Social Networks

Imzy, the Kinder and Gentler Reddit By Ex Employee, Is Shutting Down (imzy.com) 115

Imzy, a social media site led by ex-Reddit employee Dan McComas, announced on Wednesday that it will be closing its doors next month. The site was launched last year with much fanfare. Imzy sought to offer a community that didn't have trolls, one of the reasons that led McComas to leave Reddit two years ago. Ever since its launch, Imzy struggled to gain traction. According to web analytics firm SimilarWeb, the website was visited less than 400,000 times last month. McComas didn't elaborate why his service was shutting down, though he wrote: Some of you have been here since our launch into beta and some are brand new. We've loved getting to know all of you and seeing you build communities and make new friends. Unfortunately, we were not able to find our place in the market. We still feel that the internet deserves better and hope that we see more teams take on this challenge in the future.
IT

JSON Feed Announced As Alternative To RSS (jsonfeed.org) 149

Reader Anubis IV writes: With Slashdot recently asking whether we still use RSS, it may come as a surprise that something interesting has happened in the world of news feeds this week. JSON Feed was launched as an alternative to RSS and Atom, eschewing the XML they rely on -- which is frequently malformed and difficult to parse -- in favor of a human readable JSON format that reflects the decades of combined experience its authors have in the field. The JSON Feed spec is a simple read that lays out a number of pragmatic benefits the format has over RSS and Atom, such as eliminating duplicate entries, adding the ability to paginate feeds so that old entries remain available, and reducing the need for clients to scrape sites to find images and other resources. Given that it's authored by the developers behind one of the earliest, popular RSS clients and a recently Kickstarted blogging platform, the format is intended to address the common pain points currently faced by developers when producing and parsing feeds.

While it remains to be seen whether JSON Feed will escape the chicken-and-egg stage of adoption, several clients have already added support for the fledging format in the week since its announcement, including Feedbin, Inoreader, and NewsBlur.

Businesses

US International Tourism Market Share Is Falling Under Trump (buzzfeed.com) 302

An anonymous reader writes: The United States' slice of the international tourism pie is declining, according to a new report from Foursquare that looks at data from millions of phones worldwide. The US share of international tourism dropped 16% in March 2017 compared with the previous year. And it declined an average of 11% year over year in months spanning October 2016 to March 2017, according to the report. The drop coincides with the final month of the US election, the Trump transition, and the early months of the Trump administration, which notably imposed a travel ban on people from several majority-Muslim countries in January 2017 that was eventually halted in court but is currently under appeal. Declines in tourism market share from people originating in the Middle East were more pronounced than the rest of the world, down 25% this January, along with a smaller decrease from South America, Foursquare found. The data accounts for the percentage of international tourism coming to the US and not the absolute number of tourists, but Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck told BuzzFeed News that it's unlikely tourist visits to the US increased while share declined. "I don't think you'd see a 16% decline in international market share and absolute numbers being up. I don't think that's compatible," he said. "The volume of tourism doesn't change that fast."
Books

Amazon Brings Its Physical Bookstore To New York (usatoday.com) 32

Amazon's first New York City bookstore, Amazon Books, will open to the general public on Thursday morning, marking Amazon's highest-profile move into bricks-and-mortar retail to date. Even as the book shop is a physical bookstore, some "Amazon" elements can be felt. From a report: While some may be excited that this is an "Amazon Store," similar to Apple and Microsoft's respective flagship stores located just blocks away, Amazon says its goal for the new store is the same as it was when the online retail giant first started two decades ago: To sell books. "We have this 20 years of information about books and ratings, and we have millions and millions of customers who are passionate," said Jennifer Cast, vice president of Amazon Books. "It really is a different way to surface great books." The 4,000 square-foot-store features roughly 3,000 books, all with their covers facing out in order to better to "communicate their own essence," Cast says. The company's recommendation system makes a physical appearance in the bookstore through an "if you like this" section, which combines the data Amazon gathers on the books listed with human curators to recommend new books. To someone who walks in to browse, it feels like a high-tech Barnes and Noble.
Security

Malicious Subtitles Threaten VLC, Kodi and Popcorn Time Users, Researchers Warn (torrentfreak.com) 113

Millions of people risk having their devices and systems compromised by malicious subtitles, according to a new research published by security firm Check Point. The threat comes from a previously undocumented vulnerability which affects users of popular streaming software, including Kodi, Popcorn-Time, and VLC. Developers of the applications have already applied fixes and in some cases, working on it. From a report: While most subtitle makers do no harm, it appears that those with malicious intent can exploit these popular streaming applications to penetrate the devices and systems of these users. Researchers from Check Point, who uncovered the problem, describe the subtitle 'attack vector' as the most widespread, easily accessed and zero-resistance vulnerability that has been reported in recent years. "By conducting attacks through subtitles, hackers can take complete control over any device running them. From this point on, the attacker can do whatever he wants with the victim's machine, whether it is a PC, a smart TV, or a mobile device," they write.
Security

Wikimedia Is Clear To Sue the NSA Over Its Use of Warrantless Surveillance Tools (engadget.com) 55

The Wikimedia Foundation has the right to sue the National Security Agency over its use of warrantless surveillance tools, a federal appeals court ruled. "A district judge shot down Wikimedia's case in 2015, saying the group hadn't proved the NSA was actually illegally spying on its communications," reports Engadget. "In this case, proof was a tall order, considering information about the targeted surveillance system, Upstream, remains classified." From the report: The appeals court today ruled Wikimedia presented sufficient evidence that the NSA was in fact monitoring its communications, even if inadvertently. The Upstream system regularly tracks the physical backbone of the internet -- the cables and routers that actually transmit our emoji. With the help of telecom providers, the NSA then intercepts specific messages that contain "selectors," email addresses or other contact information for international targets under U.S. surveillance. "To put it simply, Wikimedia has plausibly alleged that its communications travel all of the roads that a communication can take, and that the NSA seizes all of the communications along at least one of those roads," the appeals court writes. "Thus, at least at this stage of the litigation, Wikimedia has standing to sue for a violation of the Fourth Amendment. And, because Wikimedia has self-censored its speech and sometimes forgone electronic communications in response to Upstream surveillance, it also has standing to sue for a violation of the First Amendment."
Security

DEFCON Conference To Target Voting Machines (politico.com) 102

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Politico: Hackers will target American voting machines -- as a public service, to prove how vulnerable they are. When over 25,000 of them descend on Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas at the end of July for DEFCON, the world's largest hacking conference, organizers are planning to have waiting what they call "a village" of different opportunities to test how easily voting machines can be manipulated. Some will let people go after the network software remotely, some will be broken apart to let people dig into the hardware, and some will be set up to see how a prepared hacker could fiddle with individual machines on site in a polling place through a combination of physical and virtual attacks. With all the attention on Russia's apparent attempts to meddle in American elections -- former President Barack Obama and aides have made many accusations toward Moscow, but insisted that there's no evidence of actual vote tampering -- voting machines were an obvious next target, said DEFCON founder Jeff Moss.
Businesses

Renewable Energy Powers Jobs For Almost 10 Million People (bloomberg.com) 111

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency's (IRENA) annual report, the renewable energy industry employed 9.8 million people last year, which is up 1.1 percent from 2015. The strongest growth was seen in the solar photovoltaic category with 3.09 million jobs. Bloomberg reports: Here are some of the highlights from the report: Global renewables employment has climbed every year since 2012, with solar photovoltaic becoming the largest segment by total jobs in 2016. Solar photovoltaic employed 3.09 million people, followed by liquid biofuels at 1.7 million. The wind industry had 1.2 million employees, a 7 percent increase from 2015. Employment in renewables, excluding large hydro power, increased 2.8 percent last year to 8.3 million people, with China, Brazil, the U.S., India, Japan and Germany the leading job markets. Asian countries accounted for 62 percent of total jobs in 2016 compared with 50 percent in 2013. Renewables jobs could total 24 million in 2030, as more countries take steps to combat climate change, IRENA said.
Education

Researchers Find Dozens of Genes Associated With Measures of Intelligence (arstechnica.com) 182

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: We don't know a lot about the biological basis of our mental abilities -- we can't even consistently agree on how best to test them -- but a few things seem clear. One is that performance on a number of standardized tests that purport to measure intelligence tends to correlate with outcomes we'd associate with intelligence, like educational achievement. A second is that this performance seems to have a large genetic component. But initial studies clearly indicated that the effect of any individual gene on intelligence is small. As a result, the first genetics studies found very little, since you needed to look at a large number of people in order to see these small effects. Now, a new study has combined much of the previous work and has turned up 40 new genetic regions associated with intelligence test scores. But again, the effect of any individual gene is pretty minor. The team behind the new work took advantage of open data to pull together information from 13 different studies, which cumulatively looked through the genomes of over 78,000 individuals. While those individuals had been given a variety of tests, the authors focused on measures of general intelligence or fluid intelligence (the two seem to measure similar things). The genomes of these individuals had been scanned for single base pair differences, allowing the authors to look for correlations between regions of the genome and test scores. Two separate analyses were done. The first simply looked at each base difference individually. That turned up 336 individual bases, which clustered into 22 different genes. Half of these had not been associated with intelligence previously. To provide a separate validation of these results, the authors did a similar analysis with educational achievement. They found that nearly all of the sites they identified also correlated with that. In a second analysis, the authors tracked base differences that cluster in a single gene. Since there are more markers for each gene, this tends to be a more sensitive way of looking for effects. And in fact, it produced 47 genes associated with the intelligence test scores. Seventeen of those had been identified in the earlier analysis, which brought the total genes identified to 52, only 12 of which had been previously associated with intelligence test scores.
Advertising

Google Following Your Offline Credit Card Spending To Tell Advertisers If Their Ads Work (consumerist.com) 135

One of the new tools Google has announced for its advertisers today promises to tie your offline credit card data together with all your online viewing to tell advertisers exactly what's working as they try to target you and your wallet. Consumerist reports: That return, for decades, was hard to measure in all but the most vaguely correlative of ways. Did people buy your product after seeing your TV ad? After seeing your billboard? On a whim after seeing neither? Who knows! But in the age of highly targeted, algorithmic advertising, the landscape is completely different. The apps on your phone know what you looked at and when, and can tie that in to what you see on other devices you're also logged into their services on (like your work computer). Meanwhile, you're leaving tracks out in the physical world -- not only the location history of your phone, but also the trail of payments you leave behind you if you pay with a credit card, debit card, or app (as millions of us do). Google also introduced some offline measurements to its online tool suite back in 2014, when it started using phone location data to try to match store visit location data to digital ad views. But a store doesn't make any money when you simply walk into it; you need to buy something. So Google's tracking that very granularly now, too. "In the coming months, we'll be rolling out store sales measurement at the device and campaign levels. This will allow you to measure in-store revenue in addition to the store visits delivered by your Search and Shopping ads," Google explains to advertisers. That's very literally a collection of spending data matched to the people who spent it, matched in turn to people who saw ads.
The Almighty Buck

Uber Plans Millions In Back Pay After Shorting NYC Drivers (bloomberg.com) 30

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Uber Technologies Inc. said it underpaid its New York City drivers by improperly calculating the company's share of passenger fares, and will pay out an average of $900 per driver in restitution, costing tens of millions of dollars. The back pay could run at least $45 million, based on the approximately 50,000 drivers the Independent Drivers Guild says work in New York City. The ride-hailing company has previously misled drivers about how much they could make and miscalculated fares. In this case, Uber was taking its cut of fares based on the pretax sum, instead of after taxes and fees as stated in its terms of service. The issue was also raised in a lawsuit against San Francisco-based Uber filed by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. In March, Uber acknowledged that it had underestimated drivers' pay in Philadelphia by millions of dollars. "We are committed to paying every driver every penny they are owed -- plus interest -- as quickly as possible," Rachel Holt, Uber's head of U.S. operations, said in a statement. "We are working hard to regain driver trust, and that means being transparent, sticking to our word, and making the Uber experience better from end to end."
Republicans

President Trump's Budget Includes a $2 Trillion Math Error (time.com) 334

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TIME: President Trump's budget includes a simple accounting error that adds up to a $2 trillion oversight. Under the proposed budget released Tuesday, the Trump Administration's proposed tax cuts would boost economic growth enough to pay for $1.3 trillion in spending by 2027. But the tax cuts are also supposed to be revenue-neutral, meaning that trillion dollars is already supposed to pay for the money lost from the tax cuts. Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers called the oversight an "elementary double count" and "a logical error of the kind that would justify failing a student in an introductory economics course" in an op-ed in the Washington Post.
Sony

'Sony Needs a Fresh Hit' (bloomberg.com) 117

Even as Sony's CEO Kazuo Hirai has done a remarkable job over the past five years -- taking bold decisions on the areas the company should be focusing on, and cutting efforts on those that aren't working -- his company desperately needs a fresh hit to boost its revenue and to become relevant in the mind of most, writes columnist Tim Culpan for Bloomberg. An except from his article: According to a company statement Tuesday for investors' day, the key will be to "remain the 'last one inch' that delivers a sense of 'wow' to customers," expand recurring revenue, and pursue new businesses.Those three strategies are closely linked. With TV sales in decline, its Vaio PC business spun off, and its smartphones barely a blip on the radar, Sony's last inch is heavily dependent on the PlayStation. Sony's Game & Network Services business has grown at both the top and bottom lines over the past five years, but the games console business is stuck in time. [...] Sony needs to build a device that will be far more ubiquitous and can appeal to consumers beyond the current male-skewed slowly aging hard-core gamer base. Amazon and Alphabet, with Echo and Home, are two such examples, and Apple will probably follow suit. With its background in audio, video, sensors and entertainment, Sony has all the right parts to make it happen. For the company that invented the Walkman, dreaming up another hit shouldn't be so hard.
Businesses

Nokia Uses Lawsuit To Make Apple Its Friend (bbc.com) 8

Apple has settled a patent dispute with Finnish telecom equipment maker Nokia and agreed to buy more of its network products and services. The deal means Nokia will get bigger royalties from Apple for using its mobile phone patents, helping offset the impact of waning demand for its mobile network hardware. Nokia's shares were up by seven percent following the announcement. WSJ puts things into perspective: Nokia's deal with Apple follows a highly unusual playbook: using a lawsuit to win business from your adversary (could be paywalled). When the first iPhone was unveiled a decade ago, Apple became a major competitor to the Finnish group, which was then the world's leading mobile-phone maker. As Nokia's business dwindled, the companies became legal antagonists. Now they are set to become business partners. The settlement announced Tuesday involves Apple paying Nokia a lump sum plus royalties for each device it sells using Nokia's technology. This is broadly the same kind of agreement the two sides reached in 2011 following a two-year lawsuit. The previous deal expired last year, which is why both sides launched fresh suits in December. In the aftermath of the lawsuit last year, Apple had pulled all Withings products from its stores. As part of the settlement, Apple said it will reverse that move.
Businesses

LeEco Said To Lay Off Over 80 Percent of US Workforce (cnbc.com) 103

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: LeEco, a Chinese company that made a big splash in the U.S. last fall, is preparing for a round of layoffs that may happen as soon as Tuesday, according to sources. Two people told CNBC the company is planning massive layoffs in the U.S., with one source saying that only 60 employees will be left after the cut. The company's current headcount in the U.S. is over 500, according to this person. CNBC obtained an email calling employees together for a Town Hall Meeting that will occur in three of the company's U.S. locations, including San Diego, Santa Monica and San Jose, at 10 a.m. PST. The email asks employees to attend unless they're off for the day, in which case they're asked to call in. It's not clear what will be announced at the meeting, but a second source told CNBC that layoffs will be announced tomorrow. Under the restructuring, LeEco will refocus on encouraging Chinese-American consumers to watch LeEco's Chinese content library, one person said.
Movies

Resident Evil Getting Rebooted Into a Six-Film Franchise (variety.com) 196

Martin Moszkowicz, chairman of the board at Constantin Film, confirmed to Variety at the Cannes Film Festival that the "Resident Evil" movie franchise is getting rebooted into a six-film franchise. From the report: The franchise was set to end with this year's "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter," which grossed $312 million worldwide after its January release, including an eye-popping $160 million in China alone. Sony helped sow the seeds of success by securing a release for "Resident Evil: Afterlife" and "Resident Evil: Extinction" in China. Based on the Capcom video game, the series launched in 2002 with Paul W.S. Anderson directing, and Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Bernd Eichinger, and Samuel Hadida producing the first of a six-movie series. The "Resident Evil" movie franchise has earned $1.2 billion worldwide to date, making it Europe's most successful independent horror-genre movie franchise in history and the highest-grossing film series to be based on a video game.
Space

Sperm Stored In Space Produces Healthy Baby Mice On Earth (theguardian.com) 53

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Reproduction may be possible in space, Japanese researchers have said, after freeze-dried sperm stored on the International Space Station for nine months produced healthy offspring. The scientists said their findings could have significant ramifications for human settlements in space, which they consider "likely." The average daily radiation dose on the ISS is about 100 times stronger than that on Earth, posing a threat of serious reproductive problems for any space-dwelling organism. But mouse sperm stored on the ISS for 288 days from August 2013 to May 2014, then returned to Earth, fertilized in vitro and transferred into female mice, produced healthy offspring. The space-preserved samples showed evidence of slightly increased DNA damage compared with control samples preserved on Earth, but this was found to be largely repaired in embryos following fertilization. The birth rate and sex ratio of pups derived from the sperm stored in space was comparable to those of pups derived from the control samples. Subsequent whole genome analysis revealed only minor differences, and the pups developed into adults with normal fertility. The study was published in the proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences on Monday.
Earth

Remote Pacific Island Is the Most Plastic-Contaminated Spot Yet Surveyed (arstechnica.com) 124

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Plastic is durable -- very, very durable -- which is why we like it. Since it started being mass-produced in the 1950s, annual production has increased 300-fold. Because plastic is so durable, when our kids grow up and we purge our toy chests, or even just when we finish a bottle of laundry detergent or shampoo, it doesn't actually go away. While we're recycling increasing amounts of plastic, a lot of it still ends up in the oceans. Floating garbage patches have brought some attention to the issue of our contamination of the seas. But it's not just the waters themselves that have ended up cluttered with plastic. A recent survey shows that a staggering amount of our stuff is coming ashore on the extremely remote Henderson Island. Henderson Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Pitcairn Group of Islands in the South Pacific, roughly half way between New Zealand and Peru. According to UNESCO, Henderson is one of the best examples we have of an elevated coral atoll ecosystem. It was colonized by Polynesians between the 12th and 15th centuries but has been uninhabited by humans since then. It is of interest to evolutionary biologists because it has 10 plant species and four bird species that are only found there. Despite its uninhabited status and its extremely remote location, a recent survey of beach plastic on Henderson Island revealed that the island has the highest density of debris reported anywhere in the world: an estimated minimum of 37.7 million items weighing 17.6 tons. This represents the total amount of plastic that is produced in the world every 1.98 seconds. Further reading: Here And Now
Microsoft

Microsoft Says a Chinese 'Gaming Service' Company Is Hacking Xbox Accounts (theverge.com) 30

An anonymous reader shares a report: Since 2015, a Chinese gaming website has been hacking Xbox accounts and selling the proceeds on the open market, according to a complaint filed by Microsoft in federal court on Friday. On its website, iGSKY presents itself as a gaming service company, offering players a way to pay for in-game credits and rare items -- but according to Microsoft, many of those credits were coming from someone else's wallet. The complaint alleges that the company made nearly $2 million in purchases through hacked accounts and their associated credit cards, using purchases as a way to launder the resulting cash. On the site, cheap in-game points are also available for the FIFA games, Forza Horizon 3, Grand Theft Auto V, and Pokemon Go, among others.

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