mi writes: Turns out, there are researchers studying ways to identify bots on Twitter -- fake accounts used by individuals or groups for various purposes. They identified, what seems like a collection of 350,000 accounts, all of which share the same subtle characteristics: tweets coming from places where nobody lives; messages being posted only from Windows phones; exclusively including quotes from Star Wars novels. "Considering all the efforts already there in detecting bots, it is amazing that we can still find so many bots, much more than previous research," Dr Zhou, a senior lecturer from UCL, told the BBC. Juan Echeverria uncovered the massive networks by combing through a sample of 1% of Twitter users in order to get a better understanding of how people use the social network. He is now asking the public via a website and a Twitter account to report bots to get a better idea of how prevalent they are. Some bots are easy to spot as they likely have been created recently, have few followers, have strange usernames and little content in the messages.
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Google is planning to bring artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to the diminutive Raspberry Pi this year. The Raspberry Pi Foundation said in a statement, "Google is going to arrive in style in 2017. The tech titan has exciting plans for the maker community." ZDNet reports: The advertising-to-cloud-computing giant intends to make a range of smart tools available this year, according to the Foundation. "Google's range of AI and machine learning technology could enable makers to build even more powerful projects," it said. Google has developed a huge range of tools for machine learning, IoT, wearables, robotics, and home automation, and it wants Raspberry Pi fans to fill out a survey that will help it to understand what tools to provide. The survey mentions face- and emotion-recognition and speech-to-text translation, as well as natural language processing and sentiment analysis. "The tech giant also provides powerful technology for navigation, bots, and predictive analytics. The survey will help them get a feel for the Raspberry Pi community, but it'll also help us get the kinds of services we need," said the Foundation.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Consumerist: Now that Netflix has finally opened the doors to offline viewing, subscribers have the ability to download content and watch it later. That's all well and good if you've got plenty of space on your device, but not so useful if you don't. Android users will have some breathing room now, however, as Netflix's most recent app update lets users set their download location to either internal storage or an SD card. As The Verge notes, offline content has a time limit, so it's not like you can download all the movies and TV shows your heart desires and leave them there forever. The feature doesn't support any Android devices that have a microSD slot, either.
Last year, Google previewed a new feature that would allow a user to try out an app without having to download and install it first. China's WeChat recently made the service live on its platform, but Google too hasn't forgotten about it. From a report: Google said it has started live testing of its Instant App initiative in a move that could make it easier for developers and companies to manage their mobile footprints. Developers will have to make their apps more modular to work with Instant Apps, but if you're an enterprise you have to watch this project closely. Here's why: With modular apps that are tied to the Web support, maintenance and updating could become easier. Instant Apps, which blend the app and mobile Web, could curb the need to support Android apps as heavily. Integration with the Web could provide a native experience yet lead to more up sell, subscription and data activity for companies.
For those of you worried about losing an AirPod or two, you may soon be able to find some peace of mind. According to The Wall Street Journal, Apple is adding AirPods support to the Find My iPhone app with the release of iOS 10.3, which will be released in the coming weeks. The Verge reports: Inside the app, AirPods owners will be able to see either the current or last known location of their headphones (although it seems like Apple will determine that based on where the case was last seen, not the actual earbuds). That location data is going to be pretty broad, so it'll really only be good for confirming whether your AirPods are at home or got left behind at work or a coffee shop -- it's not granular enough to say where within your home they might be. To help out with the trickier issue of locating missing headphones that have been separated from their case, Apple is able to blast sound out of each earbud (so long as it has some remaining power). That's by no means an assurance that you'll find a lost earbud, especially if you drop it outside, but it could be pretty helpful if one goes missing around the house.
An anonymous reader shares a TechCrunch report: Apple is finally going to give its developers a way to respond to customer reviews on its App Store and Mac App Store -- a feature that's long been available to Android developers on Google Play, much to the chagrin of the Apple developer community. According to developer documentation for the iOS 10.3 beta, when this version of Apple's mobile operating ships, developers will also be able to ask for reviews in new ways, in addition to responding to those posted publicly on the App Store. Apple's ratings and reviews system has felt antiquated, and has been a source of frustration for developers and users alike. When a customer leaves a negative review, developers couldn't respond to the criticism -- which is sometimes unwarranted -- in a way that other App Store customers could see. For example, a customer may be misunderstanding a feature, or may have complained about a bug that's been fixed in a later release.
Hollywood is buzzing after Tuesday morning's long-awaited Oscar nominations announcements, finally revealing who will be competing for an Academy Award on Feb. 26. One of the biggest stories of the morning was the nominations haul scored by e-commerce giant Amazon and its streaming video arm, Amazon Studios. From a report: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave Amazon's big Oscar contender, director Kenneth Lonergan's devastating drama Manchester by the Sea, six total nominations on Tuesday. Manchester by the Sea, which Amazon co-distributed with indie studio Roadside Attractions, is nominated for Best Picture, while Lonergan is nominated in both the directing and original screenplay categories. Actors Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, and Lucas Hedges all also scored acting category nods. In total, Amazon has seven nominations, with the Iranian thriller The Salesman -- which Amazon is distributing in the U.S. -- up for Best Foreign Picture. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has made no secret about his desire to win an Academy Award -- an accomplishment no streaming service has yet pulled off -- and the company has spent a lot of money building out its portfolio of original feature films as it looks to compete with more traditional Hollywood studios. Last year, Amazon saw its Oscar hopes dashed after the company's collaboration with director Spike Lee on the film Chi-Raq failed to garner any nominations. But Amazon also spent a reported $10 million on the distribution rights to Manchester by the Sea at last year's Sundance Film Festival.
An equally divided federal appeals court refused to reconsider its landmark decision forbidding the U.S. government from forcing Microsoft and other companies to turn over customer emails stored on servers outside the United States. From a report: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in a 4-4 decision Tuesday, declined to rehear its July decision that denied the DOJ access to the email of a drug trafficking suspect stored on a Microsoft server in Ireland. Microsoft has been fighting DOJ requests for the email since 2013. The DOJ has argued that tech companies can avoid valid warrants by storing customer data outside the U.S. Judges "readily acknowledge the gravity of this concern," but the 31-year-old U.S. Stored Communications Act (SCA) doesn't allow worldwide search under a U.S. warrant, wrote Judge Susan Carney. "We recognize at the same time that in many ways the SCA has been left behind by technology," Carney wrote in Tuesday's decision. "It is overdue for a congressional revision that would continue to protect privacy but would more effectively balance concerns of international comity with law enforcement needs and service provider obligations in the global context in which this case arose."
Reader Krystalo writes: Mozilla today launched Firefox 51 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. The new version includes a new warning for websites which collect passwords but don't use HTTPS, WebGL 2 support for better 3D graphics, and FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) playback. Mozilla doesn't break out the exact numbers for Firefox, though the company does say "half a billion people around the world" use the browser. In other words, it's a major platform that web developers target -- even in a world increasingly dominated by mobile apps.
The Australian government is planning to allow 90% of travellers to pass through passport control without human help by 2020. From a report: With a $100m budget, it has begun the search for technology companies that could provide biometric systems, such as facial, iris and fingerprint recognition. Head of border security John Coyne said it could be a "world first." But critics have questioned the privacy implications of such a system. "Biometrics are now going in leaps and bounds, and our ability to harness the power of big data is increasing exponentially," Mr Coyne told the Sydney Morning Herald. The department of border security hopes to pilot the "Seamless Traveller" project in Canberra this summer, with rollout to larger airports scheduled to be completed by spring 2019.
China, the world's second largest economy, is pouring 1.5 billion yuan ($168 million) into a program aimed at making it rain in its usually arid northwestern region. From a report: No stranger to using technologies like cloud seeding to influence and even control weather patterns, China's top economic planners recently gave the go ahead for what will be one of the country's largest weather-modification projects, reports the South China Morning Post. According to the Post, a feasibility study by the country's meteorological agency concluded that the three-year program could see a rise in precipitation over an area of 960,000 sq km, or as much as 10% of the country's landmass. The multi-million dollar budget allocated by the National Development and Reform Commission will reportedly cover the cost for four new aircraft and updates to eight existing planes, nearly 900 rocket launch systems and over 1,800 digital control devices.
U.S. online retailer Amazon has offered to alter its e-book contracts with publishers in a bid to end an EU antitrust probe and stave off a possible fine, the European Commission said on Tuesday. From a report: Amazon, the biggest e-book distributor in Europe, proposed to drop some clauses in its contracts so publishers will not be forced to give it terms as good as those for rivals, the Commission said. Such clauses relate to business models, release dates, catalogs of e-books, features of e-books, promotions, agency prices, agency commissions and wholesale prices. The Commission opened an investigation into the company's e-books in English and German in June 2015, concerned that such parity clauses make it harder for other e-book retailers to compete with Amazon by developing new and innovative products and services. The EU competition enforcer gave rivals and customers a month to provide feedback before it decides whether to accept the proposal. Under EU antitrust rules, such settlements mean no finding of infringement nor fines which could reach 10 percent of a company's global turnover.
The Google Lunar XPrize (GLXP) teams are still soldiering on and, with the deadline now less than 12 months away, the XPrize Foundation has confirmed that five of those teams have signed launch contracts that that will allow them to launch to the moon by the end of the year. From a report on CNET: The GLXP is a $30 million purse of prizes open to independent teams from around the globe, with the overall goal of fostering the development of commercial space exploration. $20 million goes to the first team to successfully land a vehicle on the moon and then successfully cover a distance of 500 meters of lunar surface while streaming high-definition video back to the Earth. $5 million goes to the second team to do the same, while millions of dollars in other prizes are also up for grabs -- including bonuses for extra distance and visiting historic sites. The deadline? It currently stands at midnight, December 31 of 2017. Any team whose lander hasn't left the launchpad by then is automatically out of the running.
Reader Mark Wilson writes: Microsoft is no stranger to pissing people off, particularly when it comes to Windows 10. There have been endless cries about forced updates, complaints about ads, moaning about privacy, and now the CEO of Vivaldi has lashed out at the company for its anti-competitive practices with Microsoft Edge. Jon von Tetzchner says that Microsoft has forgotten about the "actual real-life people that use technology in their daily lives." He takes particular umbrage at Windows 10's continued insistence of resetting the default browser to Edge. Indicating that his patience has now run out, von Tetzchner points to a 72-year-old friend who was confused by the change and unable to reverse things. He says that Microsoft is failing to respect the decisions made by users, and this is something that needs to stop.
On Monday, Microsoft hosted an online event to discuss the impact of the UK's departure from the European Union on the tech industry. The company currently has two large datacentres in the UK, and it is expanding those in response to vigorous demand for cloud services. But Brexit could throw a spanner in the works. From a report: Microsoft's UK Government Affairs Manager Owen Larter said, "We're really keen to avoid import tariffs on any hardware. Going back to the datacenter example, we're looking to build out our datacenters at a pretty strong lick in the UK, because the market is doing very well. If all of a sudden there are huge import [tariffs] on server racks from China or from eastern Europe, where a lot of them are actually assembled, that might change our investment decisions and perhaps we build out our datacenters across other European countries." Simply put, if they cannot build in Britain, then they will build surrounding it. Currently, the data is shared freely between the EU countries without any issues. This is because they all have similar security between them. However, if the UK leaves the EU, then this could cause even more issues for Microsoft.