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United States

US Births Dip To 30-Year Low (npr.org) 571

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: The birthrate fell for nearly every group of women of reproductive age in the U.S. in 2017, reflecting a sharp drop that saw the fewest newborns since 1978, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were 3,853,472 births in the U.S. in 2017 -- "down 2 percent from 2016 and the lowest number in 30 years," the CDC said. The general fertility rate sank to a record low of 60.2 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44 -- a 3 percent drop from 2016, the CDC said in its tally of provisional data for the year. The results put the U.S. further away from a viable replacement rate -- the standard for a generation being able to replicate its numbers. "The rate has generally been below replacement since 1971," according to the report from CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. "The decline in the rate from 2016 to 2017 was the largest single-year decline since 2010," the CDC said. The 2017 numbers also represent a 10-year fall from 2007, when the U.S. finally broke its post-World War baby boom record, with more than 4.3 million births.
Android

With Steam Link App, Your Smartphone Can Be An Imperfect Gaming Monitor (arstechnica.com) 47

Ars Technica's Kyle Orland shares his experience with Valve's recently announced Steam Link app, which lets users play games running on a PC via a tablet, mobile phone, or Apple TV on the same network. The app launches today for Android 5.0+ devices; iOS support is "pending further review from Apple." From the report: Valve isn't kidding when it says a Wi-Fi router in the 5Ghz band is required for wireless streaming. I first tested iPad streaming on the low-end 2.4Ghz router provided with my Verizon FiOS subscription (an Actiontec MI424WR), with a wired Ethernet connection to my Windows gaming rig on the other end. The Steam Link network test warned me that "your network may not work well with Steam Link," thanks to 1- to 2-percent frame loss and about 15ms of "network variance," depending on when I tested. Even graphically simple games like The Binding of Isaac ran at an unplayably slowed-down rate on this connection, with frequent dropped inputs to boot.

Switching over to a 5GHz tri-band router (The Netgear Nighthawk X6, to be precise), the same network test reported a "fantastic" connection that "look[s] like it will work well with Steam." On this router, remotely played games ran incredibly smoothly at the iPad's full 1080p resolution, with total round-trip display latency ranging anywhere from 50 to 150ms, according to Steam Link's reports (and one-way "input lag" of less than 1ms). At that level of delay, playing felt practically indistinguishable from playing directly on the computer, with no noticeable gameplay impact even on quick-response titles like Cuphead.

Education

Scottish Students Used Spellchecker Glitch To Cheat In Literacy Test (bbc.com) 167

Thelasko shares a report from the BBC: Schools are to be given advice on how to disable a glitch that allows pupils sitting online spelling tests to right-click their mouse and find the answer. It follows the discovery by teachers that children familiar with traditional computer spellcheckers were simply applying it to the tests. The Scottish National Standardized Assessments were introduced to assess progress in four different age groups. A spokesman said the issue was not with the Scottish National Standardized Assessments (SNSA) but with browser or device settings on some machines.

Introduced in 2017, the spelling test asks children to identify misspelt words. However, on some school computers the words were highlighted with a red line. Pupils who right-clicked on the words were then able to access the correct spelling. The web-based SNSA tool enables teachers to administer online literacy and numeracy tests for pupils in P1, P4, P7 and S3, which are marked and scored automatically. Advice is being given to schools about how to disable the spellchecking function.

XBox (Games)

Microsoft Announces Xbox Adaptive Controller For Players With Disabilities (theverge.com) 19

A new Xbox controller designed for people with disabilities has been announced by Microsoft today. The Xbox Adaptive Controller features two large programmable buttons and 19 jacks that can be connected to a range of joysticks, buttons, and switches to make it easier for a wider range of people to play games on Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs. The Verge reports: "I can customize how I interface with the Xbox Adaptive Controller to whatever I want," says Solomon Romney, a Microsoft Store learning specialist who was born without fingers on his left hand. "If I want to play a game entirely with my feet, I can. I can make the controls fit my body, my desires, and I can change them anytime I want. You plug in whatever you want and go. It takes virtually no time to set it up and use it. It could not be simpler."

The focus is on connectivity and customizability, with players able to build a setup that works for their capabilities and needs. It won't be an all-in-one solution for many games, but through the use of peripherals and the Xbox's system-level button remapping, the possibilities could be endless. The Xbox Adaptive Controller will cost $99.99 and goes on sale later this year.

Earth

Kilauea Volcano Erupts On Hawaii's Big Island (nytimes.com) 56

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: The Kilauea volcano erupted from its summit on Thursday morning (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source), spewing an ash plume that reached 30,000 feet above the island of Hawaii, the authorities said. The eruption was the most forceful new explosion so far at Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes. Kilauea has already been triggering small earthquakes, creating gas-emitting fissures and releasing flows of lava that have destroyed dozens of homes this month. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory issued a "code red" warning that additional activity could be expected. "At any time, activity may again become more explosive, increasing the intensity of ash production and producing ballistic projectiles near the vent," the observatory said. But Dr. Michelle Coombs of the United States Geological Survey said that ash fall from the eruption, which occurred shortly after 4 a.m., was "pretty limited" to the area around Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. She emphasized that the new eruption wasn't the "big one" that some are fearing, drawing a contrast with the eruption in 1980 of Mount St. Helens in Washington State that killed 57 people.
Advertising

Ads Are Coming To Facebook Stories (techcrunch.com) 31

Facebook Stories has reached 150 million daily active users after launching nearly 14 months ago. So what's the next logical step after reaching such a milestone? Advertisements. According to TechCrunch, Facebook Stories will start testing its first ads today in the U.S., Mexico and Brazil. From the report: They're 5- to 15-second video ads users can skip, and while there's no click-through or call to action now, Facebook plans to add that in the coming months. Advertisers can easily extend their Instagram Stories ads to this new surface, or have Facebook automatically reformat their News Feed ads with color-matched borders and text at the bottom. Facebook also plans to give businesses more metrics on their Stories performance to convince them the feature is worth their ad dollars.
Wireless Networking

Ask Slashdot: Which Is the Safest Router? 386

MindPrison writes: As ashamed as I am to admit it -- a longtime computer user since the Commodore heydays, I've been hacked twice recently and that has seriously made me rethink my options for my safety and well-being. So, I ask you dear Slashdot users, from one fellow longtime Slashdotter to another: which is the best router for optimal safety today?
Privacy

Cell Phone Tracking Firm Exposed Millions of Americans' Real-time Locations (zdnet.com) 39

Earlier this week, ZDNet shed some light on a company called LocationSmart that is buying your real-time location data from four of the largest U.S. carriers in the United States. The story blew up because a former police sheriff snooped on phone location data without a warrant, according to The New York Times. ZDNet is now reporting that the company "had a bug in its website that allowed anyone to see where a person is located -- without obtaining their consent." An anonymous reader shares an excerpt: "Due to a very elementary bug in the website, you can just skip that consent part and go straight to the location," said Robert Xiao, a PhD. student at the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, in a phone call. "The implication of this is that LocationSmart never required consent in the first place," he said. "There seems to be no security oversight here." The "try" website was pulled offline after Xiao privately disclosed the bug to the company, with help from CERT, a public vulnerability database, also at Carnegie Mellon. Xiao said the bug may have exposed nearly every cell phone customer in the U.S. and Canada, some 200 million customers.

The researcher said he started looking at LocationSmart's website following ZDNet's report this week, which followed from a story from The New York Times, which revealed how a former police sheriff snooped on phone location data without a warrant. The sheriff has pleaded not guilty to charges of unlawful surveillance. He said one of the APIs used in the "try" page that allows users to try the location feature out was not validating the consent response properly. Xiao said it was "trivially easy" to skip the part where the API sends the text message to the user to obtain their consent. "It's a surprisingly simple bug," he said.

Security

Hardcoded Password Found in Cisco Enterprise Software, Again (bleepingcomputer.com) 70

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: Cisco released 16 security advisories yesterday, including alerts for three vulnerabilities rated "Critical" and which received a maximum of 10 out of 10 on the CVSSv3 severity score. The three vulnerabilities include a backdoor account and two bypasses of the authentication system for Cisco Digital Network Architecture (DNA) Center. The Cisco DNA Center is a piece of software that's aimed at enterprise clients and which provides a central system for designing and deploying device configurations (aka provisioning) across a large network. This is, arguably, a pretty complex piece of software, and according to Cisco, a recent internal audit has yielded some pretty bad results.
Chrome

Google Chrome To Remove 'Secure' Indicator From HTTPS Pages in September (bleepingcomputer.com) 102

Google announced Thursday it plans to drop the "Secure" indicator from the Chrome URL address bar -- starting with Chrome v68, set for release in July -- and only show a lock icon when the user is navigating to an HTTPS-secured website. From a report: The move is scheduled to take effect with the release of Chrome 69, scheduled for September, this year. Emily Schechter, Product Manager for Chrome Security, said the company is now comfortable making this move as a large chunk of Chrome's traffic is now via HTTPS. Since most traffic is HTTPS anyway, it's not necessary to draw the user's attention to the "Secure" indicator anymore.
Businesses

Faster Flights Are Coming With New Satellite Tracking Technology (bloomberg.com) 34

An anonymous reader shares a report: The company that provides the U.K.'s air-traffic control service is taking a 10 percent stake in Aireon, a U.S. firm that's building a satellite-based tracking system and will offer commercial services to controllers starting next year. Aireon plans to use a constellation of 66 Iridium Communications. Next satellites in low Earth orbit to track aircraft. Iridium has 50 in orbit already, 47 of which are operational. Each carries equipment to offer aircraft position data to ground controllers.

Iridium plans to launch five additional satellites on May 22 from California, completing its full network later this year. Aireon said 70 percent of the world's airspace lacks satellite tracking or airline surveillance coverage, including most oceans and parts of Africa and Latin America.

Businesses

The Boston Restaurant Where Robots Have Replaced the Chefs (washingtonpost.com) 110

Started by a group of 20-something robotics engineers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology who partnered with Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud, Spyce in downtown Boston is founded on the idea that a fulfilling meal can be more science than spontaneity [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source]. From a report: The restaurant's founders have replaced human chefs with seven automated cooking pots that simultaneously whip up meals in three minutes or less. A brief description of meal preparation -- courtesy of 26-year-old co-founder, Michael Farid -- can sound more like laboratory instructions than conventional cooking. "Once you place your order, we have an ingredient delivery system that collects them from the fridge," Farid said.

"The ingredients are portioned into the correct sizes and then delivered to a robotic wok, where they are tumbled at 450 degrees Fahrenheit. The ingredients are cooked and seared. And once the process is complete, the woks tilt downward and put food into a bowl. And then they're ready to be garnished and served." Spyce bills itself as "the world's first restaurant featuring a robotic kitchen that cooks complex meals," a distinction that appears to reference burger-flipping robots like "Flippy," who plied his trade in a California fast food kitchen before being temporary suspended -- because he wasn't working fast enough.

AI

NYC Announces Plans To Test Algorithms For Bias (betanews.com) 79

The mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, has announced the formation of a new task force to examine the fairness of the algorithms used in the city's automated systems. From a report: The Automated Decision Systems Task Force will review algorithms that are in use to determine that they are free from bias. Representatives from the Department of Social Services, the NYC Police Department, the Department of Transportation, the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice, the Administration for Children's Services, and the Department of Education will be involved, and the aim is to produce a report by December 2019. However, it may be some time before the task force has any sort of effect. While a report is planned for the end of next year, it will merely recommend "procedures for reviewing and assessing City algorithmic tools to ensure equity and opportunity" -- it will be a while before any recommendation might be assessed and implemented.
Bitcoin

Investors Have Placed $1 Billion in Cryptocurrency Offerings Rampant With Red Flags For Fraud (cnbc.com) 49

Investors have sent $1 billion into digital coin projects that flash warning signs for fraud, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. The revelation comes a day after the SEC created its own fake ICO to teach investors a lesson. From a report: In a review of 1,450 digital coin offerings, the Journal said it found 271 bore red flags such as plagiarized documents or fake executive information. Investors have already claimed losses of up to $273 million in these projects, the newspaper said, according to lawsuits and regulatory actions. The coin sales, or "initial coin offerings," give investors the chance to buy into a new digital token while letting developers get easy access to funding. The process may be a little too easy for many projects that are unproven or outright scams.

Coin offerings have raised roughly $9.8 billion in the two years through mid-March, according to financial research firm Autonomous Next. The Journal found widespread plagiarism in 111 projects' online whitepapers, including word-for-word copies of marketing plans and technical features.

ISS

NASA's Atomic Fridge Will Make the ISS the Coldest Known Place in the Universe (vice.com) 98

An anonymous reader shares a report: Later this year, a small part of the International Space Station will become 10 billion times colder than the average temperature of the vacuum of space thanks to the Cold Atom Lab (CAL). Once it's on the space station, this atomic fridge will be the coldest known place in the universe and will allow physicists to 'see' into the quantum realm in a way that would never be possible on Earth.

In a normal room, "atoms are bouncing off one another in all directions at a few hundred meters per second," Rob Thompson, a NASA scientist working on CAL explained in a statement. CAL, however, can reach temperatures that are just one ten billionth of a degree above absolute zero -- the point at which matter loses all its thermal energy -- which means that this chaotic atomic motion comes to a near standstill.

CAL uses magnetic fields and lasers traps to capture the gaseous atoms and cool them to nearly absolute zero. Since all the atoms have the same energy levels at that point, these effectively motionless atoms condense into a state of quantum matter called a Bose-Einstein condensate. This state of matter means that the atoms have the properties of one continuous wave rather discrete particles.

Google

Google Won't Confirm If Its Human-Like AI Actually Called a Salon To Make an Appointment As Demoed at I/O (axios.com) 95

The headline demo at Google's I/O conference earlier this month continues to be a talking point in the industry. The remarkable demo, which saw Google Assistant call a salon to successfully fix an appointment, continues to draw skepticism. News outlet Axios followed up with Google to get some clarifications only to find that the company did not wish to talk about it. From the report: What's suspicious? When you call a business, the person picking up the phone almost always identifies the business itself (and sometimes gives their own name as well). But that didn't happen when the Google assistant called these "real" businesses. Axios called over two dozen hair salons and restaurants -- including some in Google's hometown of Mountain View -- and every one immediately gave the business name.

Axios asked Google for the name of the hair salon or restaurant, in order to verify both that the businesses exist and that the calls were not pre-planned. We also said that we'd guarantee, in writing, not to publicly identify either establishment (so as to prevent them from receiving unwanted attention). A longtime Google spokeswoman declined to provide either name.

We also asked if either call was edited, even perhaps just cutting the second or two when the business identifies itself. And, if so, were there other edits? The spokeswoman declined comment, but said she'd check and get back to us. She didn't.

Google

Google Says India Anti-Trust Ruling Could Cause 'Irreparable Harm' and Reputational Loss to the Company (reuters.com) 53

Google has said an Indian antitrust ruling that found it was guilty of search bias could cause "irreparable" harm and reputational loss to the company, Reuters reported Thursday, citing a legal document. From the report: The Competition Commission of India (CCI) in February fined Google $20 million for abusing its position in online web search and also slammed the company for preventing its partners from using competing search services. After the ruling, Google had said the verdict raised only "narrow concerns," but in its plea challenging the CCI's ruling the search giant signaled the impact could be far greater. The order, the company said, "requires Google to change the way it conducts business in India on a lasting basis and the way it designs its search results page in India," according to a copy of its plea which was seen exclusively by Reuters. The CCI, among other things, had ordered Google to stop imposing restrictions on its direct search agreements with other publishers.
Youtube

Why Are the NBA's Best Players Getting Better Younger? YouTube (wsj.com) 72

An anonymous reader shares a report: This is happening across the entire league. The best NBA players are getting better younger. They were born with advantages that weren't available to older players and had access to more information than anyone before them in the history of basketball [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled]. Justin Tatum, a high-school basketball coach, could tell his son to watch clips with three words: "YouTube this guy." Which sounds totally normal until you remember it wasn't possible until very recently.

NBA players who grew up watching Michael Jordan couldn't even watch clips of Michael Jordan. LeBron James didn't have YouTube. He's been in the league for longer than YouTube has been a company. But today's young players have spent their entire lives watching basketball on demand. The extraordinary amount of knowledge at their disposal is one of the reasons they're entering the league with polished skills and making their influence felt immediately. YouTube allowed Kristaps Porzingis to admire Kevin Durant all the way from Latvia, Joel Embiid to emulate Hakeem Olajuwon and Tatum to geek out about Bryant.

Operating Systems

Ask Slashdot: Some Good Linux Desktop Option For Kids? 179

New submitter TIWolfman writes: I'm looking to re-purpose some of the older hardware that I've held onto to create something of a starter machine for my kids (both aged below 10). At this point it's still just a few shortcut icons I can setup on the desktop for them, primarily to web tools/sites they use, but I'd like some flexibility; everything I've read suggests options that haven't had any activity since 2015. Is there an option out there or is this just a custom job?
Google

Google's Selfish Ledger is an Unsettling Vision of Silicon Valley Social Engineering (theverge.com) 254

An anonymous reader shares a report: Google has built a multibillion-dollar business out of knowing everything about its users. Now, a video produced within Google and obtained by The Verge offers a stunningly ambitious and unsettling look at how some at the company envision using that information in the future. The video was made in late 2016 by Nick Foster, the head of design at X (formerly Google X), and shared internally within Google. It imagines a future of total data collection, where Google helps nudge users into alignment with their goals, custom-prints personalized devices to collect more data, and even guides the behavior of entire populations to solve global problems like poverty and disease.
Music

YouTube Unveils New Streaming Service 'YouTube Music,' Rebrands YouTube Red (gizmodo.com) 107

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: YouTube Music, a streaming music platform designed to compete with the likes of Spotify and Apple Music, officially has a launch date: May 22nd. Its existence will also shift around YouTube and Google's overall media strategy, which has thus far been quite the mess. YouTube Music will borrow the Spotify model and offer a free, ad-supported tier as well as a premium version. The paid tier, which will be called YouTube Music Premium, will be available for $9.99 per month. It will debut in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and South Korea before expanding to 14 other countries.

One of the selling points for YouTube Music will be the ability to harness the endless amount of information Google knows about you, which it will use to try to create customized listening experiences. Pitchfork reported that the app, with the help of Google Assistant, will make listening recommendations based on the time of day, location, and listening patterns. It will also apparently offer "an audio experience and a video experience," suggesting perhaps an emphasis on music videos and other visual content. From here, Google seems to be focused on making its streaming strategy a little less wacky. Google Play Music, the company's previous music streaming service that is still inexplicably up and running despite teetering on the brink of extinction for years, will slowly be phased out according to USA Today.
Meanwhile, the paid streaming subscription service, known as YouTube Red, is being rebranded to YouTube Premium and will cost $11.99 per month instead of $9.99. (Pitchfork notes that existing YouTube Red subscribers will be able to keep their $9.99 rate.) YouTube Premium will include access to YouTube Music Premium. Here's a handy-dandy chart that helps show what is/isn't included in the two plans.
Science

First Measurement of Distribution of Pressure Inside a Proton (phys.org) 174

Okian Warrior shares a report from Phys.Org: Inside every proton in every atom in the universe is a pressure cooker environment that surpasses the atom-crushing heart of a neutron star. That's according to the first measurement of a mechanical property of subatomic particles, the pressure distribution inside the proton, which was carried out by scientists at the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility. The nuclear physicists found that the proton's building blocks, the quarks, are subjected to a pressure of 100 decillion Pascal (1035) near the center of a proton, which is about 10 times greater than the pressure in the heart of a neutron star. The result was recently published in the journal Nature.
Earth

NASA Says Humans Are Causing Massive Changes In Location of Water Around the World (desertsun.com) 99

Using measurements from Earth-observing satellites, NASA scientists have found that humans have dramatically altered the location of water around the world. "The team of researchers analyzed 14 years of data from NASA's twin GRACE satellites and studied regions that have seen large increases or decreases in the total amount of freshwater, including water in lakes and rivers and water stored in underground aquifers, soil, snow and ice," reports The Desert Sun. From the report: The scientists examined precipitation trends and other data to determine the most likely causes of these huge losses and gains of water around the world. Their findings in a new study reveal that of the 34 "hotspots" of water change in places from California to China, the trends in about two-thirds of those areas may be linked to climate change or human activities, such as excessive groundwater pumping in farming regions. In eight of the 34 regions, the researchers said the trends reflect "possible" or "probable" impacts of climate change, including losses of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, precipitation increases in the high latitudes of Eurasia and North America, the retreat of Alaska's glaciers and melting ice fields in Patagonia.

They ascribed changes in 12 regions to natural variability, including a progression from a dry period to a wet period in the northern Great Plains, a drought in eastern Brazil and wetter periods in the Amazon and tropical West Africa. In 14 of the areas -- more than 40 percent of the hotspots -- the scientists associated the water shifts partially or largely with human activity. That included groundwater depletion combined with drought in Southern California and the southern High Plains from Kansas to the Texas Panhandle, as well as in the northern Middle East, northern Africa, southern Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.
The first-of-its-kind study has been published in the journal Nature.

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