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AI

Amazon, NVIDIA and The CIA Want To Teach AI To Watch Us From Space (technologyreview.com) 58

An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: Satellite operator DigitalGlobe is teaming up with Amazon, the venture arm of the CIA, and NVIDIA to make computers watch the Earth from above and automatically map our roads, buildings, and piles of trash. MIT Technology Review reports: "In a joint project, DigitalGlobe today released satellite imagery depicting the whole of Rio de Janeiro to a resolution of 50 centimeters. The outlines of 200,000 buildings inside the city's roughly 1,900 square kilometers have been manually marked on the photos. The SpaceNet data set, as it is called, is intended to spark efforts to train machine-learning algorithms to interpret high-resolution satellite photos by themselves. DigitalGlobe says the SpaceNet data set should eventually include high-resolution images of half a million square kilometers of Earth, and that it will add annotations beyond just buildings. DigitalGlobe's data is much more detailed than publicly available satellite data such as NASA's, which typically has a resolution of tens of meters. Amazon will make the SpaceNet data available via its cloud computing service. Nvidia will provide tools to help machine-learning researchers train and test algorithms on the data, and CosmiQ Works, a division of the CIA's venture arm In-Q-Tel focused on space, is also supporting the project." "We need to develop new algorithms for this data," says senior vice president at DigitalGlobe, Tony Frazier. He goes on to say that health and aid programs are to benefit from software that is able to map roads, bridges and various other infrastructure. The CEO of Descartes Labs, Mark Johnson, a "startup that predicts crop yields from public satellite images," says the data that is collected "should be welcome to startups and researchers," according to MIT Technology Review. "Potential applications could include estimated economic output from activity in urban areas, or guiding city governments on how to improve services such as trash collections, he says."
Communications

Facebook Is Testing Autoplaying Video With Sound (thenextweb.com) 151

An anonymous reader writes: Facebook is testing a "feature" that autoplays video clips on your feed with sound. It's not a very big test, but there's a possibility the company could roll it out to a larger group of users. The Next Web reports: "The company is currently trying two methods of getting people to watch video with sound in Australia: the aforementioned autoplaying, and an unmute button on the lower right corner of videos, like Vine videos on a desktop. The latter certainly sounds more reasonable; the last thing you want is to be checking Facebook quickly during a meeting or class, and suddenly have your phone blaring out an advert because you happened to stop on a video. Thankfully, you can disable the 'feature' from your settings, but the point is there's nothing wrong with the current opt-in approach, especially considering how many companies are embracing video captioning, and that Facebook even has its own auto-caption tool for advertisers." "We're running a small test in News Feed where people can choose whether they want to watch videos with sound on from the start," a Facebook spokesperson told Mashable Australia. "For people in this test who do not want sound to play, they can switch it off in Settings or directly on the video itself. This is one of several tests we're running as we work to improve the video experience for people on Facebook."
The Almighty Buck

Pokemon Go Daily Active Users, Downloads, Engagement Are Dropping (bloomberg.com) 192

An anonymous reader writes:Pokemon Go is starting to lose the battle for mobile mindshare, according to Axiom Capital Management. As such, investors and executives at Facebook Inc., Instagram, Tinder (Match Group Inc.), Twitter Inc., and Snapchat can breathe a sigh of relief, says Senior Analyst Victor Anthony. "Given the rapid rise in usage of the Pokemon Go app since the launch in July, investors have been concerned that this new user experience has been detracting from time spent on other mobile focused apps," he writes. Enthusiasm about the potential for Pokemon Go (and augmented reality gaming in general) to improve Nintendo Co Ltd.'s financial performance sent shares parabolic after the app launched in the U.S., and even spurred rallies in secondary plays linked to the success of the game. Data from Sensor Tower, SurveyMonkey, and Apptopia, however, show that Pokemon Go's daily active users, downloads, engagement, and time spent on the app per day are all well off their peaks and on a downward trend.
Transportation

World's Largest Aircraft Completes Its First Flight (cnn.com) 190

The world's largest aircraft has finally completed its first flight after months of preparation and years of searching for funding. The Airlander 10 as it's called spent 20 minutes in the air on Wednesday, landing safely at Cardington Airfield north of London. CNNMoney reports: "Part airship, part helicopter, part plane, the 300-foot long aircraft is about 50 feet longer than the world's biggest passenger planes. The Airlander, made by British company Hybrid Air Vehicles, has four engines and no internal structure. It maintains its shape thanks to the pressure of the 38,000 cubic meters of helium inside its hull, which is made from ultralight carbon fiber. The aircraft was originally designed for U.S. military surveillance. But the project was grounded in 2013 because of defense spending cuts. [The team behind the giant blimp-like aircraft] said the aircraft could carry communications equipment or other cargo, undertake search and rescue operations, or do military and commercial survey work. The Airlander can stay airborne for up to five days at a time if manned, and for more than two weeks if unmanned. It can carry up to 10 tons of cargo at a maximum speed of 91 miles per hour. The aircraft doesn't need a runway to take off, meaning it can operate from land, snow, ice, desert and even open water." You can view the historic flight for yourself here (Warning: headphone users beware of loud sound).

Submission + - Microsoft Moving To 'Rollup' Update Model For Older Windows Systems (microsoft.com)

An anonymous reader writes: A posting on the Microsoft TechNet blog announces Microsoft moving to a montly rollup-style update model for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 systems. In this new model users will no longer be able to pick individual updates for installation. This will, according to Microsoft, improve the end-user experience by reducing system fragmentation. Microsoft will also provide enterprise users with a monthly minimal package only containing the latest security updates.

Submission + - Windows 10's "all or nothing" cumulative update scheme coming 7, 8.1 (arstechnica.com)

An anonymous reader writes: The shotgun "cumulative" update scheme used in Windows 10 is coming to 7 and 8.1. No longer will updates be offered through Windows Update individually. Instead, you'll grab the latest "cumulative" update for your version of Windows, and take whatever Microsoft gives you.

Of course, Microsoft says it will improve performance of Windows updates on the older versions (and that may very well be true, but so would an actual updated 'security fix only' service pack for them); but you know they will not be able to help themselves with their new method of obfuscating "other" non security updates. We all know that Microsoft does not document their updates well in Windows update (everything simply "resolves issues in Windows"? really? Windows 10 offer updates said that too, what exactly did that resolve?), rarely fully itemizes "cumulative updates, often improperly labels updates as "security update" and "important" when they are, in fact, neither.

This will include things people have begin to take notice of and avoid (such as non-security "important" updates, telemetry and spying updates, etc).

If you use Windows Update to update your systems, you will start to lose control over what updates get installed and what ones you can defer or avoid.

If you're a knowledgeable home or small business user, you may want to look into alternative means of obtaining the actual important security related updates (and only those) from utilities like WSUS Offline Update, as WSUS method will remain unchanged (at least for now, right?).

Games

PC Gaming Is Still Way Too Hard (vice.com) 729

Motherboard has an article in which it argues that PC gaming is still way too hard. The author of the article claims that for one to build a gaming PC, they need an "unreasonable" amount of disposable income, and also have an unreasonable amount of time to "research, shop around, and assemble parts" for their computer. The author adds that a person looking into making one such gear also needs to always have to keep investing time and money in as long as they want to stay at the cutting edge or recommended specifications range for new PC games. The author has shared the experience he had building his own gaming PC. An excerpt from it: The process of physically building a PC is filled with little frustrations, and mistakes can be costly and time consuming. I have big, dumb, sausage fingers, so mounting the motherboard into the case, and screwing in nine (!) tiny screws to keep it in place in a cramped space, in weird angles, where dropping the screwdriver can easily break something expensive -- it's just not what I'd call "consumer-friendly." This is why people buy from Apple. It designs everything from the trackpad to the box the computer comes in, which unfolds neatly to reveal everything you need. Apple reduces friction to the point where even my mom could upgrade the RAM on her iMac, and it can do this because it controls everything that goes in that box.That's accurate. But it also means -- at least as of today -- that the current Apple computer -- MacBook Air, MacBook, iMac, Mac Mini you purchase packs in at least three-year-old components.
AI

Elon Musk's Open Source OpenAI: We're Working On a Robot For Your Household Chores (zdnet.com) 64

An anonymous reader writes from a report via ZDNet: OpenAI, the artificial-intelligence non-profit backed by Elon Musk, Amazon Web Services, and others, is working on creating a physical robot that performs household chores. In a blog post Monday, OpenAI leaders said they don't want to manufacture the robot itself, but "enable a physical robot [...] to perform basic housework." The company says it is "inspired" by DeepMind's work in the deep learning and reinforcement learning field of AI, as displayed by its AlphaGo victory over human Go masters. OpenAI says it wants to "train an agent capable enough to solve any game," noting that significant advances in AI will be required in order for that to happen. In May, the company released a public beta of a new Open Source gym for computer programmers working on AI. They also have plans to build an agent that can understand natural language and seek clarification when following instructions to complete a task. OpenAI plans to build new algorithms that can advance this field. Finally, OpenAI wants to measure its progress across games, robotics, and language-based tasks, which is where OpenAI's Gym Beta will come into play.
Communications

Tom Wheeler Defeats the Broadband Industry: Net Neutrality Wins In Court (bloomberg.com) 165

Andrew M Harris and Todd Shields, reporting for Bloomberg: The Federal Communications Commission won a major appeals court ruling supporting its efforts to prevent broadband Internet service providers from favoring some types of web traffic over others. The Washington-based court Tuesday denied challenges to the federal government's so-called net neutrality regulations, which were backed by President Barack Obama. The ruling hands a victory to those who champion the notion of an open internet where service providers are prevented from offering speedier lanes to content providers willing to pay for them. It's a defeat for challengers including AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp., which said the rule would discourage innovation and investment.FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, "Today's ruling is a victory for consumers and innovators who deserve unfettered access to the entire web, and it ensures the Internet remains a platform for unparalleled innovation, free expression and economic growth. After a decade of debate and legal battles, today's ruling affirms the Commission's ability to enforce the strongest possible internet protections -- both on fixed and mobile networks -- that will ensure the internet remains open, now and in the future."
Piracy

DVD Release Delays Boost Piracy and Hurt Sales, Study Shows (torrentfreak.com) 202

One of the reasons that drive people to piracy is the delay in the release of a title's DVD or Blu-Ray in their local market. According to a new academic paper from Carnegie Mellon University, movie fans are finding it increasingly difficult to wait for the official DVD or Blu-Ray to come out. From a TorrentFreak report: Due to artificial delays which vary across different parts of the world, pirates can often get their hands on a high-quality rip of a movie before the DVD is officially released in their country. Researchers have looked into this piracy "window of opportunity," and found that release delays are actually hurting DVD and Blu-Ray sales. "Our results suggest that an additional 10-day delay between the availability of digital piracy and the legitimate DVD release date in a particular country is correlated with a 2-3% reduction in DVD sales in that country," the researchers write.
Television

Ask Slashdot: Why Do You Want a 'Smart TV'? 507

Reader kheldan questions the need for a Smart TV (edited for clarity): Yesterday we read about how Samsung is planning on 'upgrading' the firmware in its smart TVs so that it could inject ads into your video streams. This raises the question yet again: Why do you even need a 'smart TV' in the first place? We live in an age where media-center computers and DVRs are ubiquitous, and all your TV really needs to be is a high-def monitor to connect to these devices. Even many smartphones have HDMI connectivity, and a Raspberry Pi is inexpensive and can play 1080 content at full framerate. None of these devices are terribly expensive anymore, and the price jump from a non-smart TV to a smart TV makes it difficult to justify the expense. Also, remember previous articles posted on the subject of surveillance many of these smart TVs have been found guilty of. So I put it to you, denizens of Slashdot: Why does anyone really want a 'smart TV'?
Science

American Scientists Working On Creating Chimeras: Half-Human, Half-Animal Embryos (ibtimes.com.au) 242

Researchers at the University of California, Davis are working on creating half-human, half-animal hybrid embryos dubbed chimeras to better understand diseases and its progression. But not everybody is thrilled about it. IBTimes reports: One of the aims of the experiment using chimeras is to create farm animals with human organs. The body parts could then be harvested and transplanted into very sick people. However, a number of bioethicists and scientists frown on the creation of interspecies embryos which they believe crosses the line. New York Medical College Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy Stuart Newman calls the use of chimeras as entering unsettling ground which damages "our sense of humanity." They are not alone in voicing their opinion against the idea. Huffington Post adds: The project is so controversial that the National Institutes of Health has refused to fund it. The researchers are relying on private donors. Critics of these experiments say they are too risky because there is no way of knowing where the human stem cells will go. Will they just become a pancreas? Or could they become a brain? And if they become a brain, will the pigs who house them have human consciousness?
Windows

Microsoft Releases Big 'Convenience Rollup' Update For Windows 7 159

Microsoft has released a "convenience rollup" update for Windows 7 computers. The update to the nearly seven-year-old operating system brings with it a number of security fixes and patches that Microsoft labels as "recommended." Mary Jo Foley, reporting for ZDNet: The convenience rollup -- officially known as Windows 7 SP1 convenience rollup -- isn't Service Pack 2 for Windows 7, but it's the next best thing. The new Windows 7 convenience rollup is cumulative back to Service Pack 1, which Microsoft released in 2011. (Editor's note, the convenience rollup consists of all security and non-security fixes all through April 2016.) It doesn't include updates to IE 11 (which are released separately) or updates to .NET releases. But it does include core Windows fixes, security fixes and hot fixes.Microsoft says that convenience rollup package is completely optional. "Install this one update, and then you only need new updates released after April 2016."

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