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Satya Nadella: 'We Clearly Missed the Mobile Phone' ( 14

At the Wall Street Journal's WSJD Live conference, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella admitted that Microsoft has largely failed in making a dent in the mobile hardware business. Nadella, who took over the command of Microsoft from Steve Ballmer in February 2014, however added that the company is now focused on doing well in new categories and also building new categories. He said:We clearly missed the mobile phone, there's no question. Our goal now is to make sure we grow new categories. We have devices which are phones today but the place where we are focused on, given where the market is, is what is the unique thing that our phone can do. We have a phone that in fact can replace your PC, the same way we have a tablet that can replace your laptop. Those are the categories that we want to go create. If anything, the lesson learned for us, was thinking of PC as the hub for all things for all time to come. It was perhaps one for the bigger mistakes we made.

Latest WikiLeaks Reveal Suggests Facebook Is Too Close For Comfort With Clinton ( 117

MojoKid writes: As we quickly approach the November 8th elections, email leaks from the Clinton camp continue to loom over the presidential candidate. The latest data dump from WikiLeaks shines a light on emails between Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, John Podesta and Facebook Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg. In one email exchange, dated June 6th, 2015, Sandberg expresses her desire for Clinton to become president, writing to Podesta, "And I still want HRC to win badly. I am still here to help as I can." While that was a private exchange, Sandberg also made her zest for seeing Clinton as the 45th President of the United States publicly known in a Facebook post on July 28th of this year. None of that is too shocking when you think about it. Sandberg has every right to endorse whichever candidate she wants for president. However, a later exchange between Sandberg and Podesta showed that Mark Zuckerberg was looking to get in on the action a bit, and perhaps curry favor with Podesta and the Clinton camp in shaping public policy. Donald Trump has long claimed that Clinton is too cozy with big businesses, and one cannot dismiss the fact that Facebook has a global user base of 1.7 billion users. When you toss in the fact that Facebook came under fire earlier this year for allegedly suppressing conservative news outlets in the Trending News bar, questions begin to arise about Facebook's impartiality in the political race. The report also notes that Sandberg is at the top of the list when it comes to picks for Treasury Secretary, if Clinton wins the election. In an interview with Politico, David Segal, executive director for Demand Progress, said "[Sandberg] is a proxy for this growing problem that is the hegemony of five to ten major Silicon Valley platforms." Lina Khan, a fellow with the Open Markets Program at the New American think tank adds: "If a senior Cabinet member is from Facebook, at worst it could directly interfere [in antitrust actions]. But even in the best of cases there's a real worry that it will have a chilling effect on good-faith antitrust efforts to scrutinize potential anti-competitive implications of dominant tech platforms."

Rowhammer Attack Can Now Root Android Devices ( 61

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Softpedia: Researchers have discovered a method to use the Rowhammer RAM attack for rooting Android devices. For their research paper, called Drammer: Deterministic Rowhammer Attacks on Mobile Platforms, researchers tested and found multiple smartphone models to be vulnerable to their attack. The list includes LG Nexus (4, 5, 5X), LG G4, Motorola Moto G (2013 and 2014), One Plus One, HTC Desire 510, Lenovo K3 Note, Xiaomi Mi 4i, and Samsung Galaxy (S4, S5, and S6) devices. Researchers estimate that millions of Android users might be vulnerable. The research team says the Drammer attack has far more wide-reaching implications than just Android, being able to exploit any device running on ARM chips. In the past, researchers have tested the Rowhammer attack against DDR3 and DDR4 memory cards, weaponized it via JavaScript, took over PCs via Microsoft Edge, and hijacked Linux virtual machines. There's an app to test if your phone is vulnerable to this attack. "Rowhammer is an unintended side effect in dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) that causes memory cells to leak their charges and interact electrically between themselves, possibly altering the contents of nearby memory rows that were not addressed in the original memory access," according to Wikipedia. "This circumvention of the isolation between DRAM memory cells results from the high cell density in modern DRAM, and can be triggered by specially crafted memory access patterns that rapidly activate the same memory rows numerous times."

Harvard Researchers Print World's First Heart-On-A-Chip ( 17

Harvard University researchers have successfully 3D printed the first heart-on-a-chip with integrated sensors that are capable of measuring the beating of the heart. Gizmodo reports: The printed organ is made of synthetic material designed to mimic the structure and function of native tissue. It is not designed to replace failing human organs, but it can be used for scientific studies, something that is expected to rapidly increase research on new medicine. The medical breakthrough may also allow scientists to rapidly design organs-on-chips to match specific disease properties or even a patient's cells. Organs-on-chips, also known by the more technical name microphysiological systems, replicate the structure and function of living human organs. Each is made of a translucent, flexible polymer that lets scientists replicate biological environments of living organs. The chips are also clear so that the scientists can see an inner-working into how the organs work. A large part of the breakthrough was actually developing six different printable inks capable of integrating sensors within the tissue being printed. In one continuous printing process, the team 3D printed materials into a heart-on-a-chip with integrated sensors. The sensors were capable of measuring the beating of the heart. The new study has been published today in Nature Materials.

Study Finds Little Lies Lead To Bigger Ones ( 123

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC News: Telling little fibs leads down a slippery slope to bigger lies -- and our brains adapt to escalating dishonesty, which makes deceit easier, a new study shows. Neuroscientists at the University College London's Affective Brain Lab put 80 people in scenarios where they could repeatedly lie and get paid more based on the magnitude of their lies. They said they were the first to demonstrate empirically that people's lies grow bolder the more they fib. The researchers then used brain scans to show that our mind's emotional hot spot -- the amygdala -- becomes desensitized or used to the growing dishonesty, according to a study published online Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience. And during this lying, brain scans that show blood supply and activity at the amygdala decrease with increasing lies, said study co-author and lab director Tali Sharot. "The more we lie, the less likely we are to have an emotional response" -- say, shame or guilt -- "that accompanies it," Sharot said. Garrett said he suspects similar escalation factors happen in the "real world," which would include politics, infidelity and cheating, but he cautioned that this study was done in a controlled lab setting so more research would be needed to apply it to other situations. The study found that there is a segment of people who don't lie and don't escalate lies, but Sharot and Garrett weren't able to determine how rare those honest people are. It also found that people lie more when it benefits both them and someone else than when they just profit alone.

Consumer Reports Ranks Tesla Model X Near Bottom For Reliability ( 80

Last year, Consumer Reports withdrew its recommendation for the Tesla Model S after investigating its reliability. Today, the nonprofit organization released its 2016 Car Reliability Survey and found that, while the Tesla Model S has become more reliable, the Tesla Model X has proved to be unreliable overall. CNNMoney reports: CEO Elon Musk admitted that he wished he hadn't put so much new, complex technology on [the Model X] all at once when he unveiled the model last year. Apparently, he was right to worry. The Model X's complicated "falcon wing" doors have been a big trouble spot, said Jake Fisher, head of Consumer Reports' car testing unit. Even the front doors, which have electric motors that let them open on their own, have been a headache for customers, he added. As a result, Tesla ranks among the "Less Reliable" brands on Consumer Reports' list. The SUV's dependability is rated as "Much worse than average." Still, overall owner satisfaction with the vehicle is rated as "Excellent." For a long time, "dependability problems" have tended to be relatively trivial, said Fisher, as the industry has perfected the major mechanical aspects of the cars. In recent years, the problems have stemmed from the more high-tech additions to the newest cars, like the computer screens that work with phone, navigation and entertainment features, said Fisher. But now, with tougher fuel economy rules pushing more complex transmission technologies, dependability issues are once again starting to involve fundamental mechanical components. New eight- and nine-speed transmissions as well as dual-clutch and continuously variable transmissions have been suffering problems at a higher-than-average rate, Fisher said. It's been years since new car buyers would have to worry about things that could actually render their vehicle undrivable. But those concerns are coming back, Fisher said. As for the Model S, Consumer Reports says "Tesla's Model S has improved to average reliability, which now makes the electric car one of our recommended models."

Twitter Plans To Cut About 300 Jobs As Soon As This Week: Bloomberg ( 88

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Twitter Inc. is planning widespread job cuts, to be announced as soon as this week, according to people familiar with the matter. The company may cut about 8 percent of the workforce, or about 300 people, the same percentage it did last year when co-founder Jack Dorsey took over as chief executive officer, the people said. Planning for the cuts is still fluid and the number could change, they added. An announcement about the job reductions may come before Twitter releases third-quarter earnings on Thursday, one of the people said. Twitter, which loses money, is trying to control spending as sales growth slows. The company recently hired bankers to explore a sale, but the companies that had expressed interest in bidding -- Inc., The Walt Disney Co. and Alphabet Inc. -- later backed out from the process. Twitter's losses and 40 percent fall in its share price the past 12 months have made it more difficult for the company to pay its engineers with stock. That has made it harder for Twitter to compete for talent with giant rivals like Alphabet Inc.'s Google and Facebook Inc. Reducing employee numbers would relieve some of this pressure.

People Like Netflix's Original Content More Than Its Other Content: AllFlicks ( 46

According to a study by IHS Markit this month, in the last two years Netflix's spending on original content rose from $2.38 billion to $4.91 billion. The company has invested big in original programming -- and it looks to be paying off. The folks over at AllFlicks have found that Netflix's subscriber base prefers Netflix's original content to that of its syndicated content. AllFlicks reports: Netflix user ratings show that Netflix's subscriber base prefers Netflix's original content to its syndicated content. Netflix originals sport an average rating of 3.85 stars out of five; all other content averages 3.47 stars. That means that user ratings for Netflix originals are 11% higher, on average, than user ratings for syndicated content. Netflix does best in the documentaries category, where users rate non-original content, on average, at 3.54. Netflix's documentaries average 4.07 stars, a pretty impressive showing. Netflix's TV shows do the worst, but still edge their other TV show content by 5.7%. It's possible that the frequent reviewers among Netflix's user base differ from the user base as a whole, but there's not a lot of reason to doubt the raw data here. The Netflix originals and non-originals were both reviewed on the same service and using the same rating system, yet originals consistently outperformed the rest of the content.

Alibaba Founder To Chinese Government: Use Big Data To Stop Criminals ( 35

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Chinese billionaire Jack Ma proposed that the nation's top security bureau use big data to prevent crime, endorsing the country's nascent effort to build unparalleled online surveillance of its billion-plus people. China's data capabilities are virtually unrivaled among its global peers, and policing cannot happen without the ability to analyze information on its citizens, the co-founder of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. said in a speech published Saturday by the agency that polices crime and runs the courts. Ma's stance resonates with that of China's ruling body, which is establishing a system to collect and parse information on citizens in a country where minimal safeguards exist for privacy. "Bad guys in a movie are identifiable at first glance, but how can the ones in real life be found?" Ma said in his speech, which was posted on the official WeChat account of the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs. "In the age of big data, we need to remember that our legal and security system with millions of members will also face change." In his speech, Ma stuck mainly to the issue of crime prevention. In Alibaba's hometown of Hangzhou alone, the number of surveillance cameras may already surpass that of New York's, Ma said. Humans can't handle the sheer amount of data amassed, which is where artificial intelligence comes in, he added. "The future legal and security system cannot be separated from the internet and big data," Ma said. Ma's speech also highlights the delicate relationship between Chinese web companies and the government. The ruling party has designated internet industry leaders as key targets for outreach, with President Xi Jinping saying in May last year that technology leaders should "demonstrate positive energy in purifying cyberspace."

No One Is Buying Smartwatches Anymore ( 257

An anonymous reader shares a Gizmodo report: Remember how smartwatches were supposed to be the next big thing? About that... The market intelligence firm IDC reported on Monday that smartwatch shipments are down 51.6 percent year-over-year for the third quarter of 2016. This is bad news for all smartwatch vendors (except maybe Garmin), but it's especially bad for Apple, which saw shipments drop 71.6 percent, according to the IDC report Apple is still the overall smartwatch market leader, with an estimated 41.3-percent of the market, but IDC estimates it shipped only 1.1 million Apple Watches in Q3 2016, compared with 3.9 million in 2015. To a degree, that's to be expected, since the new Apple Watch Series 2 came out at the tail-end of the quarter. But the news is still a blow, when you consider how huge the Apple Watch hype was just 18 months ago.

Electronic Surveillance Up 500% In DC Area Since 2011, Almost All Sealed Cases ( 38

schwit1 quotes a report from Washington Post: Secret law enforcement requests to conduct electronic surveillance in domestic criminal cases have surged in federal courts for Northern Virginia and the District, but only one in a thousand of the applications ever becomes public, newly released data show. The bare-bones release by the courts leaves unanswered how long, in what ways and for what crimes federal investigators tracked individuals' data and whether long-running investigations result in charges. In Northern Virginia, electronic surveillance requests increased 500 percent in the past five years, from 305 in 2011 to a pace set to pass 1,800 this year. Only one of the total 4,113 applications in those five years had been unsealed as of late July, according to information from the Alexandria division of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, which covers northern Virginia. The report adds: "The federal court for the District of Columbia had 235 requests in 2012, made by the local U.S. attorney's office. By 2013, requests in the District had climbed 240 percent, to about 564, according to information released by the court's chief judge and clerk. Three of the 235 applications from 2012 have been unsealed. The releases from the Washington-area courts list applications by law enforcement to federal judges asking to track data -- but not eavesdrop -- on users' electronic communications. That data can include sender and recipient information, and the time, date, duration and size of calls, emails, instant messages and social media messages, as well as device identification numbers and some website information."

Seth's Blog: Hardware is Sexy, But It's Software that Matters ( 68

American author and entrepreneur Seth Godin argues that though hardware is nice and dandy, it is the software that matters. And not just software that runs on a computer, "but the metaphorical idea of rules and algorithms designed to solve problems and connect people," he writes. Godin has used the piece to note how Apple has increasingly grown focused on hardware, and as a result, it's not putting much effort to fixing its software. He writes, "Automator, a buggy piece of software with no support, and because it's free, no competitors. Keynote, a presentation program that hasn't been improved in years. iOS 10, which replaces useful with pretty. iTunes, which is now years behind useful tools like Roon. No significant steps forward in word processing, spreadsheets, video editing, file sharing, internet tools, conferencing, etc. Apple contributed mightily to a software revolution a decade ago, but they've stopped. Think about how many leaps forward Slack, Dropbox, Zapier and others have made in popular software over the last few decades. But it requires a significant commitment to keep it moving forward. It means upending the status quo and creating something new." From the article: Software can change faster than hardware, which means that in changing markets, bet on software. It's tempting to treat the user interface as a piece of fashion, some bling, a sort of jewelry. It's not. It's the way your user controls the tool you build. Change it when it stops working, not when you're bored with it. Every time you change the interface, you better have a really good reason.John Gruber disagrees. He writes: Software, in general, is much better than it used to be. Unlike 1995, we don't lose data due to bugs very often. (For me personally, I can't even remember the last time I lost data.) But our hardware is so much better than our software, the contrast is jarring. An iPhone is a nearly perfect object. Sleek, attractive, simple. The hardware is completely knowable -- there are only five buttons, each of them easily understood. iOS, however, is effectively infinite. The deeper our software gets, the less we know and understand it. It's unsettling.

Apple Releases iOS 10.1 With New Portrait Mode For iPhone 7 Plus ( 44

Apple has released iOS 10.1 to the public today for all iOS 10 users, and with it comes several new features, a long list of bug fixes, and various other under-the-hood improvements. One of the biggest new features introduced is a new "Portrait" mode, which uses the dual cameras in the iPhone 7 Plus to create shallow depth of field portrait photos with plenty of background bokeh. MacRumors reports: To achieve the blurred look, the image signal processor in the device uses the wide-angle camera to create a depth map while the telephoto captures an image, dissecting the different layers of the photo to decide what to blur with an artful "bokeh" effect. It works on people, pets, and objects, but it does require good lighting to achieve the proper results. The update also [...] brings Transit directions to Japan for the first time. There have been some tweets to the Messages app. It's now possible to play Bubble and Screen effects in Messages with Reduce Motion enabled, something that wasn't previously possible. There's also a new option to replay Bubble and Screen effects. It's important to the note that the "Portrait" mode is still in beta, and will not work flawlessly. Mac Rumors has a full list of the changes made to iOS 10.1 embedded in their report, which you can view here.

New York Times Buys The Wirecutter For $30 Million ( 34

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Recode: The New York Times is buying The Wirecutter, a five-year-old online consumer guide. The Times will pay more than $30 million, including retention bonuses and other payouts, for the startup, according to people familiar with the transaction. Brian Lam, a former editor at Gawker Media's Gizmodo, founded The Wirecutter in 2011, and has self-funded the company's growth. The Wirecutter provides recommendations for electronics and other gadgets that are both obsessively researched and simply presented. The Wirecutter also owns The Sweethome, which takes the same approach for home appliances and other gear. "We're very excited about this acquisition on two fronts," said Mark Thompson, CEO of The New York Times Company, in the acquisition release. "It's an impressively run business with a very attractive revenue model and its success is built on the foundation of great, rigorously reported service journalism." The Wirecutter tweeted earlier today: "Hey, we're still us. But we're a part of The New York Times now."

XPrize's New Challenge: Turn Air Into Water, Make More Than a Million Dollars ( 129

An anonymous reader shares a CNET report: If you can turn thin air into water, there may be more than $1 million in it for you. XPrize, which creates challenges that pit the brightest minds against one another, is hoping to set off a wave of new innovations in clean water -- and women's safety too. The company announced its Water Abundance XPrize and the Anu & Naveen Jain Women's Safety XPrize on Monday in New Delhi. The first competition will award $1.75 million to any team that can create a device able to produce at least 2,000 liters of water a day from the atmosphere, using completely renewable energy, for at most 2 cents a liter. Teams have up to two years to complete the challenge. India is at the center of the world's water crisis, with access to groundwater depleted in some northern and eastern parts of the country. Water has become so scarce in India that natural arsenic has infiltrated the soil and water in certain regions. While there are systems that can currently extract water from the atmosphere, many of them aren't energy-efficient, or generating enough water. "We know that overuse of groundwater resources are causing the water crisis and it's only getting worse," said Zenia Tata, XPrize's executive director of Global Expansion. The $1 million Women's Safety XPrize calls for an emergency alert system that women can use, even if they don't have access to their phones. The alert would have to be sent automatically and inconspicuously to emergency responders, within 90 seconds, at a cost of $40 or less a year. The device would have to work even in cases where there's no cellphone signal or internet access.

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