China

China Is On Track To Fully Phase Out Cash (vice.com) 212

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via Motherboard: Experts believe it won't be long before China, the first country to introduce paper money, becomes the first to go totally cashless. In a poky sex toy shop in Sanlitun shopping district in central Beijing, a placard with a QR code is strategically placed next to a pink, vein-knobbled dildo called the Super Emperor, and a clitoral pump. Just scan your phone, and walk out with your purchase. The cigarette vendor across the street accepts smartphone payments too. A fast-moving queue of customers purchase smokes by scanning their phones over a tatty cardboard QR code. All the bars in Sanlitun, equal parts seedy and swish, still take cash, but have likewise implemented cashless pay, largely through the ubiquitous WeChat and Alipay app, as primary payment platforms. Beijing taxi drivers accept smartphone payments too. No one in the area uses physical money, for sex toys or otherwise. Largely due to China's vibrant fintech landscape, the recent rise of phone payments in the country has shunted cash onto the endangered list, perhaps somewhere alongside the pangolin. Many experts believe it won't be long before China, the first country to introduce paper money, also becomes the first to phase it out to become fully cashless. But when will this moment come?
Science

Human Sense of Smell Rivals That of Dogs, Says Study (theguardian.com) 143

One scientific analysis is arguing that the human sense of smell has not only been underestimated over the years, but that it may rival that of dogs and rodents. John McGann, a neuroscientist at Rutgers University in New Jersey and the paper's author, said: "For so long people failed to stop and question this claim, even people who study the sense of smell for a living. The fact is the sense of smell is just as good in humans as in other mammals, like rodents and dogs." McGann has reached this unexpected conclusion after spending 14 years studying the olfactory system. The Guardian reports: McGann identifies a 19th century brain surgeon, Paul Broca, as the primary culprit for introducing the notion of inferior human olfaction into the scientific literature. Broca noted that the olfactory bulb -- the brain region that processes odor detection -- is smaller, relative to total brain volume, in people compared with dogs or rats. The discovery inspired Freud's belief that human sexual repression may be linked to our "usually atrophied" sense of smell. In the latest paper, published in Science, McGann points out that in absolute terms the human olfactory bulb is bigger than in many mammals and a literature search revealed that the absolute number olfactory neurons is remarkably consistent across mammals. McGann goes on to deconstruct other metrics that have been used to support the idea that human smelling abilities are limited. Humans have approximately 1,000 odor receptor genes, for instance, compared to 1,100 in mice, which some had taken as confirmation of mouse superiority. However, other work suggests there is not a tight relationship between the number of olfactory genes and smelling ability. One study found that cows have 2,000 such genes - far more than dogs.
The Internet

Cable Lobby Survey Backfires; Most Americans Support Net Neutrality (consumerist.com) 119

New submitter Rick Schumann writes from a report via Consumerist: The NCTA hired polling firm Morning Consult to survey people about their attitudes toward net neutrality. In the results and a blog post about the survey, the organization crows that clearly, everyone thinks regulation is bad. Here's the "TL;DR" version: The NCTA claims Americans want "light touch" regulation of the "internet," but did not ask about regulation of internet service providers. The survey claims most voters believe regulation will harm innovation and investment, but their own numbers show that just as many people believe it won't. Most people don't believe the internet should be regulated like a "public utility," which is good because that's not what net neutrality does. When people were asked their feelings about what neutrality actually does, they overwhelmingly support it.
Android

Google Maps Now Uses Street View To Show You Exactly Where To Make Turns (theverge.com) 25

Google Maps has received a small design update that will show Street View images of every road you're supposed to turn onto. "If you tap the image, Street View will open up to that location, showing an arrow in the direction you're meant to turn," reports The Verge. From the report: It's a small change, but it could make a difference at confusing intersections or for people (like me) who are very bad with street names. The change was spotted by Android Police. Unfortunately, the images display as tiny thumbnails until you tap to open them up, so while the addition is definitely helpful, it's not quite glanceable information -- you'll definitely have to tap to open every turn that you want to see in detail. The feature only appears to be on Android for now. But Google's iOS app usually has the same look and features, so it may just be a matter of time before it gets updated. Android Police also points out that Google changed the bottom navigation bar when getting directions. It takes up a bit more of the screen now, but it's also a bit more explicit about what tapping certain things will do. Altogether, seems like a smart change.
The Almighty Buck

Gorilla Glass Maker Corning Gets $200 Million From Apple's US Manufacturing Investment Fund (techcrunch.com) 34

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Apple made news and scored some positive PR earlier this month when the company announced a $1 billion fund aimed at investing in U.S.-based manufacturing. Now it's ready to announce the first big investment from its Advanced Manufacturing Fund. New York-based Corning Incorporated will be receiving $200 million from the tech giant's coffers, money that will go toward its Harrodsburg, Kentucky R&D facility. Corning is a logical first choice for Apple. The two companies have worked closely for roughly a decade, when Apple first pushed Corning to create a chemically strengthened glass for the iPhone. The resulting product, Gorilla Glass, has since become the standard for nearly every smartphone maker out there. As Apple helpfully adds in a news release touting the funding, the relationship thus far "has created and sustained nearly 1,000 U.S. jobs across Corning's R&D, manufacturing and commercial functions, including over 400 in Harrodsburg." And indeed, aside from a brief dalliance with synthetic sapphire crystal a couple of years back, it's been a pretty fruitful partnership.
Security

Wana Decryptor Ransomware Using NSA Exploit Leaked By Shadow Brokers To Spread Ransomware Worldwide (threatpost.com) 197

msm1267 quotes a report from Threatpost: A ransomware attack running rampant through Europe today is spreading via an exploit leaked in the most recent Shadow Brokers dump. Researchers said the attackers behind today's outbreak of WannaCry ransomware are using EternalBlue, an exploit made public by the mysterious group in possession of offensive hacking tools allegedly developed by the NSA. Most of the attacks are concentrated in Russia, but machines in 74 countries have been infected; researchers at Kaspersky Lab said they've recorded more than 45,000 infections so far on their sensors, and expect that number to climb. Sixteen National Health Service (NHS) organizations in the U.K., several large telecommunications companies and utilities in Spain, and other business throughout Europe have been infected. Critical services are being interrupted at hospitals across England, and in other locations, businesses are shutting down IT systems. An anonymous Slashdot reader adds: Ransomware scum are using an SMB exploit leaked by the Shadow Brokers last month to fuel a massive ransomware outbreak that exploded online today, making victims all over the world in huge numbers. The ransomware's name is Wana Decrypt0r, but is also referenced online under various names, such as WannaCry, WannaCrypt0r, WannaCrypt, or WCry. The ransomware is using the ETERNALBLUE exploit, which uses a vulnerability in the SMBv1 protocol to infect vulnerable computers left exposed online. Microsoft issued a patch for this vulnerability last March, but there are already 36,000 Wana Decrypt0r victims all over the globe, due to the fact they failed to install it. Until now, the ransomware has laid waste to many Spanish companies, healthcare organizations in the UK, Chinese universities, and Russian government agencies. According to security researchers, the scale of this ransomware outbreak is massive and never-before-seen.
UPDATE: The Guardian reports that "An 'accidental hero' has halted the global spread of the WannaCry ransomware" by discovering a kill switch involving "a very long nonsensical domain name that the malware makes a request to." By registering that domain, the spread of the ransomware was effectively halted.
Transportation

Elon Musk Posts New Video of 'Boring' Equipment and Company's First Tunnel (cnbc.com) 118

Elon Musk has posted a new video and several pictures of equipment that will be used to start digging tunnels beneath Los Angeles. There's a picture of boring machine segments that are being lowered into the start tunnel at SpaceX, a front view of the tunnel, an inside view of the tunnel, and a picture of the front of the boring machine that will cut through underground rock. Additionally, the video shows a version of the "skate" that will cary cars through the tunnel at a speed of 125 mph. CNBC reports: The project is one of Musk's latest ventures, which was inspired by a desire to alleviate "out of control" traffic in Los Angeles. He aims to first dig a tunnel from SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, to the nearby Los Angeles airport. Musk frequently flies from Los Angeles to the San Francisco area, where he runs Tesla. Eventually, he envisions a deep, multilayered network of underground tunnels spanning the city.
Software

Fiat Chrysler Recalls 1.3 Million Ram Pickups For Fatal Software Problem (cnn.com) 101

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNNMoney: Fiat Chrysler is recalling 1.3 million pickup trucks because of a software problem that may be tied to at least one death and two injuries. The problem could disable side airbags from deploying and seat belts from tightening in a rollover accident. If there is a significant impact on the truck's underbody, Fiat Chrysler says the truck's safety system could incorrectly conclude that a sensor underneath the truck has failed. If a sensor does fail, the truck's safety system is designed to suppress the airbags from deploying and seat belts from tightening when they are not supposed to. That's why there is a risk if there is a subsequent rollover. The good news is the driver should be alerted to this problem by a instrument cluster warning light. If the light comes on, drivers should then turn the truck off, and then turn the key back into the on/run position to verify that the light is no longer on. They should also follow instructions on their recall notice. The report notes that the affected vehicles include the 2013-16 Ram 1500 and 2500 pickups, and 2014-2016 Ram 3500 pickups.
Movies

Going After Netflix, Cannes Bans Streaming-Only Movies From Competition Slots (slate.com) 136

An anonymous reader writes: The Cannes Film Festival is taking a stand against Netflix. Responding to a rumor that the streaming service's Okja, directed by Bong Joon Ho, and The Meyerowitz Stories, directed by Noah Baumbach, would be excluded from awards consideration after being included in the Competition lineup, the festival released a statement clarifying and adjusting its positioning going forward. The short version: From now on, if you want to compete at Cannes, your movie had better be released in French movie theaters -- not just online. There has long been a point of tension between Cannes and Netflix, to the extent where the inclusion of Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories came as a bit of a surprise. Netflix films had previously been snubbed and festival officials had advocated for "discouraging" the streaming service's online-first approach to release. The two movies included in Cannes' lineup this year are slated for theatrical bows stateside, but according to the festival's official statement, "no agreement has been reached" to get the moves into French cinemas and the effort to reach one was made "in vain." However, the statement does clarify that this rule goes into effect next year, so Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories will remain in competition and eligible for the Palme d'Or.
Businesses

Intel's Itanium CPUs, Once a Play For 64-bit Servers And Desktops, Are Dead (arstechnica.com) 138

Reader WheezyJoe writes: Four new 9700-series Itanium CPUs will be the last and final Itaniums Intel will ship. For those who might have forgotten, Itanium and its IA-64 architecture was intended to be Intel's successor to 32-bit i386 architecture back in the early 2000's. Developed in conjunction with HP, IA-64 used a new architecture developed at HP that, while capable as a server platform, was not backward-compatible with i386 and required emulation to run i386-compiled software. With the release of AMD's Opteron in 2003 featuring their alternative, fully backward-compatible X86-64 architecture, interest in Itanium fell, and Intel eventually adopted AMD's technology for its own chips and X86-64 is now dominant today. In spite of this, Itanium continued to be made and sold for the server market, supported in part by an agreement with HP. With that deal expiring this year, these new Itaniums will be Intel's last.
Music

The Failed Experiment of the Digital Album Booklet (theoutline.com) 82

An anonymous reader writes: Before the ubiquity of MP3s and streaming platforms, one of the many small joys of buying a new album on CD was slipping the booklet out of the jewel case and reading the liner notes, credits, and lyrics while the music played for the first time. These days, the biographical information, album production notes, promotional photos, and printed lyrics that fans once relied on physical literature for have found homes in other areas online. Artist websites, social media accounts, and sites like Genius and WhoSampled offer a patchwork of album information, like credits and clues to what happened behind the scenes. But those details rarely exist in one place, and production and songwriting credits seem less and less important. Meanwhile, the form that was intended to replace the traditional booklet, the digital booklet, remains a rarity when it comes to new releases. The idea of digital album booklets may appeal to only the nerdiest of music fans, for whom having everything in one place is a ritualistic way to listen to music and for whom album credits are crucial. But in an age where branding is often as important as skill, the lack of digital booklets feels like a wasted opportunity for artists wanting to communicate directly to fans without a social network as a middleman.
Businesses

Sprint Sues FCC For 'Capricious' Deregulation of Business Data Services (bizjournals.com) 19

An anonymous reader writes: Sprint and another wireless company have filed a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission for the agency's recent decision on business data services. Overland Park-based Sprint and Arkansas-based Windstream Services filed the petition for review earlier this week, seeking relief "on the grounds that the Report and Order is arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion," according to a filing in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The lawsuit is based on an April 20 vote by the FCC to deregulate its business data services, among them wireless backhaul services, which are crucial for transmitting large amounts of data quickly. Sprint had supported the price caps proposed under former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, as the carrier pays companies like AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink to use their bandwidth to bridge gaps in the Sprint network during backhaul services. Although Sprint did not report the breakdown of these costs in its annual filing, the carrier noted that they are "a significant cost for our wireless and wireline segments."
Businesses

Blocked From US Tech Investing, China Goes To Israel Instead (cnet.com) 73

Struggling to seal deals in the United States as regulatory scrutiny tightens, Chinese companies looking to invest in promising technology are finding a warmer welcome for their cash in Israel. From a report: Unfazed by this change, which was brought on in part by a new administration focused on US protectionism, Chinese investors are putting their money in Israeli companies instead. Last year, Chinese investment in Israel surged tenfold to $16.5 billion, a record, with money going to Israeli internet, cybersecurity and medical device companies. In contrast, Chinese investors scrapped a record $26.3 billion in previously announced US deals.
Businesses

Google Releases Study Defending YouTube's Value To Music Biz; Trade Bodies Hit Back (billboard.com) 80

The ongoing tussle between YouTube and the music industry took a new turn this week when Google assured everyone that its video platform doesn't have any negative impact on the other streaming music services -- despite all the free music it offers. From a report: A Google-commissioned report into how YouTube impacts on the wider music economy has -- somewhat unsurprisingly -- found that the hugely popular, yet much-maligned platform significantly drives sales and stops users from visiting pirate music services. According to a European study carried out by RBB Economics, if music content was removed from YouTube around 85 percent of the time that users spend on the platform would switch to lower value channels, such as TV, radio or internet radio. RBB claimed there would also be a significant increase in time spent listening to pirated content (up 29 percent), while only 15 percent of heavy users, defined as someone who watches more than 20 hours of music videos per month, would switch to higher value offerings like subscription streaming services. In the U.K., that number increases to 19 percent; in France it's 12 percent. [...] In response, music trade bodies poured scorn on the paper's findings. "Google's latest publicity push once again seeks to distract from the fact that YouTube, essentially the world's largest on-demand music service, is failing to license music on a fair basis and compensate artists and producers properly by claiming it is not liable for the music it is making available," reads a statement from IFPI. "Services like YouTube, that are not licensing music on fair terms, hinder the development of a sustainably healthy digital music market," claimed the international trade body, repeating its regular call for tighter regulation around safe harbour licensing.
Security

New Ransomware 'Jaff' Spotted; Malware Groups Pushing 5M Emails Per Hour To Circulate It (theregister.co.uk) 58

An anonymous reader writes: The Necurs botnet has been harnessed to fling a new strain of ransomware dubbed "Jaff". Jaff spreads in a similar way to the infamous file-encrypting malware Locky and even uses the same payment site template, but is nonetheless a different monster. Attached to dangerous emails is an infectious PDF containing an embedded DOCM file with a malicious macro script. This script will then download and execute the Jaff ransomware. Locky -- like Jaff -- also used the Necurs botnet and a booby-trapped PDF, security firm Malwarebytes notes. "This is where the comparison ends, since the code base is different as well as the ransom itself," said Jerome Segura, a security researcher at Malwarebytes. "Jaff asks for an astounding 2 BTC, which is about $3,700 at the time of writing." Proofpoint reckons Jaff may be the work of the same cybercriminals behind Locky, Dridex and Bart (other nasty malware) but this remains unconfirmed. And Forcepoint Security Labs reports that malicious emails carrying Jaff are being cranked out at a rate of 5 million an hour on Thursday, or 13 million in total at the time it wrote up a blog post about the new threat.
Communications

Cyberattack Hits England's National Health Service With Ransom Demands (theguardian.com) 202

Hospitals across England have been hit by a large-scale cyber-attack, the NHS has confirmed, which has locked staff out of their computers and forced many trusts to divert emergency patients. The IT systems of NHS sites across the country appear to have been simultaneously hit, with a pop-up message demanding a ransom in exchange for access to the PCs. NHS Digital said it was aware of the problem and would release more details soon. Details of patient records and appointment schedules, as well as internal phone lines and emails, have all been rendered inaccessible. From a report: "The investigation is at an early stage but we believe the malware variant is Wanna Decryptor. At this stage we do not have any evidence that patient data has been accessed. We will continue to work with affected organisations to confirm this. NHS Digital is working closely with the National Cyber Security Centre, the Department of Health and NHS England to support affected organisations and to recommend appropriate mitigations. "This attack was not specifically targeted at the NHS and is affecting organisations from across a range of sectors. "Our focus is on supporting organisations to manage the incident swiftly and decisively, but we will continue to communicate with NHS colleagues and will share more information as it becomes available." NPR adds: The problem erupted around 12:30 p.m. local time, the IT worker says, with a number of email servers crashing. Other services soon went down -- and then, the unidentified NHS worker says, "A bitcoin virus pop-up message had been introduced on to the network asking users to pay $300 to be able to access their PCs. You cannot get past this screen." The attack was not specifically targeted at the NHS and is affecting organizations from across a range of sectors, it appears. The report adds: Images that were posted online of the NHS pop-up look nearly identical to pop-up ransomware windows that hit Spain's Telefonica, a powerful attack that forced the large telecom to order employees to disconnect their computers from its network -- resorting to an intercom system to relay messages. Telefonica, Spain's largest ISP, has told its employees to shut down their computers.

Update
: BBC is reporting that similar attacks are being reported in the UK, US, China, Russia, Spain, Italy, Vietnam, Taiwan today.
Spam

Nuisance Call Firm Keurboom Hit With Record Fine (bbc.com) 81

An anonymous reader writes: A cold-calling firm has been fined a record $515,000 by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) for making almost 100 million nuisance calls. Keurboom Communications called people, sometimes at night, to see if they were eligible for road-accident or PPI compensation, the ICO said. It breached privacy laws by calling people without their consent. The company has since gone into liquidation but the ICO said it was committed to recovering the fine. It said it had received more than 1,000 complaints about automated calls from the Bedfordshire-registered company. The ICO said Keurboom Communications called some people repeatedly and during unsocial hours. It also hid its identity so that people would find it harder to complain. "The unprecedented scale of its campaign and Keurboom's failure to co-operate with our investigation has resulted in the largest fine issued by the Information Commissioner for nuisance calls," said Steve Eckersley, head of enforcement at the ICO.
Microsoft

Microsoft Is Surprisingly Comfortable With Its New Place In a Mobile, Apple, and Android World (fastcompany.com) 73

An anonymous reader writes: The company that once held a mock funeral for the iPhone -- complete with dedicated "iPhone trashcans" -- now has a very different attitude about the company of Jobs. The Microsoft whose old CEO Steve Ballmer in 2007 famously predicted the iPhone had "no chance; no chance at all" of getting market share, now readily accepts and embraces a world where the iPhone and Android dominate personal computing. Microsoft talked a lot here at its Build 2017 developer conference about extending Windows experiences over to iOS and Android devices. And it's not just about fortifying Windows. Microsoft says it not only wants to connect with those foreign operating systems, but by bringing over functionality from Windows 10 (along with content) it hopes to "make those other devices better," as one Microsoft rep said in a press briefing yesterday. The developers here at Build cheered when Microsoft announced XAML Standard 1.0, which provides a single markup language to make user interfaces that work on Windows, iOS, and Android. In one demo, the company demonstrated how an enterprise sales app could be extended to an iOS device so someone could continue capturing a potential client's data on a mobile device. Windows not only sent over the client data that had already been captured, but also the business-app shell that had captured it.
HP

HP Issues Fix For Keylogger Found On Several Laptop Models (zdnet.com) 72

HP says it has a fix for a flaw that caused a number of its PC models to keep a log of each keystroke a customer was entering. The issue, caused by problematic code in an audio driver, affected PC models from 2015 and 2016. From a report: HP has since rolled out patches to remove the keylogger, which will also delete the log file containing the keystrokes. A spokesperson for HP said in a brief statement: "HP is committed to the security and privacy of its customers and we are aware of the keylogger issue on select HP PCs. HP has no access to customer data as a result of this issue." HP vice-president Mike Nash said on a call after-hours on Thursday that a fix is available on Windows Update and HP.com for newer 2016 and later affected models, with 2015 models receiving patches Friday. He added that the keylogger-type feature was mistakenly added to the driver's production code and was never meant to be rolled out to end-user devices. Nash didn't how many models or customers were affected, but did confirm that some consumer laptops were affected. He also confirmed that a handful of consumer models that come with Conexant drivers are affected.
The Courts

Waymo's Case Against Uber Sent By Judge To US Prosecutors (bloomberg.com) 52

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: The judge presiding over Waymo's trade-secrets theft lawsuit against Uber Technologies Inc. asked federal prosecutors to investigate the claims in the case. U.S. District Judge William Alsup said in Thursday's order he takes no position on whether prosecution is warranted. The specter of a possible prosecution has hung over the case for weeks, ever since the engineer at the center of the dispute, Anthony Levandowski, said he could potentially be the subject of a criminal investigation. Levandowski cited the explosive allegations that he downloaded thousands of proprietary files at the Alphabet Inc. unit before he left. He later joined the ride-hailing giant. Alsup said at a May 3 hearing that Waymo hadn't presented "smoking gun" proof of wrongdoing by Uber even though the evidence strongly suggested that Levandowski downloaded files that Waymo accused him of stealing. The judge's brief order referring case to the U.S. attorney's office made reference to a ruling he issued a few minutes earlier -- sealed from public view -- with a detailed description of evidence.
AI

Star Trek Bridge Crew Gets IBM Watson-Powered Voice Commands (theverge.com) 61

PolygamousRanchKid writes: Star Trek Bridge Crew -- the VR game that puts you in the slip-on space shoes of a Starfleet officer -- already emphasizes vocal communication when you're playing with real humans, but it will soon allow you to use your voice to issue orders to computer-controlled characters, too. The feature has been made possible using IBM's VR Speech Sandbox. The software combines IBM Watson's Speech to Text and Conversation services with the company's Unity SDK, using the natural language processing capabilities of IBM's Watson software to parse your barked commands, and allow AI-controlled characters to act on them. Players will be able to launch photon torpedoes, jump to warp speed, or lock S-foils in attack formation (maybe not that last one) by requesting that your crew members push the relevant blinking buttons on their own command consoles. The feature will go live in beta form this summer, soon after the game's release on May 30th, and will allow players to complete missions across VR platforms and with a mixture of human and AI teammates.

Slashdot reader PolygamousRanchKid adds: "Let's just skip all that stuff, and cut right to the part where Kirk gets the girl... How well it actually works in practice, we'll see this summer, aboard our own starships. "Scotty, beam up the IBM stock price!" -- Posterior Admiral Ginni Rometty

Power

Germany Sets New National Record With 85 Percent of Its Electricity Sourced From Renewables (digitaltrends.com) 404

Germany was able to set a new national record for the last weekend of April with 85 percent of all electricity consumed in the country being produced from renewables -- wind, solar, biomass, and hydroelectric power. Digital Trends reports: Aided by a seasonal combination of windy but sunny weather, during that weekend the majority of Germany's coal-fired power stations weren't even operating, while nuclear power stations (which the country plans to phase out by the year 2022) were massively reduced in output. To be clear, this is impressive even by Germany's progressive standards. By comparison, in March just over 40 percent of all electricity consumed in the country came from renewable sources. However, while the end-of-April weekend was an aberration, the hope is that it won't be for too much longer. According to Patrick Graichen of the country's sustainability-focused Agora Energiewende Initiative, German renewable energy percentages in the mid-80s should be "completely normal" by the year 2030.

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