Medicine

Human Mini-Brains Growing Inside Rat Bodies Are Starting To Integrate (inverse.com) 193

At the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience starting November 11 in Washington D.C., two teams of scientists plan to present previously unpublished research on the unexpected interaction between human mini-brains and their rat and mouse hosts. "In the new papers, according to STAT, scientists will report that the organoids survived for extended periods of time -- two months in one case -- and even connected to lab animals' circulatory and nervous systems, transferring blood and nerve signals between the host animal and the implanted human cells," reports Inverse. "This is an unprecedented advancement for mini-brain research." From the report: That mini-brains can even be grown in the lab is a huge advancement in the first place, as they have many of the same characteristics as living human brains that are in the early stages of development. Though they're not "alive" in the same sense that you and I are, they grow and are organized into different layers like our brains are. They even react in similar ways to stimuli like psychedelic drugs. Organoids are poised to revolutionize research on the human brain since scientists can perform tests on them that would be unethical to attempt on living humans. STAT also reports that a third lab, in addition to the two presenting at the Society for Neuroscience meeting, has successfully connected human brain organoids to blood vessels. This attempt veered into such challenging ethical territory, though, that the lab reportedly paused its efforts.
Encryption

DOJ: Strong Encryption That We Don't Have Access To Is 'Unreasonable' (arstechnica.com) 510

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Just two days after the FBI said it could not get into the Sutherland Springs shooter's seized iPhone, Politico Pro published a lengthy interview with a top Department of Justice official who has become the "government's unexpected encryption warrior." According to the interview, which was summarized and published in transcript form on Thursday for subscribers of the website, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein indicated that the showdown between the DOJ and Silicon Valley is quietly intensifying. "We have an ongoing dialogue with a lot of tech companies in a variety of different areas," he told Politico Pro. "There's some areas where they are cooperative with us. But on this particular issue of encryption, the tech companies are moving in the opposite direction. They're moving in favor of more and more warrant-proof encryption." "I want our prosecutors to know that, if there's a case where they believe they have an appropriate need for information and there is a legal avenue to get it, they should not be reluctant to pursue it," Rosenstein said. "I wouldn't say we're searching for a case. I''d say we're receptive, if a case arises, that we would litigate."

In the interview, Rosenstein also said he "favors strong encryption." "I favor strong encryption, because the stronger the encryption, the more secure data is against criminals who are trying to commit fraud," he explained. "And I'm in favor of that, because that means less business for us prosecuting cases of people who have stolen data and hacked into computer networks and done all sorts of damage. So I'm in favor of strong encryption." "This is, obviously, a related issue, but it's distinct, which is, what about cases where people are using electronic media to commit crimes? Having access to those devices is going to be critical to have evidence that we can present in court to prove the crime. I understand why some people merge the issues. I understand that they're related. But I think logically, we have to look at these differently. People want to secure their houses, but they still need to get in and out. Same issue here." He later added that the claim that the "absolutist position" that strong encryption should be by definition, unbreakable, is "unreasonable." "And I think it's necessary to weigh law enforcement equities in appropriate cases against the interest in security," he said.

Youtube

YouTube Says It Will Crack Down On Bizarre Videos Targeting Children (theverge.com) 109

"Earlier this week, a report in The New York Times and a blog post on Medium drew a lot of attention to a world of strange and sometimes disturbing YouTube videos aimed at young children," reports The Verge. "The genre [...] makes use of popular characters from family-friendly entertainment, but it's often created with little care, and can quickly stray from innocent themes to scenes of violence or sexuality." YouTube is cracking down and will now age restrict videos that violate its policy. From the report: The first line of defense for YouTube Kids are algorithmic filters. After that, there is a team of humans that review videos which have been flagged. If a video with recognizable children's characters gets flagged in YouTube's main app, which is much larger than the Kids app, it will be sent to the policy review team. YouTube says it has thousands of people working around the clock in different time zones to review flagged content. If the review finds the video is in violation of the new policy, it will be age restricted, automatically blocking it from traveling to the Kids app. YouTube says it typically takes at least a few days for content to make its way from YouTube proper to YouTube Kids, and the hope is that within that window, users will flag anything potentially disturbing to children. YouTube also has a team of volunteer moderators, which it calls Contributors, looking for inappropriate content. YouTube says it will start training its review team on the new policy and it should be live within a few weeks. Along with filtering content out of the Kids app, the new policy will also tweak who can see these videos on YouTube's main service. Flagged content will be age restricted, and users won't be able to see those videos if they're not logged in on accounts registered to users 18 years or older. All age-gated content is also automatically exempt from advertising. That means this new policy could put a squeeze on the booming business of crafting strange kid's content.
Desktops (Apple)

Ask Slashdot: What Should A Mac User Know Before Buying a Windows Laptop? 449

New submitter Brentyl writes: Hello Slashdotters, longtime Mac user here faced with a challenge: Our 14-year-old wants a Windows laptop. He will use it for school and life, but the primary reason he wants Windows instead of a MacBook is gaming. I don't need a recommendation on which laptop to buy, but I do need a Windows survival kit. What does a fairly savvy fellow, who is a complete Windows neophyte, need to know? Is the antivirus/firewall in Windows 10 Home sufficient? Are there must-have utilities or programs I need to get? When connecting to my home network, I need to make sure I ____? And so on... Thanks in advance for your insights.
Google

Google Working To Remove MINIX-Based ME From Intel Platforms (tomshardware.com) 181

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Tom's Hardware: Intel's Management Engine (ME) technology is built into almost all modern Intel CPUs. At the Embedded Linux Conference, a Google engineer named Ronald Minnich revealed that the ME is actually running its own entire MINIX OS and that Google is working on removing it. Due to MINIX's presence on every Intel system, the barebones Unix-like OS is the most widely deployed operating system in the world. Intel's ME technology is a hardware-level system within Intel CPUs that consists of closed-source firmware running on a dedicated microprocessor. There isn't much public knowledge of the workings of the ME, especially in its current state. It's not even clear where the hardware is physically located anymore.

What's concerning Google is the complexity of the ME. Public interest in the subject piqued earlier this year when a vulnerability was discovered in Intel's Active Management Technology (AMT), but that's just a software that runs on ME--ME is actually an entire OS. Minnich's presentation touched on his team's discovery that the OS in question is a closed version of the open-source MINIX OS. The real focus, though, is what's in it and the consequences. According the Minnich, that list includes web server capabilities, a file system, drivers for disk and USB access, and, possibly, some hardware DRM-related capabilities. It's not known if all this code is explicitly included for current or future ME capabilities, or if it's because Intel simply saw more potential value in keeping rather than removing it.

Businesses

Monopoly Critics Decry 'Amazon Amendment' (thehill.com) 52

schwit1 shares a report from The Hill: The amendment, Section 801 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), would help Amazon establish a tight grip on the lucrative, $53 billion government acquisitions market, experts say. The provision, dubbed the "Amazon amendment" by experts, according to an article in The Intercept, would allow for the creation of an online portal that government employees could use to purchase everyday items such as office supplies or furniture. This government-only version of Amazon, which could potentially include a few other websites, would give participating companies direct access to the $53 billion market for government acquisitions of commercial products. "It hands an enormous amount of power over to Amazon," said Stacy Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a research group that advocates for local businesses. Mitchell said that the provision could allow Amazon to gain a monopoly or duopoly on the profitable world of commercial government purchases, leaving smaller businesses behind and further consolidating the behemoth tech firm's power.

schwit1 adds: "Well, this is a two-edged sword, isn't it? Government spends too much and takes too long to buy its simple office needs, but streamlining that process and cutting costs puts more money in the pocket of Jeff Bezos."

Transportation

Self-Driving Shuttle Involved In Crash Two Hours After Debut (www.cbc.ca) 204

New submitter Northern Pike writes: Las Vegas roll out of new driver-less shuttle spoiled by human error. It sounds like the shuttle did what it was designed to do but the human semi driver wasn't as careful. "The shuttle did what it was supposed to do, in that it's (sic) sensors registered the truck and the shuttle stopped to avoid the accident," the city said in a statement. "Unfortunately the delivery truck did not stop and grazed the front fender of the shuttle. Had the truck had the same sensing equipment that the shuttle has the accident would have been avoided." The self-driving shuttle can transport up to 12 people and has a attendant and computer monitor, but no steering wheel and no brake pedals. It relies heavily on GPS, electronic curb sensors and other technology to make its way.
Security

WikiLeaks Starts Releasing Source Code For Alleged CIA Spying Tools (vice.com) 102

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: WikiLeaks published new alleged material from the CIA on Thursday, releasing source code from a tool called Hive, which allows its operators to control malware it installed on different devices. WikiLeaks previously released documentation pertaining to the tool, but this is the first time WikiLeaks has released extensive source code for any CIA spying tool. This release is the first in what WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says is a new series, Vault 8, that will release the code from the CIA hacking tools revealed as part of Vault 7. "This publication will enable investigative journalists, forensic experts and the general public to better identify and understand covert CIA infrastructure components," WikiLeaks said in its press release for Vault 8. "Hive solves a critical problem for the malware operators at the CIA. Even the most sophisticated malware implant on a target computer is useless if there is no way for it to communicate with its operators in a secure manner that does not draw attention." In its release, WikiLeaks said that materials published as part of Vault 8 will "not contain zero-days or similar security vulnerabilities which could be repurposed by others."
Google

Google Says Hackers Steal Almost 250,000 Logins Each Week (cnn.com) 33

Google is digging into the dark corners of the web to better secure people's accounts. From a report: For one year, Google researchers investigated the different ways hackers steal personal information and take over Google accounts. Google published its research, conducted between March 2016 and March 2017, on Thursday. Focusing exclusively on Google accounts and in partnership with the University of California, Berkeley, researchers created an automated system to scan public websites and criminal forums for stolen credentials. The group also investigated over 25,000 criminal hacking tools, which it received from undisclosed sources. Google said it is the first study taking a long term and comprehensive look at how criminals steal your data, and what tools are most popular. [...] Google researchers identified 788,000 potential victims of keylogging and 12.4 million potential victims of phishing. These types of attacks happen all the time. For example on average, the phishing tools Google studied collect 234,887 potentially valid login credentials, and the keylogging tools collected 14,879 credentials, each week.
Businesses

Qualcomm Eyes Intel With Centriq 2400 Arm Server Chip (eweek.com) 23

Qualcomm is now challenging rival Intel in the rapidly changing data center market. From a report: The company is now selling its long-awaited Centriq 2400 Arm-based server processor that is aimed at the fast-growing cloud market and that Qualcomm officials say beats Intel in such crucial areas as power efficiency and cost. Officials from Arm and its manufacturing partners have for several years talked about pushing the Arm architecture into the data center as an alternative to Intel, and some manufacturers like Cavium and Applied Micro in recent years have rolled out systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) based on the 64-bit Armv8-A design. However, Qualcomm represents the most significant Arm chip maker in terms of scale and resources to challenge Intel, which holds more than 90 percent of the global server chip market. Qualcomm's Centriq chips offer up to 48 single-threaded cores running up to 2.6GHz and are manufactured on Samsung's 10-nanometer FinFET process. The processors sport a bidirectional segmented ring bus with as much as 250G bps of aggregate bandwidth to avoid performance bottlenecks, 512KB of shared L2 cache for every two cores and 60MB of unified L3 cache. There also are six channels of DDR4 memory and support for up to 768GB of total DRAM with 32 PCIe Gen 3 lanes and six PCIe controllers. They also support Arm's TrustZone security technology and hypervisors for virtualization.
Businesses

iPhone X Costs Apple $370 in Materials: IHS Markit (ihsmarkit.com) 120

Engineers at marketing research firm IHS Markit cracked open the base version iPhone X, which Apple is selling at $999, this week. After preliminary physical dissection, the firm estimated that the iPhone X carries a bill of materials of $370. From their findings: With a starting price of $999, the iPhone X is $50 more than the previous most expensive iPhone, the 8 Plus 256 GB. As another point of comparison, Samsung's Galaxy S8 with 64 GB of NAND memory has a BOM of $302 and retails at around $720. "Typically, Apple utilizes a staggered pricing strategy between various models to give consumers a tradeoff between larger and smaller displays and standard and high-density storage," said Wayne Lam, principal analyst for mobile devices and networks at IHS Markit. "With the iPhone X, however, Apple appears to have set an aspirational starting price that suggests its flagship is intended for an even more premium class of smartphones." The teardown of the iPhone X revealed that its IR camera is supplied by Sony/Foxconn while the silicon is provided by ST Microelectronics. The flood illuminator is an IR emitter from Texas Instruments that's assembled on top of an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) and single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD) detector from ST Microelectronics. Finisar and Philips manufacture the dot projector. IHS Markit puts the rollup BOM cost for the TrueDepth sensor cluster at $16.70.
Businesses

IBM's Quest To Design The 'New Helvetica' (fastcodesign.com) 172

IBM released its new bespoke typeface IBM Plex in beta this week. The company is hoping that the new typeface would become just as iconic as Helvetica in the years to come. From a Fast Co Design story: "When I came to IBM, it was a big discussion: Why does IBM not have a bespoke typeface? Why are we still clinging on to Helvetica?" Mike Abbink, the typeface's designer and IBM's executive creative director of brand experience and design said. To uncover what the typeface should express, Abbink and his team took a deep dive into IBM's archives. They were especially interested in the company's history in the postwar years, when its design-led business strategy first took shape and the legendary practitioner Paul Rand, who defined design as a system of relationships, created its famous eight-bar logo. In Rand's logo, Abbink and his team saw a contrast between hard edges -- the engineered, rational, and mechanical -- and curves -- the softer more humanistic elements. It's a reflection of the man-and-machine relationship that runs through the company's history -- a dynamic that is reflected in the final form of IBM Plex. The Plex family includes a sans serif, serif, and monospace versions. The designers also created a rigorous style guide that's akin to a digital standards manual and includes a type scale, which plays into responsive displays; eight different weights (a nod to how the IBM logo is composed of eight horizontally stacked bars); and usage guidelines, which dive into everything from information hierarchies to color and ragging. All together, it's easy to see Plex as a gentler, friendlier, more casual Helvetica for a broad range of uses both digital and print-based.
Science

Cities Are Scolding Countries at UN Climate Conference To Cut Emissions (vice.com) 159

A reader shares a report: An alliance of major cities including New York, Toronto, and London challenged nation states attending the United Nations climate talks in Bonn, Germany this week "to kick dirty carbon to the curb" and immediately "commit and work straightaway towards carbon neutrality, 100 percent renewable energy, zero-waste and zero-carbon." The Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance is a new collaboration of 20 international cities (other members include Washington DC, San Francisco, Oslo, and Sydney). All are striving for carbon neutrality and cutting greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050. "Dirty fuels and climate disruption are killing and displacing millions of citizens around the world," the Alliance stated in a strongly-worded letter sent to every country's delegation at climate talks, known as COP 23. "Cities are on the frontline of climate impacts. We see the urgency of climate action and need nation-states to be as committed as we are," Johanna Partin, the director of the Alliance and former advisor to the mayor of San Francisco, told Motherboard by phone.
Science

Indian Capital Declares Emergency as Toxic Smog Thickens By the Hour (reuters.com) 129

New Delhi, the Indian capital declared a pollution emergency on Thursday as toxic smog hung over the city for a third day and air quality worsened by the hour. From a report: Illegal crop burning in the farm states surrounding New Delhi, vehicle exhaust emissions in a city with limited public transport and swirling construction dust have caused the crisis, which arises every year. The problem has been compounded this year by still conditions, the weather office said. A U.S. embassy measure of tiny particulate matter PM 2.5 showed a reading of 608 at 10 a.m. when the safe limit is 25. An hour before it was 591.
Facebook

Sean Parker Unloads on Facebook 'Exploiting' Human Psychology (axios.com) 285

Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, spoke to news outlet Axios about the ways social networks have made hundreds of millions of users addicted to their platforms. He said, from the interview: When Facebook was getting going, I had these people who would come up to me and they would say, 'I'm not on social media.' And I would say, 'OK. You know, you will be.' And then they would say, 'No, no, no. I value my real-life interactions. I value the moment. I value presence. I value intimacy.' And I would say, ... 'We'll get you eventually. I don't know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying, because [of] the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or 2 billion people and ... it literally changes your relationship with society, with each other ... It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains. The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, ... was all about: 'How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?' And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that's going to get you to contribute more content, and that's going to get you ... more likes and comments. It's a social-validation feedback loop. He says people like him, and Mark Zuckerberg knew the potential consequences, but they did what they did anyway.
AI

Philippine Outsourcing Industry Braces For AI (reuters.com) 44

The outsourcing industry in the Philippines, which has dethroned India as the country with the most call centers in the world, is worried that the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) will eat into the $23 billion sector. From a report: AI-powered translators could dilute the biggest advantage the Philippines has, the wide use of English, an industry meeting was told this week. Other AI applications could take over process-driven jobs. The Philippines' business process outsourcing (BPO) industry is an economic lifeline for the Southeast Asian nation of 100 million people. It employs about 1.15 million people and, along with remittances from overseas workers, remains one of the top two earners of foreign exchange. "I don't think our excellent command of spoken English is going to really be a protection five, 10 years from now. It really will not matter," said Rajneesh Tiwary, chief delivery officer at Sutherland Global Services.
Microsoft

Microsoft To Integrate 3rd-party Security Info Into Its Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection Service (zdnet.com) 26

Microsoft is partnering with other security vendors to integrate their macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android security wares with its Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) service From a report: Microsoft has announced the first three such partners: Bitdefender, Lookoutm and Ziften. These companies will feed any threats detected into the single Windows Defender ATP console. With Defender ATP, every device has its own timeline with event history dating back up to six months. According to Microsoft, no additional infrastructure is needed to onboard events from macOS, Linux, iOS and/or Android devices. Integration with Bitdefender's GravityZone Cloud -- which allows users to get macOS and Linux threat intelligence on malware and suspicious files -- is in public preview as of today. A trial version is available now. Integration with Lookout's Mobile Endpoint Security for iOS and Android and Ziften's Zenith systems and security operations platform for macOS and Linux will be in public preview "soon," Microsoft's blog post says.
NASA

NASA: We're Not Building Flying Taxi Software For Uber (theregister.co.uk) 24

News outlets reported on Wednesday that Uber had signed a contract with NASA to develop software for the ride-hailing company's autonomous "flying taxis." A day later, the space agency has clarified its involvement in the project and the specifics of the contract. From the report: Uber's chief product officer Jeff Holden spoke at the Web Summit in Lisbon yesterday where he was promoting the fledgling autonomous taxi project, revealed last year, Uber Elevate. And of course he never claimed that NASA was working on software for his firm, merely explaining that it had inked an agreement to work with the public body on the latter's air traffic control project. Uber told us that while NASA was not "committing funding or anything like that", it said "having their decades of aeronautic experience actively collaborating with our engineers is a huge help for tackling the aviation traffic management hurdles." A NASA spokesperson, meanwhile, told us Uber had indeed signed what it described as a "generic Space Act Agreement" for participation in the programme back in January, joining a "multitude" of others. The project and its members are "researching prototype technologies for a UAS Traffic Management (UTM) system that could develop airspace integration requirements for enabling safe, efficient low-altitude operations," according to NASA's website. So no new news on the software front.
Bitcoin

The Bitcoin Bubble (economist.com) 284

A reader shares an Economist article: More people will trade in Bitcoin and that means more demand, and thus the price should go up. But what is the appeal of Bitcoin? There are really three strands; the limited nature of supply; fears about the long-term value of fiat currencies in an era of quantitative easing; and the appeal of anonymity. The last factor makes Bitcoin appealing to criminals creating this ingenious valuation method for the currency of around $570. These three factors explain why there is some demand for Bitcoin but not the recent surge. The supply details have if anything deteriorated (rival cryptocurrencies are emerging); the criminal community hasn't suddenly risen in size; and there is no sign of general inflation. A possible explanation is the belief that blockchain, the technology that underlines Bitcoin, will be used across the finance industry. But you can create blockchains without having anything to do with Bitcoin; the success of the two aren't inextricably linked. A much more plausible reason for the demand for Bitcoin is that the price is going up rapidly. People are not buying Bitcoin because they intend to use it in their daily lives (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). People are buying Bitcoin because they expect other people to buy it from them at a higher price; the definition of the greater fool theory.
United States

America's 'Retail Apocalypse' Is Really Just Beginning (bloomberg.com) 398

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: The so-called retail apocalypse has become so ingrained in the U.S. that it now has the distinction of its own Wikipedia entry. The industry's response to that kind of doomsday description has included blaming the media for hyping the troubles of a few well-known chains as proof of a systemic meltdown. There is some truth to that. In the U.S., retailers announced more than 3,000 store openings in the first three quarters of this year. But chains also said 6,800 would close. And this comes when there's sky-high consumer confidence, unemployment is historically low and the U.S. economy keeps growing. Those are normally all ingredients for a retail boom, yet more chains are filing for bankruptcy and rated distressed than during the financial crisis. That's caused an increase in the number of delinquent loan payments by malls and shopping centers. The reason isn't as simple as Amazon.com Inc. taking market share or twenty-somethings spending more on experiences than things. The root cause is that many of these long-standing chains are overloaded with debt -- often from leveraged buyouts led by private equity firms. There are billions in borrowings on the balance sheets of troubled retailers, and sustaining that load is only going to become harder -- even for healthy chains. The debt coming due, along with America's over-stored suburbs and the continued gains of online shopping, has all the makings of a disaster. The spillover will likely flow far and wide across the U.S. economy. There will be displaced low-income workers, shrinking local tax bases and investor losses on stocks, bonds and real estate. If today is considered a retail apocalypse, then what's coming next could truly be scary.
Windows

Windows 10's Version of AirDrop Lets You Quickly Share Files Between PCs (theverge.com) 108

Microsoft is testing its "Near Share" feature of Windows 10 in the latest Insider build (17035) today, which will let Windows 10 PCs share documents or photos to PCs nearby via Bluetooth. The Verge reports: A new Near Share option will be available in the notification center, and the feature can be accessed through the main share function in Windows 10. Files will be shared wirelessly, and recipients will receive a notification when someone is trying to send a file. Microsoft's addition comes just a day after Google unveiled its own AirDrop-like app for Android.
Intel

Intel Recruits AMD RTG Exec Raja Koduri To Head New Visual Computing Group (hothardware.com) 58

MojoKid writes: Intel just announced that former AMD Radeon Technologies Group SVP, Raja Koduri, would be joining its team to head up a newly formed Core and Visual Computing Group, and as a general manager of a new initiative to drive edge and client visual computing solutions. With Koduri's help, Intel plans to unify and expand its IP across multiple segments including core computing, graphics, media, imaging and machine learning capabilities for the client and data center segments, artificial intelligence, and emerging opportunities. Intel also explicitly stated that it would also expand its strategy to develop and deliver high-end, discrete graphics solutions. This announcement also comes just after Intel revealed it would be employing AMD's Vega GPU architecture in a new mobile processor that will drive high-end graphics performance into smaller, slimmer, and sleeker mobile form factors. With AMD essentially spinning the Radeon Technologies Group into its own entity, Intel now leveraging AMD graphics technology, and a top-level executive like Koduri responsible for said graphics tech switching teams, we have to wonder how the relationship between Intel and AMD's RTG with evolve.

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