which beam the information back to public service providers, had stopped working. Hickman added that another backup system known as the Emergency Managers Weather Information Network (EMWIN) was also not operating.

Slashdot reader jo7hs2 notes: "The systems are back up as of Monday evening."

Security

Michael Flynn Resigns As Trump's National Security Adviser (go.com) 895

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC News: President Donald Trump's embattled national security adviser Michael Flynn, who faced questions about a call to the Russian ambassador prior to the inauguration, has resigned. Retired Army General Keith Kellogg was named acting national security adviser to replace Flynn. ABC News reported Monday that Flynn called Vice President Mike Pence on Friday to apologize for misleading him about his conversation with the ambassador in November. Flynn previously denied that he spoke about sanctions the U.S. imposed on Russia for its suspected interference in the 2016 election, a claim repeated by Pence in January. An administration official later claimed Pence was relying on information provided to him by Flynn. In his resignation later, Flynn cited the "fast pace of events" for "inadvertently" briefing "the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding [his] phone calls with the Russian Ambassador." You can view Flynn's full resignation letter, as provided by the White House, here.

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