Earth

Floating Pacific Island Is In the Works With Its Own Government, Cryptocurrency (cnbc.com) 168

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Nathalie Mezza-Garcia is a political scientist turned "seavangelesse" -- her term for an evangelist in favor of living off the grid -- and on the ocean. Mezza-Garcia spoke with CNBC's Matthew Taylor about what she sees as the trouble with governments, and why she believes tech startups should head to Tahiti. This seavangelesse is a researcher for the Blue Frontiers and Seasteading Institute's highly-anticipated Floating Island Project. The project is a pilot program in partnership with the government of French Polynesia, which will see 300 homes built on an island that runs under its own governance, using a cryptocurrency called Varyon.

"Once we can see how this first island works, we will have a proof of concept to plan for islands to house climate refugees," she said. The project is funded through philanthropic donations via the Seasteading Institute and Blue Frontiers, which sells tokens of the cryptocurrency Varyon. The pilot island is expected to be completed by 2022 and cost up to $50 million. As well as offering a home for the displaced, the self-contained islands are designed to function as business centers that are beyond the influence of government regulation.

It's funny.  Laugh.

The SEC Created Its Own Scammy ICO To Teach Investors a Lesson (theverge.com) 75

In its latest effort to fend off cryptocurrency scams, the Securities and Exchange Commission launched its own fake initial coin offering website today called the Howey Coin to warn people against fraudulent cryptocurrencies. From a report: The name is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Howey Test that the SEC uses to determine whether an investment is a security, which the Commission would therefore have legal jurisdiction over. Click 'Buy Coins Now' on the Howey Coins site and you'll be redirected to an SEC page that states: "We created the bogus HoweyCoins.com site as an educational tool to alert investors to possible fraud involving digital assets like crypto-currencies and coin offerings." It even has a white paper [PDF].
Transportation

Tesla Model X Breaks Electric Towing Record By Pulling Boeing 787 (inverse.com) 235

A Tesla Model X has set the world record for heaviest tow by electric production passenger vehicle when it pulled a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner at the Melbourne Airport in Australia. The video can be viewed on YouTube. Inverse reports: As probably expected, the plane far exceeds the Model X's recommended tow limit of around 5,000 pounds. In fact, the weight of the unloaded 787 with a minimal amount of fuel came closer to around 300,000 pounds. The airline pulled the Dreamliner around 1,000 feet down the tarmac. The stunt was part of a wider campaign around Qantas' new work with Tesla, which involves offering high-powered chargers at its Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide facilities as well as offsetting miles for Tesla drivers that are also frequent flyer members.
AMD

AMD Integrates Ryzen PRO and Radeon Vega Graphics In Next-Gen APUs (zdnet.com) 76

The three biggest PC OEMs -- Dell, HP, and Lenovo -- are now offering AMD Ryzen PRO mobile and desktop accelerated processing units (APUs) with built-in Radeon Vega graphics in a variety of commercial systems. There are a total of seven new APUs -- three for the mobile space and four for the desktop. As AMD notes in its press release, the first desktops to ship with these latest chips include: the HP Elitedesk G4 and 285 Desktop, the Lenovo ThinkCentre M715, and the Dell Optiplex 5055. ZDNet's Adrian Kingsley-Hughes writes about what makes Ryzen PRO so appealing: Ryzen PRO has been built from the ground up to focus on three pillars -- power, security and reliability. Built-in security means integrated GuardMI technology, an AES 128-bit encryption engine, Windows 10 Enterprise Security support, and support for fTPM/TPM 2.0 Trusted Platform Module. One of the features of Ryzen PRO that AMD hopes will appeal to commercial users is the enterprise-grade reliability that the chips come backed with, everything from 18-moths of planned software availability, 24-months processor availability, a commercial-grade QA process, 36-moth warranty, and enterprise-class manageability.

There are no worries on the performance front either, with the Ryzen PRO with Vega Graphics being the world's fastest processor currently available for ultrathin commercial notebooks, with the AMD Ryzen 7 PRO 2700U offering up to 22 percent more productivity performance than Intel's 8th-generation Core i7-8550U in testing carried out by AMD. AMD has also designed the Ryzen PRO processors to be energy-efficient, enabling up to 16 hours of battery life in devices, or 10.5 hours of video playback. The Ryzen PRO with Vega Graphics desktop processors are also no slouches, opening up a significant performance gap when compared to Intel Core i5 8400 and Core i3 8100 parts.
AMD also announced that it is sampling its second-generation Threadripper 2900X, 2920X and 2950X products. "For Threadripper Gen2 you can expect a refresh of the current line-up; an 8-core Threadripper 2900X, a 12-core Threadripper 2920X and of course a 16-core Threadripper 2950X," reports Guru3D.com. "AMD will apply the same Zen+ tweaks to the processors; including memory latency optimizations and higher clock speeds."

AMD has something for the datacenter enthusiasts out there too. Epyc, AMD's x86 server processor line based on the company's Zen microarchitecture, has a new promo video, claiming more performance, more security features, and more value than Intel Xeon. The company plans to market Epyc in an aggressive head-to-head format similar to how T-Mobile campaigns against Verizon and AT&T. Given Intel Xeon's 99% market share, they sort of have to...
AI

The Future of Fishing Is Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (civileats.com) 35

An anonymous reader shares a report: New England's groundfish season is in full swing, as hundreds of dayboat fishermen from Rhode Island to Maine take to the water in search of the region's iconic cod and haddock. But this year, several dozen of them are hauling in their catch under the watchful eye of video cameras as part of a new effort to use technology to better sustain the area's fisheries and the communities that depend on them. Video observation on fishing boats -- electronic monitoring -- is picking up steam in the Northeast and nationally as a cost-effective means to ensure that fishing vessels aren't catching more fish than allowed while informing local fisheries management. While several issues remain to be solved before the technology can be widely deployed -- such as the costs of reviewing and storing data -- electronic monitoring is beginning to deliver on its potential to lower fishermen's costs, provide scientists with better data, restore trust where it's broken, and ultimately help consumers gain a greater understanding of where their seafood is coming from.

[...] Human observers are widely used to monitor catch in quota-managed fisheries, and they're expensive: It costs roughly $700 a day for an observer in New England. The biggest cost of electronic monitoring is the labor required to review the video. Perhaps the most effective way to cut costs is to use computers to review the footage. Christopher McGuire, marine program director for TNC in Massachusetts, says there's been a lot of talk about automating the review, but the common refrain is that it's still five years off. To spur faster action, TNC last year spearheaded an online competition, offering a $50,000 prize to computer scientists who could crack the code -- that is, teach a computer how to count fish, size them, and identify their species. The contest exceeded McGuire's expectations. "Winners got close to 100 percent in count and 75 percent accurate on identifying species," he says.

Transportation

Elon Musk's First LA Tunnel Nears Completion, With Free Rides To Kick Off This Summer (newatlas.com) 148

The Boring Company has made some pretty impressive strides in its relatively short existence. Elon Musk first shared his vision for the company in December 2016, promising to solve traffic woes with networks of tunnels for city centers. It is now adding the finishing touches to its first burrow. From a report: In a video shared on Instagram today, Musk showed what a trip through one of these tunnels would look like. He also declared the Boring Company's first tunnel under LA to be almost complete, and that "pending final regulatory approvals, we will be offering free rides to the public in a few months."
Twitter

One of the Worst Jobs in America: Responding To Irate Tweets From New York City Subway Riders (wsj.com) 98

Every day, the frustrations of New York City subway riders spew out in the form of 2,500 often profanity-laced tweets directed at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. From a report: "Thanks @MTA for making sure we can't buy metrocards AGAIN," wrote @itzMzLori, 31-year-old beauty blogger Lori Tenn, who found her card machine closed. "I swear I f-ing hate y'all." The job of taking this vitriol -- and offering measured responses -- falls to the social-media team behind @MTA and @NYCTSubway. The two Twitter accounts for the agency that manages the New York City subway, bus and commuter rail system have more than two million often angry followers. "We're New Yorkers, we have thick skins, but we're human," said Molly Washam, an even-keeled 30-year-old. "We do sometimes gather around the monitor to see the meanest thing someone could come up with that day."

To stay calm, she said she does yoga, and recently tried a pottery class. Rampant subway delays and breakdowns in recent years are making the work more intense. A 2017 report by the New York City comptroller found weekday subway delays rose 83% between 2013 and 2016. The agency has begun a modernization plan to make improvements, including upgrading the signaling system and hiring more subway workers. New Yorkers' response to repairs? "Really @MTA, More of your Bs complications," wrote @MattMercadoNYC, rider Matt Mercado, 34, of the Bronx. "You pick Thursday AND Friday for these 'Required Repairs'??!?" "We know they might not mean everything they're saying," said Sarah Meyer, the MTA's customer-service chief. But, "I can't personally change the signaling system."

Bitcoin

Telegram's Billion-Dollar ICO Has Become a Mess (amazon.com) 34

Jon Russell and Mike Butcher from TechCrunch report of the mess that is Telegram's billion-dollar initial coin offering (ICO): Telegram's ICO was supposed to be a record-breaker to develop a platform that brings the decentralized internet to life. Instead, it has become a mess with the tightly controlled fundraising process in disarray as early backers sell their tokens for handsome returns. The company recently canceled the public sale piece of its ICO, the Wall Street Journal reported this week, after it raised $1.7 billion from private sale investors, according to SEC filings. But the issues date back further.

Telegram's grand vision is to build the TON (Telegram Open Network), a blockchain-based platform that extends its messaging app, which counts 200 million active users, into a range of services that include payments, file storage, censorship-proof browsing and decentralized apps hosted on the platform. According to the original whitepaper, the plan was to raise $1.2 billion using both invite-only private investors and an open sale to the public. Telegram later extended the raise to $1.7 billion before it canceled the public sale altogether. That's almost certainly because it had already raised enough money to develop TON without the risk of running into the SEC's ongoing ICO probe by soliciting money from the public. The result is that the ordinary people can't buy Telegram's Gram crypto token until it is released on exchanges. There's currently no timeline for that. But, with massive demand for the messaging app and deep discounts for early backers, a secondary market for buying and selling tokens early has emerged -- with huge returns already realized by some.

Businesses

Amazon Offers Retailers Discounts To Adopt Payment System (bloomberg.com) 30

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Amazon is offering to pass along the discounts it gets on credit-card fees to other retailers if they use its online payments service, according to people with knowledge of the matter, in a new threat to PayPal and card-issuing banks. The move shows Amazon is willing to sacrifice the profitability of its payments system to spread its use. Swipe fees are a $90 billion-a-year business for lenders such as JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, networks including Visa and Mastercard, and payment processors like First Data and Stripe, which pocket a fraction of every sale when shoppers swipe cards or click "buy now."

The financial industry's fees amount to about 2 percent of a typical credit-card transaction, or 24 cents for debit. But big stores such as Amazon and Walmart have long been able to negotiate lower rates for themselves based on their massive sales volume. Now, Amazon is offering to pass its discount along to at least some smaller merchants if they agree to embrace its Amazon Pay service. Previously, online merchants using Amazon's service have paid about 2.9 percent of each credit-card transaction plus 30 cents, which is divvied up among Amazon, card issuers and payment networks.

Microsoft

Microsoft Attempts To Spin Its Role in Counterfeiting Case (techcrunch.com) 170

Eric Lundgren, who has spent his life working on e-waste recycling programs, was arrested and charged with "counterfeiting" Microsoft restore discs earlier this week, part of a controversial, years-long legal fight that ended when an appeals court declined to overturn a lower court's decision. Lundgren argued that what he was offering is only recovery CDs loaded with data anyone can download for free. In an interview with The Verge, he said, "Look, these are restore CDs, there's no licenses, you can download them for free online, they're given to you for free with your computer. The only way that you can use them is [if] you have a license, and Microsoft has to validate it.?" Lundgren was going to sell them to repair shops for a quarter each so they could hand them out to people who needed them. Shortly after the Lundgren's was arrested, Microsoft published a blog post which stridently disagrees with Lundgren's characterization of the case. From a report: "We are sharing this information now and responding publicly because we believe both Microsoft's role in the case and the facts themselves are being misrepresented," the company wrote. But it carefully avoids the deliberate misconception about software that it promulgated in court. That misconception, which vastly overstated Lundgren's crime and led to the sentence he received, is simply to conflate software with a license to operate that software. [...] Hardly anyone even makes these discs any more, certainly not Microsoft, and they're pretty much worthless without a licensed copy of the OS in the first place. But Microsoft convinced the judges that a piece of software with no license or product key -- meaning it won't work properly, if at all -- is worth the same as one with a license.

[...] Anyway, the company isn't happy with the look it has of sending a guy to prison for stealing something with no value to anyone but someone with a bum computer and no backup. It summarizes what it thinks are the most important points as follows, with my commentary following the bullets. Microsoft did not bring this case: U.S. Customs referred the case to federal prosecutors after intercepting shipments of counterfeit software imported from China by Mr. Lundgren. This is perfectly true, however Microsoft has continually misrepresented the nature and value of the discs, falsely claiming that they led to lost sales. That's not possible, of course, since Microsoft gives the contents of these discs away for free. It sells licenses to operate Windows, something you'd have to have already if you wanted to use the discs in the first place.

Lundgren went to great lengths to mislead people: His own emails submitted as evidence in the case show the lengths to which Mr. Lundgren went in an attempt to make his counterfeit software look like genuine software. They also show him directing his co-defendant to find less discerning customers who would be more easily deceived if people objected to the counterfeits. Printing an accurate copy of a label for a disc isn't exactly "great lengths." Early on the company in China printed "Made in USA" on the disc and "Made in Canada" on the sleeve, and had a yellow background when it should have been green -- that's the kind of thing he was fixing.

Firefox

Bookmark Syncing Service Xmarks Closes For Good On May 1 (betanews.com) 51

Remember that popular browser extension that let you sync your bookmarks on multiple devices? Launched in 2006 by Foxmarks (a company created by EFF co-founder Mitch Kapor), it was saved from death in 2010 when it was acquired by the password-management service LastPass. But now BetaNews reports: If you're a user of Xmarks, there's some bad news for you -- the service is closing down... The bookmark syncing tool, which is available as an addon for Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari, is to be shuttered on May 1... Emails have also been sent out to registered users notifying them of the impending closure.

"On May 1, 2018, we will be shutting down Xmarks... After this date, your bookmarks should remain available in any previously accessed browser, but they will no longer sync and your Xmarks account will be deactivated... After careful consideration and evaluation, we have decided to discontinue the Xmarks solution so that we can continue to focus on offering the best possible password vaulting to our community."

It was apparently especially popular with long-time Slashdot reader vm, who writes "I have held on to my Xmarks account over the years because I can always get to them despite changes in operating systems, browsers, employers, etc.

"What do other folks use that may also have a mobile option?"
Facebook

Facebook Inches Toward More Transparency and Accountability (eff.org) 32

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation: Facebook took a step toward greater accountability this week, expanding the text of its community standards and announcing the rollout of a new system of appeals. Digital rights advocates have been pushing the company to be more transparent for nearly a decade, and many welcomed the announcements as a positive move for the social media giant. The changes are certainly a step in the right direction. Over the past year, following a series of controversial decisions about user expression, the company has begun to offer more transparency around its content policies and moderation practices, such as the "Hard Questions" series of blog posts offering insight into how the company makes decisions about different types of speech.

The expanded community standards released on Tuesday offer a much greater level of detail of what's verboten and why. Broken down into six overarching categories -- violence and criminal behavior, safety, objectionable content, integrity and authenticity, respecting intellectual property, and content-related requests -- each section comes with a "policy rationale" and bulleted lists of "do not post" items. Facebook's other announcement -- that of expanded appeals -- has received less media attention, but for many users, it's a vital development. In the platform's early days, content moderation decisions were final and could not be appealed. Then, in 2011, Facebook instituted a process through which users whose accounts had been suspended could apply to regain access. That process remained in place until this week.

Businesses

CEO Doesn't Know if MoviePass Will Offer a Movie Per Day Plan Again (engadget.com) 39

The subscription service famous for supplying a movie ticket per day for just $9.95 a month hasn't been offering that wildly popular package since April 13. From a report: The company's too-good-to-be-true offer of one movie per day for $10 subscription model brought it 500,000 subscribers in one month, but MoviePass' finances show that the startup is struggling while still being dogged by its CEO's comments around tracking his customers. Recently, the company downgraded its available new subscriber plans to a three-month, $30 "limited time" offer that includes four movies per month and a three-month trial of iHeartRadio premium. It seems as if this offer now has no limit; CEO Mitch Lowe told The Hollywood Reporter that he was unsure if the movie-per-day plan would even return as an option. "Do you think you will go back to a movie a day?" a THR reporter asked Lowe at CinemaCon in Las Vegas. "I don't know," he responded.
Education

A Well-Known Expert On Student Loans Is Not Real (chronicle.com) 173

mi shares a report from The Chronicle of Higher Education: Drew Cloud is everywhere. The self-described journalist who specializes in student-loan debt has been quoted in major news outlets, including The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and CNBC, and is a fixture in the smaller, specialized blogosphere of student debt. But he's a fiction, and "his" site -- an invention of a student-loan refinancing company.

"Drew Cloud is a pseudonym that a diverse group of authors at Student Loan Report, LLC use to share experiences and information related to the challenges college students face with funding their education," wrote Nate Matherson, CEO of LendEDU (the company that owns Cloud's website, The Student Loan Report). Before that admission, however, Cloud had corresponded at length with many journalists, pitching them stories and offering email interviews, many of which were published. When The Chronicle attempted to contact him through the address last week, Cloud said he was traveling and had limited access to his account. He didn't respond to additional inquiries. And on Monday, as The Chronicle continued to seek comment, Cloud suddenly evaporated. His once-prominent placement on The Student Loan Report had been removed. His bylines were replaced with "SLR Editor." Matherson confirmed on Tuesday that Cloud was an invention. Pressed on whether he regretted deceiving news organizations with a fake source, Matherson said Cloud "was created as a way to connect with our readers (ex. people struggling to repay student debt) and give us the technical ability to post content to the Wordpress website."

The Internet

Lycos Finally Discontinues Its Free Email Service (lycos.com) 51

Long-time Slashdot reader williamyf writes: You may think of it as the end of an era, or as the final nail in the coffin. Today Lycos, one of the pioneering web portals of the '90s, notified all it's users that "On May 15th, 2018, we will no longer be offering free Lycos Mail accounts." They have been very upfront about the reason:

"Q: Why are you doing this?

A: Providing mailboxes costs us money, and we no longer make enough from ads to support the cost of the mailboxes."


At it's heyday, Lycos was acquired by Terra Networks (a division of Telefonica), then sold to Daum Communications in Korea and then to Ybrant Digital in India. The search engine and other parts (like Angelfire, Tripod and Gamesville) continue working. In the meantime, instructions are provided to download all your mail via POP3 for offline archiving, or to upgrade to Paid Accounts.

Businesses

Jeff Bezos Reveals That Amazon Has Over 100 Million Prime Subscribers (theverge.com) 124

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed today that the company has over 100 million Prime members, "marking the first time in the 13-year history of Amazon offering its Prime membership that the company has ever revealed its number of subscribers," reports The Verge. From the report: According to Bezos, Amazon Prime also saw its best year ever in 2017, with the company shipping over five billion products with Prime and signing up more new members than in any previous year. Also revealed today, Whole Foods Market will discontinue its rewards program on May 2 and fold it into Amazon Prime. "Stay tuned for additional announcements for Amazon Prime members," reads the Whole Foods FAQ page focused on digital coupons, rewards and online accounts. "Any account benefits, including membership and/or unused rewards, will not roll into any future programs."
Bitcoin

Cambridge Analytica Planned To Launch Its Own Cryptocurrency (theverge.com) 60

Cambridge Analytica, the data analytics firm that harvested millions of Facebook profiles of U.S. voters, attempted to develop its own cryptocurrency this past year and intended to raise funds through an initial coin offering. The digital coin would have helped people store online personal data and even sell it, former Cambridge Analytica employee Brittany Kaiser told The New York Times. The Verge reports: Cambridge Analytica, which obtained the data of 87 million Facebook users, was hoping to raise as much as $30 million through the venture, anonymous sources told Reuters. Cambridge Analytica confirmed to Reuters that it had previously explored blockchain technology, but did not confirm the coin offering and didn't say whether efforts are still underway. The company also reportedly attempted to promote another digital currency behind the scenes. It arranged for potential investors to take a vacation trip to Macau in support of Dragon Coin, a cryptocurrency aimed at casino players. Dragon Coin has been supported by a Macau gangster Wan Kuok-koi, nicknamed Broken Tooth, according to documents obtained by the Times. Cambridge Analytica started working on its own initial coin offering mid-2017 and the initiative was overseen in part by CEO Alexander Nix and former employee Brittany Kaiser. The company's plans to launch an ICO were still in the early stages when Nix was suspended last month and the Facebook data leak started to gain public attention.
Apple

Apple Is Planning To Launch a News Subscription Service (bloomberg.com) 37

An anonymous reader shares a report: Apple plans to integrate recently acquired magazine app Texture into Apple News and debut its own premium subscription offering, according to people familiar with the matter. The move is part of a broader push by the iPhone maker to generate more revenue from online content and services. The Cupertino, California company agreed last month to buy Texture, which lets users subscribe to more than 200 magazines for $9.99 a month. Apple cut about 20 Texture staff soon after, according to one of the people. The world's largest technology company is integrating Texture technology and the remaining employees into its Apple News team, which is building the premium service. An upgraded Apple News app with the subscription offering is expected to launch within the next year, and a slice of the subscription revenue will go to magazine publishers that are part of the program, the people said.
Google

Google Is in Talks to Buy Nokia's Airborne Broadband System: Bloomberg (bloomberg.com) 12

Google is in advanced talks to buy Nokia's airborne broadband system, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday. Google would use Nokia's system, the report claimed, to tap into new services and reach more users by offering in-flight high-speed internet. From the report: Nokia's technology could help Google offer a faster alternative to existing Wi-Fi on airplanes, said the people. Talks are advanced and an agreement may be reached soon, the people said. A final decision hasn't been made and the companies could still decide against a deal, the people said. Nokia's LTE A2G cellular-based system creates a direct link between an aircraft and the ground instead of bouncing the signal off of a satellite, enabling in-cabin high-speed internet services using Wi-Fi, according to its website.
Businesses

Linux Computer Maker System76 To Move Manufacturing To the US (opensource.com) 136

An anonymous reader shares a report: Linux computer manufacturer System76 made its mark in part because of its commitment to open source principles and doing what it believes is right. Last year it released its homegrown Linux, Pop!_OS. In early March, System76 founder Carl Richell tweeted about the company's plans to locate its computer manufacturing factory in Denver, Colorado. By moving its manufacturing from China to the United States, System76 is offering more proof that it's not afraid to buck prevailing tech norms to do things "the System76 way." Carl Richell, founder and CEO of System76, says in a Twitter exchange that they anticipate shipping products from the factory by the end of the year.

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