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Comment MS is completely wrong (Score 5, Insightful) 146

Telemetry should be able to be switched off entirely, on all Windows installs, so that our right to privacy in respected. Many of the apps that I use include telemetry but I only use those that provide an option to disable their telemetry, even though I will allow telemetry from some trusted apps. MS have repeated demonstrated that they cannot be trusted and it is scary that the released an entire OS that is actually spyware. In any case, it means that Windows 7 will be the last version I allow to be installed on any computer I own.

If Windows update doesn't work without telemetry, that is a demonstration of MS incompetence and a very bad design decision. Linux is my main OS and it sends no telemetry for updates, while still managing to install updates. Those Linux updates also cover every piece of software I have installed in that OS, not just OS updates.

Submission + - Google successfully uses machine learning to detect diabetic retinopathy (betanews.com)

BrianFagioli writes: Diabetic eye disease is caused by retinopathy. Affected diabetics can have small tears inside the eye, causing bleeding. Over time, they can lose vision, and ultimately, they can go blind. Luckily, Google has been trying to use machine learning to detect diabetic retinopathy. Guess what? The search giant has seen much success. Not only are the computers able to detect the disease at the same level as ophthalmologists, but Google is actually slightly better!

Submission + - Neuroscientists Say Simple Mathematical Logic Drives Complex Brain Computation (sci-news.com)

hackingbear writes: According to Dr. Joe Tsien, a neuroscientist at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, the brain’s basic computational algorithm is organized by power-of-two-based logic. He and his colleagues from US and China have documented the algorithm at work in seven different brain regions involved with those basics like food and fear in mice and hamsters. “Intelligence is really about dealing with uncertainty and infinite possibilities,” he said, “It appears to be enabled when a group of similar neurons form a variety of cliques to handle each basic like recognizing food, shelter, friends and foes. Groups of cliques then cluster into functional connectivity motifs (FCMs) to handle every possibility in each of these basics. The more complex the thought, the more cliques join in.”

Submission + - NASA X-Ray Tech Could Enable Superfast Communication In Deep Space (space.com)

An anonymous reader writes: New technology could use X-rays to transmit data at high rates over vast distances in outer space, as well as enable communications with hypersonic vehicles during re-entry, when radio communications are impossible, NASA scientists say. The technology would combine multiple NASA projects currently in progress to demonstrate the feasibility of X-ray communications from outside the International Space Station. The radio waves used by mobile phones, Wi-Fi and, of course, radios, are one kind of light. Other forms of light can carry data as well; for instance, fiber-optic telecommunications rely on pulses of visible and near-infrared light. The effort to use another type of light, X-rays, for communication started with research on NASA's proposed Black Hole Imager. That mission is designed to analyze the edges of the supermassive black holes that previous research suggested exist at the centers of most, if not all, large galaxies. One potential strategy to enable the Black Hole Imager was to develop a constellation of precisely aligned spacecraft to collect X-rays emitted from the edges of those black holes. Keith Gendreau, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, thought of developing X-ray emitters that these spacecraft could use as navigational beacons to make sure they stayed in position relative to one another. The system would keep them aligned down to a precision of just 1 micron, or about one-hundredth the average width of a human hair. Gendreau then reasoned that by modulating or varying the strength or frequency of these X-ray transmissions on and off many times per second, these navigational beacons could also serve as a communication system. Such X-ray communication, or XCOM, might, in theory, permit gigabit-per-second data rates throughout the solar system, he said. One advantage that XCOM has compared to laser communication in deep space is that X-rays have shorter wavelengths than the visible or infrared light typically used in laser communication. Moreover, X-rays can penetrate obstacles that impede radio communication.

Submission + - Morgan Stanley: Pixel Phone Will Generate Google Almost $4 Billion Next Year (9to5google.com)

An anonymous reader writes: With initial Pixel pre-orders exceeding expectations and promising activation numbers from Verizon, Google is on track to sell three million phones with revenues of $2 billion in 2016. The Morgan Stanley estimate comes as the Pixel reportedly captured 10% of the premium smartphone market in India. Unsurprisingly, the 128GB Pixel XL has the largest gross profit margin at 25%, while the cheapest 32GB Pixel is at 22%. Morgan Stanley also estimates that, compared to the iPhone, the Pixel will be half as profitable. Morgan Stanley expects Google to sell 5-6 million Pixel and Pixel XL devices in 2017 to the tune of $3.8 billion in revenue. Google is also expected to make money from increased usage of services like Android Pay and mobile search. Google’s big gains were possibly due in part to Samsung’s Note 7 debacle, with the company’s marketshare falling to 23%. Apple captured the number one position at 66%. Additionally, Google benefitted from running a number of promotions, including cashback and exchange programs. The company also heavily advertised in newspapers, with billboards, and for the first time displays in large retail stores.

Submission + - SQL Server on Linux (microsoft.com)

mj1ab writes: Earlier in the year Microsoft announced that the next version of SQL Server would run on Linux. The first CTP (Community Technology Preview) of SQL Server v.Next is now available: SQL Server v.Next—SQL Server on Linux. It seems to work as expected on a 64-bit Ubuntu 16.04 VM, but SQL Server Management Studio reports the OS as NT 6.2 (Windows Server 2012) and the data paths as C:\var\opt\mssql\data\. I guess it has a long way to go before the final release.

Submission + - EU's Law Enforcement Agency Closes 4,500 Websites Peddling Fake Brands (phys.org)

An anonymous reader writes: In a massive crackdown, police and law enforcement agencies across Europe have seized more than 4,500 website domains trading in counterfeit goods, often via social networks, officials said on Monday. The operation came as Europol, Europe's police agency, unveiled its newest campaign dubbed "Don't F***(AKE) Up" to stop scam websites selling fake brand names online. In the crackdown, agencies from 27 countries mostly in Europe but including from the US and Canada, joined forces to shut down over 4,500 websites. They were selling everything from "luxury goods, sportswear, spare parts, electronics, pharmaceuticals, toiletries and other fake products," Europol said in a statement, without saying how long the crackdown took. An annual operation run in collaboration with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security, there was "a significant increase in the number of seized domain names compared to last year," said Europol director Rob Wainwright. As part of the crackdown, Dutch anti-fraud police arrested 12 people across The Netherlands over the past two weeks as they searched homes and warehouses. Most of the raids were prompted by online sales of counterfeit goods on social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram. More than 3,500 items of clothing and fake luxury goods were seized in Holland, including shoes, bags and perfumes purporting to be such brands as Nike, Adidas, and Kenzo, with a market value of tens of thousands euros. Publishing a guide on how to spot fake websites and social media scams, Europol warned consumers had to be on their guard.

Submission + - EPA Increases Amount of Renewable Fuel To Be Blended Into Gasoline (arstechnica.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Last week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its final renewable fuel standards for 2017, requiring that fuel suppliers blend an additional 1.2 billion gallons of renewable fuel into U.S. gas and diesel from 2016 levels. The rule breaks down the requirements to include quotas for cellulosic biofuels, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and traditional renewable fuel. Reuters points out that the aggressive new biofuel standards will create a dilemma for an incoming Trump administration, given that his campaign courted both the gas and corn industries. While the EPA under the Obama administration has continually increased so-called renewable fuel standards (RFS), the standards were first adopted by a majority-Republican Congress in 2005 and then bolstered in 2007 with a requirement to incorporate 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel into the fuel supply by 2022, barring “a determination that implementation of the program is causing severe economic or environmental harm,” as the EPA writes. Some biofuels are controversial not just for oil and gas suppliers but for some wildlife advocates as well. Collin O'Mara, CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, said in a statement that the corn ethanol industry that most stands to benefit from the EPA’s expansion of the renewable fuel standards “is responsible for the destruction of millions of acres of wildlife habitat and degradation of water quality.” Still, the EPA contends that biofuels made from corn and other regenerating plants offer reductions in overall fuel emissions, if the processes used to make and transport the fuels are included. “Advanced biofuels” will offer “50 percent lifecycle carbon emissions reductions,” and their share of the new standards will grow by 700 million gallons in 2017 from 2016 requirements, the EPA says. Cellulosic biofuel will be increased by 81 million gallons and biomass-based diesel will be increased by 100 million gallons. “Non-advanced or ‘conventional’ renewable fuel” will be increased to 19.28 billion gallons from 18.11 billion gallons in 2016. Conventional renewable fuel “typically refers to ethanol derived from corn starch and must meet a 20 percent lifecycle GHG [greenhouse gas] reduction threshold,” according to EPA guidelines. Other kinds of renewable fuels include sugarcane-based ethanol, cellulosic ethanol derived from the stalks, leaves, and cobs leftover from a corn harvest, and compressed natural gas gleaned from wastewater facilities.

Submission + - NASA competition invites ideas for human waste management in space (news.com.au)

bsharma writes: GOING to the bathroom in zero-gravity can be a tricky task — and NASA wants your help to make it a little bit easier for its astronauts. We can put a man on the moon but we can’t deny our bodily functions, no matter who you are. So the world’s leading space agency has put up a $US30,000 award for anyone who can come up with the most innovative “space poop” solution.

Submission + - Online Security at IRS phone scam finally may be fizzling out (iblog.at)

amandabin writes: We all should be thankful on this Thanksgiving Day that one of the worst scams to hit the Lehigh Valley, and the nation, finally is on its way to being cooked.

Complaints about the IRS phone scam have dropped significantly in the past month or so. After three years, international detective work and technological advances finally have carved deeply into these turkeys' business.

The scheme isn't completely stuffed away yet, so remain vigilant. But it's certainly not as prevalent as it was.

The relentless calls started in fall 2013. Con artists pose as IRS and U.S. Treasury agents and threaten people with a lawsuit, arrest or grand jury investigation unless they immediately pay supposed tax debts.

The debts aren't real but the callers bully people into paying over the phone, usually with prepaid debit cards and iTunes cards. More than 9,600 people, including some locally, have lost a combined $50 million. A California man lost $136,000 when he was exploited repeatedly over 20 days, according to the U.S. Attorney General's Office.

I heard from hundreds of people who got the calls. Some were scared. Others were confused about whether the calls were legitimate. Many knew they were fraudulent and wanted to know how to stop them or where to report the scoundrels.

Nearly 2 million complaints about the scam have been reported to the Inspector General for Tax Administration. It's also the top scam complaint to the Better Business Bureau.

But it's been a month or more since I've heard any complaints. Reports to the inspector general and the BBB are way down.

That's because some of the people accused of making the calls have been locked up. Early last month, authorities in India raided a call center and charged 70 people with fraud. On Oct. 27, U.S. authorities announced that 56 others had been indicted; some of them in the states, along with five call centers in India.

"We are encouraged that our investigation, which resulted in the announced law enforcement action in late October, has had a significant impact on this criminal activity," inspector general's spokeswoman Karen Kraushaar told me.

At the peak of the scam, more than 30,000 calls were reported to the inspector general in a single week. That was down to about 1,000 in one recent week.

People still are being ripped off, though, and the inspector general recently learned of 40 people who lost money, Kraushaar said.

"It is extremely important that people remain vigilant and remember to hang up on callers who claim to be IRS or Treasury employees and make threatening calls demanding immediate payment," she said.

In about the past month, the Better Business Bureau's Scam Tracker website has received 91 reports of tax fraud, compared to 489 the previous month. While those figures include all types of tax scams, the vast majority are IRS scam calls.

"We are pleased with the drop and are looking forward to the day when we aren't getting any IRS tax scams reported," said Kelsey Owen, communications and public affairs director for the Better Business Bureau office that covers eastern Pennsylvania.

There are variations of these scam calls. Sometimes the callers are men. Sometimes they are women. Some calls are live while others at least start as robocalls. Callers often instruct victims not to tell anyone about what's going on and to remain on their cellphone while they are buying the prepaid cards to pay their supposed debt. The callers try to sound official, sometimes offering badge numbers and case numbers. But their foreign accents often give them away.

In addition to the arrests, technology also played a role in reducing the number of calls getting through.

As I reported in a recent column, a new technique being developed by phone and technology companies to block illegal robocalls stopped a substantial number of these scam calls during a test.

While this is all good news, I fear the fraud could catch a second wind. Schemes as profitable as this often morph into new ones. The Better Business Bureau also warned of that.

"We know from past experience that scammers are opportunists," Emma Fletcher, manager of the BBB's Scam Tracker, said in a news release last month. "Hopefully this crew won't be stealing from anyone again for a long while. But we will be keeping an eye on incoming scam reports so we can alert consumers what the 'next big thing' in scams turns out to be."

The IRS phone scam already was evolving prior to the raid in India. John Miller of Bethlehem Township told me he got several calls in late September from the "Office of Taxation" that followed the same script.

"I guess they gathered that everybody has figured out the IRS game so now they're trying a different name," Miller told me.

If you get an IRS scam call, you can report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (800-366-4484, www.tigta.gov) or the BBB Scam Tracker (www.bbb.org/scamtracker/us).

Protect yourself against scams by reading my previous Watchdog columns at www.mcall.com/watchdog. If you are targeted with a new scam, let me know and I'll warn others.

The Watchdog is published Thursdays and Sundays. Contact me at watchdog@mcall.com, 610-841-2364 or The Morning Call, 101 N. Sixth St., Allentown, PA, 18101. I'm on Twitter @mcwatchdog and Facebook at Morning Call Watchdog.

Comment Re:Good for Australia (Score 1) 600

While I largely agree with what you have said, the reality is that tariffs are common and I'd be surprised if any "free trade" agreements result in tariff free trade. By international standards, Australia does have low tariffs on imports and has been phasing out a lot of tariffs. The US and China both have much high import tariffs and it is true that the best deals we have been able to make is a reduction in tariffs in our trade agreements.

Unfortunately, protectionist policies are not going away any time soon. In democracies there are political consequences in doing away with tariffs or subsidies and there are some powerful lobby groups in some countries. Politicians might be professional liars and corrupt but they are not quick to commit political suicide...

Comment Good for Australia (Score 2) 600

As an Australian, Trump killing the TPP is a good thing. There are some parts of the TPP that would have forced some crazy laws on us, without opening up enough trade opportunities. Stripping out everything that US wanted in the TPP and the other countries involved going ahead with a new agreement should be relatively easy. The US is probably not going to be hurt by not being involved and most of the other countries involved will do better, with the likely exceptions of Canada and Mexico.

The Australian economy depends more on trade with China than with the US and we already have a free trade agreement with China, although China still has too many tariffs. China is already pushing their own broad alternative to the TPP which might mean further tariff reductions. A trade war between the US and China could have some positives for the rest of the world.

Comment Might be more to the story (Score 1) 236

I suspect there might be more to the story. Maybe a transaction was attempted on their credit card before they updated their address. In any case, Google needs to do a better job in dealing with these situations. It is not reasonable to be forced to create a new account and lose all of your purchases. It does highlight a critical weakness in buying virtual media through online services, like Google. If you've purchased apps, music, books, movies, etc. through Google and they disable your account, it is all gone. Buying physical media is still safer because it is harder to lose your CD/DVD/paper book libraries.

I moved a while ago and this story prompted me to take a look at the address details Google has on me... The scary thing is that one of the two credit cards still had my old address but that wasn't shown until I chose to edit that card because the web interface just shows a large icon for each card with only the type of card, part of the number and expiry date, no address details. Going to change my address for that card offered a drop down with my new address. The address on the other card was correct. Digging further showed my old address in "payments profile" which might have caused problems. I my case, I would have had to update my address in three places which seems strange. Other sites I use will list all of the addresses I have registered on file in a single place, separating them into the various billing, residential and delivery addresses.

Comment Possible and scary (Score 1) 85

The popularity and security weaknesses in IoT devices has lower the bar so that anyone with a bit of IT knowledge can take out large companies. We should take a step back from the IoT buzzword and remember that consumer side devices has been online for a long time. Other consumer equipment, such as routers and web cams, have long been a source an area with weak security and hardcoded passwords. The problem is that these devices are out there and there is no way of fixing them all.

Unless better attack mitigation approaches are put in place, on the broader Internet infrastructure and not just the attach victims, these sorts of attacks will only become more common. Unfortunately, there seems to be little willingness to do this. It is true that this isn't an easy fix and changes will cause their own problems but the consequences of doing nothing could be much worse.

Comment Note 4 was the best Note (Score 1) 85

I really hope that Samsung does not kill the Note line. That would leave me desperate for another manufacturer to bring out an equivalent.

I remember going out of my way to spend over US$3,000 on a Windows laptop with a screen the rotated so it was over the keyboard and had a digitiser that allowed my to take handwritten notes. When it was new, it had a useful battery life of over 10 hours and it took it to every meeting. It was amazing that I no longer had to carry, or produce, any paperwork when traveling. Being able to take my notes and use handwriting recognition to turn them into something that I could share with colleagues made me more productive. Filling in the many forms that I used in my job on that screen was a pleasure. Being in a minority with this doesn't bother me at all.

I've had a few Android phones and a couple of those were Notes. In fact, I'm still using a Note 4 and have no interest in replacing it. Having a removable battery and SDcard support is important to me and Samsung dropped both in the Note 5... Right now, my two year old Note 4 can be made as good as new by simply putting in a new battery. For much more than a quick note, I find using the on screen keyboards annoying and will just take a handwritten note or use handwriting recognition. They only time typing is my preferred input method is when I'm using a full size (real) keyboard.

I also have a Note tablet that I use for a lot of personal notes. It is used for my morning web browsing and it great for reading books, pdfs and office documents because it has a high resolution screen and weighs very little.

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