Earth

'Infarm' Startup Wants To Put a Farm In Every Grocery Store (techcrunch.com) 7

Infarm, a 40-plus person startup based in Berlin, imagines a future where every grocery store has its own farm packed with herbs, vegetables and fruit. "The plants themselves are being monitored by multiple sensors and fed by an internet-controlled irrigation and nutrition system," reports TechCrunch. "Growing out from the center, the basil is at ascending stages of its life, with the most outer positioned ready for you, the customer, to harvest." From the report: The concept might not be entirely new -- Japan has been an early pioneer in vertical farming, where the lack of space for farming and very high demand from a large population has encouraged innovation -- but what potentially sets Infarm apart, including from other startups, is the modular approach and go-to-market strategy it is taking. This means that the company can do vertical farming on a small but infinitely expandable scale, and is seeing Infarm place farms not in offsite warehouses but in customer-facing city locations, such as grocery stores, restaurants, shopping malls, and schools, enabling the end-customer to actually pick the produce themselves. In contrast, the Infarm system is chemical pesticide-free and can prioritize food grown for taste, color and nutritional value rather than shelf life or its ability to sustain mass production. Its indoor nature means it isn't restricted to seasonality either and by completely eliminating the distance between farmer and consumer, food doesn't get much fresher. When a new type of herb or plant is introduced, Infarm's plant experts and engineers create a recipe or algorithm for the produce type, factoring in nutrition, humidity, temperature, light intensity and spectrum, which is different from system to system depending on what is grown. The resulting combination of IoT, Big Data and cloud analytics is akin to "Farming-as-a-Service," whilst , space permitting, Infarm's modular approach affords the ability to keep adding more farming capacity in a not entirely dissimilar way to how cloud computing can be ramped up at the push of a button.
Google

Google Home Is 6 Times More Likely To Answer Your Question Than Amazon Alexa (adweek.com) 12

According to software developed by New York-based 360i, Google Home is six times more likely to answer your question than Amazon Alexa -- its biggest competitor. Adweek reports: It's relatively surprising, considering that RBC Capital Markets projects Alexa will drive $10 billion of revenue to Amazon by 2020 -- not to mention the artificial intelligence-based system currently owns 70 percent of the voice market. 360i's proprietary software asked both devices 3,000 questions to come to the figure. While Amazon Alexa has shown considerable strength in retail search during the agency's research, Google won the day thanks to its unmatched search abilities.
The Internet

'I'm Suing New York City To Loosen Verizon's Iron Grip' (wired.com) 19

New submitter mirandakatz writes: New York City is lagging far behind when it comes to ensuring ubiquitous, reasonably priced fiber optic internet access for every resident. There's a jaw-dropping digital divide in the city, and more than a quarter of households are still using dial-up. The city could be doing more to fix that -- but it's not. That's why Susan Crawford, a professor at Harvard Law School and fierce advocate for nationwide fiber, is suing the city. At Backchannel, Crawford writes that "the city's intransigence should be embarrassing to it. Instead of a plan, instead of exercising power and acting coherently, all we've got is shuffling and nay-saying. Getting information regarding access is the key to transforming telecommunications policy in the U.S. -- as well as in New York City. We must do better." "New York City is the regulator of all the underground conduit in those two boroughs -- meaning the pipes running under the streets through which fiber optic lines are threaded," Crawford writes. "At any moment, it could require that additional conduit be built where it doesn't now exist. It could require that choked-up conduit that is now decades old be cleaned and repaired. And it could require that that conduit run to every building in the city, and require that all new buildings have neutral connection points in their basements allowing many competitors to hawk their services to tenants. If the city took these steps [...] it would foster a vibrantly competitive marketplace for retail fiber-based services for everyone. Dozens of competitors. Low prices for data transmission. But the problem is that, as far as I can tell, the city that never sleeps is, in fact, asleep: It is not taking advantage of its powers. That is why I sued the city five years ago seeking information about its regulatory efforts."
The Almighty Buck

Fake Online Stores Reveal Gamblers' Shadow Banking System (reuters.com) 21

randomErr shares an exclusive report from Reuters: A network of dummy online stores offering household goods has been used as a front for internet gambling payments. The seven sites in Europe to sell items including fabric, DVD cases, and maps are fake outlets. The faux store fronts are a multinational system to disguise payments for the $40 billion global online gambling industry. Online gambling is illegal in many countries and some U.S. states. The dummy sites underline a strategy which regulators, card issuers and banks have yet to tackle head-on. The scheme found by Reuters involved websites which accepted payments for household items from a reporter but did not deliver any products. Instead, staff who answered helpdesk numbers on the sites said the outlets did not sell the product advertised, but that they were used to help process gambling payments, mostly for Americans.
Security

Judge Sentences Man To One Year In Prison For Hacking Smart Water Readers In Five US Cities (bleepingcomputer.com) 43

An anonymous reader writes: A Pennsylvania man was sentenced to one year and one day in prison for hacking and disabling base stations belonging to water utility providers in five cities across the U.S. East Coast. Called TGB, these devices collect data from smart meters installed at people's homes and relay the information to the water provider's main systems, where it is logged, monitored for incidents, and processed for billing. Before he was fired by the unnamed TGB manufacturing company, Flanagan's role was to set up these devices. After he was fired, Flanagan used former root account passwords to log onto the devices and disable their ability to communicate with their respective water utility providers' upstream equipment. He wasn't that careful, as the FBI was able to trace back the attacks to his home. Apparently, the guy wasn't that silent, leaving behind a lot of clues. Flanagan's attacks resulted in water utility providers not being able to collect user equipment readings remotely. This incurred damage to the utility providers, who had to send out employees at customer premises to collect monthly readings. He was arrested in Nov 2014, and later pleaded guilty.
Desktops (Apple)

Apple Releases First Public Beta Of iOS 11 for iPhone and iPad 31

Zac Hall, writing for 9to5Mac: Apple has released the first macOS High Sierra public beta for Mac. This allows users who are not registered developers to test pre-release versions of macOS with new features for free. Prior to the public beta availability, macOS High Sierra has only been available to test with a $99/year developer account. You can register for the free public beta program here. [Note: some outlets report that the update is still "coming soon." [...] Apple has released the first iOS 11 public beta for iPhone and iPad. This allows users who are not registered developers to test pre-release versions of iOS with new features for free. You can register for the free public beta program here..
NASA

Sorry, But Anonymous Has No Evidence That NASA Has Found Alien Life (popsci.com) 112

From a Popular Science article: In a new video, the hacker group known as Anonymous claims that NASA has discovered alien life. But before you freak out, let's talk. Sadly, the group of activists and hacktivists doesn't seem to have found any new evidence to support their extraordinary claim. The video is mainly based on NASA quotes taken out of context, and what appear to be videos and information from conspiracy theory websites. The crux of the argument is based on something Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, said during a hearing in April. These sorts of hearings are organized to educate the House Science Committee on the latest research in a particular field of study. During this one, Zurbuchen said: "Taking into account all of the different activities and missions that are specifically searching for evidence of alien life, we are on the verge of making one of the most profound, unprecedented, discoveries in history." That's the quote Anonymous is pegging their video on. But if you watch his opening statement, he actually explains his reasoning just before he gets to that part. He mentions the Mars 2020 rover, which will look for signs of past life on the red planet. The Europa Clipper mission is slated to search for conditions suitable to life on Jupiter's ocean-filled moon. In a statement, Zurbuchen said, "While we're excited about the latest findings from NASA's Kepler space observatory, there's no pending announcement regarding extraterrestrial life. For years NASA has expressed interest in searching for signs of life beyond Earth. We have a number of science missions that are moving forward with the goal of seeking signs of past and present life on Mars and ocean worlds in the outer solar system. While we do not yet have answers, we will continue to work to address the fundamental question, 'are we alone?'"
Education

The Mere Presence of Your Smartphone Reduces Brain Power, Study Shows (utexas.edu) 69

An anonymous reader shares a study: Your cognitive capacity is significantly reduced when your smartphone is within reach -- even if it's off. That's the takeaway finding from a new study from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. McCombs Assistant Professor Adrian Ward and co-authors conducted experiments with nearly 800 smartphone users in an attempt to measure, for the first time, how well people can complete tasks when they have their smartphones nearby even when they're not using them. In one experiment, the researchers asked study participants to sit at a computer and take a series of tests that required full concentration in order to score well. The tests were geared to measure participants' available cognitive capacity -- that is, the brain's ability to hold and process data at any given time. Before beginning, participants were randomly instructed to place their smartphones either on the desk face down, in their pocket or personal bag, or in another room. All participants were instructed to turn their phones to silent. The researchers found that participants with their phones in another room significantly outperformed those with their phones on the desk, and they also slightly outperformed those participants who had kept their phones in a pocket or bag.
Piracy

Indie Game Developer Shares Free Keys on The Pirate Bay (torrentfreak.com) 92

Jacob Janerka, developer of the popular indie adventure game 'Paradigm,' recently spotted a cracked copy of his title on The Pirate Bay. But, instead of being filled with anger and rage while running to the nearest anti-piracy outfit, Janerka decided to reach out to the pirates. Not to school or scold them, but to offer a few free keys. From a report: "Hey everyone, I'm Jacob, the creator of Paradigm. I know some of you legitimately can't afford the game and I'm glad you get to still play it :D," Janerka's comment on TPB reads. Having downloaded many pirated games himself in the past, Janerka knows that some people simply don't have the means to buy all the games they want to play. So he's certainly not going to condemn others for doing the same now, although it would be nice if some bought it later. "If you like the game, please tell your friends and maybe even consider buying it later," he added.
Communications

Google Replaces Gchat With Hangouts Today (axios.com) 114

An anonymous reader shares a report: The day dreaded by stubborn office workers around the country has finally arrived. At some point today, Google will replace its Google Talk feature in Gmail -- known colloquially to most of the world as Gchat -- with Google Hangouts. The reasoning: Google's announcement of the switch back in March touts Hangouts' better features and integration with other Google products over the barebones Gchat, which launched way back in 2005.
The Almighty Buck

Who Americans Spend Their Time With (theatlas.com) 88

Data scientist Henrik Lindberg has a series of fascinating charts based on data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics that show who people in the United States spend their time with over the course of their lifetime. Check out the charts here. From a report on Quartz: Some of the relationships Lindberg found are intuitive. Time with friends drops off abruptly in the mid-30s, just as time spent with children peaks. Around the age of 60 -- nearing and then entering retirement, for many -- people stop hanging out with co-workers as much, and start spending more time with partners. Others are more surprising. Hours spent in the company of children, friends, and extended family members all plateau by our mid-50s. And from the age of 40 until death, we spend an ever-increasing amount of time alone. Those findings are consistent with research showing that the number of friends we have peaks around age 25, and plateaus between the ages of 45 and 55. Simply having fewer social connections doesn't necessarily equal loneliness. The Stanford University psychologist Linda Carstensen has found that emotional regulation improves with age, so that people derive more satisfaction from the relationships they have, whatever the number. Older people also report less stress and more happiness than younger people.
Nintendo

Super Nintendo Classic Coming in September (hollywoodreporter.com) 101

Rumors are true. Nintendo is gearing up to launch the SNES Classic, a miniaturized version of the glorious original Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The console will include 21 games when it launches September 29. A report adds: Among the big surprises: a never-before released Star Fox 2 is in the mix. Here's the full list of games: Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, F-Zero, Super Metroid, Super Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting, Super Punch Out, Super Castlevania IV, Donkey Kong Country, Mega Man X, Kirby Super Star, Final Fantasy III, Kirby's Dream Course, Star Fox, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, Contra III: The Alien Wars, Secret of Mana, EarthBound, and Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts. It will retail at a price point of $80.
Businesses

The High-Tech Jobs That Created India's Gilded Generation Are Disappearing (washingtonpost.com) 131

An anonymous reader shares a report: Information technology services account for 9.5 percent of the India's gross domestic product, according to the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), but now, after decades of boom, the future of the industry seems precarious. Since May, workers' groups have reported unusually numerous layoffs. The Forum for IT Employees (FITE) estimates that 60,000 workers have lost their jobs in the past few months (syndicated source). "Employees are being rated as poor performers so companies can get rid of them," said FITE's Chennai coordinator, Vinod A.J. IT companies and some government officials say the numbers have been exaggerated, but industry experts say the country's digital wunderkinds have much to fear. "For the first time, companies are touching middle management," said Kris Lakshmikanth, chief of a recruitment firm called Head Hunters India. Bias against Indians abroad is also compounding workers' fears of layoffs and downsizing at home. President Trump has stoked anxiety among Indian techies, who make up the majority of applicants for the H-1B visa program for highly skilled foreign workers. Trump has talked about sharply restricting H-1Bs, and this year the number of applications dropped a staggering 16 percent as companies prepared for Trump's immigration cutbacks. Instead, Indian outsourcing companies such as Infosys started recruiting Americans, bowing to Trump's calls for "America First." On Monday, India's Prime Minister Modi will meet Trump to talk about trade, visas and climate issues.
Facebook

'Why I Decided To Disable AMP On My Site' (alexkras.com) 129

Web developer Alex Kras on Monday listed a number of reasons why he dislikes Google's AMP project, and why he pulled support for it on his website. From his post: Back in the day we used to have WAP pages -- specific web pages that were presented only to mobile devices. Opting into AMP, for publishers, is kind of like going back to those days. Instead of using responsive design (making sure that one version of the site works well on all devices) publishers are forced to maintain two versions of each page -- their regular version for larger devices and mobile phones that don't use Google and the AMP version. The benefit of AMP is that it imposes tough restrictions on content, making it load fast. The issue with this approach is that AMP becomes a subset of the original content. For example, user comments are often removed. I also find the way images load in AMP to be buggy. AMP tries to load an image only when it becomes visible to the user, rendering a white square instead of the image. In my experience I've seen it fail fairly regularly, leaving the article with an empty white square instead of the image. [...] It's up to publishers to decide if they want to add AMP support on their site. Users, however, don't have an option to turn AMP off. It would be nice if Google provided a user level setting to turn results rendered as AMP off. Unfortunately, even if they were to add this option, it wouldn't help much when Twitter of Facebook would decide to server AMP. Further reading: Kill Google AMP before it KILLS the web - The Register, The Problem With Google AMP, 2 Billion Pages On Web Now Use Google's AMP, Pages Now Load Twice As Fast. John Gruber on open web: Fuck Facebook.
Government

Supreme Court Partially Revives Travel Ban, Will Hear Appeal (bloomberg.com) 455

From a report: The U.S. Supreme Court partially revived President Donald Trump's travel ban and said the justices will hear arguments in the fall. The justices said the ban can apply for now only to people who don't have a "credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States." From a NYT report: Mr. Trump's revised executive order, issued in March, limited travel from six mostly Muslim countries for 90 days and suspended the nation's refugee program for 120 days. The time was needed, the order said, to address gaps in the government's screening and vetting procedures. [...] The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, recently blocked both the limits on travel and the suspension of the refugee program. It ruled on statutory rather than constitutional grounds, saying Mr. Trump had exceeded the authority granted him by Congress. The court agreed to review both cases, and said it would hear arguments in October, noting that the government had not asked it to act faster.

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