Chrome

Firefox vs Chrome: Speed and Memory (laptopmag.com) 160

Mashable aleady reported Firefox Quantum performs better than Chrome on web applications (based on BrowserBench's JetStream tests), but that Chrome performed better on other benchmarks. Now Laptop Mag has run more tests, agreeing that Firefox performs beter on JetStream tests -- and on WebXPRT's six HTML5- and JavaScript-based workload tests. Firefox Quantum was the winner here, with a score of 491 (from an average of five runs, with the highest and lowest results tossed out) to Chrome's 460 -- but that wasn't quite the whole story. Whereas Firefox performed noticeably better on the Organize Album and Explore DNA Sequencing workloads, Chrome proved more adept at Photo Enhancement and Local Notes, demonstrating that the two browsers have different strengths...

You might think that Octane 2.0, which started out as a Google Developers project, would favor Chrome -- and you'd be (slightly) right. This JavaScript benchmark runs 21 individual tests (over such functions as core language features, bit and math operations, strings and arrays, and more) and combines the results into a single score. Chrome's was 35,622 to Firefox's 35,148 -- a win, if only a minuscule one.

In a series RAM-usage tests, Chrome's average score showed it used "marginally" less memory, though the average can be misleading. "In two of our three tests, Firefox did finish leaner, but in no case did it live up to Mozilla's claim that Quantum consumes 'roughly 30 percent less RAM than Chrome,'" reports Laptop Mag.

Both browsers launched within 0.302 seconds, and the article concludes that "no matter which browser you choose, you're getting one that's decently fast and capable when both handle all of the content you're likely to encounter during your regular surfing sessions."
Television

Amazon Is Making a 'Lord of the Rings' Prequel Series (techcrunch.com) 109

Amazon is making a Lord of the Rings prequel TV series for its Amazon Instant streaming service. The show, which already carries a multi-season commitment, will "explore new storylines preceding J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring." TechCrunch reports: It's possible the new series will mine the ponderous but rich Silmarillion for material, as fan fiction writers and lore aficionados have done for decades. The exploits of the Elf-Lords of old would make for a stirring epic, while many would thrill at the possibility of seeing Moria at the height of its grandeur. So much depends on the quality of the adaptation, though. Amazon has been pretty good about its Originals, but this will be an undertaking far beyond the scope of anything its studios and partners have yet attempted. Amazon is partnering with New Line Cinema, which of course was the film company behind the much-loved trilogy that began in 2001, and the Tolkien Estate, as well as HarperCollins for some reason. The deal also "includes a potential additional spin-off series," presumably if it's popular enough.
Businesses

Broadcom Explores Buying Qualcomm (bloomberg.com) 69

phalse phace writes: Bloomberg news is reporting that Broadcom may be planning to make an offer to buy Qualcomm. From the report: "Broadcom Ltd. is considering a bid of more than $100 billion for Qualcomm Inc., according to people familiar with the matter, in what would be the biggest-ever takeover of a chipmaker. Broadcom is speaking to advisers about the potential deal, said the people, who asked not to be identified because talks are private. The offer of about $70 a share would include cash and stock and is likely to be made in the coming days, the people said." If the deal goes through, Broadcom would become "the world's third largest chipmaker behind Intel Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. and give it a huge swath of the supply chain of vital phone components such as Wi-Fi and cellular modem chips. The two companies are already among the top ten providers of chips ranked by revenue in an industry that's consolidating rapidly."
AI

Wall Street's Research Jobs Are the Most Likely To Be Upended By AI (qz.com) 66

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: Research analysts are the most likely employees on Wall Street to find themselves working with -- or being replaced by -- robots, according to a survey by Greenwich Associates. By next year, some 75% of banks and financial firms will either explore or implement artificial intelligence technologies, harnessing a variety of digital services to extract insights from mountains of data. While AI is probably near the peak of its hype cycle, several factors have helped it gain traction in recent years, according to Greenwich. Billions of images and documents are now available online for training computers to spot patterns and other high-level tasks. Advances in graphical processing units, which are adept at the kind of data crunching required by AI, are making sifting through daunting datasets much easier. The cloud has also made it cheaper for researchers and startups to boost their computing power to service sophisticated AI-enabled systems. AI makes sense for financial research, as machines can crunch reams of data more quickly than human analysts and, with the right data, identify obscure correlations and patterns.
Facebook

Facebook Tests Removing Publishers From News Feed -- Unless They Pay (mashable.com) 88

According to a report via Mashable, Facebook is removing posts from Pages in the original News Feed and relegating them to another feed, forcing users to "pay to play" in order to have their content back in the News Feed. The setting is only available in Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Cambodia for now, but it could be rolled out to other countries later. From the report: The social network last week officially launched its secondary news feed called Explore. The feed generally features posts from Facebook Pages users don't follow. News Feed, meanwhile, hosts posts from friends and Pages users do follow. But that's not true for everyone. In six markets, Facebook has removed posts from Pages in the original News Feed and relegated them to another feed, Filip Struharik, editor and social media manager at Dennik N, wrote. That means Facebook's main feed is no longer a free playing field for publishers. Instead, it's a battlefield of "pay to play," where publishers have to pony up the dough to get back into the News Feed. It's a stark change from how media outlets have grown with Facebook. Publishers like BuzzFeed's Tasty and NowThis grew via distributing viral posts and videos on News Feed, as Ziad Ramley, former social lead at Al Jazeera English, wrote. While companies had to employ social media managers, they could generally rely on them sharing content without paying to boost it.
Advertising

Could Cryptocurrency Mining Kill Online Advertising? (linkedin.com) 164

"Could it turn out users actually prefer to trade a little CPU time to website owners in favor of them not showing ads?" writes phonewebcam, a long-time Slashdot reader. Slashdot covered the downside [of in-browser cryptocurrency mining] recently, with even [Portuguese professional sportsballer] Cristiano Ronaldo's official site falling victim, but that may not be the full story. This could be an ideal win-win situation, except for one huge downside -- the current gang of online advertisers.
By "current gang of online advertisers," he means Google, according to a longer essay at LinkedIn: Naturally, the world's largest ad broker, which runs the world most popular browser (desktop and mobile) is keen to see how this plays out, and is also uniquely placed to be able to heavily influence it, too... As it happens, Chrome users can already do something about it via extensions, for example AntiMiner... If cryptocurrencies have a future - and that's a big if (look at China's Bitcoin ban) - it could well turn out that their role just took an unexpected turn.
Chrome

Google Engineers Explore Ways To Stop In-Browser Cryptocurrency Miners in Chrome (bleepingcomputer.com) 189

An anonymous reader writes: Google Chrome engineers are considering adding a special browser permission that will thwart the rising trend of in-browser cryptocurrency miners. Discussions on the topic of in-browser miners have been going on the Chromium project's bug tracker since mid-September when Coinhive, the first such service, launched. "Here's my current thinking," Ojan Vafai, a Chrome engineering working on the Chromium project, wrote in one of the recent bug reports. "If a site is using more than XX% CPU for more than YY seconds, then we put the page into 'battery saver mode' where we aggressively throttle tasks and show a toast [notification popup] allowing the user to opt-out of battery saver mode. When a battery saver mode tab is backgrounded, we stop running tasks entirely. I think we'll want measurement to figure out what values to use for XX and YY, but we can start with really egregious things like 100% and 60 seconds. I'm effectively suggesting we add a permission here, but it would have unusual triggering conditions [...]. It only triggers when the page is doing a likely bad thing."

An earlier suggestion had Google create a blacklist and block the mining code at the browser level. That suggestion was shut down as being too impractical and something better left to extensions.

Google

Google Maps Now Lets You Explore Your Local Planets and Moons (cnet.com) 53

Google has added three planets and nine moons to Google Maps. "The heavenly bodies include Saturn moons Dione, Enceladus, Iapetus, Mimas, Rhea and Titan, and Jupiter moons Europa, Ganymede and Io," reports CNET. "Google also added dwarf-planets Pluto and Ceres and full-planet Venus." From the report: Once inside Google Maps for planets, you can spin the space objects around, get more information on their place names and zoom in for a closer look. The new worlds are possible thanks to imagery from NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA's dearly departed Cassini spacecraft sent back a treasure trove of views of Saturn's moons. If you have a few moments to spare, fire up a browser, go to your current location on Google Maps, enter satellite mode and hit the zoom-out button until you've left the planet and are "floating" in space. A list of available planets and moons pops up on the side and you're off on your space adventure.
Transportation

Missouri Considers Hyperloop Route Between St. Louis and Kansas City (theverge.com) 154

Missouri officials are forming a public-private partnership to study the feasibility of building a hyperloop route between St. Louis and Kansas City. The study is being supported by Hyperloop One, and conducted by a consortium of groups, including the Missouri Department of Transportation, the St. Louis Regional Chamber, the KC Tech Council, the University of Missouri System, and the Missouri Innovation Center in Columbia. The Verge reports: St. Louis to Kansas City is a 248-mile route that takes around three hours and 40 minutes by car, or about 55 minutes by plane (not including time spent traveling to the airport, security lines, etc.). Hyperloop One claims the trip would just take 31 minutes using its system of aerodynamic pods traveling through nearly airless tubes at speeds of up to 760 mph. Of course, that depends on building hundreds of miles of tubes, either above ground on pylons along a highway like I-70, or through underground tunnels. The Missouri study will explore all these options, as well the amount of state money that would be needed to build it. The study will cost about $1.5 million, and will be paid for using private funds, Missouri officials said.
Privacy

Illinois Tests A Blockchain-Based Birth Registry/ID System (illinoisblockchain.tech) 151

An anonymous reader quotes Government Technology: The state of Illinois, which has six blockchain pilots underway, will partner with Utah-based Evernym for a birth registry pilot meant to individualize and secure identities... The endeavor, one of six distinct blockchain explorations Illinois began last summer with a working group, is expected to utilize the Sovrin Foundation's publicly available distributed identity ledger and expand upon accomplishments of the W3C Verifiable Claims Task Force, the state said... Recognizing that identity -- and, now, digital identity -- begin at birth, the state will explore using these technologies to create "a secure 'self-sovereign' identity for Illinois citizens during the birth registration process," it said in the announcement.
More from the Illinois Blockchain Initiative site: Self-sovereign identity refers to a digital identity that remains entirely under the individual's control. A self-sovereign identity can be efficiently and securely validated by entities who require it, free from reliance on a centralized repository. Jennifer O'Rourke, Blockchain Business Liaison for the Illinois Blockchain Initiative commented, "To structurally address the many issues surrounding digital identity, we felt it was important to develop a framework that examines identity from its inception at child birth... Identity is not only foundational to nearly every government service, but is the basis for trust and legitimacy in the public sector."

In the proposed framework, government agencies will verify birth registration information and then cryptographically sign identity attributes such as legal name, date of birth, sex or blood type, creating what are called "verifiable claims" or attributes. Permission to view or share each of these government-verified claims is stored on the tamper-proof distributed ledger protocol in the form of a decentralized identifier... This minimizes the need for entities to establish, maintain and rely upon their own proprietary databases of identity information.

Evernym's "Chief Trust Officer" sees the program as "a major contribution to the larger effort of solving the online identity problem."
Networking

Scientists Explore A Light Bulb-Based Based 10Gbps Li-Fi/5G Home Network (ispreview.co.uk) 12

Mark.JUK writes: Researchers at Brunel University in London have begun to develop a new 10 Gbps home wireless network using both Li-Fi (light fidelity) and 5G based mmWave technology, which will fit inside LED (light-emitting diode) light bulbs on your ceiling.

In simple terms, the Visible Light Communication (VLC) based Li-Fi technology works by flicking a LED light off and on thousands of times a second (by altering the length of the flickers you can introduce digital communications).

The article says it'd be more energy efficient (and faster) than a standard Wi-Fi network -- though both technologies have trouble penetrating walls, so "you'd have to buy lots of pricey new bulbs in order to cover your home..."

"It's probably not something that an ordinary home owner would want to install; unless you're happy with running lots of optical fibre cable around your various light fittings."
Space

Cassini's Saturn Mission Goes Out In A Blaze Of Glory (npr.org) 74

An anonymous reader shares a report: Controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory sent a final command Friday morning to the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn. Not long after, accounting for the vast distance the message traveled, the order was received, putting the craft into a suicidal swan dive, plummeting into the ringed planet's atmosphere. Flight Director Julie Webster called "loss of signal" at about 7:55 a.m. ET, followed by Project Manager Earl Maize announcing "end of mission" as the spacecraft began to break up in Saturn's atmosphere. "Congratulations to you all," Maize announced to applause. "It's been an incredible mission, incredible spacecraft, and you're all an incredible team." With Cassini running on empty and no gas station for about a billion miles, NASA decided to go out Thelma & Louise-style. But rather than careen into a canyon, the plucky probe took a final plunge into the object of its obsession. Just how obsessed? Its 13-year mission to explore the strange world of Saturn went on nearly a decade longer than planned. It completed 293 orbits of the planet, snapped 400,000 photos, collected 600 gigabytes of data, discovered at least seven new moons, descending into the famed rings and sent its Huygens lander to a successful 2005 touchdown on the surface of yet another moon, Titan. Also read: Cassini's Best Discoveries of Saturn and Its Moons.
Advertising

Facebook Enabled Advertisers To Reach 'Jew Haters' (propublica.org) 253

ProPublica is reporting that Facebook "enabled advertisers to direct their pitches to the news feeds of almost 2,300 people who expressed interest in the topics of 'Jew hater,' 'How to burn jews,' or, 'History of why jews ruin the world.'" The organization even went so far as to test these ad categories by paying $30 to target those groups with three "promoted posts" -- in which a ProPublica article or post was displayed in their news feeds. Facebook reportedly approved all three ads within 15 minutes. From the report: After we contacted Facebook, it removed the anti-Semitic categories -- which were created by an algorithm rather than by people -- and said it would explore ways to fix the problem, such as limiting the number of categories available or scrutinizing them before they are displayed to buyers. In all likelihood, the ad categories that we spotted were automatically generated because people had listed those anti-Semitic themes on their Facebook profiles as an interest, an employer or a "field of study." Facebook's algorithm automatically transforms people's declared interests into advertising categories. [ProPublica provides a screenshot of their ad buying process on the company's advertising portal.]

"There are times where content is surfaced on our platform that violates our standards," said Rob Leathern, product management director at Facebook. "In this case, we've removed the associated targeting fields in question. We know we have more work to do, so we're also building new guardrails in our product and review processes to prevent other issues like this from happening in the future."

Programming

Is Python Really the Fastest-Growing Programming Language? (stackoverflow.blog) 254

An anonymous reader quotes Stack Overflow Blog: In this post, we'll explore the extraordinary growth of the Python programming language in the last five years, as seen by Stack Overflow traffic within high-income countries. The term "fastest-growing" can be hard to define precisely, but we make the case that Python has a solid claim to being the fastest-growing major programming language... June 2017 was the first month that Python was the most visited [programming language] tag on Stack Overflow within high-income nations. This included being the most visited tag within the US and the UK, and in the top 2 in almost all other high income nations (next to either Java or JavaScript). This is especially impressive because in 2012, it was less visited than any of the other 5 languages, and has grown by 2.5-fold in that time. Part of this is because of the seasonal nature of traffic to Java. Since it's heavily taught in undergraduate courses, Java traffic tends to rise during the fall and spring and drop during the summer.

Does Python show a similar growth in the rest of the world, in countries like India, Brazil, Russia and China? Indeed it does. Outside of high-income countries Python is still the fastest growing major programming language; it simply started at a lower level and the growth began two years later (in 2014 rather than 2012). In fact, the year-over-year growth rate of Python in non-high-income countries is slightly higher than it is in high-income countries... We're not looking to contribute to any "language war." The number of users of a language doesn't imply anything about its quality, and certainly can't tell you which language is more appropriate for a particular situation. With that perspective in mind, however, we believe it's worth understanding what languages make up the developer ecosystem, and how that ecosystem might be changing. This post demonstrated that Python has shown a surprising growth in the last five years, especially within high-income countries.

The post was written by Stack Overflow data scientist David Robinson, who notes that "I used to program primarily in Python, though I have since switched entirely to R."
Communications

Germany Unveils World's Most Powerful X-Ray Laser (theguardian.com) 49

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The world's most powerful X-ray laser has begun operating at a facility where scientists will attempt to recreate the conditions deep inside the sun and produce film-like sequences of viruses and cells. The machine, called the European X-ray Free Electron Laser (XFEL), acts as a high-speed camera that can capture images of individual atoms in a few millionths of a billionth of a second. Unlike a conventional camera, though, everything imaged by the X-ray laser is obliterated -- its beam is 100 times more intense than if all the sunlight hitting the Earth's surface were focused onto a single thumbnail. The facility near Hamburg, housed in a series of tunnels up to 38 meters underground, will allow scientists to explore the architecture of viruses and cells, create jittery films of chemical reactions as they unfold and replicate conditions deep within stars and planets.

XFEL is the world's third major X-ray laser facility -- projects in Japan and the U.S. have already spawned major advances in structural biology and materials science. The European beam is more powerful, but most significantly has a far higher pulse rate than either of its predecessors. "They can send 100 pulses out per second, we can send 27,000," said Robert Feidenhan'l, chairman of the European XFEL management board. This matters because to study chemical reactions or biological processes, the X-ray strobe is used to capture flickering snapshots of the same system at different time-points that can be stitched together into a film sequence.

Businesses

Smartphone Maker HTC Explores Strategic Options (bloomberg.com) 28

An anonymous reader shares a Bloomberg report: HTC, the beleaguered manufacturer that once ranked among the world's top smartphone makers, is exploring options that could range from separating off its virtual-reality business to a full sale of the company, according to people familiar with the matter. The Taiwanese firm is working with an adviser as it considers bringing in a strategic investor, selling or spinning off its Vive virtual reality headset business, the people said, asking not to be identified as the discussions are private. A full sale of HTC, which has businesses ranging from VR to headset manufacturing, is less likely because it doesn't fit obviously with one acquirer, one of the people said.
Science

Scientists Create Smart Labels To Tell You When To Throw Away Expired Food and Makeup (sciencemag.org) 74

At the 254th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society, researchers are presenting a low-cost, portable, paper-based sensor that can let you know when to toss food and cosmetics. The sensor can detect antioxidants in tea and wine, and be used to explore remote locations, such as the Amazon rainforest, in search of natural sources of antioxidants. "I've always been interested in developing technologies that are accessible to both industry and the general population," Silvana Andreescu, Ph.D., says. "My lab has built a versatile sensing platform that incorporates all the needed reagents for detection in a piece of paper. At the same time, it is adaptable to different targets, including food contaminants, antioxidants and free radicals that indicate spoilage." Phys.Org reports: What sets Andreescu's sensors apart from others, she says, are the nanostructures they use to catch and bind to compounds they're looking for. "Most people working on similar sensors use solutions that migrate on channels," Andreescu says. "We use stable, inorganic particles that are redox active. When they interact with the substances we want to detect, they change color, and the intensity of the change tells us how concentrated the analyte is." Additionally, because all of the reagents needed to operate the device are incorporated in the paper, users don't need to add anything other than the sample being tested. The American Chemical Society has published a video detailing the sensor. Their paper has been published in the journal Analyst.
Space

Luxembourg Just Passed A New Asteroid Mining Law (engadget.com) 177

Remember when NASA visited an asteroid with $10 quintillion worth of minerals? Now the lucrative asteroid-mining industry is being pursued by "the European banking hub with a population not much bigger than Albuquerque's," reports Bloomberg, as low-cost reconnaissance missions are already looking "increasingly feasible." An anonymous reader writes: Last week Luxembourg's parliament unanimously passed an asteroid mining law (which goes into effect Tuesday) "that gives companies ownership of what they extract from the celestial bodies..." according to Engadget. "Luxembourg's law is pretty similar to the one President Obama signed back in 2015 in that it gives mining companies the right to keep their loot. Both of them also take advantage of a loophole in the UN's Outer Space Treaty, which states that nations can't claim and occupy the moon and other celestial bodies. They don't give companies ownership of asteroids, after all, only the minerals they extract.. Unlike the U.S. version, though, a company's major stakeholders don't need to be based in Luxembourg to enjoy its protection -- they only need to have an office in country."

Bloomberg reports that the law "could serve as a model for other small countries hoping to explore asteroids -- and to get a piece of the booming space business," since the tiny country is also offering to buy equity stakes in any companies which relocate to Luxembourg. "Luxembourg's success in attracting these companies should show other small countries that space isn't just for superpowers any more... Competition has made space achievable for many more companies, and for the countries that support them."

For the last few years Luxembourg has begun quietly investing in asteroid mining, including a joint venture with "Deep Space Industries" to build a spacecraft to test asteroid-mining technologies -- while another collaboration with Kleos Space is working on "in-space manufacturing technology."
Security

Roomba Is No Spy: CEO Says iRobot Will Never Sell Your Data (zdnet.com) 86

It's been a challenging week for iRobot, the company behind the popular Roomba robotic vacuums. From a report: It started with an interview in Reuters, in which the company's chief executive Colin Angle gave the clear impression that iRobot was selling consumers' home mapping data (Editor's note: the chief executive said the company intended to explore the opportunity). Last night, Angle and iRobot got back to me on this issue. They provided the following response to the concerns I and others shared. "First things first, iRobot will never sell your data. Our mission is to help you keep a cleaner home and, in time, to help the smart home and the devices in it work better. There's no doubt that a robot can help your home be smarter. It's the data it collects to do its job, and the trusted relationship between you, your robot and iRobot, that is critical for that to happen. Information that is shared needs to be controlled by the customer and not as a data asset of a corporation to exploit. That is how data is handled by iRobot today. Customers have control over sharing it. I want to make very clear that this is how data will be handled in the future."
United States

First Human Embryos Edited In US (technologyreview.com) 140

randomErr shares a report from MIT Technology Review: The first known attempt at creating genetically modified human embryos in the United States has been carried out by a team of researchers in Portland, Oregon, MIT Technology Review has learned. The effort, led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University, involved changing the DNA of a large number of one-cell embryos with the gene-editing technique CRISPR. Until now, American scientists have watched as scientists elsewhere were first to explore the controversial practice. To date, three previous reports of editing human embryos were all published by scientists in China. Now Mitalipov is believed to have broken new ground both in the number of embryos experimented upon and by demonstrating that it is possible to safely and efficiently correct defective genes that cause inherited diseases. In altering the DNA code of human embryos, the objective of scientists is to show that they can eradicate or correct genes that cause inherited disease, like the blood condition beta-thalassemia. The process is termed "germline engineering" because any genetically modified child would then pass the changes on to subsequent generations via their own germ cells -- the egg and sperm. Reached by Skype, Mitalipov declined to comment on the results, which he said are pending publication. But other scientists confirmed the editing of embryos using CRISPR.

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