Cellphones

We Could Have Had Cellphones Four Decades Earlier (reason.com) 263

_Sharp'r_ writes: Professor Thomas Hazlett of Clemson University analyzed the history of wireless spectrum and concluded the technology was known and available for cellphones in the 40s, but there was no spectrum available. Based on assumptions cellphones would always be luxury goods without mass appeal, significant spectrum for divisible cellular networks wasn't legally usable until the early 80s. Instead, the unused spectrum was reserved for the future expansion of broadcast TV to channels 70-83. Here's an excerpt from the report: "When AT&T wanted to start developing cellular in 1947, the FCC rejected the idea, believing that spectrum could be best used by other services that were not 'in the nature of convenience or luxury.' This view -- that this would be a niche service for a tiny user base -- persisted well into the 1980s. 'Land mobile,' the generic category that covered cellular, was far down on the FCC's list of priorities. In 1949, it was assigned just 4.7 percent of the spectrum in the relevant range. Broadcast TV was allotted 59.2 percent, and government uses got one-quarter."
Privacy

US Internet Company Refused To Participate In NSA Surveillance, Documents Reveal (zdnet.com) 95

Zack Whittaker reports via ZDNet: A U.S. company refused to comply with a top-secret order that compelled it to facilitate government surveillance, according to newly declassified documents. According to the document, the unnamed company's refusal to participate in the surveillance program was tied to an apparent expansion of the foreign surveillance law, details of which were redacted by the government prior to its release, as it likely remains classified. It's thought to be only the second instance of an American company refusing to comply with a government surveillance order. The first was Yahoo in 2008. It was threatened with hefty daily fines if it didn't hand over customer data to the National Security Agency. The law is widely known in national security circles as forming the legal basis authorizing the so-called PRISM surveillance program, which reportedly taps data from nine tech titans including Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and others. It also permits "upstream" collection from the internet fiber backbones of the internet. Any guesses as to which company it may be? The company was not named in the 2014-dated document, but it's thought to be an internet provider or a tech company.
Power

Wind, Solar Surpassed 10 Percent of US Electricity In March, Says EIA (thehill.com) 179

According to the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration, wind and solar produced 10 percent of the electricity generated in the U.S. for the first time in March. The Hill reports: The Energy Information Administration's (EIA) monthly power report for March found that wind produced 8 percent of the electricity produced in the U.S. that month, with solar producing 2 percent. The two sources combined to have their best month ever in terms of percentage of overall electricity production, EIA said. The agency expects the two sources topped 10 percent again in April but forecasts that their generation will fall below that mark during the summer months. Due to the way geographic wind patterns affect the generation of electricity, the two sources typically combine for their best months in the spring and fall. Annually, wind and solar made up 7 percent of electric generation in 2016, EIA said.
Television

Netflix Has More American Subscribers Than Cable TV (engadget.com) 74

According to Leichtman Research estimates from the first quarter of 2017, there are more Netflix subscribers in the U.S. (50.85 million) than there are customers for major cable TV networks (48.61 million). While it doesn't mean Netflix is bigger than TV because it doesn't account for the 33.19 million satellite viewers, it represents a huge milestone for a streaming service that had half as many users just 5 years ago. Engadget reports: The shift in power comes in part through Netflix's ever-greater reliance on originals. There's enough high-quality material that it can compete with more established networks. However, it's also getting a boost from the decline of conventional TV. Those traditional sources lost 760,000 subscribers in the first quarter of the year versus 120,000 a year earlier. Leichtman believes a combination of cord cutters and reduced marketing toward cost-conscious viewers is to blame. Cable giants might not be in dire straits, but they're clearly focusing on their most lucrative customers as others jump ship for the internet.
AI

Facebook Built an AI System That Learned To Lie To Get What It Wants (qz.com) 83

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: Humans are natural negotiators. We arrange dozens of tiny little details throughout our day to produce a desired outcome: What time a meeting should start, when you can take time off work, or how many cookies you can take from the cookie jar. Machines typically don't share that affinity, but new research from Facebook's AI research lab might offer a starting point to change that. The new system learned to negotiate from looking at each side of 5,808 human conversations, setting the groundwork for bots that could schedule meetings or get you the best deal online. Facebook researchers used a game to help the bot learn how to haggle over books, hats, and basketballs. Each object had a point value, and they needed to be split between each bot negotiator via text. From the human conversations (gathered via Amazon Mechanical Turk), and testing its skills against itself, the AI system didn't only learn how to state its demands, but negotiation tactics as well -- specifically, lying. Instead of outright saying what it wanted, sometimes the AI would feign interest in a worthless object, only to later concede it for something that it really wanted. Facebook isn't sure whether it learned from the human hagglers or whether it stumbled upon the trick accidentally, but either way when the tactic worked, it was rewarded.
Japan

Konami Reportedly Blacklisting Ex-Employees Across Japanese Video Game Industry (arstechnica.com) 120

The Nikkei Asian Review newspaper is reporting that the Japanese entertainment company Konami is blacklisting former employees in the Japanese video game industry. "The company is particularly targeting those who work for Kojima Productions, which was founded in 2016 by Hideo Kojima, who used to be a top designer at Konami," reports Ars Technica. From the report: Furthermore, according to the article, Konami is pressuring other companies not to hire its former employees. As the Nikkei Asian Review wrote: "One ex-Kon described his surprise at learning that Konami had instructed an employee at a television company not to deal with its former employees. In another case, a former Konami executive was forced to close his business due to pressure from the gaming giant. Ex-Kons are not allowed to put their Konami experience on their public resumes. 'If you leave the company, you cannot rely on Konami's name to land a job,' explained a former employee. If an ex-Kon is interviewed by the media, the company will send that person a letter through a legal representative, in some cases indicating that Konami is willing to take them to court."
Iphone

The Next iPhone Will Have Wireless Charging, Says Apple Supplier (9to5mac.com) 124

Robert Hwang, CEO of a large iPhone manufacturing company in India, has let slip that the upcoming iPhone will have wireless charging. Hwang told reporters after the company's shareholder's meeting: "Assembly process for the previous generations of [iPhones] have not changed much, though new features like waterproof and wireless charging now require some different testing, and waterproof function will alter the assembly process a bit." 9to5Mac reports: Just this week, new glass panels purporting to be from the upcoming iPhones have given us another glimpse into the devices' designs. Showing off an iPhone 7s, 7s Plus, and iPhone 8, the images indicated that the glass back panels would open the door for wireless charging across all the devices. According to Hwang, Wistron's India facility is currently making "a small number" of handsets for Apple. He states the growth in manufacturing will hinge on relations between Apple and the Indian government.
Privacy

Federal Regulators Are Investigating Uber Over Privacy Violations (recode.net) 15

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Recode: One of the U.S. government's most powerful consumer protection watchdogs appears to be quietly probing Uber and the company's privacy practices. The inquiry is under way at the Federal Trade Commission, according to four sources familiar with the matter, where the agency's investigative staff appears to have focused its attention on some of the data-handling mishaps that have plagued the company in recent years -- perhaps including employees' misuse of "god view," a tool that had previously allowed some at Uber to spy on the whereabouts of politicians, celebrities and others using the ride-hailing app. The sources cautioned to Recode that FTC staff regularly question companies on consumer-protection matters, like privacy -- and often, the agency chooses not to pursue any penalties while closing its investigations as quietly as it began them. Still, the scrutiny could easily blossom into a full-fledged legal complaint against Uber -- a reality the company knows well.
Android

Samsung Left Millions Vulnerable To Hackers Because It Forgot To Renew a Domain (vice.com) 54

An anonymous reader writes: Samsung cellphones used to have a stock app called S Suggest. The company apparently discontinued the app recently, and then forgot to renew a domain that was used to control it. This snafu left millions of smartphone users vulnerable to hackers who could've registered the domain and installed malicious apps on the phones.
AI

Robots Are Coming For Our Ms. Pac-Man High Scores (fastcompany.com) 74

A Microsoft-made AI system has achieved a perfect score of 999,990 points on the Atari 2600 version of the classic 'Ms. Pac-Man.' From a report: Researchers at the Microsoft-owned deep learning company Maluuba have used an AI system to break the all-time Ms. Pac-Man record. In a blog post, Microsoft wrote that, "using a divide-and-conquer method that could have broad implications for teaching AI agents to do complex tasks that augment human capabilities," Maluuba's AI was able to record a perfect Ms. Pac-Man score of 999,990 on the Atari 2600 version of the game, breaking the all-time record of 933,580.
Media

More Than 80% of US Adults Get News On Their Phones (axios.com) 67

An anonymous reader shares a report: More than 80% of U.S. adults get news on their phones -- up from roughly half of Americans just four years ago, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center. Most of that growth comes from adults older than 65 whose news consumption via mobile spiked almost 25% in the last year, and has tripled over the past four years.
Encryption

Germany Plans To Fingerprint Children and Spy On Personal Messages (fortune.com) 225

From a report: Germany is planning a new law giving authorities the right to look at private messages and fingerprint children as young as 6, the interior minister said on Wednesday after the last government gathering before a national election in September. Ministers from central government and federal states said encrypted messaging services, such as WhatsApp and Signal, allow militants and criminals to evade traditional surveillance. "We can't allow there to be areas that are practically outside the law," interior minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters in the eastern town of Dresden.
Google

Google Drive Will Soon Back Up Your Entire Computer (theverge.com) 188

An anonymous reader shares a report: Google is turning Drive into a much more robust backup tool. Soon, instead of files having to live inside of the Drive folder, Google will be able to monitor and backup files inside of any folder you point it to. That can include your desktop, your entire documents folder, or other more specific locations. The backup feature will come out later this month, on June 28th, in the form of a new app called Backup and Sync. In some other news, Box announced on Wednesday desktop apps for its storage service.
Security

Oil Changes, Safety Recalls, and Software Patches (daemonology.net) 129

An anonymous reader shares a blog post: Every few months I get an email from my local mechanic reminding me that it's time to get my car's oil changed. I generally ignore these emails; it costs time and money to get this done and I drive little enough -- about 2000 km/year -- that I'm not too worried about the consequences of going for a bit longer than nominally advised between oil changes. I do get oil changes done... but typically once every 8-12 months, rather than the recommended 4-6 months. On the other hand, there's another type of notification which elicits more prompt attention: Safety recalls. There are two good reasons for this: First, whether for vehicles, food, or other products, the risk of ignoring a safety recall is not merely that the product will break, but rather that the product will be actively unsafe; and second, when there's a safety recall you don't have to pay for the replacement or fix -- the cost is covered by the manufacturer. I started thinking about this distinction -- and more specifically the difference in user behaviour -- in the aftermath of the "WannaCry" malware. While WannaCry attracted widespread attention for its "ransomware" nature, the more concerning aspect of this incident is how it propagated: By exploiting a vulnerability in SMB for which Microsoft issued patches two months earlier. As someone who works in computer security, I find this horrifying -- and I was particularly concerned when I heard that the NHS was postponing surgeries because they couldn't access patient records. [...] I imagine that most people in my industry would agree that security patches should be treated in the same vein as safety recalls -- unless you're certain that you're not affected, take care of them as a matter of urgency -- but it seems that far more users instead treat security patches more like oil changes: something to be taken care of when convenient... or not at all, if not convenient. It's easy to say that such users are wrong; but as an industry it's time that we think about why they are wrong rather than merely blaming them for their problems.
Businesses

Apple Issues $1 Billion Green Bond After Trump's Paris Climate Exit (reuters.com) 168

An anonymous reader shares a report: Apple offered a $1 billion bond dedicated to financing clean energy and environmental projects on Tuesday, the first corporate green bond offered since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement. The offering comes over a year after Apple issued its first green bond of $1.5 billion -- the largest issued by a U.S. corporation -- as a response to the 2015 Paris agreement. Apple said its second green bond is meant to show that businesses are still committed to the goals of the 194-nation accord. "Leadership from the business community is essential to address the threat of climate change and protect our shared planet," said Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives.
AI

US Weighs Restricting Chinese Investment In Artificial Intelligence (reuters.com) 64

An anonymous reader shares a Reuters report: The United States appears poised to heighten scrutiny of Chinese investment in Silicon Valley to better shield sensitive technologies seen as vital to U.S. national security, current and former U.S. officials tell Reuters. Of particular concern is China's interest in fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, which have increasingly attracted Chinese capital in recent years. The worry is that cutting-edge technologies developed in the United States could be used by China to bolster its military capabilities and perhaps even push it ahead in strategic industries. The U.S. government is now looking to strengthen the role of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), the inter-agency committee that reviews foreign acquisitions of U.S. companies on national security grounds. An unreleased Pentagon report, viewed by Reuters, warns that China is skirting U.S. oversight and gaining access to sensitive technology through transactions that currently don't trigger CFIUS review.
Government

Congressman Steve Scalise Among 5 Shot at Baseball Field (nytimes.com) 1195

From a New York Times report: A lone gunman opened fire on Republican members of the congressional baseball team at a practice field in a Washington suburb Wednesday, using a rifle to shower the field with bullets that struck five people, including Steve Scalise, the majority whip of the House of Representatives. Two members of Mr. Scalise's protective police detail were wounded as they exchanged gunfire with the shooter in what other lawmakers described as a chaotic, terror-filled ten minutes that turned the baseball practice into an early-morning nightmare. Police said a total of five people were shot, two critically. Standing at second base, Mr. Scalise was struck, in the hip, according to witnesses, and collapsed as the shots rang out, one after another, from behind a chain-link fence near the third-base dugout. Witnesses said Mr. Scalise, of Louisiana, "army crawled" his way toward taller grass as the shooting continued. Alternative source: NBC News, CNN, BBC, NPR, WashingtonPost, and WSJ.

Update: 06/14 15:40 GMT: In remarks at the White House, President Trump said the Alexandria shooting suspect has died from injuries.
It's funny.  Laugh.

Marissa Mayer, Yahoo's Ex-CEO, Says She's Looking 'Forward To Using Gmail Again' 187

Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who resigned on Tuesday after running the company for about five years, appeared at a conference in London today. At the conference, Mayer said one of the things she was looking forward to in her post-Yahoo life was using Gmail again. "I am always faster when using a tool I designed myself," she added.
Technology

Indian Scientists Are Experimenting With Drone Seed-bombing To Plant a Forest (factordaily.com) 44

An anonymous reader shares an article: "I'm basically from that area (Gauribidanur in Indian state of Karnataka); son of a farmer, came to academia... keen to bring back my younger days, when the river used to flow for three to four months a year. I need to rejuvenate it," says professor KPJ Reddy over a phone conversation. It's quite apparent from his tone that this experiment means a lot to him. A day earlier, on June 5, World Environment Day, Reddy, in collaboration with two other scientists at the Department of Aerodynamics, Bangalore, Dr H N Science Centre, and the Department of Forest, collectively held their first ever drone-seeding trial on the banks of river Pinakini in the Gauribidanur area in Karnataka's Kolar district. "For that, the only way is to reach by air. Doing it with big aircraft is expensive, and take-offs and landings are a problem. So the only way to do it is through drones," he says, when we meet a few days later at the IISc Campus in Bangalore. Over tea with professor S N Omkar, chief research scientist at IISc, he further elaborates on their plans. "What we have in mind is to at least seed 10,000 acres, and we will be doing this every year, for three consecutive years," he says.
Communications

A 12-Month Campaign of Fake News To Influence Elections Costs $400K, Says Report (bleepingcomputer.com) 175

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: A 77-page report released today by cyber-security firm Trend Micro explores the underground landscape of fake news, where anyone can buy influence and create artificial trends to serve personal interests. An examination of Chinese, Russian, Middle Eastern, and English-based underground fake news marketplaces reveals a wide range of services available on these portals. The report explores several websites where customers can purchase services ranging from "discrediting journalists" to "promoting street protests," and from "stuffing online polls" to "manipulating a decisive course of action," such as an election. According to researchers, the typical clients of such services are interested in warping the way others perceive reality. These services are usually used for character assassination, swaying political trends, or creating fake celebrities. Trend Micro has compiled a "fake news" price catalog in its report, which is imbedded in Bleeping Computer's article. Some of the most expensive services include $200,000 for helping to instigate a street protest via fake news articles, $50,000 to discredit a journalist, and $400,000 to influence elections.
Robotics

Roomba Inventor Launches 'Tertill', a Weed-Killing Robot For Your Garden 116

mcpublic writes: iRobot veteran and Roomba co-inventor, Joe Jones is a modest man with a big mission: to create robots that make agriculture more efficient, less tedious, and yes, maybe even one day feed the world. After a decade at Harvest Automation building greenhouse robots, his new team at Franklin Robotics has developed Tertill, an affordable, waterproof, solar-powered robot that continuously whacks weeds around your yard. MIT Technology Review calls Tertill "a Roomba for your garden." Today the Kickstarter campaign went live and already they are well on the way to their goal. According to the Kickstarter campaign, Tertill is solar powered, chemical free, waterproof and Bluetooth compatible. It doesn't actually pull the weeds from your garden, instead it uses a "spinning string trimmer" to trim the weeds down to ground level. Since Tertill will be trimming weeds daily, the company says the weeds will eventually run out of nutrients to continue growing, and therefore will die and decompose. How does it know what's a weed and what's a plant? "A plant tall enough to touch the front of Tertill's shell activates a sensor that makes the robot turn away. A plant short enough to pass under Tertill's shell, though, activates a different sensor that turns on the weed cutter. Because Tertill's approach is height-based, put one of the provided plant collars around short plants until they are tall enough for Tertill to recognize. When Tertill approaches the collar, it will recognize it and turn away."
Earth

Multi-Million Dollar Upgrade Planned To Secure 'Failsafe' Arctic Seed Vault (theguardian.com) 53

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The Global Seed Vault, built in the Arctic as an impregnable deep freeze for the world's most precious food seeds, is to undergo a multi-million dollar upgrade after water from melting permafrost flooded its access tunnel. No seeds were damaged but the incident undermined the original belief that the vault would be a "failsafe" facility, securing the world's food supply forever. Now the Norwegian government, which owns the vault, has committed $4.4 million to improvements. [T]he vault's planners had not anticipated the extreme warm weather seen recently at the end of the world's hottest ever recorded year. "The background to the technical improvements is that the permafrost has not established itself as planned," said a government statement. "A group will investigate potential solutions to counter the increased water volumes resulting from a wetter and warmer climate on Svalbard." One option could be to replace the access tunnel, which slopes down towards the vault's main door, carrying water towards the seeds. A new upward sloping tunnel would take water away from the vault. An initial $1.6 million will be spent on investigating ways to improve the access tunnel, with the group's conclusions delivered in spring 2018. "They are going in with an open mind to find a good solution," said Aschim. "$4.4 million is for all the improvements we are doing now." The vault cost $9 million to build.

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