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Updated: 2 hours 7 min ago

Man Jailed For Hundreds of Fake TripAdvisor Reviews

15 September 2018 - 11:34am
An Italian man was sentenced to nine months in jail for selling fake reviews on TripAdvisor to several hundred businesses. He'll also be fined 8,000 euros (about $9,300). TripAdvisor had threatened businesses with a red badge icon warning travelers thatreviews had been manipulated, after which "several businesses were willing to share information to support TripAdvisor's investigations." From TripAdvisor's Insights blog: Back in 2015, our dedicated team of fraud investigators identified a new illegal business in Italy called PromoSalento that was offering to write fake reviews for hospitality businesses... PromoSalento attempted to avoid our scrutiny by regularly changing their usernames and email addresses, but our fraud detection processes use a suite of advanced technologies to evaluate hundreds of review attributes such as IP addresses, browser types and even the screen resolution of a reviewer's device. Based on that analysis, we were able to see a trail of digital and behavioral 'breadcrumbs' that led our team straight back to PromoSalento.... Writing fake reviews on TripAdvisor has always been a violation of the law in many jurisdictions, for instance falling under the EU Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, as well as national laws relating to consumer protection, fraud and false advertising. However, this is the first time we have seen the laws being enforced to the point of securing a criminal conviction. "As many as 16 percent of online reviews are fake, according to research by the European Parliament," reports CBS News. Yet they add that when it comes to accountability and consumer safety, many Americans believe online reviews are more effective than government oversight.

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Google Temporarily Brings Back the www In Chrome URLs -- But Should They?

15 September 2018 - 10:34am
An anonymous reader quotes Digital Trends: With the launch of Chrome 69, Google stunned users last week with a surprising decision to no longer display the "www" and "m" part of the URL in the Chrome search bar, but user backlash forced Google to soften its stance. Google's course reversal, although welcomed by users, is only short term, and the search giant said it will change course once again with the release of the Chrome 70 browser.... Critics have argued that by not displaying the special-case subdomains, it was harder for users to identify sites as legitimate, and the move could lead to more scams on the internet. Others go as far as questioning Google's motives for not displaying the "www" and "m" portion of a web address, and these users speculated that the move may be to disguise Google's AMP -- or Accelerated Mobile Pages -- subdomain to make it indistinguishable for the actual domain.... With the launch of Chrome 70, Google plans on hiding the 'www' portion of a web address inside the search bar, but it will continue to display the 'm' subdomain. "We are not going to elide 'm' in M70 because we found large sites that have a user-controlled 'm' subdomain," Google Chromium product manager Emily Schecter said. "There is more community consensus that sites should not allow the 'www' subdomain to be user controlled." ZDNet notes that while Chrome's billion-plus users were surprised, "Apple's Safari likewise hides the www and m but it hasn't caused as much concern, likely because of Google's outsized influence over the web and Chrome's dominance of the browser market." TechRepublic quotes a community feedback post that had argued that "Lying about the hostname to novices and power users alike in the name of simplifying the UI seems imprudent from a security perspective."

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Nvidia Scanner Brings One-Click Overclocking To Its GeForce RTX Graphics Cards

15 September 2018 - 6:00am
Nvidia's new "Scanner" tool for the company's newest GeForce RTX 2080 graphics cards will provide one-click overclocking. PCWorld reports: Nvidia Scanner isn't actually a tool you can download. Instead, it's an API that developers can implement, similar to how current GeForce overclocking software relies on Nvidia's NVAPI. Tom Peterson, Nvidia's director of technical marketing, says all of the major overclocking programs will implement Scanner. You simply press the Test button, and the software starts walking through your graphics card's volt frequency curve, running arithmetic tests all the while. If the overclock starts pushing too far, Nvidia Scanner will discover a math error before your card crashes. When that happens, Scanner ramps up your card's voltage and starts testing again. After about 20 minutes, Scanner will have a complete understanding of your RTX card's capabilities, and automatically generate an overclocking profile built to squeeze as much performance as possible out of it without crashing. Easy-peasy. PCWorld's Brad Chacos mentions a demonstration where "Nvidia's Tom Peterson showed Nvidia Scanner pushing the GeForce RTX 2080 -- which ships with a 1,710MHz boost clock -- all the way to 2,130MHz at 1,068mV."

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SpaceX Says It Signed First Private Passenger To the Moon

15 September 2018 - 3:00am
SpaceX announced Thursday that it's booked the world's first private passenger to the moon. The private aerospace company said on Twitter the unnamed traveler would board its Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) to the moon, where only 24 people have ever traveled. Only 12 of those people actually walked on the moon. NBC New York reports: SpaceX didn't reveal any details about the potentially historic voyage but said it plans to reveal the traveler's identity and more on Monday, Sept. 17. The company called the plan "an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of traveling to space." Musk shared the announcement on his personal page but remained tight-lipped as well. However, when asked if the passenger was him, Musk responded with an emoji of the Japanese flag.

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Study Suggests BPA-Free Plastics Are Just As Harmful To Health

14 September 2018 - 11:30pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: Plastic products that boast of being "BPA-free" aren't necessarily any safer for us, suggests a new mouse study published Thursday in Current Biology. The chemicals used to replace BPA in these plastics can still leak out and affect the sperm and eggs of both male and female mice, it found. And these same effects could be happening in people. Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a chemical commonly used to create polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. These clear white plastics are themselves used in food and drink packaging, as well as consumer products and medical devices, while resins are used to coat metal products like canned foods. When these products degrade or are otherwise damaged (from being repeatedly heated in a microwave, for example), they can leach out BPA, exposing us to it. As a result, it's estimated that 93 percent of Americans have some level of BPA in their system. While working on another project, the authors began seeing some but not all of their control mice, both male and female, develop reproductive problems. Though the mice had kept in cages made of polysulfone, not polycarbonate, the researchers noticed a whitish residue in some of the cages, indicating they had been damaged and were leaching chemicals. When Patricia Hunt, a researcher at the Center for Reproductive Biology at Washington State University, and her team analyzed the chemical signature of the damaged cages, they found both BPA and BPS, a bisphenol that is widely replacing BPA. The cases were polysulfone plastic, which is partly made from BPA, but it's advertised to be more heat and chemical resistant than polycarbonate and thus less likely to break down. Polysulfone isn't thought to degrade into BPS, but Hunt's team found that if certain chemical bonds in the plastic were broken in the right way, BPS could form. Following in the vein of their original experiments with BPA, Hunt's team exposed more mice to low doses of BPS, and compared their reproductive health to mice exposed to BPA and mice raised in fresh new cages, presumably free of any BPA/BPS contamination. The BPS mice had more defects in their egg and sperm cells than did the control mice, but the level of damage was similar to that seen in mice they exposed to the same dose of BPA alone. "Though manufacturers have shied away from making explicit claims about BPA replacements being safer, Hunt noted, customers have certainly assumed that they are safer," the report notes.

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US Lawmakers Say AI Deepfakes 'Have the Potential To Disrupt Every Facet of Our Society'

14 September 2018 - 10:10pm
Yesterday, several lawmakers sent a letter to the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, asking him to assess the threat posed to national security by deepfakes -- a new type of AI-assisted video editing that creates realistic results with minimal effort. The Verge reports: The letter says "hyper-realistic digital forgeries" showing "convincing depictions of individuals doing or saying things they never did" could be used for blackmail and misinformation. "As deep fake technology becomes more advanced and more accessible, it could pose a threat to United States public discourse and national security," say the letter's signatories, House representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), and Carlos Curbelo (R-FL). The trio want the intelligence community to produce a report that includes descriptions of when "confirmed or suspected" deepfakes have been produced by foreign individuals (there are no current examples of this), and to suggest potential countermeasures. In a press statement, Curbelo said: "Deep fakes have the potential to disrupt every facet of our society and trigger dangerous international and domestic consequences [...] As with any threat, our Intelligence Community must be prepared to combat deep fakes, be vigilant against them, and stand ready to protect our nation and the American people."

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Drone Startup Airware Is Shutting Down After Raising $118 Million

14 September 2018 - 9:30pm
Drone operating system startup Airware, which has appeared in a number of stories over the years, announced today that it will be shutting down immediately despite having raised $118 million from investors. " The startup ran out of money after trying to manufacture its own hardware that couldn't compete with drone giants like China's DJI," reports TechCrunch. "The company at one point had as many as 140 employees, all of which are now out of a job." From the report: Founded in 2011 by Jonathan Downey, the son of two pilots, Airware first built an autopilot system for programming drones to follow certain routes to collect data. It could help businesses check rooftops for damage, see how much of a raw material was coming out of a mine, or build constantly-updated maps of construction sites. Later it tried to build its own drones before pivoting to consult clients on how to most efficiently apply unmanned aerial vehicles. While flying high, Airware launched its own Commercial Drone Fund for investing in the market in 2015, and acquired 38-person drone analytics startup Redbird in 2016. In this pre-crypto, pre-AI boom, Airware scored a ton of hype from us and others as they tried to prove drones could be more than war machines. But over time, the software that shipped with commercial drone hardware from other manufacturers was good enough to make Airware irrelevant, and a downward spiral of layoffs began over the past two years, culminating in today's shutdown. Demonstrating how sudden the shut down is, Airware opened a Tokyo headquarters alongside an investment and partnership from Mitsubishi just four days ago. As for the employees, they "will get one week's severance, COBRA insurance until November, and payouts for unused paid time off," reports TechCrunch.

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San Francisco Gets Its First Cashierless Store

14 September 2018 - 8:50pm
Last Week, San Francisco got its first completely automated cashierless store, called Standard Market. The store requires users to download their app before they can enter the 1,900-square-foot building. Once they do that, they can enter the store, grab the items they need, and walk out -- all without ever interacting with a cashier. The 27 cameras positioned on the ceiling are supposedly able to identify which items shoppers walk out with. CNBC reports: The start-up behind this operation is Standard Cognition, which has raised $11.2 million in venture capital and formed partnerships with four retail chains around the world. This first market is a prototype to showcase the technology and work on the bugs. The ambitious goal is to add the tech in 100 stores a day (each day!) by 2020. Five of the seven founders came from the Securities and Exchange Commission, where they built artificial intelligence software to detect fraud and trade violations, before starting Standard Cognition in 2017. Now these fraud experts are working to discern something equally complicated: whether I am stealing a snack. The store is very similar to Amazon's cashierless Go market, but differs in that it relies exclusively on the ceiling cameras and AI software to figure out what you're buying. "The goal is to predict, and prevent, shoplifting, because unlike Amazon's Go stores, which have a subway turnstile-like gate for entry and exit, Standard Market has an open door, and the path is clear," reports CNBC. "Once the system decides it has detected potential theft behavior, a store attendant will get a text and walk over for 'a polite conversation,' Standard Cognition's co-founder and chief operating officer, Michael Suswal, said."

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What Cardiologists Think About the Apple Watch's Heart-Tracking Feature

14 September 2018 - 8:10pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from SFGate: The newest Apple Watch can now flag potential problems with your heartbeat -- a feature that's been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration and that Apple is marking as a major achievement. But some doctors said that including heart-monitoring tools in such a popular consumer product could prompt unnecessary anxiety and medical visits. Physicians say the watch could be good for patients who have irregular heart rhythms but may not realize it. Some people who have atrial fibrillation, the condition for which the watch is screening, don't always have noticeable symptoms. In an ideal situation, someone who doesn't know they have a problem could get a warning from their watch and take that data to their doctor. But there is also concern that widespread use of electrocardiograms without an equally broad education initiative could burden an already taxed health-care system. Heart rhythms naturally vary, meaning that it's likely that Apple Watch or any heart monitor could signal a problem when there isn't one -- and send someone running to the doctor for no reason. "People are scared; their heart scares them," John Mandrola, a cardiologist at Baptist Health in Louisville, said. "That leads to more interaction with the health-care system." An extra visit to your doctor may not sound like a bad thing, but Mandrola said it would potentially lead to another round of tests or even unnecessary treatment if there are other signs that can be misinterpreted. And doctors might wind up facing a crowd of anxious Apple Watch users getting false signals -- something physicians have already had to deal with as fitness trackers that monitor heart rates have become popular.

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Why Can't More Than Four People Have a Conversation at Once?

14 September 2018 - 7:30pm
Apparently, there exists something called the 'dinner party problem' which states that it is difficult to sustain a casual conversation that includes more than four speakers. If a fifth person were to join that conversation, so goes the theory, the conversation would quickly fission into smaller groups. Somebody looked into it, of course. From a story: The question bothered Jaimie Krems, an assistant professor of psychology at Oklahoma State University. Krems had previously studied under Robin Dunbar, the Oxford University evolutionary psychologist who theorized that cohesion in any human social group falls apart once the group reaches 150 -- a figure now known as Dunbar's number. But just as the dynamics of large groups start changing around 150, something also happens to the casual conversations of small groups once they surpass four members. Social psychologists have noted the pattern in group conversations in research stretching back decades. There's evidence that this four-person limit on conversations has been in place for about as long as humans have been having chatting with one another. Shakespeare rarely allowed more than four speaking characters in any scene; ensemble films rarely have more than four actors interacting at once. But why do we max out at four? In a forthcoming paper in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, Krems and Jason Wilkes offer one theory rooted in evolutionary psychology. Pairs (or "dyads," in psychology research parlance) are the essential building blocks of a society. Let's imagine a conversation between four hypothetical humans: you, Chris, Pat, and Taylor. In a four-person conversation, there are six possible pairs of people who can be talking to one another at once. you and Chris, you and Pat, you and Taylor, Chris and Pat, Chris and Taylor, and Pat and Taylor. That's three pairs you're part of, and three pairs you're not. Essentially, you have a role in influencing half of the possible conversations that could be happening in that group. If there are three people in the conversation, there are three possible pairs, only one of which excludes you. If there are five people, there are 10 possible pairs, and the majority -- six -- don't include you, which makes it harder to get your point across.

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Some Linux Gamers Using Wine/DXVK To Play Blizzard's Overwatch Banned

14 September 2018 - 6:50pm
Longtime Slashdot reader DrYak writes: Phoronix is reporting that multiple users who all use Wine and DXVK compatibility layers have seen their Overwatch accounts banned by Blizzard. Previously, Blizzard has stated: "playing on Linux or even a Mac while on an emulated Windows environment is not bannable." But users report on Reddit getting banned simply after testing some rendering options. Tech support has answered that they are escalating the ticket and trying to take a closer look, hoping to avoid this from happening to other Linux users. According to Phoronix, the most common explanation for the bans "is a false-positive from Blizzard's anti-cheat technology having issue with DXVK."

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Almost Half of US Cellphone Calls Will Be Scams By Next Year, Says Report

14 September 2018 - 6:10pm
According to a new report from First Orion, nearly half of the mobile phone calls received in the U.S. next year will be scams. "The percentage of scam calls in U.S. mobile traffic increased from 3.7 percent last year to 29.2 percent this year, and it's predicted to rise to 44.6 percent in 2019, First Orion said in a press release Wednesday," reports CNET. From the report: The most popular method scammers use to try to get people to pick up the phone is called "neighborhood spoofing," where they disguise their numbers with a local prefix so people presume the calls are safe to pick up, First Onion said. Third-party call blocking apps may help protect consumers from known scam numbers, but they can't tell if a scammer hijacks someone's number and uses it for scam calls. "Scammers relentlessly inundate mobile phones with increasingly convincing and scary calls," said Gavin Macomber, senior vice president of marketing at First Orion, in an email statement. "Solving a problem of this magnitude requires a comprehensive, in-network carrier solution that dives deeper than third-party applications ever could by detecting and eliminating unwanted and malicious calls before they reach your phone."

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Nintendo Switch Cloud Save Data Disappears If You Cancel Subscription

14 September 2018 - 5:30pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Nintendo Switch game save data stored in the cloud is only available "as long as you have an active Nintendo Switch Online membership." If you eventually cancel the $20/year subscription, Nintendo is "unable to guarantee that cloud save data will be retained after an extended period of time from when your membership is ended." That wrinkle in Nintendo's plan was not included in the details of yesterday's Nintendo Direct presentation, but it can be found digging through the FAQs and customer support pages on Nintendo's website this morning. On the plus side, Nintendo clarified that you will be able to transfer cloud-based saves between Switch systems just by signing in with your Nintendo account on as many consoles as you want. But Nintendo also said it will continue not allowing local backups of save data to an SD card or other outside storage. UPDATE: It's worth noting that cloud saves on PlayStation systems remain accessible for six months after you cancel a paid PlayStation Plus account, while cloud saves on Xbox Live are offered for free in perpetuity.

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Google Built a Prototype of a Censored Search Engine For China That Links Users' Searches To Their Personal Phone Numbers: The Intercept

14 September 2018 - 4:50pm
Google built a prototype of a censored search engine for China that links users' searches to their personal phone numbers, thus making it easier for the Chinese government to monitor people's queries, The Intercept, which first published information about Google's efforts to build a censored search engine in China last month, reported Friday. From the report: The search engine, codenamed Dragonfly, was designed for Android devices, and would remove content deemed sensitive by China's ruling Communist Party regime, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest. Previously undisclosed details about the plan, obtained by The Intercept on Friday, show that Google compiled a censorship blacklist that included terms such as "human rights," "student protest," and "Nobel Prize" in Mandarin. Leading human rights groups have criticized Dragonfly, saying that it could result in the company "directly contributing to, or [becoming] complicit in, human rights violations." A central concern expressed by the groups is that, beyond the censorship, user data stored by Google on the Chinese mainland could be accessible to Chinese authorities, who routinely target political activists and journalists. Sources familiar with the project said that prototypes of the search engine linked the search app on a user's Android smartphone with their phone number. This means individual people's searches could be easily tracked -- and any user seeking out information banned by the government could potentially be at risk of interrogation or detention if security agencies were to obtain the search records from Google.

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Road Makers Turn To Recycled Plastic For Tougher Surfaces

14 September 2018 - 4:10pm
Recycled plastic is already used to make some products, such as guttering and sewage pipes. Now attention is turning to roads. From a report: On September 11th in Zwolle, a town in the Netherlands, a 30-metre bicycle track made from 70% recycled plastic and the rest from polypropylene was opened [Warning: the link may be paywalled; alternative source]. It will be used to test a product called PlasticRoad, which is being developed by two Dutch firms -- KWS, a road builder, and Wavin, a firm that makes plastic piping -- in partnership with Total, a French oil-and-gas firm. PlasticRoad is prefabricated in a factory as modular sections. The sections are then transported to the site and laid end to end on a suitable foundation, such as sand. Because these sections are hollow, internal channels can be incorporated into them for drainage, along with conduits for services such as gas and electricity. For the Zwolle project, sections that were 2.4 metres long and 3 metres wide were used. These were fitted with sensors to measure things such as temperature, flexing and the flow of water through the drainage channels. A second pilot cycleway is being built in the nearby town of Giethoorn. If all goes well, the inventors hope to develop the idea and make the sections entirely from recycled plastic. Paths, car parks and railway platforms could follow. Eventually, sections for use as actual roads are planned. These could contain sensors for traffic monitoring. In time, the circuits in the plastic roads might extend to assisting autonomous vehicles and recharging electric cars wirelessly. Prefabricated plastic roads should last two-to-three times longer than conventional roads and cost less, the companies claim, mainly because construction times would be reduced by almost two-thirds. Anti-slip surfaces could be incorporated, too, including crushed stones which are traditionally used to dress road surfaces. The sections, when replaced, can also be recycled. But engineers will be watching to see how the track stands up to wear and tear and if the hollow structure causes resonance, which would make such a road unduly noisy.

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The Man Behind the EU's Copyright Law is 'Surprised' By What's in the Proposal

14 September 2018 - 3:38pm
Hours after the European Union Parliament voted to approve new controversial copyright laws that will transform how people in Europe and beyond use and profit from the internet, the man behind the legislation, Axel Voss, says he is unaware of what exactly he voted for. From a report: Emanuel Karlsten, a reporter for Sweden's Breakit news site, spoke with Voss, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and the EU's copyright rapporteur, after the vote. Karlsten asked about a last-minute amendment that will bar the filming of sports events. The MEP replied in a recorded conversation, "This was kind of mistake I think by the JURI committee. Someone amended this. No one had been aware of this." European Parliament press officer John Schranz at that point broke in to explain that he was aware of the provision in question, calling it "amendment 76." Schranz said that the amendment doesn't bar individuals from filming sporting events. Rather, "the main target" is online betting companies enticing viewers to their sites with video that they have no right to film. He objected to the fact that the "Greens and others" interpret the provision as having a much wider application. But the MEP Voss admitted, "I didn't know that this was in the proposal so far, so of course I have to deal with it now. I do not consider that the commission and council will have this inside the proposal." Voss added that "because of the time pressure" and general focus on other, more notable aspects of the law, it's possible that the measure was insufficiently scrutinized.

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Google-Funded Study Finds Cash Beats Typical Development Aid

14 September 2018 - 2:57pm
Traditional international aid programs typically offer some combination of clean water, livestock, textbooks, and nutritional supplements. A new study funded by Google.org and the US Agency for International Development asks whether the poor would benefit more if they were given cash and free to spend the money as they see fit. Wired: Researchers had two goals: compare an established program to combat childhood malnutrition with giving people the equivalent value ($117 per month) in cash, and compare the cash equivalent to a much larger sum, $532 per month. After a year, results [PDF] released Thursday found that found that neither the established program nor its cash equivalent were able to improve child health, but the large cash transfers significantly improved people's health and financial standing. On the surface, that's not surprising. Of course giving people more than four times as much money gives them access to better nutrition. But the study's co-author Andrew Zeitlin, a professor from Georgetown, says the idea was to provide benchmarks for future programs; it's not unusual for nutritional aid programs to cost $500 or even $800 per month, he says. The traditional malnutrition program, called Gikuriro, was funded by USAID and administered by Catholic Relief Services. It combined help with water, sanitation, and hygiene with training on nutrition, some small livestock and seeds, and guidance on financial habits like saving. The study focused on households with children under the age of 5 and women of reproductive age, with an emphasis on the first 1,000 days of the child's life. The results indicate that Gikuriro helped recipients increase their savings and increased overall health knowledge and vaccination rates in villages, two of the program's goals. However, neither the malnutrition program nor its cash equivalent led to a more diverse diet, or improved child health, as measured by height and weight. The larger cash transfer, on the other hand, led to improvements in food diversity, a drop in child mortality, an increase in household wealth, and improvements in child health measurements, as well as improvements in village vaccination rates.

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'Seven Dirty Words' Restriction Policy Lifted from<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.US Domain Name Registrations

14 September 2018 - 2:18pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: Neustar, the registry operator of the .US domain and NTIA have reversed course, allowing the inclusion of previously restricted "seven dirty words" from future .US domain name registrations. The decision came after EFF and the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard Law School intervened in the cancelation of a domain name containing a restricted word. The domain name -- fucknazis.us -- registered by Mr. Rubin was suspended by Neustar calling it a violation of an NTIA "seven dirty words" policy -- "a phrase with particular First Amendment significance," said EFF. Further reading: EFF: Yes, You Can Name A Website "Fucknazis.us".

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Native Support For Windows File Sharing Coming To Chrome OS

14 September 2018 - 1:30pm
Chrome OS 70, which Google plans to release in the second half of next month, will include native support for SMB file shares, giving it built-in access to files stored on Windows servers. With this, Chrome OS users can add SMB file shares to the Files app and use them to store and load documents. From a report: Currently, using these network resources requires the use of an extension that adds a similar ability to add file shares to the Files app. Google has been working to make Files a more capable application. As well as integrating support for networked files, the company is also experimenting with giving it more access to Android files, something that will streamline the use of Android applications by exposing their data files to Chrome OS apps. The SMB support helps smooth a pain point when mixing Chromebooks with other systems: it makes it easier to use Chrome OS with corporate file servers, home networked storage devices, and of course, Windows PCs. Instead of needing the extra extension to be installed, these things will just work out of the box.

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Slashdot Asks: What Book(s) Are You Reading This Month?

14 September 2018 - 12:35pm
We have not run book recommendations and book discussion posts for some time. So here it goes: What's a book -- or books -- are you reading this month? Additionally, what's a book you finished recently that you found insightful, or funny, or both. (The latter request comes from a reader.) Leave your recommendation and any additional notes in the comments section below.

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