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Mozilla Will Deprecate XUL Add-ons Before the End of 2017

Slashdot - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 17:40
Artem Tashkinov writes: Mozilla has published a plan of add-ons deprecation in future Firefox releases. Firefox 53 will run in multi process mode by default for all users with some exceptions. Most add ons will continue to function, however certain add ons have already ceased to function because they don't expect multi user mode under the hood. Firefox 54-56 will introduce even more changes which will ultimately break even more addons. Firefox 57, which will be preliminarily released on the 28th of Novermber, 2017, will only run WebExtensions: which means no XUL (overlay) add ons, no bootstrapped extensions, no SDK extensions and no Embedded WebExtensions. In other words by this date the chromification of Firefox will have been completed. If you depend on XUL add ons your only choice past this date will be Pale Moon.

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Breakthrough in Alphabet's Balloon-Based Internet Project Means It Might Actually Wor

Slashdot - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 17:00
Loon, the balloon project that aims to deliver internet to parts of the world that lack reliable connectivity, announced this week that due to advancements in the machine learning software, it can now deploy fewer balloons to provide greater connectivity. From a report on Recode: The Loon balloon project is part of X, the experimental division of Alphabet, Google's parent company. Now in its fourth year, the engineers at Loon say their new machine learning techniques significantly shorten their timeline for launching the project. Initially, engineers proposed that the Loon balloons would float around the globe and that they would have to find a way to keep the balloons a safe traveling distance apart and replace a balloon that drifted from an area that needed connectivity. Now, the team says they've found a way to keep the balloons in a much more concentrated location, thanks to their improved altitude control and navigation system. Loon says that balloons will now make small loops over a land mass, instead of circumnavigating the whole planet.

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No CEO: The Swedish Company Where Nobody Is In Charge

Slashdot - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 16:20
Katie Hope, reporting for BBC: Three years ago, Swedish software consultancy Crisp decided that the answer was no. The firm, which has about 40 staff, had already trialled various organisational structures, including the more common practice of having a single leader running the company. Crisp then tried changing its chief executive annually, based on a staff vote, but eventually decided collectively that no boss was needed. Yassal Sundman, a developer at the firm, explains: "We said, 'what if we had nobody as our next CEO -- what would that look like?' And then we went through an exercise and listed down the things that the CEO does." The staff decided that many of the chief executive's responsibilities overlapped with those of the board, while other roles could be shared among other employees. "When we looked at it we had nothing left in the CEO column, and we said, 'all right, why don't we try it out?'" says Ms Sundman.

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BlackBerry Sued By Over 300 Former Employees

Slashdot - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 15:40
An anonymous reader shares a report: BlackBerry is facing a class-action lawsuit from more than 300 former employees across Canada, according to a news release from law firm Nelligan O'Brien Payne LLP. The Waterloo, Ontario-based tech company is accused of denying employees their termination entitlements by transferring them to a partner company and, once they had accepted employment there, handed them resignation letters. The former employees were then allegedly given their final date of work. "BlackBerry's actions amount to a termination of the employees' employment," the law firm said. "This entitles these employees to statutory, common law, and/or contractual entitlements on termination."

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Zuckerberg Shares Facebook's Plan to Bring Community Together, Edits Out a Questionable Sentence Minutes Later

Slashdot - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 15:00
Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg wants to bring people closer together. He published a 6,000-word letter on his Facebook page Thursday to outline his vision for the kind of world he thinks Facebook can help create. The free-wielding note included few specifics, but offered a number of broad, ambitious goals for how the tech giant can contribute to a better understanding of everything from terrorism to fake news. Interestingly, minutes after the post was published, Zuckerberg edited out a sentence from the letter. Mashable adds: In the post, Zuckerberg briefly touches on how artificial intelligence can be used to detect terrorist propaganda. "Right now, we're starting to explore ways to use AI to tell the difference between news stories about terrorism and actual terrorist propaganda so we can quickly remove anyone trying to use our services to recruit for a terrorist organization," he wrote in the post published Thursday. That sounds like a straightforward enough application of AI -- one that's in line with what Zuckerberg and other executives have discussed in the past -- but it's different from what the CEO had originally written. In an earlier version of the missive, which was shared with a number of news outlets in advance of its publication on Facebook, Zuckerberg took the idea farther. The "long-term promise of AI," he wrote, is that it can be used used to "identify risks that nobody would have flagged at all, including terrorists planning attacks using private channels." Here's an expanded version of the quote from the Associated Press (emphasis ours). "The long term promise of AI is that in addition to identifying risks more quickly and accurately than would have already happened, it may also identify risks that nobody would have flagged at all â" including terrorists planning attacks using private channels, people bullying someone too afraid to report it themselves, and other issues both local and global. It will take many years to develop these systems." That's different from what was described in the final version that was shared Thursday, which made no mention of private communication in relation to AI and terrorism.

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99.6 Percent of New Smartphones Run Android or iOS

Slashdot - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 14:00
The latest smartphone figures from Gartner show how much iOS and Android are dominating the smartphone market. According to the report, Android and iOS accounted for 99.6 percent of all smartphone sales in the fourth quarter of 2016. For comparison, this figure was 96.8 percent in the second quarter of 2015. The Verge reports: Of the 432 million smartphones sold in the last quarter, 352 million ran Android (81.7 percent) and 77 million ran iOS (17.9 percent), but what happened to the other players? Well, in the same quarter, Windows Phone managed to round up 0.3 percent of the market, while BlackBerry was reduced to a rounding error. The once-great firm sold just over 200,000 units, amounting to 0.0 percent market share. It's worth noting that although, in retrospect, this state of affairs seems inescapable, for years analysts were predicting otherwise. Three years ago, Gartner said that Microsoft's mobile OS would overtake iOS for market share in 2017, while BlackBerry would still be hanging around as sizable (if small) player.

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B Vitamins Reduce Schizophrenia Symptoms, Study Finds

Slashdot - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 11:00
A new study published in the journal Psychological Medicine finds that high doses of B vitamins reduce the symptoms of schizophrenia. Researchers found that using B vitamins, including B6, inositol, and B12 as an adjunctive with antipsychotics significantly improved symptoms of the debilitating condition. Newsmax reports: For the new study, researchers identified 18 clinical trials with a combined total of 832 patients receiving antipsychotic treatment for schizophrenia. They found that B-vitamin interventions which used higher dosages or combined several vitamins were consistently effective for reducing psychiatric symptoms, whereas those which used lower doses were ineffective. The evidence also suggested that B-vitamin supplements were most beneficial when they were added to medicine regimens early after diagnosis.

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Woolly Mammoth On Verge of Resurrection, Scientists Reveal

Slashdot - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 08:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The woolly mammoth vanished from the Earth 4,000 years ago, but now scientists say they are on the brink of resurrecting the ancient beast in a revised form, through an ambitious feat of genetic engineering. Speaking ahead of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston this week, the scientist leading the "de-extinction" effort said the Harvard team is just two years away from creating a hybrid embryo, in which mammoth traits would be programmed into an Asian elephant. "Our aim is to produce a hybrid elephant-mammoth embryo," said Prof George Church. "Actually, it would be more like an elephant with a number of mammoth traits. We're not there yet, but it could happen in a couple of years." The creature, sometimes referred to as a "mammophant," would be partly elephant, but with features such as small ears, subcutaneous fat, long shaggy hair and cold-adapted blood. The mammoth genes for these traits are spliced into the elephant DNA using the powerful gene-editing tool, Crispr. Until now, the team have stopped at the cell stage, but are now moving towards creating embryos -- although, they said that it would be many years before any serious attempt at producing a living creature.

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Scientists Use Stem Cells To Grow Animal-Free Pork In a Lab

Slashdot - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 04:30
A new study published in the journal Scientific Reports describes research "designed to generate muscle from a newly established pig stem-cell line, rather than from primary cells taken directly from a pig," says co-author Dr. Nicholas Genovese, a stem-cell biologist. "This entailed understanding the biology of relatively uncharacterized and recently-derived porcine induced pluripotent stem cell lines. What conditions support cell growth, survival and differentiation? These are all questions I had to figure out in the lab before the cells could be turned into muscle." Digital Trends reports: It may not sound like the most appetizing of foodstuffs, but pig skeletal muscle is in fact the main component of pork. The fact that it could be grown from a stem-cell line, rather than from a whole pig, is a major advance. This is also true of the paper's second big development: the fact that this cultivation of pig skeletal muscle didn't use animal serum, a component which has been used in other livestock muscle cultivation processes. [Genovese] acknowledges that there are other non-food-related possibilities the work hints at. "There is a contingent interest in using the pig as a model to study disease and test regenerative therapies for human conditions," he said.

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PewDiePie Calls Out the 'Old-School Media' For Spiteful Dishonesty

Slashdot - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 02:50
New submitter Shane_Optima writes: After losing his Youtube Red show and his contract with Disney, the owner of the most subscribed channel on Youtube, Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg (aka "PewDiePie"), has released a video response to the Wall Street Journal and other mainstream news outlets, who have labeled his comedy videos variously as racist, fascist or anti-semitic. In it, he accuses the mainstream media of deliberately fabricating and misrepresenting the evidence used against him because they are afraid of independent content producers such as himself. In the video, PewDiePie discusses the recent actions of the Wall Street Journal, whose reporters sent nine cherry-picked and edited videos to Disney, which led directly to Disney's decision to terminate their relationship with him. These video clips and others used to "prove" PewDiePie's guilt have been edited (he claims) to remove all context, to the extent of using a pose of him pointing at something as a Nazi salute and using a clip where other players are creating swastikas in a game and editing out the part where he is asking them to stop. The most-cited video in the controversy involves seeing if he can use the site Fiverr to hire someone to create a video containing an over-the-top message for a mere $5. After a couple of laughing males unfurl a sign saying "Death to All Jews," he recoils with widened eyes and sits, apparently dumbfounded, for another thirty seconds before the video ends, without him uttering another word. PewDiePie's video comes several days after a Tumblr post where he attempted to clarify that the videos were intended to be comedy showing "how crazy the modern world is." He has not yet used the phrase "fake news" in his response to the controversy, but given the current trends surrounding that phrase, it isn't surprising that his supporters are resorting to it frequently. Is this all just another unfortunate instance of collateral damage in the war against far-right political movements, is it a campaign of malicious retaliation by old media that is terrified of new media (as Felix claims), or was J.K. Rowling correct when she called out PewDiePie as a Death Eater? Err, I mean, ...as a fascist?

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Samsung Chief Lee Arrested In Corruption Investigation

Slashdot - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 02:18
According to Reuters, Samsung chief Jay Y. Lee was arrested on Friday over his alleged role in a corruption scandal that led parliament to impeach South Korean President Park Geun-hye. From the report: The 48-year-old Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS), was taken into custody at the Seoul Detention Centre, where he had awaited the court's decision following a day-long, closed-door hearing that ended on Thursday evening. The judge's decision was announced at about 5:30 a.m. (2030 GMT) on Friday, more than 10 hours after Lee, the sprawling conglomerate's third-generation leader, had left the court. The same court rejected a request from prosecutors last month to arrest Lee. On Tuesday, the special prosecutor's office had requested a warrant to arrest him and another executive, Samsung Electronics president Park Sang-jin, on bribery and other charges. The prosecution said it had secured additional evidence and brought more charges against Lee in the latest warrant request. While Lee's detention is not expected to hamper day-to-day operation of Samsung Group companies, which are run by professional managers, experts have said it could affect strategic decision-making by South Korea's biggest conglomerate. Prosecutors have focused their investigations on Samsung's relationship with Park, 65, who was impeached by parliament in December and has been stripped of her powers while the Constitutional Court decides whether to uphold her impeachment. They accused Samsung of paying bribes totaling 43 billion won ($37.74 million) to organizations linked to Choi to secure the government's backing for a merger of two Samsung units. That funding includes Samsung's sponsorship of the equestrian career of Choi's daughter, who is in detention in Denmark, having been on a South Korean wanted list.

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McDonald's Hires Project Ara Design Team To Reinvent the Drinking Straw

Slashdot - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 01:45
An anonymous reader writes: McDonald's has hired the creators of Google's Project Ara to reinvent the drinking straw. Their new invention, the "Suction Tube for Reverse Axial Withdrawal" (STRAW for short), is a J-shaped device that allows the user to drink both layers of the company's dual-layer Chocolate Shamrock shake simultaneously, receiving an optimal mixture of chocolate and, um, shamrock. McDonald's announced the new product at a Facebook live event yesterday, which included a keynote by McDonald's Senior Director of Menu Innovation Darci Forrest, a Silicon-Valley-style panel moderated by Austin Evans, and interviews with engineers from NK Labs and JACE. Computational fluid dynamics simulations, 3D printing, and extensive real-world testing (drinking shakes) were required to get the design ready for its eventual unveiling. McDonald's is producing a limited first run of 2000 of the straws for distribution at restaurants across the U.S. "My first reaction was, that doesn't seem too hard. We could have a double straw -- one longer, one shorter. No problem," says Seth Newburg, principal engineer and managing partner at NK Labs, which teamed up with JACE Design on the STRAW. "Then we immediately thought, once you get halfway down, one straw is going to start sucking air... It's one of those things that seems so simple, but as we got into it there were a lot more issues exposed. It turned out to present quite a few engineering and scientific challenges." NK Labs and JACE Design were the two companies who also worked on Project Ara together, the Google initiative to build a phone with interchangeable modules for various components like cameras and batteries. Unfortunately, the plans for Project Ara were scrapped late last year.

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Scottish Court Awards Damages For CCTV Camera Pointed At Neighbor's House

Slashdot - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 01:05
AmiMoJo quotes a report from BoingBoing: Edinburgh's Nahid Akram installed a CCTV system that let him record his downstairs neighbors Debbie and Tony Woolley in their back garden, capturing both images and audio of their private conversations, with a system that had the capacity to record continuously for five days. A Scottish court has ruled that the distress caused by their neighbor's camera entitled the Woolleys to $21,000 (17,000 British Pounds) in damages, without the need for them to demonstrate any actual financial loss. The judgment builds on a 2015 English court ruling against Google for spying on logged out Safari users, where the users were not required to show financial losses to receive compensation for private surveillance.

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AT&T Is the Latest Carrier To Offer Unlimited Data For All Its Customers

Slashdot - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 00:20
Earlier this week, Verizon announced it is bringing back unlimited data plans after years of selling capped data packages. Now, ATT will be doing the same. ATT will let any current or potential customer buy an unlimited data plan. Until now, only DirecTV customers were able to purchase unlimited data from the carrier. PhoneDog reports: ATT says that starting tomorrow, February 17, its Unlimited Plan will be available to all customers. The plan will include unlimited data, talk, and text, and customers with the plan will also be able to travel to Canada or Mexico and use their plan just as they would at home, with zero roaming charges. ATT's Unlimited Plan also includes Stream Saver, which will optimize video streams to 480p. However, Stream Saver can be disabled if you'd like. One feature that's missing from ATT's Unlimited Plan is mobile hotspot usage, which is notable because the unlimited plans from the other three major U.S. carriers do include some mobile hotspot. Finally, it's worth noting that after 22GB of usage, ATT Unlimited Plan customers may have their speeds slowed during times of network congestion. This policy is also in place at the other three major U.S. carriers, with Verizon's threshold being 22GB, Sprint's 23GB, and T-Mobile's 26GB. A single line on the ATT Unlimited Plan will cost $100 per month. Each additional line will cost $40, but ATT will offer the fourth line free, making the cost for a family of four $180 per month.

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Swedish Court Rules: 'Block the Pirate Bay For Next 3 Years'

Slashdot - Thu, 02/16/2017 - 23:40
"In 2014, many film studios teamed up to force the Swedish ISP Bredbandsbolaget to block the popular torrent website The Pirate Bay," reports Fossbytes. "It was also said that ISPs should be blocked if they refused to block copyright infringing websites." Now, a Swedish Patent and Market Court of Appeal has ordered The Pirate Bay and streaming portal Swefilmer to be blocked by Bredbandsbolaget for the next three years. Fossbytes reports: The court overruled the earlier ruling of the District Court, ordering the ISP to employ some technical measures to stop its customers from accessing the website and its different URLs. The court said that a blocking injunction would be proportional "in the light of EU law." Notably, under the EU law, it's possible for the copyright owners to get an injunction against the ISPs whose services are used to pirate content. This verdict is the first of its kind in Sweden, but similar injunctions have been announced in the past in other European nations. This ruling also opens new doorways for the copyright holders to target more torrent websites in the near future. Pirate Bay spokesperson Peter Sunde said in a statement to TorrentFreak: "The fight is not about TPB -- the users of TPB can just bypass this blockade easily. It's about the slippery slope it brings."

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FCC Chairman Wants It To Be Easier To Listen To Free FM Radio On Your Smartphone

Slashdot - Thu, 02/16/2017 - 23:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Recode: Your smartphone has an FM radio in it, only it's unlikely that you're able to use it. That's because in the U.S., less than half of phones actually have the FM tuner turned on. But FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who just recently assumed the top position at the regulatory agency under President Trump, thinks that should change. In remarks made to the North American Broadcasters Association yesterday, Pai said that it's a public safety issue. Both the former head of the Federal Emergency Management Association and an FCC advisory panel on public safety have advocated for turning on the FM radio capabilities in smartphones, since radio is a reliable source of information when internet or cellphone networks go down in severe weather. Although Pai thinks smartphones should have the FM chip turned on, he doesn't think the government should mandate it: "As a believer in free markets and the rule of law, I cannot support a government mandate requiring activation of these chips. I don't believe the FCC has the power to issue a mandate like that, and more generally I believe it's best to sort this issue out in the marketplace."

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Google Fiber Sheds Workers As It Looks to a Wireless Future

Slashdot - Thu, 02/16/2017 - 22:20
Mariella Moon, writing for Engadget: Alphabet is making some huge changes to steer Google Fiber in a new, more wireless direction. According to Wired, the corporation has reassigned hundreds of Fiber employees to other parts of the company and those who remained will mostly work in the field. It has also hired broadband veteran Greg McCray as the new CEO for Access, the division that runs Google Fiber. These changes don't exactly come out of left field: back in October, Google announced that it's pausing the high-speed internet's expansion to new markets and that it's firing nine percent of the service's staff. Wired says running fiber optic cables into people's homes has become too expensive for the company. A Recode report last year says it costs Mountain View $1 billion to bring Fiber to a new market.

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Tech Jobs Took a Big Hit Last Year

Slashdot - Thu, 02/16/2017 - 21:40
Barb Darrow, writing for Fortune: Tech jobs took it on the chin last year. Layoffs at computer, electronics, and telecommunications companies were up 21 percent to 96,017 jobs cut in 2016, compared to 79,315 the prior year. Tech layoffs accounted for 18 percent of the total 526,915 U.S. job cuts announced in 2016, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a global outplacement firm based in Chicago. Of the 2016 total, some 66,821 of the layoffs came from computer companies, up 7% year over year. Challenger attributed much of that increase to cuts made by Dell Technologies, the entity formed by the $63 billion convergence of Dell and EMC. In preparation for that combination, layoffs were instituted across EMC and its constituent companies, including VMware.

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CloudFlare Puts Pirate Sites on New IP Addresses, Avoids Cogent Blockade

Slashdot - Thu, 02/16/2017 - 21:00
Earlier this month, several users worldwide reported that they were unable to access pirate websites including the Pirate Bay. It was because the internet backbone network of Cogent Communications had blackholed the CloudFlare IP-address of pirate websites. Less than a week later, CloudFlare is fighting back. From a report on TorrentFreak: The Pirate Bay and dozens of other pirate sites that were blocked by Cogent's Internet backbone are now accessible again. CloudFlare appears to have moved the sites in question to a new pair of IP-addresses, effectively bypassing Cogent's blackhole. [...] As of yesterday, the sites in question have been assigned the IP-addresses 104.31.16.3 and 104.31.17.3, still grouped together. Most, if not all of the sites, are blocked by court order in the UK so this is presumably done to prevent ISP overblocking of 'regular' CloudFlare subscribers.

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YouTube Has 1 Billion Videos With Closed-Captioning (But Not All of Them Are Accurate)

Slashdot - Thu, 02/16/2017 - 20:20
Over a billion videos on YouTube are accessible to viewers with difficulties in hearing, thanks to the video giant's automated captions, it said Thursday. From a report on Variety: That certainly sounds impressive -- except when you realize that many of the site's automatically generated captions aren't completely right. The Google-owned video giant first launched captions back in 2006, and three years later introduced automatic speech recognition to add closed-captioning to YouTube content. Today, YouTube users watch video with auto-generated captions more than 15 million times per day. But the system is prone to errors. For example, the trailer for Amazon Studio's Oscar-nominated "Manchester by the Sea" (at this link) includes numerous inaccuracies in the auto-transcribed captions, sometimes to hilarious -- not to mention frustrating -- effect.

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