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Open Source

Ask Slashdot: Who's Building The Open Source Version of Siri? (upon2020.com) 127

We're moving to a world of voice interactions processed by AI. Now Long-time Slashdot reader jernst asks, "Will we ever be able to do that without going through somebody's proprietary silo like Amazon's or Apple's?" A decade ago, we in the free and open-source community could build our own versions of pretty much any proprietary software system out there, and we did... But is this still true...? Where are the free and/or open-source versions of Siri, Alexa and so forth?

The trouble, of course, is not so much the code, but in the training. The best speech recognition code isn't going to be competitive unless it has been trained with about as many millions of hours of example speech as the closed engines from Apple, Google and so forth have been. How can we do that? The same problem exists with AI. There's plenty of open-source AI code, but how good is it unless it gets training and retraining with gigantic data sets?

And even with that data, Siri gets trained with a massive farm of GPUs running 24/7 -- but how can the open source community replicate that? "Who has a plan, and where can I sign up to it?" asks jernst. So leave your best answers in the comments. Who's building the open source version of Siri?
Government

From Bicycles To Washing Machines: Sweden To Give Tax Breaks For Repairs (mnn.com) 140

jenningsthecat writes: The Swedish government is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to encouraging the repair of stuff that would otherwise be thrown away, according to both The Guardian and Fast Company. The country's Social Democrat and Green party coalition have submitted proposals to Parliament that would reduce the value-added-tax (VAT) on bicycle, clothing, and shoe repairs from 25% to 12%. Also proposed is an income tax deduction equalling half the labor cost of repairing household appliances. According to The Guardian, "the incentives are part of a shift in government focus from reducing carbon emissions produced domestically to reducing emissions tied to goods produced elsewhere." Per Bolund, Sweden's Minister for Financial Markets and Consumer Affairs, said the policy also tied in with international trends around reduced consumption and crafts, such as the "maker movement" and the sharing economy, both of which have strong followings in Sweden. The VAT cut may create more jobs for immigrants as it could spur the creation of a new home-repairs service industry. Also, from a science standpoint, the incentives could help cut the cost of carbon emissions on the planet as it should in theory reduce emissions linked to consumption. "I believe there is a shift in view in Sweden at the moment. There is an increased knowledge that we need to make our things last longer in order to reduce materials' consumption," Bolund said. The Guardian's report concludes: "The proposals will be presented in parliament as part of the government's budget proposals and if voted through in December will become law from January 1, 2017."
Iphone

People Are Drilling Holes Into Their iPhone 7 To 'Make a Headphone Jack' (craveonline.com) 193

TechRax -- a popular YouTuber who destroys technology for fame and riches -- has uploaded a video where he drills a hole into an iPhone 7, claiming it to be a "secret hack" to reinstall a headphone jack in the device. The only problem is that he didn't tell people it was a joke, and of course, some people fell for it. Crave Online reports: The YouTube video has amassed over 7.5 million views since being posted online last week, with it attracting 81,000 dislikes in the process. The comments section is currently torn between people who are in on the joke, people who criticize TechRax for damaging his iPhone 7, and most unfortunately, people who have tried the "hack" out for themselves. Although this is YouTube so you can never be quite sure of whether or not these folks are trolling, parsing the comments section reveals some pretty convincing complaints lobbed in TechRax's direction. It's also firmly believable that there are people dumb enough to attempt drilling a hole into their iPhone 7, which is unfortunate but that's the way the world is in 2016. You can read the comments under the YouTube video for more "convincing complaints." But as if the report didn't make it clear enough already, the video is a joke. Apple removed the headphone jack and there's no way to get it back, unless you use an adapter.
Google

Google To Introduce Google Wifi, Google Home and 4K Chromecast Ultra Devices On October 4th (androidpolice.com) 47

Android Police has learned of a new Google device that will launch alongside the Google Pixel smartphones, Google Home, and 4K 'Chromecast Ultra' dongle on October 4th. Called Google Wifi, the Wi-Fi router will cost $129 and contain several "smart" features. Android Police reports: [The] source additionally claims that Google will advertise the router as having "smart" features -- probably similar to OnHub in some respects -- and that Google will claim it provides enhanced range over typical Wi-Fi routers (a claim we see basically every router make, to be fair). But the one thing that will make it an insta-buy for many over OnHub? Our source claims multiple Google Wifi access points (two or more) can be linked together to create one large wireless network. We don't have any details on how this works, unfortunately. But one source claims that Google Wifi device will essentially be like a little white Amazon Echo Dot. So, relatively small and inconspicuous. In a separate report, Android Police details Google's upcoming smart speaker called Google Home, along with their upcoming 4K 'Chromecast Ultra' devices. Specifically, they will be priced at $129 and $69 respectively: Google Home was announced at Google I/O in May. Our sources also confirmed that the personalized base covers Google showed at I/O will be a feature of the final device. $129 also undercuts Amazon's Echo by a full $40, and though matches the price of the portable Amazon Tap, it's clear Google has Amazon's flagship smart home product in its sights with Home. Chromecast Ultra, which we are now all but certain is the name of Google's upcoming 4K version of Chromecast, will come in at $69 retail. As for what it brings beyond 4K, one of our sources claims that HDR is indeed on the list of bullet points.
IOS

19-Year-Old Jailbreaks iPhone 7 In 24 Hours (vice.com) 97

An anonymous reader writes: 19-year-old hacker qwertyoruiop, aka Luca Todesco, jailbroke the new iPhone 7 just 24 hours after he got it, in what's the first known iPhone 7 jailbreak. Todesco tweeted a screenshot of a terminal where he has "root," alongside the message: "This is a jailbroken iPhone 7." He even has video proof of the jailbreak. Motherboard reports: "He also said that he could definitely submit the vulnerabilities he found to Apple, since they fall under the newly launched bug bounty, but he hasn't decided whether to do that yet. The hacker told me that he needs to polish the exploits a bit more to make the jailbreak 'smoother,' and that he is also planning to make this jailbreak work through the Safari browser just like the famous 'jailbreakme.com,' which allowed anyone to jailbreak their iPhone 4 just by clicking on a link." Apple responded to the news by saying, "Apple strongly cautions against installing any software that hacks iOS."
Medicine

Activity Trackers May Undermine Weight Loss Efforts, Says Study (sciencedaily.com) 210

schwit1 quotes a report from New York Times: Wearable activity monitors can count your steps and track your movements, but they don't, apparently, help you lose weight. In fact, you might lose more weight without them. The fascinating finding comes from a study published today in JAMA that found dieting adults who wore activity monitors for 18 months lost significantly fewer pounds over that time than those who did not. The results suggest that activity monitors may not change our behavior in the way we expected (warning: may be paywalled), and raise interesting questions about the tangled relationships between exercise, eating, our willpower and our waistlines. Specifically, the study found that participants who used wearable devices reported an average weight loss of 7.7 pounds, compared to the 13 pounds lost by those who didn't use the devices and only used health counseling. "While usage of wearable devices is currently a popular method to track physical activity -- steps taken per day or calories burned during a workout -- our findings show that adding them to behavioral counseling or weight loss that includes physical activity and reduced calorie intake does not improve weight loss or physical activity engagement. Therefore, within this context, these devices should not be relied upon as tools for weight management in place of effective behavioral counseling for physical activity and diet," said John Jakicic, the study's lead researcher and chair of Pitt's Department of Health and Physical Activity.
Earth

A Shocking Amount of E-Waste Recycling Is a Complete Sham (vice.com) 166

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Forty percent of all U.S. electronics recyclers testers included in [a study that used GPS trackers to follow e-waste over the course of two years] proved to be complete shams, with our e-waste getting shipped wholesale to landfills in Hong Kong, China, and developing nations in Africa and Asia. The most important thing to know about the e-waste recycling industry is that it is not free to recycle an old computer or an old CRT television. The value of the raw materials in the vast majority of old electronics is worth less than it costs to actually recycle them. While consumers rarely have to pay e-waste recycling companies to take their old electronics (costs are offset by local tax money or manufacturers fronting the bill as part of a legally mandated obligated recycling quota), companies, governments, and organizations do. Based on the results of a new study from industry watchdog Basel Action Network and MIT, industry documents obtained by Motherboard, and interviews with industry insiders, it's clear that the e-waste recycling industry is filled with sham operations profiting off of shipping toxic waste to developing nations. Here are the major findings of the study and of my interviews and reporting: Real, environmentally sustainable electronics recycling can be profitable only if recycling companies charge a fee to take on old machines; the sale of recycled materials rarely if ever covers the actual cost of recycling in the United States. Companies, governments, and other organizations have a requirement to recycle old machines; because there is little oversight or enforcement, a secondary industry of fake recyclers has popped up to undercut sustainable recyclers. These "recyclers," which advertise themselves as green and sustainable, get paid pennies per pound to take in old TVs, computers, printers, and monitors. Rather than recycle them domestically, the recycling companies sell them to junkyards in developing nations, either through middlemen or directly. These foreign junkyards hire low-wage employees to pick through the few valuable components of often toxic old machines. The toxic machines are then left in the scrapyards or dumped nearby. Using GPS trackers, industry watchdog Basel Action Network found that 40 percent of electronics recyclers it tested in the United States fall into this "scam recycling" category.
Microsoft

Microsoft Unveils $37 Nokia 216 Feature Phone (theverge.com) 57

Earlier this year, Microsoft announced that it had sold Nokia's remaining feature phone business to FIH Mobile, a subsidiary of Foxconn, for $350 million. Today, Microsoft unveiled the Nokia 216 feature phone, dispelling rumors that it would stop making Nokia phones. The Verge reports: The new Nokia 216 is one of the most basic phones that Microsoft manufactures, and it will be available in India next month for around $37. It includes a 2.4-inch QVGA display, with 0.3-megapixel cameras at the front and rear, running on the Series 30 OS with the Opera mini browser. It even has a headphone jack. It's easy to understand why Microsoft continues to create feature phones, as the company still sells millions of them every month. Microsoft previously hoped that feature phone users would create a Microsoft account and become part of the Microsoft ecosystem, but it's not clear whether the millions of feature phone users ever actually did that. Microsoft hinted earlier this year that it's planning to kill off its Lumia smartphones, and recent rumors have suggested that the Lumia brand will die off toward the end of the year.
Verizon

Comcast Will Launch a Wireless Service Next Year (businessinsider.com) 50

Steve Kovach, writing for Business Insider:Comcast plans to launch its own wireless service in 2017, CEO Brian Roberts said at the Goldman Sachs Communicopia conference Tuesday. Since Comcast doesn't have its own cell towers, it'll rely on WiFi networks for connectivity. The user will be switched to Verizon's network when they're away from WiFi. There are already a few smaller carriers that offer services like this, like Google's Project Fi and Republic Wireless. Those companies work as mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) and pay major wireless carriers like Sprint or T-Mobile to use their cell towers when users aren't connected to WiFi. MVNOs tend to be cheaper than traditional wireless carriers, offering benefits like the option to only pay for the data you use. The move will also help Comcast and Verizon compete with AT&T, which merged with DirecTV and is able to offer combined wireless, home broadband, and TV packages.
Iphone

iPhone 7 Plus Makes Hissing Sound Under Load, Some Users Complain (businessinsider.com) 196

Several commendable users are complaining that their iPhone 7 Plus handsets are making a "hissing" noise especially when they do some heavy weight work. Some users note that this issue extends to the iPhone 7 as well. BusinessInsider reports:Stephen Hackett, cofounder of podcast network Relay FM, tweeted that his iPhone 7 Plus "makes terrible noises when under load," and shared an audio clip of the noise. TechCrunch writer (and former Apple employee) Darrell Etherington responded that his "brand new, just-unboxed [device is] doing the same thing right now." It sounds like the problem isn't affecting all devices, and it's not immediately clear what's behind it. Hackett said on Twitter that Apple will be replacing his device with a new one, which suggests it's a defect rather than just an unexpected quirk of the new smartphone's design. There's some speculation out there as to what's causing it - but nothing concrete yet. Engadget's Jon Fingas suggests it could be "coil whine," a process where electronics make an unintended noise while working, for example.
Transportation

Uber Accused of Cashing In On Bomb Explosion By Jacking Rates (thesun.co.uk) 428

After a bomb exploded in Manhattan, leaving 29 injured, people leaving the scene discovered Uber had doubled their fares. An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes The Sun: Traumatized families caught up in the New York bomb blast have accused Uber of cashing in on the tragedy by charging almost double to take them home. Furious passengers have taken to social media to slam the taxi firm in the wake of the blast... Uber reportedly charged between 1.4 and 3 times the standard fare with one city worker saying he had to pay twice as much as usual. Mortgage broker Nick Lalli said: "Just trying to get home from the city and Uber f****** doubled the surge price."
"Demand is off the charts!" the app informed its users, adding "Fares have increased to get more Ubers on the road." Uber soon tweeted that they'd deactivated their surge pricing algorithm for the affected area in Chelsea, "but passengers in other areas of Manhattan said they were still being charged higher than normal fares." One of the affected passengers was Michael Cohen, who is Donald Trump's lawyer, who tweeted that Uber was "taking total advantage of chaos and surcharging passengers 1.4 to 1.8 times." And another Uber user tweeted "I'm disgusted. People are trying to get home safe. Shame on you #DeleteApp."
Encryption

How The FBI Might've Opened the San Bernardino Shooter's iPhone 5c (schneier.com) 66

"Remember the San Bernardino killer's iPhone, and how the FBI maintained that they couldn't get the encryption key without Apple providing them with a universal backdoor?" Slashdot reader LichtSpektren quotes Bruce Schneier: Many of us computer-security experts said that they were wrong, and there were several possible techniques they could use. One of them was manually removing the flash chip from the phone, extracting the memory, and then running a brute-force attack without worrying about the phone deleting the key. The FBI said it was impossible. We all said they were wrong. Now, Sergei Skorobogatov has proved them wrong.
Sergei's new paper describes "a real world mirroring attack on the Apple iPhone 5c passcode retry counter under iOS 9." The process does not require any expensive and sophisticated equipment. All needed parts are low cost and were obtained from local electronics distributors. By using the described and successful hardware mirroring process it was possible to bypass the limit on passcode retry attempts... Although the process can be improved, it is still a successful proof-of-concept project.
IOS

iPhone 7 Home Button Now Requires Skin Contact To Work (todaysiphone.com) 167

Gone are the days of pressing the home button of your iPhone with an inanimate object. With the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, the home button can only be activated when in contact with skin. TodaysiPhone reports: The new "solid-state" Home button found in the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus appears to require skin contact to function. As the season gets colder, and as people put gloves on, users will quickly realize that attempting to unlock the iPhone with said gloves or with a sleeve of a shirt over your finger will not work. And with the new lock screen in iOS 10, there's no way to bring up the passcode screen without pressing the Home button. Tests have shown that using gloves designed for touch screens will get an iPhone 6s Plus to unlock but not an iPhone 7 Plus. As most of us know, the Home button in the iPhone 7 is no longer a physical button -- it sits flush and uses the iPhone's haptic feedback to give the sensation of a button press. Because the button requires skin contact, it's lead us to believe that the Home button on the iPhone 7 uses Touch ID to figure out if you're pressing the button. The report notes that Carl Hancock on Twitter was able to activate the Home button using gloves made to work specifically with touch screens. The reason (in a nutshell) why we cannot interact with the capacitive Home button when wearing gloves is because the gloves block the body's natural conductivity -- humans conduct electricity and Apple's new Home button (as well as most touch screens) has an electrical charge. On the flip side, the reason why the Home button registers our skin is because it distorts the screen's electrostatic field at the point of contact, thus triggering an action.
Government

NYPD Says Talking About Its IMSI Catchers Would Make Them Vulnerable To Hacking (vice.com) 53

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Typically, cops don't like talking about IMSI catchers, the powerful surveillance technology used to monitor mobile phones en masse. In a recent case, the New York Police Department (NYPD) introduced a novel argument for keeping mum on the subject: Asked about the tools it uses, it argued that revealing the different models of IMSI catchers the force owned would make the devices more vulnerable to hacking. The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), an affiliate of the ACLU, has been trying to get access to information about the NYPD's IMSI catchers under the Freedom of Information Law. These devices are also commonly referred to as "stingrays," after a particularly popular model from Harris Corporation. Indeed, the NYCLU wants to know which models of IMSI catchers made by Harris the police department has. "Public disclosure of this information, and the amount of taxpayer funds spent to buy the devices, directly advances the Freedom of Information Law's purpose of informing a robust public debate about government actions," the NYCLU writes in a court filing. The group has requested documents that show how much money has been spent on the technology. After the NYPD withheld the records, the FOI request was escalated to a lawsuit, which is where the NYPD's strange argument comes in (among others). "Public disclosure of the specifications of the CSS [cell site simulator] technologies in NYPD's possession from the Withheld Records would make the software vulnerable to hacking and would jeopardize NYPD's ability to keep the technologies secure," an affidavit from NYPD Inspector Gregory Antonsen, dated August 17, reads. Antonsen then imagines a scenario where a "highly sophisticated hacker" could use their knowledge of the NYPD's Stingrays to lure officers into a trap and ambush them.
Iphone

Apple Replaced the Headphone Jack On the iPhone 7 With a Fake Speaker Grill (businessinsider.com) 248

Not long ago, Apple CEO Tim Cook explained why the company felt a need to remove the headphone jack from the new iPhones -- the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. He said, "that jack takes up a lot of space in the phone, a lot of space. And there's a lot of more important things we can provide for the consumer than that jack." His colleague Phil Schiller cited "courage" for the same. As people learn to live in a world where they have to use a dongle to use their existing pair of headphones, gadget repair community iFixit found today that Apple isn't really using that "extra space" it got after getting rid of the headphone jack. BusinessInsider reports: "In place of the headphone jack, we find a component that seems to channel sound from outside the phone into the microphone... or from the Taptic Engine out," they write. Yep -- in the place where the headphone jack used to be there's a piece of molded plastic. "No fancy electronics here, just some well-designed acoustics and molded plastic," iFixit writes.iFixit adds, "Closer inspection shows a new, second lower speaker grille that leads ... nowhere? Interesting." Update: 09/16 21:21 GMT by M : Apple says it's a "barometric vent." The Verge reports: Apparently adding all the waterproofing to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus meant that it was more of a sealed box, and so to be able to have an accurate and working barometer, Apple used that space. The barometer is the thing that allows a phone to measure altitude, and Apple points out that on the iPhone 7 it can measure even minor changes like climbing a flight of stairs.
Businesses

Woman Faces $9,100 Verizon Bill For Data She Says She Didn't Use (dslreports.com) 209

A Verizon Wireless customer says she received a bill of $9,100 for hundreds of gigabytes of data usage which never consumed. The woman told the Cleveland Plain Dealer she was on Verizon's 4GB shared data plan, and like any normal person, the bill of $8,535 from Verizon for consuming 569GB of data in a matter of few days doesn't compute well with her. The problem, as DSLR reports, is that when she tried to find out what caused the data usage, Verizon website told her "the activity you are trying to perform is currently unavailable. Please try again later." She couldn't and switched to T-Mobile, after which Verizon charged her a penalty of $600.
Iphone

Apple Is Still Ignoring One of the Biggest iPhone Engineering Flaws of All Time: 'Touch Disease' (slashdot.org) 204

Jason Koebler, writing for Motherboard: As Apple is preparing to ship its brand new iPhone, the company continues to ignore one of the biggest hardware defects to ever plague its smartphone line. Just two years after it was released, the touchscreens of thousands upon thousands of iPhone 6 Pluses are completely losing their functionality under normal use, which experts say is the long-term effect of the engineering flaw that gave us "bendgate." By most accounts, dead touchscreens have become an iPhone 6 Plus epidemic, and yet the company has not commented on it, leaving consumers uninformed and harming independent repair businesses. In many cases, Apple has charged hundreds of dollars to replace a broken phone with a refurbished one that is subject to the same engineering defect that caused the phone to break in the first place. A lawsuit has been filed against Apple, claiming the company "has long been aware of the defective iPhones," but continues to do nothing about it. "Notwithstanding its longstanding knowledge of this design defect, Apple routinely has refused to repair the iPhones without charge when the defect manifests," the lawsuit reads. "Many other iPhone owners have communicated with Apple's employees and agents to request that Apple remedy and/or address the Touchscreen Defect and/or resultant damage at no expense. Apple has failed and/or refused to do so." As for how many iPhones are affected by this? It's hard to tell for sure. But according to an Apple Insider report that cites anonymous Genius Bar employees at four large Apple stores, 11 percent of all iPhone-related service issues at those stores were related to Touch IC problems, and Touch IC issues made up about a third of all iPhone 6 Plus-related problems at those stores.
Security

Over 500K People Have Installed a Pokemon Go-Related App That Roots and Hijacks Android Devices (softpedia.com) 57

An anonymous reader writes: Over 500,000 people have downloaded an Android app called "Guide for Pokemon Go" that roots the devices in order to deliver ads and installs apps without the user's knowledge. Researchers that analyzed the malware said it contained multiple defenses that made reverse-engineering very difficult -- some of the most advanced they've seen -- which explains why it managed to fool Google's security scanner and end up on the official Play Store. The exploits contained in the app's rooting functions were able to root any Android released between 2012 and 2015. The trojan found inside the app was also found in nine other apps, affecting another 100,000 users. The crook behind this trojan was obviously riding various popularity waves, packing his malware in clones for whatever app or game is popular at one particular point in time.
Businesses

Samsung Formally Recalls The Galaxy Note 7 (cnn.com) 48

While Samsung has recalled its Galaxy Note 7 smartphones on September 2 due to faulty batteries, the company has yet to formally recall them with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. That is, until today. CNNMoney reports: While Samsung hammered out its formal recall plan with U.S. regulators, the FAA told airline passengers to turn off the phones when flying due to the safety risk. This week, New York City's transit system followed suit. And the CPSC urged Note 7 owners last week to turn off their phones even though a replacement version had yet to be finalized. Following Thursday's formal recall, the FAA revised its warning. Note 7 owners must not only turn off the device on airplanes, it said, but also protect the power switch "to prevent the phone from being unintentionally activated." The U.S. CPSC tweeted today: "#Recall: 1M @SamsungMobileUS #GalaxyNote7 smartphones; serious burn/fire hazard; Act Now: https://t.co/6v1egZlrRm." The recall could not have happened at a worse time for Samsung, as Apple's iPhone 7 debuts tomorrow.
Bug

T-Mobile To iPhone Users: Do Not Download iOS 10 For Now (zdnet.com) 63

If you have an iPhone, and you're on T-Mobile network, do not install iOS 10 for now. The U.S. carrier warned on Thursday that the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and the iPhone 5SE users who downloaded Apple's newest iOS software were facing connectivity issues. Apple is working on a fix, and T-Mobile expects to resolve things within 48 hours. ZDNet adds: You can power-cycle your iPhone by holding in the power and home button at the same time until you see an Apple logo displayed on the screen. Apple's release of iOS 10 hasn't been perfect. During its first hour of availability on Tuesday, iOS users reported issues with the update stalling just as it finished. Those impacted by the issue were required to use iTunes on a computer to reinstall the update. Despite a rough start, iOS 10 adoption was at nearly 15 percent after just 24 hours, and is currently at 21 perfect nearly two days after availability according to Mixpanel.

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