Businesses

The Best And Worst ISPs According To Consumer Reports (dslreports.com) 90

In the August 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine, the nonprofit organization ranked internet service providers based off customer satisfaction. According to the report, many consumers still don't like their broadband and television provider, and don't believe they receive a decent value for the high price they pay for service. DSLReports summarizes the findings: The report [...] names Chattanooga municipal broadband provider EPB as the most-liked ISP in the nation. EPB was followed by Google Fiber, Armstrong Cable, Consolidated Cable and RCN as the top-ranked ISPs in the nation. Google Fiber "was the clear winner for internet service," notes the report, "with the only high score for value." Google Fiber also received high marks for customer support and service. But large, incumbent ISPs continue to be aggressively disliked due to high prices and poor customer service, according to the report. Despite endless annual promises that customer service is the company's priority, Comcast ranked number 27 out of the 32 providers measured. The company's survey results were weighed down by low consumer marks for value, channel selection, technical support, customer service and free video on demand offerings. The least-liked ISPs in the nation, according to the report, are: Charter (Spectrum), Cable ONE, Atlantic broadband, Frontier Communications, and Mediacom. Not coincidentally, the two largest ISPs in that list just got done with massive mergers or acquisitions that resulted in higher prices and worse service than consumers saw previously. MyRatePlan has a breakdown of ISP providers and plans by ZIP code.
Wireless Networking

T-Mobile Rolling Out 600 MHz Low-Band Wireless (yahoo.com) 47

s122604 quotes a report from Yahoo Finance: T-Mobile, the third largest U.S. national wireless operator, has decided to roll out 600 MHz wireless spectrum in its footprints by this summer. Low-band spectrum is essential for wireless operators as the signals can be transmitted over longer distances and through brick-and-mortar walls in cities. Smartphones for this radio frequency are likely to be made available by Samsung and other manufacturers this summer.
Cellphones

We Could Have Had Cellphones Four Decades Earlier (reason.com) 263

_Sharp'r_ writes: Professor Thomas Hazlett of Clemson University analyzed the history of wireless spectrum and concluded the technology was known and available for cellphones in the 40s, but there was no spectrum available. Based on assumptions cellphones would always be luxury goods without mass appeal, significant spectrum for divisible cellular networks wasn't legally usable until the early 80s. Instead, the unused spectrum was reserved for the future expansion of broadcast TV to channels 70-83. Here's an excerpt from the report: "When AT&T wanted to start developing cellular in 1947, the FCC rejected the idea, believing that spectrum could be best used by other services that were not 'in the nature of convenience or luxury.' This view -- that this would be a niche service for a tiny user base -- persisted well into the 1980s. 'Land mobile,' the generic category that covered cellular, was far down on the FCC's list of priorities. In 1949, it was assigned just 4.7 percent of the spectrum in the relevant range. Broadcast TV was allotted 59.2 percent, and government uses got one-quarter."
Space

Has the 40-year Old Mystery of the 'Wow!' Signal Been Solved? (newatlas.com) 83

"Astronomers have confirmed that the Wow! signal, thought to be the most promising detection by SETI of alien life, was actually caused by a comet," writes schwit1. New Atlas reports: Last year, a group of researchers from the Center of Planetary Science proposed a new hypothesis that argued a comet might be the culprit. The frequency could be caused by the hydrogen cloud they carry, and the fact that they move accounts for why it seemingly disappeared. Two comets, named 266/P Christensen and P/2008 Y2 (Gibbs), happened to be transiting through that region of space when the Wow! signal was detected, but they weren't discovered until after 2006. To test the hypothesis, the team made 200 radio spectrum observations between November 2016 and February 2017. Sure enough, 266/P Christensen was found to emit radio waves at a frequency of 1,420 MHz, and to double check, the researchers moved their radio telescope by one degree. As expected, the signal vanished, and only returned when the telescope was trained back on the comet.
AI

AI Could Get Smarter By Copying the Neural Structure of a Rat Brain (ieee.org) 89

the_newsbeagle writes: Many of today's fanciest artificial intelligence systems are some type of artificial neural network, but they bear only the roughest resemblance to a biological brain's real networks of neurons. That could change thanks to a $100M program from IARPA. The intelligence agency is funding neuroscience teams to map 1 cubic millimeter of rodent brain, looking at activity in the visual cortex while the rodent is engaged in a complex visual recognition task. By discovering how the neural circuits in that brain cube get activated to process information, IARPA hopes to find inspiration for better artificial neural networks. And an AI that performs better on visual recognition tasks could certainly be useful to intelligence agencies.
Communications

Soon You'll Be Able To Build Your Own 4G Network Over Wi-Fi Frequencies (hpe.com) 52

Long-time Slashdot reader Esther Schindler writes: An industry consortium called MulteFire wants to help you build your own LTE-like network that uses the Wi-Fi spectrum, with no need for carriers or providers, writes Andy Patrizio. Just don't expect to get started today. "In its basic specification, MulteFire Release 1.0 defines an LTE-like network that can run entirely on unlicensed spectrum frequencies. The alliance didn't try to do too much with the 1.0 spec; it simply wanted to get it out the door so partners and manufacturers could begin adoption. For 1.0, the alliance focused on the 5-GHz band. More functionality and more spectrums will be supported in future specs." Why would you want it? As Patrzio explains, MulteFire's target audience is fairly obvious: anyone who needs speed, scalability, and security beyond what Wi-Fi offers. "MulteFire is enabling cellular technologies to run in unassigned spectrum, where they are free to use it so long as they follow the rules of the spectrum band," says Mazen Chmaytelli, president of the MulteFire Alliance." Is this something you think would make a difference?
The alliance includes Qualcomm and Cisco Systems, and the article points out some advantages. LTE cell towers "can be miles apart versus Wi-Fi's range of just a few feet. Plus, LTE's security has never been breached, as far as we know."
Earth

Rising Seas Set To Double Coastal Flooding By 2050, Says Study (phys.org) 206

Coastal flooding is about to get dramatically more frequent around the world as sea levels rise from global warming, researchers said Thursday. Phys.Org reports, "A 10-to-20 centimeter (four-to-eight inch) jump in the global ocean watermark by 2050 -- a conservative forecast -- would double flood risk in high-latitude regions, they reports in the journal Scientific Reports." From the report: Major cities along the North American seaboard such as Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, along with the European Atlantic coast, would be highly exposed, they found. But it would only take half as big a jump in ocean levels to double the number of serious flooding incidents in the tropics, including along highly populated river deltas in Asia and Africa. Even at the low end of this sea rise spectrum, Mumbai, Kochi and Abidjan and many other cities would be significantly affected. To make up for the lack of observational data, Vitousek and his colleagues used computer modeling and a statistical method called extreme value theory. "We asked the question: with waves factored in, how much sea level rise will it take to double the frequency of flooding?" Sea levels are currently rising by three to four millimeters (0.10 to 0.15 inches) a year, but the pace has picked up by about 30 percent over the last decade. It could accelerate even more as continent-sized ice blocs near the poles continue to shed mass, especially in Antarctica, which Vitousek described as the sea level "wild card." If oceans go up 25 centimeters by mid-century, "flood levels that occur every 50 years in the tropics would be happening every year or more," he said.
Television

HBO's 'Silicon Valley' Joins The Push For A Decentralized Web (ieee.org) 115

Tekla Perry writes: HBO's fictional Silicon Valley character Richard Hendricks sets out to reinvent the Internet into something decentralized. ["What if we used all those phones to build a massive network...we could build a completely decentralized version of our current Internet with no firewalls, no tolls, no government regulation, no spying. Information would be totally free in every sense of the word."] That sound a lot like what Brewster Kahle, Tim Berners-Lee, and Vint Cerf have been calling the decentralized web. Kahle tells IEEE Spectrum about how closely HBO's vision matches his own, and why he's happy to have this light shined on the movement.
In 2015 Kahle pointed out the current web isn't private. "People, corporations, countries can spy on what you are reading. And they do." But in a decentralized web, "the bits will be distributed -- across the net -- so no one can track the readers of a site from a single point or connection."

He tells IEEE Spectrum that though the idea is hard to execute, a lot of people are already working on it. "I recently talked to a couple of engineers working for Mozilla, and brought up the idea of decentralizing the web. They said, 'Oh, we have a group working on that, are you thinking about that as well?'"
Verizon

Verizon Outbids AT&T For Nationwide 5G Wireless Spectrum (theverge.com) 34

Verizon has agreed to pay $3.1 billion for wireless spectrum holder Straight Path Communications, beating out rival AT&T, which had offered to buy Straight Path for $1.6 billion in stock. Verizon's acquisition will give it access to the frequencies necessary to build a 5G network across the U.S. The Verge reports: The news that AT&T was aiming to buy the Glen Allen, VA-based Straight Path was first reported last month, prompting a bidding war between the carriers that the WSJ describes as "unusually intense." Straight Path's purchase gives Verizon access to millimeter wave frequencies that are set to be used by 5G networks across the United States, making it a useful purchase from the start. Experts have also noted that the company's owner may also be afforded even more spectrum in future auctions with the FCC, potentially giving Verizon access to the entire 39GHz band down the line.
Communications

Ask Slashdot: Could We Build A Global Wireless Mesh Network? 168

An anonymous reader wants to start a grassroots effort to build a self-organizing global radio mesh network where every device can communicate with every other device -- and without any central authority. There is nothing in the rules of mathematics or laws of physics that prevents such a system. But how would you break the problem up so it could be crowdfunded and sourced? How would you build the radios? And what about government spectrum rules... How would you persuade governments to allow for the use of say, 1%, of the spectrum for an unlicensed mesh experiment? In the U.S. it would probably take an Act of Congress to overrule the FCC but a grassroots effort with potential for major technology advances backed by celebrity scientists might be enough to tilt the issue but would there be enough motivation?
Is this feasible? Would it amass enough volunteers, advocates, and enthusiastic users? Would it become a glorious example of geeks uniting the world -- or a doomed fantasy with no practical applications. Leave your best thoughts in the comments. Could we build a global wireless mesh network?
Patents

Apple Patent Hints At Wirelessly Charging Your iPhone Via Wi-Fi Routers (appleinsider.com) 144

According to AppleInsider, "Apple is experimenting with medium- to long-distance wireless charging technologies that could one day allow users to charge up their iPhones with nothing more than a Wi-Fi router." From the report: Detailed in Apple's patent application for "Wireless Charging and Communications Systems With Dual-Frequency Patch Antennas" is a method for transferring power to electronic devices over frequencies normally dedicated to data communications. In its various embodiments, the invention notes power transfer capabilities over any suitable wireless communications link, including cellular between 700 MHz and 2700 MHz, and Wi-Fi operating at 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. More specifically, the document's claims apply to millimeter wave 802.11ad spectrum channels currently in use by the WiGig standard, which operates over the 60 GHz frequency band. Theoretically, the proposal opens the door to wire-free charging from in-home Wi-Fi routers to cellular nodes and even satellite signals. Of course, amplitude in a wireless system is normally a function of distance. Like conventional wireless charging techniques, Apple's design requires two devices -- a transmitter and receiver -- to function. Each device contains one or more antennas coupled to wireless circuitry capable of making phase and magnitude adjustments to transmitted and received signals. Such hardware can be employed in dynamic beam steering operations.
Facebook

Neuroscientists Offer a Reality Check On Facebook's 'Typing By Brain' Project (ieee.org) 58

the_newsbeagle writes: Yesterday, Facebook announced that it's working on a "typing by brain" project, promising a non-invasive technology that can decode signals from the brain's speech center and translate them directly to text (see the video beginning at 1:18:00). What's more, Facebook exec Regina Dugan said, the technology will achieve a typing rate of 100 words per minute. Here, a few neuroscientists are asked: Is such a thing remotely feasible? One neuroscientist points out that his team set the current speed record for brain-typing earlier this year: They enabled a paralyzed man to type 8 words per minute, and that was using an invasive brain implant that could get high-fidelity signals from neurons. To date, all non-invasive methods that read brain signals through the scalp and skull have performed much worse. Thomas Naselaris, an assistant professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, says, "Our understanding of the way the words and their phonological and semantic attributes are encoded in brain activity is actually pretty good currently, but much of this understanding has been enabled by fMRI, which is noninvasive but very slow and not at all portable," he said. "So I think that the bottleneck will be the [optical] imaging technology," which is what Facebook's gear will be using.
Communications

T-Mobile Spends $8 Billion as Big Winner of FCC Auction (cnet.com) 48

T-Mobile, Dish Network and cable giant Comcast emerged as the big winners in the government's wireless spectrum auction. From a report: The Federal Communications Commission announced the winners of its $19.8 billion spectrum auction Thursday. T-Mobile spent $8 billion in the auction and won the biggest number of licenses, according to the FCC. Dish Network was in second, committing $6.2 billion, and Comcast spent a total of $1.7 billion. Verizon, which had committed ahead of time to participating in the auction, did not bid, the FCC said. The broadcast incentive spectrum auction has been one of the agency's most complex and ambitious auctions to date. The auction, which began last year, was conducted over two major stages. A so-called backwards auction took place last year in which TV broadcasters agreed to give up wireless spectrum that the government later sold in a so-called forward auction to wireless providers.
Businesses

Neuroscientists Weigh In On Elon Musk's Mysterious 'Neural Lace' Company (ieee.org) 103

the_newsbeagle writes: Elon Musk has set out to change the world with SpaceX's reusable rockets and Tesla's electric cars, and now he plans to change your brain. His new company, Neuralink, will reportedly build delicate brain implants called "neural lace" to help people with neuropsychiatric disorders and to give healthy people strange new mental abilities. But the news announcements about the company contained scant details about what kind of hardware Neuralink might actually build, and what engineering challenges the company will have to overcome in pursuit of miniaturized and safe brain implants. Here, five neuroscience experts describe those challenges, and give hints on what to expect from Musk's neural dust. One of the neuroscientists is Mary Lou Jepsen, founder of the Openwater startup, which is looking for ways to develop a noninvasive BCI for imaging and telepathy. Jepsen was also "an engineering executive at Facebook working on its Oculus virtual reality gear; before that she spent three years at Google X, running advanced projects on display technology," reports IEEE Spectrum. She says that Neuralink will likely face many medical hurdles, even if their process doesn't require splitting open patients' skulls. "The approach as I understand it (not much is published) involves implanting silicon particles (so called "neural lace") into the bloodstream. One concern is that implanting anything in the body can cause unintended consequences," says Jepsen. "For example, even red blood cells can clog capillaries in the brain when the red blood cells are made more stiff by diseases like malaria. This clogging can reduce or even cut off the flow of oxygen to the parts of the brain. Indeed, clogging of cerebral capillaries has been shown to be a major cause of Alzheimer's progression. Back to neural lace: One concern I would have is whether the silicon particles could lead to any clogging."
IBM

How the IBM 1403 Printer Hammered Out 1,100 Lines Per Minute (ieee.org) 174

schwit1 quotes a report from IEEE Spectrum: The IBM 1460, which went on sale in 1963, was an upgrade of the 1401 [which was one of the first transistorized computers ever sold commercially]. Twice as fast, with a 6-microsecond cycle time, it came with a high-speed 1403 Model 3 line printer. The 1403 printer was incredibly fast. It had five identical sets of 48 embossed metal characters like the kind you'd find on a typewriter, all connected together on a horizontal chain loop that revolved at 5.2 meters per second behind the face of a continuous ream of paper. Between the paper and the character chain was a strip of ink tape, again just like a typewriter's. But rather than pressing the character to the paper through the ink tape, the 1403 did it backward, pressing the paper against the high-speed character chain through the ink tape with the aid of tiny hammers. Over the years, IBM came out with eight models of the 1403. Some versions had 132 hammers, one for each printable column, and each was individually actuated with an electromagnet. When a character on the character chain aligned with a column that was supposed to contain that character, the electromagnetic hammer for that column would actuate, pounding the paper through the ink tape and into the character in 11 microseconds. With all 132 hammers actuating and the chain blasting along, the 1403 was stupendously noisy [...] The Model 3, which replaced the character chain with slugs sliding in a track driven by gears, took just 55 milliseconds to print a single line. When printing a subset of characters, its speed rose from 1,100 lines per minute to 1,400 lines per minute.
Wireless Networking

The US May Finally See Widespread 'Super Wi-Fi' Deployment (siliconvalley.com) 76

The end of the FCC's spectrum auction last week "should give a clear indication of how much space will be available in each TV market for Super Wi-Fi," according to the Bay Area Newsgroup. An anonymous reader quotes their report: [T]he technology has promised speedy internet for rural citizens and to help urban dwellers get connected in buildings and rooms that are now twilight zones for Wi-Fi signals... And because the spectrum is regulated and largely reserved for television signals, Super Wi-Fi transmissions don't have to contend with interference from random devices like microwaves or cordless phones, as do signals in other wireless bands. Super Wi-Fi signals generally won't be as fast as regular Wi-Fi signals, but for many customers, they'll be faster and provide better service than what they'd get otherwise...

It's widely expected that there will be plenty of room for Super Wi-Fi in rural areas where there are few television signals, which is why companies like Cal.net and Q-Wireless have pressed forward with the technology even before the auction closes. The big question is whether regulators will preserve sufficient space for Super Wi-Fi in areas like New York and Los Angeles where there are lots of broadcast stations and in cities like Detroit and San Diego that have to share the airwaves with cities from other countries. If there's not enough space in those areas, Super Wi-Fi, in this country at least, will likely be relegated to rural areas.

Robotics

Can Robots Help Children With Autism? (go.com) 52

An anonymous reader writes: Sunday is World Autism Awareness Day, and landmarks around the world will "light it up blue" as a show of support, including New York's Rockefeller Center and the White House. "Autism spectrum disorders affect an estimated one out of every 68 children in America," President Trump posted Friday, and autistic characters have now even been added to the new Power Rangers movie and on Sesame Street.

But technology could also play a role in improving the live of people with autism spectrum disorders. Reuters is reporting on a robot specifically designed to help teach communication and interaction skills to autistic children, while Vanderbilt University has 20 studies exploring more ways that robotics and technology could help, according to Zachary Warren, an associate professor of pediatrics. "A child may not respond to their mother calling their name but may automatically respond to a robot action or a piece of technology," Warren says after one program which showed improvement in five out of six participants. "If we can use that technology to shift how that child responds, then we may have a very valuable system to that child, that family and maybe for autism intervention."

Space

Researchers Detect A Mysterious Flash Of X-Rays From A Faraway Galaxy (nytimes.com) 83

"It was a spark in the night. A flash of X-rays from a galaxy hovering nearly invisibly on the edge of infinity. Astronomers say they do not know what caused it." Slashdot reader schwit1 quotes the New York Times: The orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory, was in the midst of a 75-day survey of a patch of sky known as the Chandra Deep Field-South, when it recorded the burst from a formerly quiescent spot in the cosmos. For a few brief hours on Oct 1, 2014, the X-rays were a thousand times brighter than all the light from its home galaxy, a dwarf unremarkable speck almost 11 billion light years from here, in the constellation Fornax. Then whatever had gone bump in the night was over and the X-rays died.

The event as observed does not fit any known phenomena, according to Franz Bauer, an astronomer at Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, and lead author of a report to be published in Science.

He described some possible explanation in a blog post this week -- for example, a star being torn apart by a black hole, or the afterglow from a gamma ray burst seen sideways -- but the spectrum readings aren't a match, according to the Times. "None of the usual cosmic catastrophe suspects work."
Power

Study Shows Laptop Batteries Often Don't Last As Long As They Say (digitaltrends.com) 87

A new study conducted by Which? magazine has found that "the battery life claimed by laptop manufacturers rarely lives up to reality. "Although Apple's battery life claims were the closest to reality, in the case of some other manufacturers, their laptops lasted hours less than the stated time," reports Digital Trends. From the report: In its testing, Which looked at the battery life claims of 67 different laptop models from manufacturers as diverse as Asus, Apple, Acer, HP, Dell, Lenovo, and Toshiba -- some of the world's most popular laptop makers. It found that while Apple's average claim of 10 hours was proven correct -- and was even slightly better in some cases -- Dell's claims were overstated by more than four hours, and HP, close to five. The times listed in the header image are the average claimed battery life for all of the laptops Which? has tested over the past year versus the times it recorded in its internal testing. That involved charging the laptops to full, then running them down to nothing three times, using online web browsing via Wi-Fi or watching local videos to do so. Out of all laptops tested, the only manufacturer to understate battery claims was Apple. In one case, it claimed that its MacBook Pro 13 could achieve 10 hours of usage, while tests suggested it could go for as long as 12 hours. At the other end of the spectrum though, there were some really egregious overstatements. The Lenovo Yoga 510 has a claimed battery life of five hours -- it only lasted two hours and seven minutes. The HP Pavilion 14-al115na is supposed to be able to run for nine hours, but was only capable of four hours and 25 minutes. The Acer E15 claimed six hours but ran for just under three hours.

Slashdot Top Deals