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Google

Google's DeepMind is Opening Up Its Flagship Platform To AI Researchers Outside the Company (businessinsider.com) 2

Artificial intelligence (AI) researchers around the world will soon be able to use DeepMind's "flagship" platform to develop innovative computer systems that can learn and think for themselves. From a report on BusinessInsider: DeepMind, which was acquired by Google for $400 million in 2014, announced on Monday that it is open-sourcing its "Lab" from this week onwards so that others can try and make advances in the notoriously complex field of AI. The company says that the DeepMind Lab, which it has been using internally for some time, is a 3D game-like platform tailored for agent-based AI research. [...] The DeepMind Lab aims to combine several different AI research areas into one environment. Researchers will be able to test their AI agent's abilities on navigation, memory, and 3D vision, while determining how good they are at planning and strategy.
Media

Netflix Keeping Bandwidth Usage Low By Encoding Its Video With VP9 and H.264/AVC Codecs (slashgear.com) 28

Netflix announced last week that it is getting offline video downloads support. The company has since shared that it is using VP9 video compression codec to ensure that the file sizes don't weigh a lot. An anonymous reader shares an article on Slashgear (edited): For streaming content, Netflix largely relies on H.264/AVC to reduce the bandwidth, but for downloading content, it uses VP9 encoding. VP9 can allow better quality videos for the same amount of data needed to download. The challenge is that VP9 isn't supported by all streaming providers -- it is supported on Android devices and via the Chrome browser. So to get around that lack of support on iOS, Netflix is offering downloads in H.264/AVC High whereas streams are encoded in H.264/AVC Main on such devices. Netflix chooses the optimal encoding format for each title on its service after finding, for instance, that animated films are easier to encode than live-action. Netflix says that H.264 High encoding saves 19% bandwidth compared to other encoding standards while VP9 saves 36%.
Google

New Google Trusted Contacts Service Shares User Location In Real Time (onthewire.io) 36

Reader Trailrunner7 writes: Google has spent a lot of time and money on security over the last few years, developing new technologies and systems to protect users' devices. One of the newer technologies the company has come up with is designed to provide security for users themselves rather than their laptops or phones.

On Monday Google launched a new app for Android called Trusted Contacts that allows users to share their locations and some limited other information with a set of close friends and family members. The system is a two-way road, so a user can actively share her location with her Trusted Contacts, and stop sharing it at her discretion. But, when a problem or potential emergency comes up, one of those contacts can request to get that user's location to see where she is at any moment. The app is designed to give users a way to reassure contacts that they're safe, or request help if there's something wrong.

Businesses

Amazon Unveils 'Self-driving' Brick-and-Mortar Convenience Store (seattletimes.com) 72

Amazon announced Monday it has built a convenience store in downtown Seattle that deploys a gaggle of technologies similar to those used in self-driving cars to allow shoppers to come in, grab items and walk out without going through a register (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source). From a report on Seattle Times: The 1,800 square-foot store, officially dubbed "Amazon Go," is the latest beach in brick-and-mortar retail stormed by the e-commerce giant, which already has bookstores and is working on secretive drive-through grocery locations. It's clearly a sign that Amazon sees a big opportunity in revolutionizing the staid traditions of Main Street commerce. Located on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Blanchard Street, the store is open to Amazon employees participating in a testing program. It is expected to be open to the public in early 2017.
Opera

Opera Developer Comes With Address Bar Speculative Prerenderer Feature (opera.com) 44

Earlier this month, Opera announced a new interesting feature with Opera 43 developer that predicts the website you're about to go to. The company explains: There are two ways we can predict what page the user will soon load. When the current page tells us so, and when we can determine from the users actions that they are about to load something. Pages can use the tag, and for instance Google uses that for search results if they are pretty sure of what you will load next. When someone writes in the address bar they are humanly slow. Sometimes it is obvious what they will write after just 1-2 characters but they will just keep writing or arrowing through suggestions for millions or billions of wasted clock cycles. We expect this feature to results in an average of 1 second faster loads from the address bar. The company insists that this feature saves time and energy without compromising the security. What's your thought?
The Courts

Embedding Isn't Copyright Infringement, Says Italian Court (arstechnica.co.uk) 13

The appeal court of Rome has overturned one of the 152 website blocks another court imposed last month, and ruled that embedding does not constitute a copyright infringement. From an ArsTechnica report: The order against the Italian site Kisstube is annulled, but the other websites remain blocked. Kisstube is a YouTube channel, which also exists as a standalone website that does not host any content itself, linking instead to YouTube. Both the channel and website arrange content by categories for the convenience of users. The Italian court's decision was informed by an important ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). In the BestWater case, the CJEU held that embedding or framing a video or image from another website is not copyright infringement if the latter is already accessible to the general public. However, another CJEU judgment ruled that posting hyperlinks to pirated copies of material is only legal provided it is done without knowledge that they are unauthorised versions, and it is not carried out for financial gain.
EU

EU Threatens Twitter And Facebook With Possible 'Hate Speech' Laws (gizmodo.com) 195

An anonymous reader quotes Gizmodo: On Sunday, the European Commission warned Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube and Microsoft that if the companies do not address their hate speech problems, the EU will enact legislation that will force them to do so. In May, those five companies voluntarily signed a code of conduct to fight illegal hate speech on their platforms within 24 hours... But on Sunday, the European Commission revealed that the companies were not complying with this code in a satisfactory manner.

"In practice the companies take longer and do not yet achieve this goal. They only reviewed 40 percent of the recorded cases in less than 24 hours," a Commission official told Reuters. The Commission's report found that YouTube responded to reports of harassment the fastest, and unsurprisingly, Twitter found itself in last place. "If Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft want to convince me and the ministers that the non-legislative approach can work, they will have to act quickly and make a strong effort in the coming months," Jourova told the Financial Times on Sunday.

Crime

BMW Traps A Car Thief By Remotely Locking His Doors (cnet.com) 241

An anonymous reader quotes CNET: Seattle police caught an alleged car thief by enlisting the help of car maker BMW to both track and then remotely lock the luckless criminal in the very car he was trying to steal... Turns out if you're inside a stolen car, it's perhaps not the best time to take a nap. "A car thief awoke from a sound slumber Sunday morning (November 27) to find he had been remotely locked inside a stolen BMW, just as Seattle police officers were bearing down on him," wrote Jonah Spangenthal-Lee [deputy director of communications for the Seattle Police Department].

The suspect found a key fob mistakenly left inside the BMW by a friend who'd borrowed the car from the owner and the alleged crime was on. But technology triumphed. When the owner, who'd just gotten married a day earlier, discovered the theft, the police contacted BMW corporate, who tracked the car to Seattle's Ravenna neighborhood.

The 38-year-old inside was then booked for both auto theft and possession of methamphetamine.
Facebook

Tech Billionaires Award Top Scientists $25 Million In 'Breakthrough' Prizes (fortune.com) 41

Tonight at NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, Morgan Freeman emceed a glamorous, Oscars-style celebration that recognizes scientific achievements with money from tech billionaires. An anonymous reader writes: Donors for the Breakthrough Prize included Google's Sergey Brin, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, Alibaba founder Jack Ma and his wife Cathy Zhang, and billionaire venture capitalist Yuri Milner, according to an article in Fortune. TechCrunch has a list of the winners, which included Princeton math professor Jean Bourgain, who won a $3 million prize "for his many contributions to high-dimensional geometry, number theory, and many other theoretical contributions."

Three more physics researchers -- two from Harvard, and one from U.C. Santa Barbara -- will share a $3 million prize recognizing "meaningful advances in string theory, quantum field theory, and quantum gravity." And another $1 million prize honored the leaders of three teams responsible for "collaborative research on gravitational waves and its implications for physics and astronomy," with another $2 million to be shared among the 1,012 members of their research groups.

17-year-old Deanna See from Singapore also won the $250,000 "Breakthrough Junior Challenge" prize -- and more money for her teachers and school -- for her video about antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Google has created a special page where you can read more about some of the other winners.
Books

Ask Slashdot: Have You Read 'The Art of Computer Programming'? (wikipedia.org) 306

In 1962, 24-year-old Donald Knuth began writing The Art of Computer Programming, publishing three volumes by 1973, with volume 4 arriving in 2005. (Volume 4A appeared in 2011, with new paperback fascicles planned for every two years, and fascicle 6, "Satisfiability," arriving last December). "You should definitely send me a resume if you can read the whole thing," Bill Gates once said, in a column where he described working through the book. "If somebody is so brash that they think they know everything, Knuth will help them understand that the world is deep and complicated."

But now long-time Slashdot reader Qbertino has a question: I've had The Art of Computer Programming on my book-buying list for just about two decades now and I'm still torn...about actually getting it. I sometimes believe I would mutate into some programming demi-god if I actually worked through this beast, but maybe I'm just fooling myself...

Have any of you worked through or with TAOCP or are you perhaps working through it? And is it worthwhile? I mean not just for bragging rights. And how long can it reasonably take? A few years?

Share your answers and experiences in the comments. Have you read The Art of Computer Programming?
Microsoft

Does Windows 10's Data Collection Trade Privacy For Microsoft's Security? (pcworld.com) 135

jader3rd shares an article from PC World arguing that Windows 10's data collection "trades your privacy for Microsoft's security." [Anonymized] usage data lets Microsoft beef up threat protection, says Rob Lefferts, Microsoft's director of program management for Windows Enterprise and Security. The information collected is used to improve various components in Windows Defender... For example, Windows Defender Application Guard for Microsoft Edge will put the Edge browser into a lightweight virtual machine to make it harder to break out of the browser and attack the operating system. With telemetry, Microsoft can see when infections get past Application Guard defenses and improve the security controls to reduce recurrences.

Microsoft also pulls signals from other areas of the Windows ecosystem, such as Active Directory, with information from the Windows 10 device to look for patterns that can indicate a problem like ransomware infections and other attacks. To detect those patterns, Microsoft needs access to technical data, such as what processes are consuming system resources, hardware diagnostics, and file-level information like which applications had which files open, Lefferts says. Taken together, the hardware information, application details, and device driver data can be used to identify parts of the operating system are exposed and should be isolated into virtual containers.

The article points out that unlike home users, enterprise users of Windows 10 can select a lower level of data-sharing, but argues that enterprises "need to think twice before turning off Windows telemetry to increase corporate privacy" because Windows Update won't work without information about whether previous updates succeeded or failed.
Open Source

Linux Mint 18.1 'Serena' BETA Ubuntu-based Operating System Now Available For Download (betanews.com) 110

BrianFagioli shares his story on Beta News: Feeling fatigued by Windows 10 and its constant updates and privacy concerns? Can't afford one of those beautiful new MacBook Pro laptops? Don't forget, Linux-based desktop operating systems are just a free download away, folks!

If you do decide to jump on the open source bandwagon, a good place to start is Linux Mint. Both the Mate and Cinnamon desktop environments should prove familiar to Windows converts, and since it is based on Ubuntu, there is a ton of compatible packages. Today, the first beta of Linux Mint 18.1 'Serena' becomes available for download.

Here's the release notes for both Cinammon and MATE.
Cloud

Canonical Sues Cloud Provider Over 'Unofficial' Ubuntu Images (ostatic.com) 45

An anonymous reader quotes OStatic's update on Canonical's lawsuit against a cloud provider: Canonical posted Thursday that they've been in a dispute with "a European cloud provider" over the use of their own homespun version of Ubuntu on their cloud servers. Their implementation disables even the most basic of security features and Canonical is worried something bad could happen and it'd reflect badly back on them... They said they've spent months trying to get the unnamed provider to use the standard Ubuntu as delivered to other commercial operations to no avail. Canonical feels they have no choice but to "take legal steps to remove these images." They're sure Red Hat and Microsoft wouldn't be treated like this.
Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Ubuntu, wrote in his blog post that Ubuntu is "the leading cloud OS, running most workloads in public clouds today," whereas these homegrown images "are likely to behave unpredictably on update in weirdly creative and mysterious ways... We hear about these issues all the time, because users assume there is a problem with Ubuntu on that cloud; users expect that 'all things that claim to be Ubuntu are genuine', and they have a right to expect that...

"To count some of the ways we have seen home-grown images create operational and security nightmares for users: clouds have baked private keys into their public images, so that any user could SSH into any machine; clouds have made changes that then blocked security updates for over a week... When things like this happen, users are left feeling let down. As the company behind Ubuntu, it falls to Canonical to take action."
Security

70 Laptops Got Left Behind At An Airport Security Checkpoint In One Month (bravotv.com) 138

America's Transportation Security Administration has been making some surprising announcements on social media. An anonymous reader writes: A TSA spokesperson says 70 laptops were left behind in just one month at an airport security checkpoint in Newark. "And yes, there are plenty of shiny MacBooks in that pile," reported BravoTV, "which can cost in the $2,000 range new." The TSA shared an image of the 70 laptops on their Instagram page and on Twitter, prompting at least one mobile project designer to reclaim his laptop. "The most common way laptops are forgotten is when traveler's stack a bin on top of the bin their laptop is in," the TSA warns. "Out of sight out of mind."
The TSA is also sharing pictures on social media of the 70 guns they confiscated at security checkpoints in one week in November, reporting they've also confiscated a blowtorch, batarangs, and a replica of that baseball bat from "The Walking Dead". They're reporting they found 33 loaded firearms in carry-on luggage in one week, and remind readers that gun-carrying passengers "can face a penalty as high as $11,000. This is a friendly reminder to please leave these items at home."
Microsoft

How Microsoft Lost In Court Over Windows 10 Upgrades (digitaltrends.com) 101

In June a California woman successfully sued Microsoft for $10,000 over forced Windows 10 upgrades, and she's now written a 58-page ebook about her battle (which she's selling for $9.99). But an anonymous Slashdot reader shares another inspiring story about a Texas IT worker and Linux geek who got Microsoft to pay him $650 for all the time that he lost. "Worley built a Windows 7 machine for his grandfather, who has Alzheimer's Disease, [customized] to look like Windows XP, an operating system his grandfather still remembered well..." writes Digital Trends. "But thanks to Microsoft's persistent Windows 10 upgrade program, Worley's grandfather unknowingly initiated the Win 10 upgrade by clicking the 'X' to close an upgrade window." After Worley filed a legal "Notice of Dispute," Microsoft quickly agreed to his demand for $650, which he donated to a non-profit focusing on Alzheimer's patients.

But according to the article, that's just the beginning, since Worley now "hopes people impacted by the forced Windows 10 upgrade will write a complaint to Microsoft demanding a settlement for their wasted time and money in repairing the device," and on his web page suggests that if people don't need the money, they should give it to charities fighting Alzheimer's. "If Microsoft isn't going to wake up and realize that lobbing intentionally-tricky updates at people who don't need and can't use them actively damages not only the lives of the Alzheimer's sufferer, but those of their whole family, then let's cure the disease on Microsoft's dime so their tactics and those of companies that will follow their reckless example aren't as damaging."

Worley suggests each Notice of Dispute should demand at least $50 per hour from Microsoft, adding "If recent history holds steady they might just write you a check!"

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