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Përditësimi: 3 ditë 6 orë më parë

Uber and Lyft Are Creating Traffic, Not Reducing It

Hën, 17/02/2020 - 9:34pd
The Wall Street Journal remembers how five years ago, Uber's co-founder "was so confident that Uber's rides would prompt people to leave their cars at home that he told a tech conference: 'If every car in San Francisco was Ubered there would be no traffic.'" He was wrong. Rather than the apps becoming a model of algorithm-driven efficiency, drivers in major cities cruise for fares without passengers an estimated 40% of the time. Multiple studies show that Uber and Lyft have pulled people away from buses, subways and walking, and that the apps add to the overall amount of driving in the U.S. A study published last year by San Francisco County officials and University of Kentucky researchers in the journal Science Advances found that over 60% of the slowdown of traffic speeds in San Francisco between 2010 and 2016 was due to the introduction of the ride-hail companies... The reversal of ride-hailing from would-be traffic hero to congestion villain is the sort of unintended consequence that has become a recurring feature of Silicon Valley disruption. Companies seeking rapid growth by reinventing the way we do things are delivering solutions that sometimes create their own problems... Silicon Valley is particularly prone to focusing on positive potential effects of new technologies given a decadeslong culture of utopian ideals, said Fred Turner, a Stanford University communications professor who has written a book on the topic... Tech companies tend to have an engineering-like, narrow focus on solving specific problems, often missing the broader picture as a result. "You're not rewarded for seeing the landscape within which your device will be deployed," he said... [I]n hindsight, some of the pitfalls -- such as cars cruising empty between passengers -- seem obvious... Riders also take car trips that wouldn't have happened before Uber and Lyft. Bruce Schaller, a transportation consultant and former New York City official who has studied the topic, said in his paper that surveys in numerous cities found roughly 60% of riders in Ubers and Lyfts would have walked, biked, taken public transit or stayed home if a ride-hail car hadn't been available.

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Mark Zuckerberg Again Calls for Big Tech to be Regulated

Hën, 17/02/2020 - 5:34pd
Mark Zuckerberg wrote an op-ed published in The Financial Times "once again calling for more regulation of Big Tech," reports MarketWatch, "even if it affects his company's bottom line." Zuckerberg has previously called for more government regulation of internet companies, and reiterated his arguments in favor of laws covering four major areas: elections, harmful content, privacy and data portability. "I don't think private companies should make so many decisions alone when they touch on fundamental democratic values," he wrote, adding: "We have to balance promoting innovation and research against protecting people's privacy and security." Zuckerberg warned that regulation could have "unintended consequences, especially for small businesses that can't do sophisticated data analysis and marketing on their own...." At his Munich appearance, Zuckerberg spoke about what type of regulation he envisioned: "Right now there are two frameworks that I think people have for existing industries — there's like newspapers and existing media, and then there's the telco-type model, which is 'the data just flows through you', but you're not going to hold a telco responsible if someone says something harmful on a phone line... I actually think where we should be is somewhere in between," he said, according to Reuters. Reuters also reports that Zuckerberg said Facebook is already employing 35,000 people to review online content and implement security measures. "Those teams and Facebook's automated technology currently suspend more than 1 million fake accounts each day, he said, adding that 'the vast majority are detected within minutes of signing up.'"

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IOTA Cryptocurrency Shut Down Its Entire Network After a Wallet Breach

Hën, 17/02/2020 - 3:34pd
The nonprofit organization behind the IOTA cryptocurrency shut down its entire network this week after someone exploited a vulnerability in their wallet app to steal funds. ZDNet reports: The attack happened this week, Wednesday, on February 12, 2020, according to a message the foundation posted on its official Twitter account. According to a status page detailing the incident, within 25 minutes of receiving reports that hackers were stealing funds from user wallets, the IOTA Foundation shut down "Coordinator," a node in the IOTA network that puts the final seal of approval on any IOTA currency transactions. The never-before-seen move was meant to prevent hackers from executing new thefts, but also had the side-effect of effectively shut down the entire IOTA cryptocurrency... IOTA members said hackers used an exploit in "a third-party integration" of Trinity, a mobile and desktop wallet app developed by the IOTA Foundation. Based on current evidence, confirmed by the IOTA team, it is believed that hackers targeted at least 10 high-value IOTA accounts and used the Trinity exploit to steal funds. Sunday the team released "a safe version" of their Trinity Desktop "to allow users to check their balance and transactions. This version (1.4.0) removes the vulnerability announced on 12th February 2020..." Their status page advised users to contact a member of the IOTA Foundation if their balance looks incorrect. "Please be aware that there are unfortunately active imposters posing as IOTA Foundation personnel on our Discord. Therefore it is important that you directly initiate contact with the IF or mod team yourself..." "The Coordinator remains down for now as we finalise our remediation plan. You will not be able to send value transactions."

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Iran Has Been Targeting VPN Servers to Plant Backdoors

Hën, 17/02/2020 - 1:26pd
"A new report published today reveals that Iran's government-backed hacking units have made a top priority last year to exploit VPN bugs as soon as they became public in order to infiltrate and plant backdoors in companies all over the world," writes ZDNet: According to a report from Israeli cyber-security firm ClearSky, Iranian hackers have targeted companies "from the IT, Telecommunication, Oil and Gas, Aviation, Government, and Security sectors." The report comes to dispel the notion that Iranian hackers are not sophisticated, and less talented than their Russian, Chinese, or North Korean counterparts. ClearSky says that "Iranian APT groups have developed good technical offensive capabilities and are able to exploit 1-day vulnerabilities in relatively short periods of time." [ATP stands for "advanced persistent threat" and is often used to describe nation-state backed cyberattackers.] In some instances, ClearSky says it observed Iranian groups exploiting VPN flaws within hours after the bugs have been publicly disclosed... According to the ClearSky report, the purpose of these attacks is to breach enterprise networks, move laterally throughout their internal systems, and plant backdoors to exploit at a later date.

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NASA is Looking for New Astronauts

Hën, 17/02/2020 - 12:03pd
"With a renewed interest in sending humans back to the Moon and then eventually to Mars, NASA needs all the able-bodied space explorers it can get..." writes BGR. "The requirements are, well, pretty strict, but what else would you expect from a group that sends humans into space?" Quoting NASA.gov: Since the 1960s, NASA has selected 350 people to train as astronaut candidates for its increasingly challenging missions to explore space. With 48 astronauts in the active astronaut corps, more will be needed to crew spacecraft bound for multiple destinations and propel exploration forward as part of Artemis missions and beyond... The basic requirements to apply include United States citizenship and a master's degree in a STEM field, including engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science, or mathematics, from an accredited institution... Candidates also must have at least two years of related, progressively responsible professional experience, or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. Astronaut candidates must pass the NASA long-duration spaceflight physical... As part of the application process, applicants will, for the first time, be required to take an online assessment that will require up to two hours to complete... After completing training, the new astronauts could launch on American rockets and spacecraft developed for NASA's Commercial Crew Program to live and work aboard the International Space Station, 250 miles above Earth, where they will take part in experiments that benefit life at home and prepare us for more distant exploration. They may also launch on NASA's powerful new Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, docking the spacecraft at the Gateway in lunar orbit before taking a new human landing system to the Moon's surface. After returning humans to the Moon in 2024, NASA plans to establish sustainable lunar exploration by 2028. Gaining new experiences on and around the Moon will prepare NASA to send the first humans to Mars in the mid-2030s. NASA expects to select the new class of astronaut candidates in mid-2021 to begin training as the next class of Artemis Generation astronauts. "We're celebrating our 20th year of continuous presence aboard the International Space Station in low-Earth orbit this year..." NASA said in its statement. Applications will be accepted from March 2nd through March 31st.

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Alternative Browser 'Waterfox' Acquired By System1

Dje, 16/02/2020 - 10:54md
Waterfox is an open-source web browser for x64, ARM64, and PPC64LE systems, "intended to be speedy and ethical, and maintain support for legacy extensions dropped by Firefox, from which it is forked," according to Wikipedia. (Its tabs also still have angled sides with rounded corners.) Friday Waterfox's original creator, 24-year-old Alexandros Kontos, announced that the browser "now has funding and a development team, so Waterfox can finally start to grow!" after its acquisition by a company called System1. I started Waterfox when I was 16. It was a way for me to understand how large software projects worked and the Mozilla documentation was a great introduction... I've touted Waterfox as an ethical and privacy friendly browser... I never wanted Waterfox to be a part of the hyper-privacy community. It would just feel like standards that would be impossible to uphold, especially for something such as a web browser on the internet. Throughout the years people have always asked about Waterfox and privacy, and if they've ever wanted more than it can afford, I've always pushed them to use Tor. Waterfox was here for customisations and speed, with a good level of privacy... I wasn't doing anything with Waterfox except developing it and making some money via search. Why I kept going throughout the years, I'll never know... System1 has been to Waterfox a search syndication partner. Essentially a way to have a search engine partnership (such as Bing) is through them, because companies such as Microsoft are too big and too busy to talk to small players such as Waterfox... It's probably the one easy way a browser can make money without doing anything dodgy, and it's a way I've been happy to do it without having to compromise Waterfox (and will be the same way System1 makes money from Waterfox -- nothing else). People also don't seem to understand what System1 does... "Now I can finally focus on making Waterfox into a viable alternative to the big browsers," Kontos concludes. Long-time Slashdot reader Freshly Exhumed contextualized the news with this brief history of the alternate browser ecosystem: As the usage share of web browsers continues to show a lopsideded dominance by Google Chrome, many previously-independent browsers have fallen by the wayside or have been reinvented as Chrome variants (i.e. Opera, Edge, Brave). Apple forges on with its Safari browser while other, smaller projects tend to be quite limited for multi-platform users, such as Dolphin and Bromite. Mozilla continues independently with Firefox for almost every platform, while variants such as Pale Moon and Sea Monkey have attempted to provide products that avoid drastic and/or controversial changes made by Mozilla but sometimes do not match the multi-platform support of Firefox. Let us not forget Tor, the Firefox-based anonymity-focused browser. Alex Kontos is a developer who attempted to provide continuity with dropped Firefox capabilities in his multi-platform Waterfox browser, proudly declaring that Firefox's user data sharing and telemetry collection was not included. For that privacy focus a certain popularity of Waterfox occurred. Now Kontos has revealed that his Waterfox project has been sold to System1, a company describing itself as "a consumer internet and applications company with the most powerful audience expansion platform in the industry."

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Dark Mode vs. Light Mode: Which Is Better?

Dje, 16/02/2020 - 9:48md
Recently a well-respected UI consulting firm (the Nielsen Norman Group) published their analysis of academic studies on the question of whether Dark Mode or Light Mode was better for reading? Cosima Piepenbrock and her colleagues at the Institut für Experimentelle Psychologie in Düsseldorf, Germany studied two groups of adults with normal (or corrected-to-normal) vision: young adults (18 to 33 years old) and older adults (60 to 85 years old). None of the participants suffered from any eye diseases (e.g., cataract)... Their results showed that light mode won across all dimensions: irrespective of age, the positive contrast polarity was better for both visual-acuity tasks and for proofreading tasks... Another study, published in the journal Human Factors by the same research group, looked at how text size interacts with contrast polarity in a proofreading task. It found that the positive-polarity advantage increased linearly as the font size was decreased: namely, the smaller the font, the better it is for users to see the text in light mode. Interestingly, even though their performance was better in the light mode, participants in the study did not report any difference in their perception of text readability (e.g., their ability to focus on text) in light versus dark mode — which only reinforces the first rule of usability: don't listen to users... While dark mode may present some advantages for some low-vision users — in particular, those with cloudy ocular media such as cataract, the research evidence points in the direction of an advantage of positive polarity for normal-vision users. In other words, in users with normal vision, light mode leads to better performance most of the time... These findings are best explained by the fact that, with positive contrast polarity, there is more overall light and so the pupil contracts more. As a result, there are fewer spherical aberrations, greater depth of field, and overall better ability to focus on details without tiring the eyes... That being said, we strongly recommend that designers allow users to switch to dark mode if they want to — for three reasons: (1) there may be long-term effects associated with light mode; (2) some people with visual impairments will do better with dark mode; and (3) some users simply like dark mode better. The long-term effects associated with light mode come from an "intriguing" 2018 study they found which argued that reading white text from a black screen or tablet "may be a way to inhibit myopia, while conventional black text on white background may stimulate myopia..." The researchers wrote that myopia "is tightly linked to the educational status and is on the rise worldwide."

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Google Chrome Will Soon Start Blocking Insecure Downloads

Dje, 16/02/2020 - 8:47md
"Google has revealed plans to initially warn Chrome users about 'insecure' downloads and eventually block them outright," reports The Verge. The warnings will begin in April: "Today we're announcing that Chrome will gradually ensure that secure (HTTPS) pages only download secure files," Joe DeBlasio of the Chrome security team wrote in a blog post. "Insecurely-downloaded files are a risk to users' security and privacy. For instance, insecurely-downloaded programs can be swapped out for malware by attackers, and eavesdroppers can read users' insecurely-downloaded bank statements." Beginning with Chrome 82, due for release in April, Chrome will warn users if they're about to download mixed content executables from a secure website. Then, when version 83 is released, those executable downloads will be blocked and the warning will be applied to archive files. PDFs and .doc files will get the warning in Chrome 84, with audio, images, text, and video files displaying it by version 85. Finally, all mixed content downloads — a non-secure file coming from a secure site — will be blocked as of the release of Chrome 86. Right now, Google is estimating an October release for that build of the popular web browsing.

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Do We Need To Talk About 'Cloud Neutrality'?

Dje, 16/02/2020 - 7:49md
"A multibillion-dollar, privately-owned infrastructure is now essential to the modern internet economy," writes Wired. And if you care about net neutrality, "That should freak you out." [T]here's an even bigger issue brewing, and it's time to start talking about it: cloud neutrality. "While its name sounds soft and fluffy," Microsoft president and general counsel Brad Smith and coauthor Carol Ann Browne write in their recent book, Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age, "in truth the cloud is a fortress...." Each data center costs hundreds of millions of dollars to build and many millions more to maintain; and you pretty much can't build a successful new company without them. So, thank goodness for Microsoft, right? The book means to portray this might and power as both a source of wonder and an enabling feature of the modern economy. To me, it reads like a threat. The cloud economy exists at the pleasure, and continued profit, of a handful of companies. The internet is no longer the essential enabler of the tech economy. That title now belongs to the cloud. But the infrastructure of the internet, at least, was publicly financed and subsidized. The government can set rules about how companies have to interact with their customers. Whether and how it sets and enforces those rules isn't the point, for now. It can. That's not the case with the cloud. This infrastructure is solely owned by a handful of companies with hardly any oversight. [Besides Microsoft, the article also notes Google and Amazon.] The potential for abuse is huge, whether it's through trade-secret snooping or the outright blocking, slowing, or hampering of transmission. No one seems to be thinking about what could happen if these behemoths decide it's against their interests to have all these barnacles on their flanks. They should be. Cloud companies "are essentially incubating and hosting their competition..." the article points out. "The problem is that few have the resources to replicate the cloud infrastructure, should the landlords suddenly turn on their tenants."

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OpenPower Foundation Releases a Friendly EULA For IBM's Power ISA RISC

Dje, 16/02/2020 - 6:48md
Long-time Slashdot reader lkcl writes: Michael Larabel, of Phoronix, writes that the OpenPower Foundation has released a license agreement for Hardware Vendors to implement the Power ISA RISC instruction set in their processors. Hugh Blemings, the Director of OpenPower, was responsible for ensuring that the EULA is favourable and friendly towards Libre and Open Hardware projects and businesses. Of particular interest is that IBM's massive patent portfolio is automatically granted, royalty-free as long as two conditions apply: firstly, the hardware must be fully and properly Power ISA compliant, and secondly, the implementor must not "try it on" as a patent troll. Innovation in the RISC space just got a little more interesting. "Amidst the fully free and open RISC-V ISA making headway into the computing market, and ARM feeling pressured to loosen up its licensing, it seems they figured that it's best to join the party early," argues Hackaday.

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The Gig Workers For Target's Delivery App Hate Their Algorithmically-Determined Pay

Dje, 16/02/2020 - 5:34md
In 2017 Target bought a same-day home-delivery company called Shipt for $550 million. Shipt now services half of Target's stores, reports Motherboard, and employs more than 100,000 gig workers. Unfortunately, they're working for a company that "has a track record of censoring and retaliating against workers for asking basic questions about their working conditions or expressing dissent," reports Motherboard. For example, an hour after tweeting about how there was now much more competition for assignments, one Seattle gig worker found their account suddenly "deactivated" — the equivalent of being fired — and also received an email saying they were no longer "eligible to reapply". "They stamp out resistance by flooding the market with new workers..." complained one Shipt worker, "and they're actively monitoring all the social media groups." On its official national Facebook group, known as the Shipt Shopper Lounge, which has more than 100,000 members, Shipt moderators selected by the company frequently censor and remove posts, turn off comments sections, and ban workers who speak out about their working conditions, according to screenshots, interviews, and other documentation provided to Motherboard. The same is true on local Facebook groups, which Shipt also monitors closely, according to workers. Motherboard spoke to seven current Shipt workers, each of whom described a culture of retaliation, fear, and censorship online... Because Shipt classifies its workers as contractors, not employees, workers pay for all of their expenses — including gas, wear and tear on their cars, and accidents — out of pocket. They say the tips on large orders from Target, sometimes with hundreds of items, can be meager. Workers say Shipt customers often live in gated and upscale communities and that the app encourages workers to tack on gifts like thank you cards, hot cocoa, flowers, and balloons onto orders (paid for out of their own pocket) and to offer to walk customer's dogs and take out their trash, as a courtesy. Shipt calls this kind of service "Bringing the Magic," which can improve workers' ratings from customers that factor into the algorithm that determines who gets offered the most lucrative orders... Unfortunately, that new algorithm (which began rolling out last year) is opaque to the workers affected by it — though Gizmodo reported pay appears to be at least 28% lower. And Motherboard heard even higher estimates: "Our best estimate is that payouts are now 30 percent less, and up to 50 percent on orders," one Shipt worker in Kalamazoo with two years under her belt, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, told Motherboard. "I fluctuate between extreme anger and despair. It's been three weeks since this has been implemented, and one of my good friends told me that she's down the equivalent of a car payment." Another Shipt worker in Palm Springs, California provided Motherboard with receipts for a 181-item order that included six Snapple cases, five La Croix cases, and 12 packs of soda. They had to wheel three shopping carts out of a Ralph's grocery store and deliver them -- and earned $12.68 for the job. The customer did not tip. (Under the older, more transparent pay model, they would have earned $44.19.) "That's a real slap in the face," they told Motherboard.

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Firefox, Wordpress Move to Support Lazy Loading of Images and iFrames

Dje, 16/02/2020 - 4:34md
"Lazy Loading" would augment HTML's <img> tag (and <iframe> tag) with two new attributes -- "eager" (to load immediately) and "lazy" (to load only when it becomes relevant in the viewport). Felix Arntz, a developer programs engineer at Google (and a WordPress core committer) notes the updates in the HTML specification for the lazy loading attributes, adding that it's "already supported by several browsers, including Chrome and Edge" and also the Android browser and Opera. And lazy loading can now also be toggled on for Firefox 75 Nightly users, reports Neowin, though it's disabled by default: It's not clear if it will be enabled by the time Firefox 75 reaches the stable branch but according to comments on the Bugzilla thread, it's in high demand. Previously, websites could employ lazy loading by using JavaScript but now lazy loading syntax is supported directly in the web browser. The implementation in Firefox comes after Google added the feature to its browser. Google's Arntz has also written a post describing a proposal to begin lazy-loading images by default in Wordpress. The proposed solution is available as a feature plugin WP Lazy Loading in the plugin repository. The plugin is being developed on GitHub. Your testing and feedback will be much appreciated.

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Watch Out: This Verizon Smishing Scam Is Crazy Realistic

Dje, 16/02/2020 - 3:34md
Slashdot reader Iwastheone shared a warning from the editor-in-chief at How-To Geek about a "shockingly convincing" scam: The scam text message says, "Your Verizon account security needs validation" and invites you to tap a link to "validate your account." Once you do, you end up at a phishing website that looks almost exactly like Verizon's real website. The fake website asks for your My Verizon mobile number or user ID and password. After you provide those, it'll ask for your account PIN. Finally, it requests all your personal details to "identify yourself." For smishing scams, this is convincing work. The website looks real and authentic — if you don't look too hard at the address, which isn't actually Verizon's actual website... At the end of the process, the phishing website thanks you for providing your information and "redirects you to the home page." For maximum deception, the phishing website actually redirects you to Verizon's real website at the end of the process. If you don't look too close, you might be deceived into thinking you were on Verizon's website the whole time. What's the game? We didn't provide real Verizon account details, so we can't say for sure. The scammer will probably try to take over your Verizon account, order smartphones on credit, and stick you with the bill.

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What America's NSA Thinks of Python

Dje, 16/02/2020 - 1:34md
"Now budding Python developers can read up on the National Security Agency's own Python training materials," reports ZDNet: Software engineer Chris Swenson filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the NSA for access to its Python training materials and received a lightly redacted 400-page printout of the agency's COMP 3321 Python training course. Swenson has since scanned the documents, ran OCR on the text to make it searchable, and hosted it on Digital Oceans Spaces. The material has also been uploaded to the Internet Archive... "If you don't know any programming languages yet, Python is a good place to start. If you already know a different language, it's easy to pick Python on the side. Python isn't entirely free of frustration and confusion, but hopefully you can avoid those parts until long after you get some good use out of Python," writes the NSA... Swenson told ZDNet that it was "mostly just curiosity" that motivated him to ask the NSA about its Python training material. He also said the NSA had excluded some course material, but that he'll keep trying to get more from the agency... Python developer Kushal Das has pulled out some interesting details from the material. He found that the NSA has an internal Python package index, that its GitLab instance is gitlab.coi.nsa.ic.gov, and that it has a Jupyter gallery that runs over HTTPS. NSA also offers git installation instructions for CentOS, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Ubuntu, and Windows, but not Debian.

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Police Say Amazon's Ring Isn't Much of a Crime Fighter

Dje, 16/02/2020 - 9:34pd
Ring's promotional video includes the police chief of the small Florida suburb of Winter Park saying "we understand the value of those cameras in helping us solve crimes." But over the last 22 months, their partnership with Ring hasn't actually led to a single arrest, reports NBC News. The only crime it solved was a 13-year-old boy who opened two delivered packages, decided he didn't like what was inside, and rode away on his bike. "Eventually the boy was sent to a state diversion program for first-time offenders in lieu of being formally charged in court." Ring promises to "make neighborhoods safer" by deterring and helping to solve crimes, citing its own research that says an installation of its doorbell cameras reduces burglaries by more than 50 percent. But an NBC News Investigation has found -- after interviews with 40 law enforcement agencies in eight states that have partnered with Ring for at least three months -- that there is little concrete evidence to support the claim. Three agencies said the ease with which the public can share Ring videos means officers spend time reviewing clips of non-criminal issues such as racoons and petty disagreements between neighbors. Others noted that the flood of footage generated by Ring cameras rarely led to positive identifications of suspects, let alone arrests. Thirteen of the 40 jurisdictions reached, including Winter Park, said they had made zero arrests as a result of Ring footage. Thirteen were able to confirm arrests made after reviewing Ring footage, while two offered estimates. The rest, including large cities like Phoenix, Miami, and Kansas City, Missouri, said that they don't know how many arrests had been made as a result of their relationship with Ring -- and therefore could not evaluate its effectiveness -- even though they had been working with the company for well over a year... None of the departments said they collect data to measure the impact of their Ring partnership in terms of reducing or deterring crimes, nor did they consistently record when Ring footage was helpful in identifying or arresting a suspect... "There's a deafening lack of evidence that any city has been made safer," Liz O'Sullivan, the technology director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, a nonprofit that fights excessive local and state-level surveillance, told NBC News. The lack of evidence that Ring reduces crime adds to a list of concerns that have plagued the company in recent months, ranging from bad security practices to privacy questions surrounding the company's plans to incorporate facial recognition, among other biometric characteristics. NBC News also spoke to Ben Stickle, a professor of criminal justice at Middle Tennessee State University (and a former police officer) who published an academic study analyzing the effectiveness of Ring cameras as a deterrent. "If you expect the camera to deter people, you're assuming that they see it and that they care. Those are two big assumptions." Ring's claim that its doorbell cameras reduce crime seem to be based on a 2015 report by a police captain in Los Angeles' wealthy Wilshire Park neighborhood of a 55% drop in burglaries after Ring cameras were installed on 10% of the doors. But in an overlooked follow-up, MIT's Technology Review reported that in 2017, Wilshire Park "suffered more burglaries than in any of the previous seven years."

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Coronavirus Crisis Disrupting Flow of Mail Into China

Mër, 12/02/2020 - 8:00pd
According to The Associated Press, the U.S. Postal Service said on Tuesday that it is "experiencing significant difficulties" in dispatching letters, parcels and express mail to China, including Hong Kong and Macau, "because most of its supplier airlines have suspended their flights" to those destinations. As a consequence and "starting immediately," USPS said it can no longer accept items destined for China, Hong Kong and Macao "until sufficient transport capacity becomes available." CBS News reports: Likewise, in another, separate note seen by the AP, Singapore Post told its global counterparts that it is no longer accepting letters, parcels and express mail items destined for China, "until sufficient transport capacity becomes available." The notes were shared with postal services around the world via the Universal Postal Union, a U.N. agency headquartered in Switzerland that is a main forum for postal cooperation between its 192 member countries. In a statement to the AP, the UPU said that the suspension of flights because of the virus "is going to impact the delivery of mail for the foreseeable future." "But it is hopefully temporary. The Universal Postal Union is carefully monitoring the operational situation, and is in constant contact with postal operators to ensure any backlog is cleared in the shortest possible time," it said. The Chinese mail service, China Post, said it is disinfecting postal offices, processing centers, and vehicles to ensure the virus doesn't travel via the mail and to protect postal staff. The virus does "not survive for long on objects. It is therefore safe to receive postal items from China," said a China Post noted transmitted via the UPU. Letters, parcels and express mail that do still make it to China will be delivered "via non-face-to-face methods," the note said.

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NASA Puts a Price On a 2024 Moon Landing: $35 Billion

Mër, 12/02/2020 - 4:30pd
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Nearly 10 months after Vice President Mike Pence directed NASA to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024, the space agency has estimated how much its Artemis Program will cost. NASA says it will need an additional $35 billion over the next four years -- on top of its existing budget -- to develop a Human Landing System to get down to the Moon's surface from lunar orbit while also accelerating other programs to make the 2024 date. NASA's human spaceflight chief, Doug Loverro, shared this number Monday at Johnson Space Center, as the Trump White House released its fiscal year 2021 budget. It calls for a big increase in NASA's budget, 12 percent over last year's budget request, with a top-line number of $25.2 billion. The biggest increase will go toward the Human Landing System, $3.37 billion in fiscal year 2021 alone. NASA says, if funded by Congress, this would mark the first time the United States has directly spent money on a lunar lander since the Apollo program in the 1960s. The human spaceflight budget also funds a small space station in orbit around the Moon, called the Lunar Gateway. This is a sizable budget request and, other NASA programs aside, represents the kind of funding the space agency needs if it is to make progress toward landing humans on the Moon in the mid-2020s. The president's budget also supports a lunar program that does meaningful things on the Moon, providing hundreds of millions of dollars to study the extraction of ice from the lunar poles and establishing a habitat on the surface. "In contrast to a recent authorization bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, the White House budget proposes using lunar landers developed via public-private partnerships, with contractors investing in their own landers," the report adds. "Those landers would also be launched on privately developed rockets, helping to contain costs of the Artemis Program."

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Is a $1000 Aftermarket Add-On As Capable As Tesla's Autopilot and Cadillac's Super Cruise?

Mër, 12/02/2020 - 3:10pd
Car and Driver tested a $1,000 aftermarket autonomous driving add-on from Comma.ai against the best factory systems currently on the market. Slashdot reader schwit1 shares the report: If the self-driving car is the promised land, then today's ever proliferating driver-assist features are the desert. Diminished claims and "it's harder than we thought" mea culpas from self-driving's loudest advocates suggest we'll be wandering here for many years to come. At least the technology is meandering in the right direction, though. Thanks to recent software updates, the most sophisticated systems -- Cadillac's Super Cruise and Tesla's Autopilot -- are more capable today than they were initially. This report on those systems includes a lesser known third player. For $998, upstart Comma.ai sells an aftermarket dash cam and wiring harness that taps into and overrides the factory-installed assistance systems in many Honda and Toyota models as well as some Chrysler, Kia, and Lexus vehicles, among others. When activated, Comma.ai's Openpilot software assumes control over the steering, brakes, and throttle, and it reduces the frequent reminders to keep your hands on the wheel. As you might imagine, automakers do not endorse this hack. Any one of these systems could confidently track the center of a lane for hours with minimal driver input on reasonably straight highways. Although no automaker admits that infotainment is part of its system's machine learning, right after we went hands-free, Hinder's "Get Stoned" started playing through the Cadillac's speakers. We ignored that suggestion and threw the three systems at the toughest highway kinks, interchanges, and two-lane roads surrounding our Ann Arbor home base until either they or we flinched. There was some of each. Cadillac Super Cruise Highs: Locked-on-its-lane control, handles the difficult maneuvers with aplomb. Lows: Works only on mapped limited-access highways, steering control not as confident at night, very little information shown to the driver. Verdict: A capable and conservative commuting ally. Tesla Autopilot Highs: Best user interface, most versatile, extremely capable. Lows: Dramatic steering inputs when it makes an occasional mistake, no more hands-free capability. Verdict: One of the best, but can it really evolve all the way to self-driving? Comma.ai Highs: Capable steering, brake, and throttle control. Lows: A too-large and unadjustable gap from cars ahead, slows substantially for curves, flashes unnecessary warnings. Verdict: If this is what's possible with a single camera, perhaps the hardware required for self-driving won't be as extensive as expected.

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Nvidia's GeForce Now Is Losing All Activision Blizzard Games

Mër, 12/02/2020 - 2:50pd
Nvidia's GeForce Now is a cloud gaming service that lets you play games stored on dedicated GeForce graphics-enabled PCs across a wide array of devices. While it lets you play PC games you already own, the game publisher must allow it on the service. "Today, Nvidia is revealing that Activision Blizzard is no longer playing ball, pulling down its catalog of games including Overwatch, WoW, and the Call of Duty series," reports The Verge. From the report: That means one of the service's biggest publishers, as well as its Battle.net catalog of games, will no longer be available just a week after the service's formal launch -- a launch that was already missing many games from Capcom, EA, Konami, Remedy, Rockstar and Square Enix, all of which seemed to have pulled out after Nvidia's beta period ended. Nvidia wouldn't tell us why this is happening now, but it's strange, because Nvidia previously told us it was contacting every publisher ahead of launch to make sure they were OK with their games staying available with the service. Did Activision Blizzard reneg on a deal, or did Nvidia fail to get permission? We're waiting to hear back from Nvidia; Activision Blizzard didn't respond to a request for comment. In a statement, Nvidia says it hopes to work with Activision Blizzard to bring the games back, but the company confirmed to us that things are pretty cut-and-dried for now -- you shouldn't expect them to magically reappear after a few days (or even a few weeks) thanks to a deal. Nvidia also declined to tell us whether it'd be open to sharing a slice of its subscription fees with publishers, citing the quiet period before its earnings. It's true that Blizzard, at least, has an EULA that specifically prevents users from playing a game on cloud gaming services, but that doesn't seem to explain this move. Activision's EULA doesn't contain anything of the sort, and again, Activision Blizzard didn't seem to have any problem with it during the GeForce Now beta.

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Andrew Yang Drops Out of Presidential Race

Mër, 12/02/2020 - 2:22pd
Andrew Yang, tech entrepreneur and founder of Venture for America, will end his campaign for president after a disappointing showing in the New Hampshire primary. The Washington Post reports: "I am a numbers guy," Yang said in an interview before addressing supporters at Manchester's Puritan Backroom. "In most of these [upcoming] states, I'm not going to be at a threshold where I get delegates, which makes sticking around not necessarily helpful or productive in terms of furthering the goals of this campaign. If I become persuaded that there's a particular candidate that gives us a superior chance of beating Donald Trump, and I think it's important to make that opinion known, then I would consider it for sure," Yang said. He also said he would be open to becoming another candidate's running mate or joining a presidential Cabinet. In his stump speech, Yang warned of the societal and economic changes automation would continue to bring to the United States. He proposed countering it by implementing universal basic income in the form of a $1,000-a-month "Freedom Dividend" for U.S. citizens. His sometimes bleak message on the campaign trail was contrasted with his upbeat, irreverent style of campaigning: Yang once crowd-surfed at a candidate forum and sometimes challenged other celebrities to pickup basketball games. He half-danced onto just about every stage to the '90s Mark Morrison R&B hit "Return of the Mack" and spawned a loyal following of supporters who dubbed themselves the "Yang Gang." They often showed up at his events wearing trademark "math" hats, a nod both to his self-described emphasis on facts and research and to the geek culture that surrounded his candidacy. "This is the nerdiest campaign in history," Yang told The Washington Post last year. Yang was also the first presidential candidate to use campaign funds for a pilot program meant to resemble his universal basic income proposal. "He told CNN on Monday that the concept of a freedom dividend was 'not going anywhere,' and emphasized on Tuesday that he had forced a new idea into Democratic politics," reports The Washington Post. "He made that point with math." "Now, 66 percent of Democrats support a universal basic income," Yang said. "It's got 72 percent of young people, aged 18 to 34."

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