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Updated: 2 hours 6 min ago

Google Says Data is More Like Sunlight Than Oil

2 hours 23 min ago
Google wants to popularize a more upbeat way of describing data: It's more like sunlight than oil. From a report: Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday morning, Google's chief financial officer, Ruth Porat, said that "data is more like sunlight than oil," adding, "It is like sunshine -- we keep using it, and it keeps regenerating." It's a twist on the well-known phrase "data is the new oil," meaning the world's most valuable resource is information rather than petroleum. Like the oil barons who preceded them, Silicon Valley titans such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon have risen quickly to profit from this new resource and even control its flow. And in another echo of history, regulators are eyeing the industry.

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MacBook Pro Stage Light Fault: Apple's Design Turns $6 Fix Into a $600 Nightmare

3 hours 3 min ago
An anonymous reader shares a report: Some MacBook Pro owners have complained of a 'stage light' effect, where they see uneven backlighting at the bottom of the display. For some, the symptom is only the first stage, with the backlight failing altogether. iFixit says that it has identified the cause -- and the way in which Apple changed the design of the Touch Bar generation for the MacBook Pro turns what would otherwise be a $6 fix into a $600 nightmare. The problem, says the company, is caused by Apple using much thinner ribbon cables instead of the thicker wires used in previous generation MacBook Pro models.

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Ubuntu Core 18 Released for IoT devices

3 hours 38 min ago
Canonical today announced the release of Ubuntu Core 18 "for secure, reliable IoT devices." The Canonical blog notes that "Immutable, digitally signed snaps ensure that devices built with Ubuntu Core are resistant to corruption or tampering. Any component can be verified at any time." In addition, "The attack surface of Ubuntu Core has been minimized, with very few packages installed in the base OS, reducing the size and frequency of security updates and providing more storage for applications and data." Ubuntu Core also "enables a new class of app-centric things, which can inherit apps from the broader Ubuntu and Snapcraft ecosystems or build unique and exclusive applications that are specific to a brand or model." You can download it from here.

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Why Your New Heart Could Be Made in Space One Day

4 hours 11 min ago
Imagine a laboratory growing human hearts - and imagine that laboratory floating in space hundreds of miles above the surface of the Earth. That may sound like science fiction, but bizarre as it seems, it could bring new hope for transplant patients within the next decade. From a report: While about 7,600 heart transplants were carried out around the world in 2017, there's a desperate shortage of organs, with thousands of people on waiting lists dying every year. Efforts to grow human hearts in the lab are showing promise, but are hampered by the need for the organs to grow around a "scaffolding" to make sure they don't collapse during the process. Reliably removing the scaffolding once the heart is complete is proving to be a challenge. Space tech company Techshot believes zero gravity could be the answer. The International Space Station (ISS) is in constant freefall around the planet, meaning that anything inside experiences effective weightlessness, known technically as microgravity. This means organs could be grown without the need for any scaffolding, believes Rich Boling, the firm's vice-president of corporate advancement. One day hearts could be grown commercially for transplant, Techshot believes. [...] Developed in partnership with Nasa, Techshot's BioFabrication Facility (BFF) is a microwave oven-sized device that uses 3D printing techniques to create patches for heart repairs using a patient's own stem cells.

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Facebook Appears To Be Quietly Building Laser Satellites For Global Communications

5 hours 3 min ago
The snow-dusted peak of Mount Wilson in California has been home to many famous observatories. Until 1949, its 100-inch (2.5-meter) Hooker telescope was the largest aperture telescope in the world, and in 2004, its CHARA array became the world's largest optical interferometer. Now, two new observatories are being built there that, while not focused on the stars, might prove equally historic. They could house Facebook's first laser communications systems designed to connect to satellites in orbit. IEEE Spectrum reports: Construction permits issued by the County of Los Angeles show that a small company called PointView Tech is building two detached observatories on the mountain peak. PointView is the company that IEEE Spectrum revealed last year to be a previously unknown subsidiary of Facebook working on an experimental satellite called Athena. In April, PointView sought permission from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to test whether E-band radio signals could "be used for the provision of fixed and mobile broadband access in unserved and underserved areas." That application was still pending at the FCC before the current U.S. federal government shutdown took effect, but it and other public documents and presentations now strongly suggest that PointView is planning to utilize laser technology, possibly both in Athena and future spacecraft. Facebook has long been interested in free space optical, or laser, communication technology. Lasers are able to support much higher data rates than radio transmitters for a given input power, and their signals are largely immune to interference or hacking, although clouds can be problematic. Although Facebook developed millimeter-wave E-band links for its stratospheric Aquila drones, it was also experimenting with air-to-ground laser communications before it canceled its drone program last June. The laser tests, which used technology supplied by German company Mynaric, succeeded in establishing 10-gigabit-per-second links between a ground station and a light aircraft flying overhead.

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Android Q Will Include More Ways For Carriers To SIM Lock Your Phone

6 hours 8 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from 9to5Google: Over the weekend, four commits were posted to various parts of Android's Gerrit source code management, all entitled "Carrier restriction enhancements for Android Q." In them, we see that network carriers will have more fine-grained control over which networks devices will and will not work on. More specifically, it will be possible to designate a list of "allowed" and "excluded" carriers, essentially a whitelist and a blacklist of what will and won't work on a particular phone. This can be done with a fine-grained detail to even allow blocking virtual carrier networks that run on the same towers as your main carrier. Restriction changes are also on the way for dual-SIM devices. At the moment, carriers can set individual restrictions for each SIM slot, but with Android Q, carriers will be able to lock out the second slot unless there's an approved SIM card in the first slot. This SIM lock restriction is applied immediately and will persist through restarting the phone, and even doing a factory reset. Thankfully, in both cases, emergency phone calls will still work as expected, regardless of any restrictions on the particular SIM cards in your phone.

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Is Screen Time Good or Bad? It's Not That Simple

9 hours 8 min ago
TechCrunch's Devin Coldeway picks apart a new study by Oxford scientists that questions the basis of thousands of papers and analyses with conflicting conclusions on the effect of screen time on well-being. "The researchers claim is that the science doesn't agree because it's bad science," Coldeway writes. "So is screen time good or bad? It's not that simple." From the report: Their concern was that the large data sets and statistical methods employed by researchers looking into the question -- for example, thousands and thousands of survey responses interacting with weeks of tracking data for each respondent -- allowed for anomalies or false positives to be claimed as significant conclusions. It's not that people are doing this on purpose necessarily, only that it's a natural result of the approach many are taking. "Unfortunately," write the researchers in the paper, "the large number of participants in these designs means that small effects are easily publishable and, if positive, garner outsized press and policy attention." In order to show this, the researchers essentially redid the statistical analysis for several of these large data sets (Orben explains the process here), but instead of only choosing one result to present, they collected all the plausible ones they could find. For example, imagine a study where the app use of a group of kids was tracked, and they were surveyed regularly on a variety of measures. The resulting (fictitious, I hasten to add) paper might say it found kids who use Instagram for more than two hours a day are three times as likely to suffer depressive episodes or suicidal ideations. What the paper doesn't say, and which this new analysis could show, is that the bottom quartile is far more likely to suffer from ADHD, or the top five percent reported feeling they had a strong support network. [...] Ultimately what the Oxford study found was that there is no consistent good or bad effect, and although a very slight negative effect was noted, it was small enough that factors like having a single parent or needing to wear glasses were far more important. "[T]he study does not conclude that technology has no negative or positive effect; such a broad conclusion would be untenable on its face," Coldeway writes. "The data it rounds up are simply inadequate to the task and technology use is too variable to reduce to a single factor. Its conclusion is that studies so far have in fact bee inconclusive and we need to go back to the drawing board."

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SpaceX To Shift Starship Work From California To Texas

12 hours 8 min ago
SpaceX is reportedly shifting its work on prototypes of its next-gen "Starship" launch vehicle from Los Angeles to Texas. The news comes less than a week after the aerospace company announced its plans to lay off 10% of its 6,000-person workforce to tackle its more ambitious projects. An anonymous reader shares the report from Space.com: In a statement, SpaceX said it was now planning to build prototypes of its Starship vehicle, the upper stage of its next-generation reusable launch system, at its site in South Texas originally designed to serve as a launch site. An initial prototype version of that vehicle has been taking shape in recent weeks at the site in advance of 'hopper' tests that could begin in the next one to two months. A shift to South Texas, industry sources said, could be a way to reduce expenses, given the lower cost of living there versus the Los Angeles area. However, that region of Texas has a much smaller workforce, particularly in aerospace, compared to Southern California.

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Ancient Climate Change Triggered Warming That Lasted Thousands of Years

Mon, 01/21/2019 - 10:30pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: A rapid rise in temperature on ancient Earth triggered a climate response that may have prolonged the warming for many thousands of years, according to scientists. Their study, published online in Nature Geoscience, provides new evidence of a climate feedback that could explain the long duration of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), which is considered the best analogue for modern climate change. The findings also suggest that climate change today could have long-lasting impacts on global temperature even if humans are able to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Increased erosion during the PETM, approximately 56 million years ago, freed large amounts of fossil carbon stored in rocks and released enough carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere to impact temperatures long term, researchers said. Scientists found evidence for the massive carbon release in coastal sediment fossil cores. They analyzed the samples using an innovative molecular technique that enabled them to trace how processes like erosion moved carbon in deep time. Global temperatures increased by about 9 to 14.4 degrees Fahrenheit during the PETM, radically changing conditions on Earth. Severe storms and flooding became more common, and the warm, wet weather led to increased erosion of rocks. As erosion wore down mountains over thousands of years, carbon was released from rocks and transported by rivers to oceans, where some was reburied in coastal sediments. Along the way, some of the carbon entered the atmosphere as greenhouse gas.

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Dutch Surgeon Wins Landmark 'Right To Be Forgotten' Case

Mon, 01/21/2019 - 9:20pm
AmiMoJo shares a report from The Guardian: A Dutch surgeon formally disciplined for her medical negligence has won a legal action to remove Google search results about her case in a landmark "right to be forgotten" ruling. The doctor's registration on the register of healthcare professionals was initially suspended by a disciplinary panel because of her postoperative care of a patient. After an appeal, this was changed to a conditional suspension under which she was allowed to continue to practice. But the first results after entering the doctor's name in Google continued to be links to a website containing an unofficial blacklist, which it was claimed amounted to "digital pillory." It was heard that potential patients had found the blacklist on Google and discussed the case on a web forum. The surgeon's lawyer, Willem van Lynden, said the ruling was groundbreaking in ensuring doctors would no longer be judged by Google on their fitness to practice. "Now they will have to bring down thousands of pages: that is what will happen, in my view. There is a medical disciplinary panel but Google have been the judge until now. They have decided whether to take a page down -- and why do they have that position?" Van Lynden said.

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Tesla Model 3 Is Heading To Europe

Mon, 01/21/2019 - 8:40pm
The Tesla Model 3 has cleared its last regulatory hurdle in Europe and will soon go on sale in the continent home to Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. "Deliveries should start in February for the Long Range Battery version of the midsize sedan -- the same variant first sold in the U.S. -- according to Tesla, after Dutch vehicle authority RDW issued the OK," reports Bloomberg. From the report: The European launch is crucial for Tesla as it navigates what Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk called a "very difficult" road ahead. The company is cutting jobs so it can profitably deliver lower-priced versions of the Model 3, Tesla's first car targeted for the mass market. Musk has pointed to sales of the sedan in Europe and China as a main reason he isn't concerned about any potential setback caused by a halving of the U.S. federal tax credit, to $3,750, on Tesla purchases as of Jan. 1. With the Model 3, Tesla also has an opportunity to broaden its attack on the premium car market dominated by Germany's BMW AG, Daimler AG-owned Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen AG's Audi. Tesla, based in Palo Alto, California, said in its third-quarter shareholder letter that "the midsized premium sedan market in Europe is more than twice as big as the same segment in the U.S." The Model 3 became the top-selling luxury car there last year, outstripping the Audi Q5, BMW 3 Series and other well-known models. Analysts and industry executives, however, have observed that competition with Tesla cuts across traditional categories.

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Facebook's Plans For Space Lasers Revealed

Mon, 01/21/2019 - 8:00pm
Two new observatories are being built on Mount Wilson in California -- home to the 100-inch Hooker telescope, one of the largest aperture telescopes in the world, and CHARA array, the world's largest optical interferometer. As IEEE Spectrum reports, "they could house Facebook's first laser communications systems designed to connect to satellites in orbit." From the report: Construction permits issued by the County of Los Angeles show that a small company called PointView Tech is building two detached observatories on the mountain peak. PointView is the company that IEEE Spectrum revealed last year to be a previously unknown subsidiary of Facebook working on an experimental satellite called Athena. In April, PointView sought permission from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to test whether E-band radio signals could "be used for the provision of fixed and mobile broadband access in unserved and underserved areas." That application was still pending at the FCC before the current U.S. federal government shutdown took effect, but it and other public documents and presentations now strongly suggest that PointView is planning to utilize laser technology, possibly both in Athena and future spacecraft. [...] Planning documents show that construction work on PointView's Mount Wilson observatories began in July and passed inspection in the middle of December. If the observatories are part of a laser satellite installation, they might use an optical ground station conceptually similar to [German company Mynaric]. This transmits its own laser beam up into the atmosphere for a drone -- or potentially a satellite -- to lock on to. Facebook and the Mount Wilson Institute didn't comment, but the report does go on to cite scientific papers authored by Facebook researchers suggesting that the company is committing resources to orbital lasers. "In a series of papers published in 2017 and 2018, engineers Raichelle Aniceto and Slaven Moro subjected multiple components, including an optical modem, to radiation similar to that experienced on orbit," reports IEEE Spectrum.

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New Phobos Ransomware Exploits Weak Security To Hit Targets Around the World

Mon, 01/21/2019 - 7:20pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: A prolific cybercrime gang behind a series of ransomware attacks is distributing a new form of the file-encrypting malware which combines two well known and successful variants in a series of attacks against businesses around the world. Dubbed Phobos by its creators, the ransomware first emerged in December and researchers at CoveWare have detailed how it shares a number of similarities with Dharma ransomware. Like Dharma, Phobos exploits open or poorly secured RDP ports to sneak inside networks and execute a ransomware attack, encrypting files and demands a ransom to be paid in bitcoin for returning the files, which in this case are locked with a .phobos extension. The demand is made in a ransom note -- and aside from 'Phobos' logos being added to the ransom note, it's exactly the same as the note used by Dharma, with the same typeface and text use throughout. Phobos is being distributed by the gang behind Dharma and likely serves as an insurance policy for malicious campaigns, providing attackers with a second option for conducting attacks, should Dharma end up decrypted or prevented from successfully extorting ransoms from victims.

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Spotify Will Soon Let You Mute, Block Artists

Mon, 01/21/2019 - 7:01pm
Spotify, one of the largest music streaming platforms available, is readying a "don't play this artist" feature in its apps that will let you mute artists you don't want to hear from. "The feature simply lets you block an entire artist from playing, so that songs from the artist will never play from a library, playlist, chart list, or even radio stations on Spotify," reports The Verge. From the report: The block feature works on songs by an individual artist, but it doesn't currently apply to tracks that an artist is featured on. Thurrott first spotted the feature, and notes that Spotify originally decided not to offer blocking "after serious consideration" back in 2017. Spotify has now reversed that decision.

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Google Fined $57 Million By French Data Privacy Body For Failing To Comply With EU's GDPR Regulations

Mon, 01/21/2019 - 6:40pm
schwit1 shares a report from VentureBeat: Google has been hit by a $57 million fine by French data privacy body CNIL (National Data Protection Commission) for failure to comply with the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) regulations. The CNIL said that it was fining Google for "lack of transparency, inadequate information and lack of valid consent regarding the ads personalization," according to a press release issued by the organization. The news was first reported by the AFP. What the CNIL is effectively referencing here is dark pattern design, which attempts to encourage users into accepting terms by guiding their choices through the design and layout of the interface. This is something that Facebook has often done too, as it has sought to garner user consent for new features or T&Cs. It's worth noting here that Google has faced considerable pressure from the EU on a number of fronts over the way it carries out business. Back in July, it was hit with a record $5 billion fine in an Android antitrust case, though it is currently appealing that. A few months back, Google overhauled its Android business model in Europe, electing to charge Android device makers a licensing fee to preinstall its apps in Europe. Google hasn't confirmed what its next steps will be, but it will likely appeal the decision as it has done with other fines. "People expect high standards of transparency and control from us," a Google spokesperson told VentureBeat. "We're deeply committed to meeting those expectations and the consent requirements of the GDPR. We're studying the decision to determine our next steps."

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Russia Tries To Force Facebook, Twitter To Relocate Servers To Russia

Mon, 01/21/2019 - 6:00pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Russian government agency responsible for censorship on the Internet has accused Facebook and Twitter of failing to comply with a law requiring all servers that store personal data to be located in Russia. Roskomnadzor, the Russian censorship agency, "said the social-media networks hadn't submitted any formal and specific plans or submitted an acceptable explanation of when they would meet the country's requirements that all servers used to store Russians' personal data be located in Russia," The Wall Street Journal reported today. Roskomnadzor said it sent letters to Facebook and Twitter on December 17, giving them 30 days to provide "a legally valid response." With the 30 days having passed, the agency said that "Today, Roskomnadzor begins administrative proceedings against both companies." The law went into effect in September 2015, but Russia has had trouble enforcing it. "At the moment, the only tools Russia has to enforce its data rules are fines that typically only come to a few thousand dollars or blocking the offending online services, which is an option fraught with technical difficulties," a Reuters article said today. According to The Journal, "Facebook and Twitter could be fined for not providing information to the watchdog."

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Demand and Salaries For Data Scientists Continue To Climb

Mon, 01/21/2019 - 4:33pm
Data-science job openings are expanding faster than the number of technologists looking for them, says job-search firm Indeed. From a report: Back in August, a LinkedIn analysis concluded that the United States is facing a significant shortage of data scientists, a big change from a surplus in 2015. Last week, job-search firm Indeed reported that its data indicates the shortage is getting worse: While more job seekers are interested in data-science jobs, the number of job postings from employers has been rising faster than the number of interested applicants. According to Indeed, job postings for data scientists as a share of all postings were up 29 percent in December 2018 compared with December 2017, while searches were only up around 14 percent. "The bargaining power in data science remains with the job seekers," Andrew Flowers, Indeed economist, stated in a press release. [...] Salaries for data scientists are up as well. Average salary in the area surrounding Houston, which topped the 2018 list when adjusted for the cost of living, climbed 16.5 percent since 2017, while the average salary in the San Francisco Bay Area, No. 2 on the adjusted list, jumped 13.7 percent over Indeed's 2017 numbers.

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The 'Fortnite' Economy Now Has Its Own Black Market

Mon, 01/21/2019 - 3:52pm
Fortnite's in-game currency, V-bucks, are now being used to launder money from stolen credit cards, according to a report by The Independent and cybersecurity firm Sixgill. From a report: Here's how it works: After a hacker obtains someone else's credit card information, they make a Fortnite account and use the card to buy V-bucks which are used in the game to purchase cosmetic upgrades and new ways your character can dance. Once the account is loaded up with V-bucks, it is then sold through a legitimate vendor like eBay, or on the dark web. V-bucks cost about $10 for 1,000 when you buy them in the game or from authorized online stores. But these accounts are sold at rates low enough that it ends up being much cheaper to buy V-bucks that way.

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We'll Likely See a Rise in Internet Blackouts in 2019

Mon, 01/21/2019 - 3:11pm
We'll likely see a rise in internet blackouts in 2019, for two reasons: countries deliberately "turning off" the internet within their borders, and hackers disrupting segments of the internet with distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. Above all, both will force policymakers everywhere to reckon with the fact that the internet itself is increasingly becoming centralized -- and therefore increasingly vulnerable to manipulation, making everyone less safe. From a report: The first method -- states deliberately severing internet connections within their country -- has an important history. In 2004, the Maldivian government caused an internet blackout when citizens protested the president; Nepal similarly caused a blackout shortly thereafter. In 2007, the Burmese government apparently damaged an underwater internet cable in order to "staunch the flow of pictures and messages from protesters reaching the outside world." In 2011, Egypt cut most internet and cell services within its borders as the government attempted to quell protests against then-President Hosni Mubarak; Libya then did the same after its own unrest. In 2014, Syria had a major internet outage amid its civil war. In 2018, Mauritania was taken entirely offline for two days when undersea submarine internet cables were cut, around the same time as the Sierra Leone government may have imposed an internet blackout in the same region. When we think about terms like "cyberspace" and "internet," it can be tempting to associate them with vague notions of a digital world we can't touch. And while this is perhaps useful in some contexts, this line of thinking forgets the very real wires, servers, and other hardware that form the architecture of the internet. If these physical elements cease to function, from a cut wire to a storm-damaged server farm, the internet, too, is affected. More than that, if a single entity controls -- or can at least access -- that hardware for a region or even an entire country, government-caused internet blackouts are a tempting method of censorship and social control.

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Uber is Exploring Autonomous Bikes and Scooters

Mon, 01/21/2019 - 2:30pm
Uber is looking to integrate autonomous technology into its bike and scooter-share programs. Details are scarce, but according to 3D Robotics CEO Chris Anderson, who said Uber announced this at a DIY Robotics event over the weekend, the division will live inside Uber's JUMP group, which is responsible for shared electric bikes and scooters. From a report: The new division, Micromobility Robotics, will explore autonomous scooters and bikes that can drive themselves to be charged, or drive themselves to locations where riders need them. The Telegraph has since reported Uber has already begun hiring for this team. "The New Mobilities team at Uber is exploring ways to improve safety, rider experience, and operational efficiency of our shared electric scooters and bicycles through the application of sensing and robotics technologies," Uber's ATG wrote in a Google Form seeking information from people interested in career opportunities.

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