AI

Google Go-Playing A.I. Retires To Focus On Energy Conservation And Medicine (engadget.com) 1

After "narrowly" beating the world's top Go player, what's left for Google's AlphaGo AI? Engadget reports: Now that it has nothing left to prove, the AI is hanging up its boots and leaving the world of competitive Go behind. AlphaGo's developers from Google-owned DeepMind will now focus on creating advanced general algorithms to help scientists find elusive cures for diseases, conjure up a way to dramatically reduce energy consumption and invent new revolutionary materials. Before they leave Go behind completely, though, they plan to publish one more paper later this year to reveal how they tweaked the AI to prepare it for the matches against Ke Jie. They're also developing a tool that would show how AlphaGo would respond to a particular situation on the Go board with help from the world's number one player. While you'll have to wait a while for those two, you'll soon be able to watch 50 games AlphaGo played against itself when it was training
The first ten games that AlphaGo played against itself are already online. Shi Yue, 9 Dan Professional and World Champion, described them as "Like nothing I've ever seen before -- they're how I imagine games from far in the future." Google announced that this week's competition "has been the highest possible pinnacle for AlphaGo as a competitive program. For that reason, the Future of Go Summit is our final match event with AlphaGo... We hope that the story of AlphaGo is just the beginning."
Microsoft

Security Analyst Concludes Windows 10 Enterprise 'Tracks Too Much' (xato.net) 132

A viral Twitter rant about Windows 10 Enterprise supposedly ignoring users' privacy settings has since been clarified. "I made mistakes on my original testing and therefore saw more connections than I should have," writes IT security analyst Mark Burnett, "including some to Google ads." But his qualified results -- quoted below -- are still critical of Microsoft:
  • You can cut back even more using the Windows Restricted Traffic Limited Functionality Baseline but break many things.
  • Settings can be set wrong if you aren't paying attention. Also, settings are not consistent and can be confusing to beginners.
  • You are opted-in to just about everything by default and have to set hundreds of settings to opt out, even on an Enterprise Windows system. Sometimes multiple settings for the same feature. Most Microsoft documentation discourages opting out and warns of a less optimal experience... But you can't completely opt-out. Windows still tracks too much.
  • Home and Professional users are much worse off due to limitations of some settings and lack of an IT staff... I'm not saying ditch Windows. I'm saying let's fix this. If we can't fix it, then we ditch Windows.

Opera

Opera Says Their iOS Updates Are Still Coming - Just Slowly (twitter.com) 26

Slashdot reader BrianFagioli has posted an update about his communication with Opera over their plans for iOS. They'd originally tweeted Thursday that "at this moment we don't have a team working on IOS which is why we haven't released any updates." But Friday they clarified that "It does not mean we give up development on iOS. It's just that now our resources are on Android." They reiterated that point in an email. We would like to clarify that Opera does not abandon iOS... We plan to keep developing it as Opera Min[i] provides unique features that other browsers do not have, such as data saving for both webpages and video, ad-blocking, built-in newsfeed etc. And people love using it. As most of the engineering resources are now on Android, our update on iOS is slow at this moment. Please bear with us and do stay tune for our next updates.
The tweet Friday also emphasized that "We will update iOS for sure."
Power

New Solar Plane Plans Non-Stop Flight Around The World (bloomberg.com) 29

An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg: [A] Russian tycoon and his Renova Group plan a record-breaking effort to send a plane around the world nonstop using only the power of the sun. If all goes well, a single pilot will fly for five days straight at altitudes of up to 10 miles, about a third higher than commercial airliners. The project isn't just a stunt. The glider-style airplane with a 36-meter (120-foot) wingspan will be a test of technologies that are set to be used to build new generations of autonomous craft for the military and business, say aerospace experts. They will fly continuously, have far greater reach and control than satellites and expand broadcast, communication and spying capabilities around the globe... "Our flight should prove that it's possible to make long-distance flights using solar energy," said Mikhail Lifshitz, Renova's director of high-tech asset development and a qualified pilot-instructor. A "flying laboratory" test-plane will be ready by year-end, Lifshitz said in an interview.
The plane will conserve power by slowly gliding down from the high altitudes at night -- without ever touching the ground. In comparison a solar plane (partially funded by Google) already circled the earth last year -- but it took 22 days, and made 17 different stops.
Transportation

IT Crash Causes British Airways To Cancel All Flights (cnbc.com) 154

An anonymous reader quotes CNBC: British Airways canceled all flights from London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports on Saturday as a global IT failure upended the travel plans of tens of thousands of people on a busy U.K. holiday weekend. The airline said it was suffering a "major IT systems failure" around the world. Chief executive Alex Cruz said "we believe the root cause was a power-supply issue and we have no evidence of any cyberattack." He said the crash had affected "all of our check-in and operational systems." BA operates hundreds of flights from the two London airports on a typical day -- and both are major hubs for worldwide travel. Several hours after problems began cropping up Saturday morning, BA suspended flights up to 6 p.m. because the two airports had become severely congested. The airline later scrapped flights from Heathrow and Gatwick for the rest of the day.
Open Source

Alpine Linux 3.6.0 Released (alpinelinux.org) 52

An anonymous reader quotes DistroWatch: Natanael Copa has announced the release of Alpine Linux 3.6.0. Alpine Linux is an independent, minimal operating system that is well suited to running servers, routers and firewalls. Version 3.6.0 introduces support for 64-bit POWER machines, 64-bit IBM z Systems computers and features many up to date packages, including PHP 7.1, LLVM 4.0 and version 6.3 of the GNU Compiler.
"Noteworthy new packages" include Rust 1.17.0 and Cargo 0.18.0, as well as Julia 0.5.2, as we ll as "significant updates" like Go 1.8, Python 3.6, and Ruby 2.4. And in addition, "MD5 and SHA-1 hashes have been removed from APKBUILDs, being obsoleted by SHA-512."
Bug

Wormable Code-Execution Bug Lurked In Samba For 7 Years (arstechnica.com) 75

Long-time Slashdot reader williamyf was the first to share news of "a wormable bug [that] has remained undetected for seven years in Samba verions 3.5.0 onwards." Ars Technica reports: Researchers with security firm Rapid7...said they detected 110,000 devices exposed on the internet that appeared to run vulnerable versions of Samba. 92,500 of them appeared to run unsupported versions of Samba for which no patch was available... Those who are unable to patch immediately can work around the vulnerability by adding the line nt pipe support = no to their Samba configuration file and restart the network's SMB daemon. The change will prevent clients from fully accessing some network computers and may disable some expected functions for connected Windows machines.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's CERT group issued an anouncement urging sys-admins to update their systems, though SC Magazine cites a security researcher arguing this attack surface is much smaller than that of the Wannacry ransomware, partly because Samba is just "not as common as Windows architectures." But the original submission also points out that while the patch came in fast, "the 'Many eyes' took seven years to 'make the bug shallow'."
Government

Investigation Demanded Over Fake FCC Comments Submitted By Dead People (bbc.com) 118

An anonymous reader writes: Fight for the Future has found another issue with the fake comments submitted to the FCC opposing net neutrality. "The campaign group says that some of the comments were posted using the names and details of dead people," according to the BBC. The exact same comment was also submitted more than 7,000 times using addresses in Colorado, where a reporter discovered that contacting the people at those addresses drew reactions which included "I have never seen this before in my life" and "No, I did not post this comment. In fact, I disagree with this comment." Fight for the Future also knocked on doors in Tampa, Florida, where the few people who answered "were shocked to hear that their name and address were publicly listed alongside a political message they did not necessarily understand or agree with." An alleged commenter in Montana told a reporter she didn't even know what net neutrality was.

14 people have already signed Fight for the Future's official complaint to the FCC, which calls for notification of all people affected, an investigation, and the immediate removal of all fake comments from the public docket. "Based on numerous media reports, nearly half a million Americans may have been impacted by whoever impersonated us," states the letter, "in a dishonest and deceitful campaign to manufacture false support for your plan to repeal net neutrality protections."

Fight for the Future says they've already verified "dozens" of instance of real people discovering a fake comment was submitted in their name -- and that in addition, more than 2,400 people have already used their site to contact their state Attorneys General demanding an investigation. They note the FCC has taken no steps to remove the fake comments from its docket, "risking the safety and privacy of potentially hundreds of thousands of people," while a campaign director at Fight for the Future added, "For the FCC's process to have any legitimacy, they simply cannot move forward until an investigation has been conducted."
Google

Accused of Underpaying Women, Google Says It's Too Expensive To Get Wage Data (theguardian.com) 344

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Google argued that it was too financially burdensome and logistically challenging to compile and hand over salary records that the government has requested, sparking a strong rebuke from the U.S. Department of Labor (DoL), which has accused the Silicon Valley firm of underpaying women. Google officials testified in federal court on Friday that it would have to spend up to 500 hours of work and $100,000 to comply with investigators' ongoing demands for wage data that the DoL believes will help explain why the technology corporation appears to be systematically discriminating against women. Noting Google's nearly $28 billion annual income as one of the most profitable companies in the U.S., DoL attorney Ian Eliasoph scoffed at the company's defense, saying, "Google would be able to absorb the cost as easy as a dry kitchen sponge could absorb a single drop of water."
Amiga

A New Amiga Arrives On the Scene -- the A-EON Amiga X5000 (arstechnica.com) 111

dryriver writes: It is 2017 and the long dead Amiga platform has suddenly been resurrected. The new Amiga X5000 costs about $1,800 and is an exotic mix of PC parts and completely new custom chips, including "Xena," an XMOS 16-core programmable 32-bit 500 MHz coprocessor that can be configured by software to act as any type of custom chip imaginable. It is connected to a special "Xorro" slot that has the same physical connection as a PCIe x8 expansion card, but it is dedicated to adding more Xena chips as desired. Amiga X5000 can run all legacy Amiga software, including software written for later PowerPC Amigas. It boots from a U-Boot BIOS. The OS is AmigaOS 4.1, but the X5000 can also boot into MorphOS or Linux. The test system used by Ars came with a ATI Radeon R9 270X video card.
Displays

UCF Research Could Bring 'Drastically' Higher Resolution To Your Phone and TV (ucf.edu) 99

New submitter cinemetek quotes a report from University of Central Florida: Researchers at the University of Central Florida have developed a new color changing surface tunable through electrical voltage that could lead to three times the resolution for televisions, smartphones and other devices. Current LCD's are made up of hundreds of thousands of pixels that display different colors. With current technology, each of these pixels contain three subpixels -- one red, one green, one blue. UCF's NanoScience Technology Center (Assistant Professor Debashis Chanda and physics doctoral student Daniel Franklin) have come up with a way to tune the color of these subpixels. By applying differing voltages, they are able to change the color of individual subpixels to red, green or blue -- the RGB scale -- or gradations in between. By eliminating the three static subpixels that currently make up every pixel, the size of individual pixels can be reduced by three. Three times as many pixels means three times the resolution. That would have major implications for not only TVs and other general displays, but augmented reality and virtual-reality headsets that need very high resolution because they're so close to the eye.
Encryption

10 Years Later: FileZilla Adds Support For Master Password That Encrypts Your Logins (bleepingcomputer.com) 78

An anonymous reader writes: "Following years of criticism and user requests, the FileZilla FTP client is finally adding support for a master password that will act as a key for storing FTP login credentials in an encrypted format," reports BleepingComputer. "This feature is scheduled to arrive in FileZilla 3.26.0, but you can use it now if you download the 3.26.0 (unstable) release candidate from here." By encrypting its saved FTP logins, FileZilla will finally thwart malware that scrapes the sitemanager.xml file and steals FTP credentials, which were previously stolen in plain text. The move is extremely surprising, at least for the FileZilla user base. Users have been requesting this feature for a decade, since 2007, and they have asked it many and many times since then. All their requests have fallen on deaf ears and met with refusal from FileZilla maintainer, Tim Kosse. In November 2016, a user frustrated with Koose's stance forked the FileZilla FTP client and added support for a master password via a spin-off app called FileZilla Secure.
Facebook

Facebook Bans Sale of Piracy-Enabling Set-Top Boxes 60

Lirodon quotes a report from Variety: Facebook has joined the fight against illegal video-streaming devices. The social behemoth recently added a new category to products it prohibits users to sell under its commerce policy: Products or items that "facilitate or encourage unauthorized access to digital media." The change in Facebook's policy, previously reported by The Drum, appears primarily aimed at blocking the sale of Kodi-based devices loaded with software that allows unauthorized, free access to piracy-streaming services. Kodi is free, open-source media player software. The app has grown popular among pirates, who modify the code with third-party add-ons for illegal streaming. Even with the ban officially in place, numerous "jail-broken" Kodi-enabled devices remain listed in Facebook's Marketplace section, indicating that the company has yet to fully enforce the new ban. A Facebook rep confirmed the policy went into effect earlier this month. In addition, the company updated its advertising policy to explicitly ban ads for illegal streaming services and devices.
AI

Apple Is Working On a Dedicated Chip To Power AI On Devices (bloomberg.com) 50

According to Bloomberg, Apple is working on a processor devoted specifically to AI-related tasks. "The chip, known internally as the Apple Neural Engine, would improve the way the company's devices handle tasks that would otherwise require human intelligence -- such as facial recognition and speech recognition," reports Bloomberg, citing a person familiar with the matter. From the report: Engineers at Apple are racing to catch their peers at Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc. in the booming field of artificial intelligence. While Siri gave Apple an early advantage in voice-recognition, competitors have since been more aggressive in deploying AI across their product lines, including Amazon's Echo and Google's Home digital assistants. An AI-enabled processor would help Cupertino, California-based Apple integrate more advanced capabilities into devices, particularly cars that drive themselves and gadgets that run augmented reality, the technology that superimposes graphics and other information onto a person's view of the world. Apple devices currently handle complex artificial intelligence processes with two different chips: the main processor and the graphics chip. The new chip would let Apple offload those tasks onto a dedicated module designed specifically for demanding artificial intelligence processing, allowing Apple to improve battery performance.
Businesses

Comcast Customer Satisfaction Drops 6% After TV Price Hikes, ACSI Says (arstechnica.com) 49

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Comcast's customer satisfaction score for subscription TV service fell 6 percent in a new survey, putting the company near the bottom of rankings published by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). Comcast's score fell from 62 to 58 on ACSI's 100-point scale, a drop of more than 6 percent between 2016 and 2017. The ACSI's 2017 report on telecommunications released this week attributed the decrease to "price hikes for Xfinity (Comcast) subscriptions." Satisfaction with pay-TV providers dropped industry-wide, tying the segment with Internet service (a product offered by the same companies) for last place in the ACSI's rankings. The ACSI summarized the trend as follows: "Customer satisfaction with subscription television service slips 1.5 percent to 64, tied with Internet service providers for last place among 43 industries tracked by the ACSI. Many of the same large companies offer service for Internet, television, and voice via bundling. The threat of competition from streaming services has done little to spur improvement for pay TV. Customer service remains poor, and cord-cutting continues to accelerate. More than half a million subscribers defected from cable and satellite TV providers during the first quarter of 2017 -- the largest loss in the history of the industry. Customers still prefer fiber optic and satellite to cable, putting FiOS (Verizon Communications) in first place with a 1 percent uptick to 71. AT&T takes the next two spots with its fiber optic and satellite services."
Government

Major US Tech Firms Press Congress For Internet Surveillance Reforms (reuters.com) 37

Dustin Volz, reporting for Reuters: Facebook, Amazon and more than two dozen other U.S. technology companies pressed Congress on Friday to make changes to a broad internet surveillance law, saying they were necessary to improve privacy protections and increase government transparency. The request marks the first significant public effort by Silicon Valley to wade into what is expected to be a contentious debate later the year over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, parts of which will expire on Dec. 31 unless Congress reauthorizes them. Of particular concern to the technology industry and privacy advocates is Section 702, which allows U.S. intelligence agencies to vacuum up vast amounts of communications from foreigners but also incidentally collects some data belonging to Americans that can be searched by analysts without a warrant.
Windows

In a Throwback To the '90s, NTFS Bug Lets Anyone Hang Or Crash Windows 7, 8.1 (arstechnica.com) 123

Windows 7 and 8.1 (and also Windows Vista) have a bug that is reminiscent of Windows 98 age, when a certain specially crafted filename could make the operating system crash (think of file:///c:/con/con). From an ArsTechnica report: The new bug, which fortunately doesn't appear to afflict Windows 10, uses another special filename. This time around, the special filename of choice is $MFT. $MFT is the name given to one of the special metadata files that are used by Windows' NTFS filesystem. The file exists in the root directory of each NTFS volume, but the NTFS driver handles it in special ways, and it's hidden from view and inaccessible to most software. Attempts to open the file are normally blocked, but in a move reminiscent of the Windows 9x flaw, if the filename is used as if it were a directory name -- for example, trying to open the file c:\$MFT\123 -- then the NTFS driver takes out a lock on the file and never releases it. Every subsequent operation sits around waiting for the lock to be released. Forever. This blocks any and all other attempts to access the file system, and so every program will start to hang, rendering the machine unusable until it is rebooted.
Mozilla

Former Mozilla CTO: 'Chrome Won' (andreasgal.com) 252

Responding to Firefox marketing head Eric Petitt's blog post from earlier this week, Andreas Gal, former chief technology officer of Mozilla (who spent seven years at the company) offers his insights. Citing latest market share figures, Gal says "it's safe to say that Chrome is eating the browser market, and everyone else except Safari is getting obliterated." From his blog post (edited and condensed for length): With a CEO transition about 3 years ago there was a major strategic shift at Mozilla to re-focus efforts on Firefox and thus the Desktop. Prior to 2014 Mozilla heavily invested in building a Mobile OS to compete with Android: Firefox OS. I started the Firefox OS project and brought it to scale. While we made quite a splash and sold several million devices, in the end we were a bit too late and we didn't manage to catch up with Android's explosive growth. Mozilla's strategic rationale for building Firefox OS was often misunderstood. Mozilla's founding mission was to build the Web by building a browser. [...] Browsers are a commodity product. They all pretty much look the same and feel the same. All browsers work pretty well, and being slightly faster or using slightly less memory is unlikely to sway users. If even Eric -- who heads Mozilla's marketing team -- uses Chrome every day as he mentioned in the first sentence, it's not surprising that almost 65% of desktop users are doing the same. [...] I don't think there will be a new browser war where Firefox or some other competitor re-captures market share from Chrome. It's like launching a new and improved horse in the year 2017. We all drive cars now. Some people still use horses, and there is value to horses, but technology has moved on when it comes to transportation. Does this mean Google owns the Web if they own Chrome? No. Absolutely not. Browsers are what the Web looked like in the first decades of the Internet. Mobile disrupted the Web, but the Web embraced mobile and at the heart of most apps beats a lot of JavaScript and HTTPS and REST these days. The future Web will look yet again completely different. Much will survive, and some parts of it will get disrupted.
Opera

Opera Slows Its Development On The iOS Platform (betanews.com) 61

Reader BrianFagioli writes: After searching for Opera in the Apple App Store, I noticed something odd -- none of the company's iOS browsers (Opera Mini and Opera Coast) had been updated in 2017. Since we are almost halfway through the year, I decided to ask Opera what was up. Shockingly, the company told me that it no longer has a team working on iOS. An Opera employee by the name of 'Rosi' sent me a tweet this morning, making the revelation. While the desktop version of the browser is still in development, the company has chosen to abandon its efforts on iOS. To show just how bad it is, the Opera Mini browser hasn't been updated in almost a year. Opera Coast was updated in December of 2016, however -- almost six months ago.
Update: Opera has clarified that while they're not currently working on iOS, they still plan to support it.
Businesses

Mark Zuckerberg Calls for Universal Basic Income in His Harvard Commencement Speech (fortune.com) 711

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has become the latest major tech figure to call for universal basic income as a solution for inequality, joining a growing chorus from Silicon Valley. From a report: "Every generation expands its definition of equality. Now it's time for our generation to define a new social contract," Zuckerberg said during his commencement speech at Harvard University. "We should have a society that measures progress not by economic metrics like GDP but by how many of us have a role we find meaningful. We should explore ideas like universal basic income to give everyone a cushion to try new things," he said. Zuckerberg told the class of 2017 that he was able to pursue his passion in Facebook because he knew he had a safety net to fall back on.

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