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Tech Giants Urge Congress To 'Protect Entrepreneurs' From Supreme Court Ruling

/. - 1 hour 29 min ago
U.S. states can now require online retailers to collect local sales taxes, according to a recent Supreme Court ruling that could affect thousands of third-party sellers on top tech sites. An anonymous reader quotes The Verge: In fact, Amazon, which last year started collecting sales tax in all 45 states that require it by law, may have a substantial amount of work to do to help its Amazon Marketplace sellers stay compliant. Yet we don't know if that burden will fall primarily on Amazon or if it will be the responsibility of the sellers. More than 50 percent of all sales on the site are conducted via third-party sellers, some of which use Amazon for fulfillment but otherwise operate independent small- to medium-sized businesses... Etsy, eBay, and others are in similar boats. According to the US Government Accountability Office, as much as $13 billion in annual sales tax revenue is at stake.... Etsy is concerned about what it sees as "significant complexities in the thousands of state and local sales tax laws" and that by overruling the Quill decision, the Supreme Court has put the ball in Congress' court. "We believe there is now a call to action for Congress to create a simple, fair federal solution for micro-businesses," Silverman added. The Verge writes that "the case may be litigated for years to come to figure out how to account for the over 10,000 state jurisdictions that govern sales tax across the country. That is, unless congressional legislation supersedes the state court decisions... Even groups that were in favor of the ruling, like the nonpartisan research institute the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, are imploring Congress to act." eBay has already mass-emailed many of their users urging them to sign an online petition "to protect entrepreneurs, artisans and small businesses from potentially devastating Internet sales tax legislation." The petition presses state governors, U.S. lawmakers, and president Trump to "support the millions of small businesses and consumers across the country." Keep reading to see what eBay is urging legislators to do...

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Researchers Fish Yellowcake Uranium From the Sea With a Piece of Yarn

/. - 3 hours 3 min ago
Wave723 shares a report from IEEE Spectrum: Researchers at the U.S. Energy Department's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and LCW Supercritical Technologies made use of readily available acrylic fibers to pull five grams of yellowcake -- a powdered form of uranium used to produce fuel for nuclear power reactors -- from seawater. The milestone, announced in mid-June, follows seven years of work and a roughly US $25 million investment by the federal energy agency. Another $1.15 million is being channeled to LCW as it attempts to scale up the technique for commercial use. The effort builds on work by Japanese researchers in the late 1990s and was prompted by interest in finding alternative sources of uranium for a future time when terrestrial sources are depleted. "[U]ranium in seawater shows up in concentrations of around 3.3 parts per billion," the report notes. "With a total volume estimated at more than 4 billion tons, there is around 500 times more uranium in seawater than in land-based sources."

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Valve's Knuckles EV2 Controller Will Let You Squeeze Things In VR

/. - 6 hours 3 min ago
Valve's "Knuckles" controllers for VR, first introduced in 2016, are getting upgraded. According to Engadget, Valve is "sending game makers another version, the EV2, that has revamped buttons, straps and a slew of sensors that essentially translate finger motion and pressure to let you touch, grab and squeeze objects inside games." From the report: Some of the EV2's changes are evident: The old Steam Controller-style touchpad that dominated the controller's top has been shrunken to an oval 'track button' that measures touch and force. That's flanked by traditional inputs: A joystick (by developer demand, Valve noted in a blog post) and standard circular buttons. The strap is adjustable for different hand sizes and pulls tight to let players let go of the controller completely without dropping it -- which could be key for the pressure inputs. While last year's model had touch inputs tracking each finger in the 'grip' area, the EV2 introduces pressure sensors that measure how much force the wielder is using. Obviously, this has implications for VR developers who want players to grip or squeeze objects in the world, but as Valve's blog post points out, combining those with the touch sensors tells games when players let go of the grips -- like, say, when they're throwing things in-game. Lastly, the battery life has been extended to last six hours.

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Tesla To Close a Dozen Solar Facilities In 9 States

/. - 9 hours 3 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Electric car maker Tesla's move last week to cut 9 percent of its workforce will sharply downsize the residential solar business it bought two years ago in a controversial $2.6 billion deal, according to three internal company documents and seven current and former Tesla solar employees. The latest cuts to the division that was once SolarCity -- a sales and installation company founded by two cousins of Tesla CEO Elon Musk -- include closing about a dozen installation facilities, according to internal company documents, and ending a retail partnership with Home Depot that the current and former employees said generated about half of its sales. About 60 installation facilities remain open, according to an internal company list reviewed by Reuters. An internal company email named 14 facilities slated for closure, but the other list included only 13 of those locations.

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Scientists Genetically Engineer Pigs Immune To Costly Disease

/. - 22 June 2018 - 11:30pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The trial, led by the University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute, showed that the pigs were completely immune to porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), a disease that is endemic across the globe and costs the European pig industry nearly $2 billion in pig deaths and decreased productivity each year. Pigs infected with PRRS are safe to eat but the virus causes the animals breathing problems, causes deaths in piglets and can cause pregnant sows to lose their litter. There is no effective cure or vaccine, and despite extensive biosecurity measures about 30% of pigs in England are thought to be infected at any given time. After deleting a small section of DNA that leaves pigs vulnerable to the disease, the animals showed no symptoms or trace of infection when intentionally exposed to the virus and when housed for an extended period with infected siblings. The study has been published in the Journal of Virology.

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Bethesda Sues Warner Bros, Calls Its Westworld Game 'Blatant Rip-Off' of Fallout Shelter

/. - 22 June 2018 - 8:50pm
Bethesda, the video game publisher behind Fallout and The Elder Scrolls, is suing Warner Bros. and Fallout Shelter co-developer Behavior Interactive over the recently released Westworld, alleging that the mobile game based on HBO's TV series is a "blatant rip-off" of Fallout Shelter. Polygon reports: In a suit filed in a Maryland U.S. District Court, Bethesda alleges that Westworld -- developed by Behaviour and released this week for Android and iOS -- "has the same or highly similar game design, art style, animations, features and other gameplay elements" as Fallout Shelter. Fallout Shelter was originally released in 2015 for mobile devices. The game was later ported to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One. Bethesda said in its suit that Behaviour uses "the same copyrighted computer code created for Fallout Shelter in Westworld," alleging that a bug evident in an early version of Fallout Shelter (which was later fixed) also appears in Westworld. Bethesda alleges the companies "copied Fallout Shelter's features and then made cosmetic modifications for Westworld's 'western' theme."

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Supreme Court Backs Award of Overseas Patent Damages

/. - 22 June 2018 - 8:10pm
schwit1 quotes a report from Reuters: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Friday that companies can recover profits lost because of the unauthorized use of their patented technology abroad in a victory for Schlumberger NV, the world's largest oilfield services provider. The decision expands the ability of patent owners to recover foreign-based damages, increasing the threat posed by certain infringement lawsuits in the United States. Internet-based companies and others had expressed concern that extending patent damages beyond national borders would expose U.S. high-technology firms to greater patent-related risks abroad. U.S. patent law generally applies only domestically, but Schlumberger said that since the law protects against infringement that occurs when components of a patented invention are supplied from the U.S. for assembly abroad, it should be fully compensated for the infringement, including any lost foreign sales. The high court agreed.

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Atari Accuses Journalists of Making Stuff Up So They Produce Recordings of the Interview

/. - 22 June 2018 - 7:30pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Register: Legendary games company Atari has accused a Register reporter of making stuff up and acting unprofessionally following an interview earlier this year in San Francisco at the launch of its new games console, the Atari VCS. In that article, we were critical of the fact that the machine did not work, and that its chief operating officer Michael Arzt, whom we spoke to, appeared unable to answer even the most basic questions about the product. We were shown "engineering design models" that were said to be "real" yet turned out did not work, and pointed out as much. In the article, we wrote: "What happens if we plug this into our laptop, we ask Mike. I don't know, he says. Will it work? I don't know. If we plug it into a different games machine, will it work? No. So it's custom hardware and software? I don't know about that." Presumably this is where Atari feels that the reporter "wrote what he wanted instead of what was discussed with him." Which makes this clip tough to explain -- and we'll give you a clue: your humble Reg hack is the one with the British accent... This is a clip of Atari having no idea about its own controller. The Register goes on to provide more examples of how Atari "is so full of crap..." The accusations started via the company's Facebook page, where a potential buyer of an Atari VCS posted a link to the Reg article and asked the company to explain it. The full interview between the journalist and Atari can be found here.

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An Up-to-Date Browser Should Keep Users Safe From Most Exploit Kits

/. - 22 June 2018 - 6:50pm
Exploit kits, once a preferred choice of attackers to invade a victim's browser and find way to their computer, are increasingly diminishing in their effectiveness. If you have an updated browser, chances are it packs adequate resources to fight such attacks. Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: Exploit kits (EK) have been around on the criminal underground for more than a decade and were once pretty advanced, often being a place where researchers found zero-days on a regular basis. But as browsers got more secure in recent years, exploit kits started to die out in 2016-2017. Most operators were arrested, moved to other things, and nobody developed new exploits to add to the arsenal of EK left on the market, which slowly began falling behind when it came to their effectiveness to infect new victims. A Palo Alto Networks report published yesterday details statistics about the vulnerabilities used by current exploit kits in the first three months of the year (Q1 2018). According to the gathered data, researchers found 1,583 malicious URLs across 496 different domains, leading to landing pages (URLs) where an EK attempted to run exploits only for only a meager eight vulnerabilities. All eight were old and known bugs, with the newest dating back to 2016. Seven of the eight vulnerabilities targeted Internet Explorer, meaning that using a more modern browser like Chrome and Firefox is a simple, yet effective way of avoiding falling victim to exploit kits.

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Google Engineers Refused To Build Security Tool To Win Military Contracts

/. - 22 June 2018 - 6:10pm
Mark Bergen reports via Bloomberg: Earlier this year, a group of influential software engineers in Google's cloud division surprised their superiors by refusing to work on a cutting-edge security feature. Known as "air gap," the technology would have helped Google win sensitive military contracts. The coders weren't persuaded their employer should be using its technological might to help the government wage war, according to four current and former employees. After hearing the engineers' objections, Urs Holzle, Google's top technical executive, said the air gap feature would be postponed, one of the people said. Another person familiar with the situation said the group was able to reduce the scope of the feature. The act of rebellion ricocheted around the company, fueling a growing resistance among employees with a dim view of Google's yen for multi-million-dollar government contracts. The engineers became known as the "Group of Nine" and were lionized by like-minded staff. The current and former employees say the engineers' work boycott was a catalyst for larger protests that convulsed the company's Mountain View, California, campus and ultimately forced executives to let a lucrative Pentagon contract called Project Maven expire without renewal.

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Facebook Messenger Kids App Is Expanding

/. - 22 June 2018 - 5:30pm
Facebook's controversial Messenger Kids app is heading outside the U.S. to Canada and Peru. From a report: As part of the expansion, the social networking giant said Friday that it would also debut Spanish and French language versions of the children's messaging app that are now available in all three countries where the service is available. Facebook introduced Messenger Kids in December, pitching it as a safer way for children under 13 to chat with friends while sending them silly GIFs, emoji, and other goofy digital imagery. Unlike the core Facebook social networking service or other messaging apps, Facebook said that Messenger Kids does not display any online ads or allow kids to buy things within the app.

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China Will Partly Lift Internet Censorship For One of Its Provinces To Promote Tourism

/. - 22 June 2018 - 4:50pm
In an effort to promote tourism, the southern tropical Chinese island of Hainan will no longer censor its internet. "Visitors to select areas of Hainan will be able to access Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, according to a new plan authorities have put together to turn the province into a free trade port by 2020," reports The Verge. "It's not clear if other banned platforms will be uncensored." From the report: The three-year action plan was published on Thursday, but removed from the local government website by Friday, as spotted by the South China Morning Post. For Hainan, China will lift part of its censorship system, or what's known as the Great Firewall, that blocks access to most foreign social media and news sites. Tourists will be able to enter designated zones in Hainan's two major cities to access Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Other banned foreign social media platforms, like Google, Instagram, or WhatsApp, haven't been mentioned. Ironically, China appears to be censoring people's reactions to the news that some censorship is being lifted. One user on Weibo commented that people weren't allowed a chance to provide any feedback on the new tourism plan. "Thousands of comments have since been deleted. As if censoring people solved the problem."

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That Tablet On The Table At Your Favorite Restaurant Is Hurting Your Waiter

/. - 22 June 2018 - 4:10pm
In data-hungry, tech-happy chain restaurants, customers are rating their servers using tabletop tablets, not realizing those ratings can put jobs at risk, an investigation by BuzzFeed News has found. From the report: When the Smokey Bones restaurant in Dayton, Ohio, where Nicole Bishop waits tables introduced Ziosk tabletop tablets, she wasn't too worried about them. Ziosks are designed to increase restaurant efficiency by allowing customers to order drinks, appetizers, and desserts, and pay their bill from the table without talking to a server. But, as Bishop soon discovered, they also prompt customers to take a satisfaction survey at the end of every meal, the results of which are turned into a score that's used to evaluate the server's performance. One day not long after the Ziosks appeared, Bishop found that her work schedules had been cut short in half, a change she estimated would cost her between $200 and $400 a week. The report documents stories of several other waiters, all of whom have been affected by the tablet. It adds: Ziosk tablets sit atop dining tables at more than 4,500 restaurants across the United States -- including most Chili's and Olive Gardens, and many TGI Friday's and Red Robins. Competitor E La Carte's PrestoPrime tablets are in more than 1,800 restaurants, including most Applebee's. Tens of thousands of servers are being evaluated based on a tech-driven, data-oriented customer feedback system many say is both inaccurate and unfair. And few of the customers holding the reins are even aware their responses have any impact on how much servers earn.

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Uber Driver Was Streaming Hulu Just Before Fatal Self-Driving Car Crash, Says Police

/. - 22 June 2018 - 3:30pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Tempe, Arizona, police have released a massive report on the fatal Uber vehicle crash that killed pedestrian Elaine Herzberg in March. The report provides more evidence that driver Rafaela Vasquez was distracted in the seconds before the crash. "This crash would not have occurred if Vasquez would have been monitoring the vehicle and roadway conditions and was not distracted,'' the report concludes. Police obtained records from Hulu suggesting that Vasquez was watching "The Voice," a singing talent competition that airs on NBC, just before the crash. Hulu's records showed she began watching the program at 9:16pm. Streaming of the show ended at 9:59pm, which "coincides with the approximate time of the collision," according to the police report.

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Adobe Is Using AI To Catch Photoshopped Images

/. - 22 June 2018 - 2:48pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: Adobe, certainly aware of how complicit its software is in the creation of fake news images, is working on artificial intelligence that can spot the markers of phony photos. In other words, the maker of Photoshop is tapping into machine learning to find out if someone has Photoshopped an image. Using AI to find fake images is a way for Adobe to help "increase trust and authenticity in digital media," the company says. That brings it in line with the likes of Facebook and Google, which have stepped up their efforts to fight fake news. Whenever someone alters an image, unless they are pixel perfect in their work, they always leave behind indicators that the photo is modified. Metadata and watermarks can help determine a source image, and forensics can probe factors like lighting, noise distribution and edges on the pixel level to find inconsistencies. If a color is slightly off, for instance, forensic tools can flag it. But Adobe wagers that it could employ AI to find telltale signs of manipulation faster and more reliably.

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Facebook Mistakenly Leaked Developer Analytics Reports To Testers

/. - 22 June 2018 - 2:10pm
This week, an alarmed developer contacted TechCrunch, informing us that their Facebook App Analytics weekly summary email had been delivered to someone outside their company. TechCrunch: It contains sensitive business information, including weekly average users, page views and new users. Forty-three hours after we contacted Facebook about the issue, the social network now confirms to TechCrunch that 3 percent of apps using Facebook Analytics had their weekly summary reports sent to their app's testers, instead of only the app's developers, admins and analysts. Testers are often people outside of a developer's company. If the leaked info got to an app's competitors, it could provide them an advantage. At least they weren't allowed to click through to view more extensive historical analytics data on Facebook's site. Facebook tells us it has fixed the problem and no personally identifiable information or contact info was improperly disclosed.

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Blue Origin Plans To Start Selling Suborbital Spaceflight Tickets Next Year

/. - 22 June 2018 - 1:18pm
Blue Origin expects to start flying people on its New Shepard suborbital vehicle "soon" and start selling tickets for commercial flights next year, a company executive said June 19, according to a report on SpaceNews.com. From the report: Speaking at the Amazon Web Services Public Sector Summit here, as the keynote of a half-day track on earth and space applications, Blue Origin Senior Vice President Rob Meyerson offered a few updates on the development of the company's suborbital vehicle. "We plan to start flying our first test passengers soon," he said after showing a video of a previous New Shepard flight at the company's West Texas test site. All of the New Shepard flights to date have been without people on board, but the company has said in the past it would fly its personnel on the vehicle in later tests. He also offered a timetable for selling tickets. "We expect to start selling tickets in 2019," he said, but did not disclose a price. Further reading: Gizmodo.

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Ubuntu Makes Public Desktop Metrics

/. - 22 June 2018 - 12:40pm
Canonical introduced Ubuntu Hardware/Software Survey in Ubuntu 18.04 and has since been collecting data (it is optional, and users' consent is taken; Ubuntu says 67 percent users opted in to the survey). Now for the first time, it is revealing the stats, shedding light on how Ubuntu users like things around. The takeaways from the result: Installation Duration: The average install of Ubuntu Desktop takes 18 minutes. Some machines out there can install a full desktop in less than 8 minutes! Installer Options: Another interesting fact is that the newly introduced Minimum Install option is being used by a little over 15% of our users. This is a brand new option but is already attracting a considerable fanbase. CPU Count: A single CPU is most common, and this is not very surprising. We haven't broken this down to cores but is something we will look in to. Disk Partitioning Schemes: Most people choose to wipe their disks and reinstall from scratch. The second most common option is a custom partition table. Display: Full HD (1080p) is the most popular screen resolution, followed by 1366 x 768, a common laptop resolution. HiDPI and 4k are not yet commonplace.

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The World's Smallest Computer Can Fit on the Tip of a Grain of Rice

/. - 22 June 2018 - 12:00pm
Engineers at the University of Michigan have created the world's smallest computer -- again. From a report: The University held the record for the smallest computer after it created its 2x2x4mm Michigan Micro Mote in 2014. The Micro Mote (or M3) is fully functional and able to retain its programming and data even when it loses power. But after IBM debuted an even tinier "computer" in February, a 1mm x 1mm chip with "several hundred thousand" transistors. Engineers at the University of Michigan were not about to be one-upped, and quickly created an even smaller computer, so small it could fit on the tip of a grain of rice. However, the engineers quibbled over whether IBM's machine and the new Michigan design could really be called computers, since the data gets wiped as soon as it's turned off. You can find more details on the university's website.

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Supreme Court: Warrant Generally Needed To Track Cell Phone Location Data

/. - 22 June 2018 - 11:14am
daveschroeder writes: The Supreme Court on Friday said the government generally needs a warrant if it wants to track an individual's location through cell phone records over an extended period of time. The ruling [PDF] is a major victory for advocates of increased privacy rights who argued more protections were needed when it comes to the government obtaining information from a third party such as a cell phone company. The 5-4 opinion was written by Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the four most liberal justices. It is a loss for the Justice Department, which had argued that an individual has diminished privacy rights when it comes to information that has been voluntarily shared with someone else.

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