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Samsung Says Over 96% of Galaxy Note7 Phones Returned To Date

Slashdot - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 20:22
Samsung said today that over 96 percent of all Galaxy Note7 phones have been returned following a recall that started in September. From a report: First introduced in August, the latest Note7 smartphone received positive reviews until reports surfaced that some devices caught fire after their batteries exploded. After a "thorough inspection" of its phones, Samsung opted to issue a mandatory recall, but only after the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued its own recall notice. Achieving a 96 percent return rate took about four months, but it wasn't all done organically, as Samsung revealed in December that it would issue a software update to permanently disable charging on the outstanding Note7s. Until that point, the company had received 85 percent of affected devices.

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Google is Killing Its Solar-Powered Internet Drone Program

Slashdot - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 19:40
An anonymous reader writes: Google's "moonshot" X division is ending its Titan drone program, which planned to use solar-powered drones to beam internet down to earth. Google bought Titan Aerospace in 2014. The company was developing solar-powered drones that could fly for several days at a time and take images of earth or beam down internet. When Google reorganized into Alphabet in 2015, Titan was folded into X, the Alphabet division that focuses on wild tech projects in hopes of stumbling on the next big thing.

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Streaming TV is Beginning To Look a Lot Like Cable

Slashdot - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 19:03
The advent of streaming TV services and over the top devices that support them has come at a cost. They used to work on a simple, unwritten principle: being different from normal cable services. You didn't have to pay for large, non-configurable bundles of channels that played shows in linear fashion and required you to use a digital video recorder built into the box (often for an extra fee) if you wanted to create your own collection of programming to watch on your own schedule. But that's not the case anymore, argues veteran technology columnist Walt Mossberg. He writes: The general idea is that each of these TV services will appeal to cord-cutters and cord-nevers who merely consider old-style cable and satellite TV too costly. To overcome that, each offers what are called "skinny bundles" of channels, with fewer choices, at various prices. On Sling, for instance, you start at about 30 channels for $20 a month. On DirecTV Now, it's 60 channels for $35 a month. Both offer other, costlier plans, with more channels, or add-on plans for HBO, or for specialized programming such as sports, or kids' shows. Both are working on DVR offerings. In other words, while the bundles may be cheaper and skinnier, they're still bundles, not unlike the tiers of programming offered by traditional cable and satellite services. And you can't assemble your own custom bundle. Also, unlike in the Netflix / Hulu model, the emphasis here is on networks, not shows.

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AMD Set To Launch Ryzen Before March 3rd

Slashdot - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 18:20
An anonymous reader shares an AnandTech report: Thanks to some sleuthing from various readers, AMD has accidentally let the cat out of the bag with regards to the official Ryzen launch date. While they haven't specifically given an exact date, the talk to be given by AMD at the annual Game Developer Conference (GDC) says the following: "Join AMD Game Engineering team members for an introduction to the recently-launched AMD Ryzen CPU followed by advanced optimization topics." The GDC event runs from February 27th to March 3rd, and currently the AMD talk is not on the exact schedule yet, so it could appear any day during the event (so be wary if anyone says Feb 27th). At this time AMD has not disclosed an exact date either, but it would be an interesting time to announce the new set of Ryzen CPUs right in the middle of both GDC and Mobile World Congress which is also during that week. It would mean that Ryzen news may end up being buried under other GDC and smartphone announcements.

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Instagram Stories Hits 150M Active Users, Adds Advertising To Instagram Stories

Slashdot - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 17:40
An anonymous reader writes: Instagram Stories now has as many users as the last number announced by Snapchat, the app Instagram copied. And it's swiftly moving to monetize that massive audience. Along with the new 150 million daily user stat, Instagram today announced the launch of ads mixed into Stories. The unclickable 5-second photo and 15-second video ads appear between different people's stories and can be easily skipped. Instagram will also provide business accounts with analytics on the reach, impressions, replies and exits of their Stories.

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Wireless Headphone Sales Soared After Apple Dropped Headphone Jack

Slashdot - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 17:00
Apple's decision to remove the headphone jack from new iPhones last year prompted lots of consumers to switch to wireless headphones, according to a new report on holiday shopping. From a report: Three-quarters of all headphones sold online in December were wireless models, up from 50% a year earlier, according to shopping tracker Slice Intelligence. Apple was the biggest beneficiary of the shift, as both its new AirPods earphones and models from its Beats subsidiary led the sales charts. The $159 AirPods, Apple's first wireless model sold under its own brand, didn't go on sale until Dec. 13, but the product quickly dominated the wireless headphone market, Slice found. In the year prior to the debut, the Beats brand topped online sales of wireless models with a 24% market share, trailed by Bose with an 11% share and Jaybird at 8%. But after AirPods went on sale, they grabbed 26% of online wireless sales, Slice found. Bose was second at 16% and Beats dropped to third with 15% of the market during the period considered.

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Amazon Now Gives Away 5,000 Bananas a Day

Slashdot - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 16:20
An anonymous reader writes: When thinking up ways to give back to its home city, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos decided to give out free bananas. That was in December 2015, when Amazon first launched the Community Banana Stand, handing out bananas to whoever wants a snack. Over a year later, Amazon has handed out over a million bananas to the Lake Union and Denny Regrade communities in Seattle, averaging almost 5,000 a day, the company said recently. By comparison, Seattle was home to just 662,400 people in 2015, according to the city's Office of Planning and Community Development. Employees and non-employees are welcome to grab one, or even more, of the fruit.

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Regulators Criticize Banks For Lending Uber $1.15 Billion

Slashdot - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 15:40
Federal regulators criticized several Wall Street banks over the handling of a $1.15 billion loan they helped arrange for Uber this past summer, reports Reuters, citing people with knowledge of the matter. From the report: Led by Morgan Stanley, the banks helped the ride-sharing network tap the leveraged loan market in July for the first time, persuading institutional investors to focus on its lofty valuation and established markets rather than its losses in countries such as China and India. The Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), which are trying to reign in risky lending across Wall Street, took issue with the way in which the banks carved out Uber's more mature operations from the rest of the business, the people said.

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Amazon Still Lags Behind Apple, Google in Greenpeace Renewable Energy Report

Slashdot - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 15:00
Amazon's cloud-computing unit says that one day it will rely solely on renewable power. But Greenpeace reports that a ramp-up in data-center construction in Virginia, where electricity comes mostly from coal and nuclear plants, makes that goal elusive. From the report: Apple, Google, Facebook, and newcomer Switch are taking some of the greatest strides towards 100% renewable energy, while companies such as Netflix, Amazon Web Services, and Samsung are lagging. The findings in Greenpeace USA's report outlines the energy footprints of large data center operators and nearly 70 of the most popular websites and applications. "Amazon continues to talk a good game on renewables but is keeping its customers in the dark on its energy decisions. This is concerning, particularly as Amazon expands into markets served by dirty energy," said Greenpeace USA Senior IT Analyst, Gary Cook. "Like Apple, Facebook, and Google, Netflix is one of the biggest drivers of the online world and has a critical say in how it is powered. Netflix must embrace the responsibility to make sure its growth is powered by renewables, not fossil fuels and it must show its leadership here," continued Cook.

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Alcohol Switches the Brain Into Starvation Mode In Mice, Increasing Hunger and Appetite, Study Finds

Slashdot - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 14:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: In tests on mice, alcohol activated the brain signals that tell the body to eat more food. The UK researchers, who report their findings in the journal Nature Communications, believe the same is probably true in humans. The mice were given generous doses of alcohol for three days -- a dose being equivalent to around 18 units or a bottle-and-a-half of wine for a person. The alcohol caused increased activity in neurons called AGRP. These are the neurons that are fired when the body experiences starvation. The mice ate more than normal too. When the researchers repeated the experiment but blocked the neurons with a drug, the mice did not eat as much which, the researchers say, suggests that AGRP neurons are responsible for the alcohol-induced eating. The study authors, Denis Burdakov and colleagues, say understanding how alcohol changes the body and our behavior could help with managing obesity. Around two-thirds of adults in the UK are overweight or obese.

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Monopoly May Replace Iconic Pieces With Emoji Faces and Hashtags

Slashdot - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 11:00
Hasbro, the toymaker behind Monopoly, is letting the public decide whether or not they should replace the game's iconic game pieces with new pieces inspired by pop culture and social media. CNNMoney reports: Gamers can visit the Vote Monopoly site and choose from more than 50 new options. The old tokens, including the thimble, top hat and Scottie dog, are also on the table. The voting takes place inside a digital house with shelves and furniture stocked with both classic and newfangled token options. Jazzy music plays in the background as you explore and take a closer look at the figurines. Some aren't too surprising. There's a horse, a sailboat, an airplane, a bike and a helicopter. Two of the stranger options are sliced bread and a fuzzy bunny slipper. Hasbro is offering up a number of tokens that may appeal to tech consumers. There's a cell phone that looks like it came out of the '80s, a television that looks very '50s, and a computer with keyboard that vaguely resembles the first flat-screen iMac. Internet denizens can also vote for a hashtag and emoji options, including a winking smiley-face, thumbs-up symbol, crying-laughing face and a Rich Uncle Pennybags version of an emoji face. Voting is open to internet users worldwide until January 31. The chosen tokens will be part of a fresh Monopoly game due to hit stores this summer, so think long and hard about whether you want to stare at a kissy-face emoji for the next decade or so. A special edition called Token Madness will offer the original tokens as well as the new winners.

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An Asteroid Passed By Earth At About Half the Distance Between Our Planet and Moon

Slashdot - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 08:00
On Monday at 7:47 A.M. EST, an asteroid thought to be between 36 and 111 feet wide passed roughly 120,000 miles from Earth -- and astronomers didn't spot it until Saturday. Smithsonian reports: According to astronomer Eric Edelman at the Slooh Observatory, 2017 AG13 is an Aten asteroid, or a space rock with an orbital distance from the sun similar to that of Earth. AG13 also has a particularly elliptical orbit, which means that as it circles the sun it also crosses through the orbits of both Venus and Earth. Lucky for us, 2017 AG13 wasn't a planet killer; according to Wall, the asteroid was in the size range of the space rock that exploded in Earth's atmosphere over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February, 2013. According to Deborah Byrd at EarthSky, that meteor exploded 12 miles in the atmosphere, releasing 30 times the energy of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb. Not only did it break windows in six cities, it also sent 1,500 people to the hospital. That meteor also came out of the blue, and researchers are still trying to figure out its orbit and track down its origins. While 2017 AG13 would have caused minor damage if it hit Earth, the close call highlights the dangers of asteroids.

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Why You Shouldn't Trust Geek Squad

Slashdot - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 04:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Network World: The Orange County Weekly reports that Best Buy's "Geek Squad" repair technicians routinely search devices brought in for repair for files that could earn them $500 reward as FBI informants. This revelation came out in a court case, United States of America v. Mark A. Rettenmaier. Rettenmaier is a prominent Orange County physician and surgeon who took his laptop to the Mission Viejo Best Buy in November 2011 after he was unable to start it. According to court records, Geek Squad technician John "Trey" Westphal found an image of "a fully nude, white prepubescent female on her hands and knees on a bed, with a brown choker-type collar around her neck." Westphal notified his boss, who was also an FBI informant, who alerted another FBI informant -- as well as the FBI itself. The FBI has pretty much guaranteed the case will be thrown out by its behavior, this illegal search aside. According to Rettenmaier's defense attorney, agents conducted two additional searches of the computer without obtaining necessary warrants, lied to trick a federal magistrate judge into authorizing a search warrant for his home, then tried to cover up their misdeeds by initially hiding records. Plus, the file was found in the unallocated "trash" space, meaning it could only be retrieved by "carving" with sophisticated forensics tools. Carving (or file carving) is defined as searching for files or other kinds of objects based on content, rather than on metadata. It's used to recover old files that have been deleted or damaged. To prove child pornography, you have to prove the possessor knew what he had was indeed child porn. There has been a court case where files found on unallocated space did not constitute knowing possession because it's impossible to determine who put the file there and how, since it's not accessible to the user under normal circumstances.

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MIT Unveils New Material That's Strongest and Lightest On Earth

Slashdot - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 02:25
A team of MIT researchers have created the world's strongest and lightest material known to man using graphene. Futurism reports: Graphene, which was heretofore, the strongest material known to man, is made from an extremely thin sheet of carbon atoms arranged in two dimensions. But there's one drawback: while notable for its thinness and unique electrical properties, it's very difficult to create useful, three-dimensional materials out of graphene. Now, a team of MIT researchers discovered that taking small flakes of graphene and fusing them following a mesh-like structure not only retains the material's strength, but the graphene also remains porous. Based on experiments conducted on 3D printed models, researchers have determined that this new material, with its distinct geometry, is actually stronger than graphene -- making it 10 times stronger than steel, with only five percent of its density. The discovery of a material that is extremely strong but exceptionally lightweight will have numerous applications. As MIT reports: "The new findings show that the crucial aspect of the new 3-D forms has more to do with their unusual geometrical configuration than with the material itself, which suggests that similar strong, lightweight materials could be made from a variety of materials by creating similar geometric features."

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Sonos CEO John MacFarlene Steps Down From the Company He Helped Found

Slashdot - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 01:45
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: After nearly a decade and a half as the chief executive officer of the hardware company he cofounded, John MacFarlane has announced his resignation as the head of Sonos. The move had reportedly been planned for some time, with the executive citing a number of personal reasons. That decision was delayed, however, due in part to increased and unexpected competition by Amazon's line of Echo speakers, which cut into Sonos' bottom line. "The pivot that Sonos started at this time last year to best address these changes is complete, now it's about acceleration and leading," MacFarlane wrote in an open letter published on the Sonos site. "I can look ahead and see the role of Sonos, with the right experiences, partners, and focus, with a healthy future. In short, the future of the home music experience, and the opportunity for Sonos has never been better." The role of CEO will be filled by Patrick Spence, who is currently serving as the company's President, after four years as COO and stints at RIM (BlackBerry) and IBM Canada. MacFarlane will be staying on at the Santa Barbara-based streaming hardware company in a consulting role, but will also be resigning his job on its board of directors, telling The New York Times, "I don't want to be that founder who's always second-guessing."

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Microsoft To Enhance User Privacy Controls In Upcoming Windows 10 Update

Slashdot - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 01:05
MojoKid writes: When Microsoft first launched Windows 10, it was generally well-received but also came saddled with a number of privacy concerns. It has taken quite a while for Microsoft to respond to these concerns in a meaningful way, but the company is finally proving that it's taking things seriously by detailing some enhanced privacy features coming to a future Windows 10 build. Microsoft is launching what it calls a (web-based) privacy dashboard, which lets you configure anything and everything about information that might be sent to back to the mothership. You can turn all tracking off, or pick and choose, if certain criteria don't concern you too much, like location or health activity, for example. Also, for fresh installs, you'll be given more specific privacy options so that you can feel confident from the get-go about the information you're sending Redmond's way. If you do decide to send any information Microsoft's way, the company promises that it won't use your information for the sake of targeted advertising.

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LinkedIn's and eBay's Founders Are Donating $20 Million To Protect Us From AI

Slashdot - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 00:25
Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, and Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, have each committed $10 million to fund academic research and development aimed at keeping artificial intelligence systems ethical and to prevent building AI that may harm society. Recode reports: The fund received an additional $5 million from the Knight Foundation and two other $1 million donations from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Jim Pallotta, founder of the Raptor Group. The $27 million reserve is being anchored by MIT's Media Lab and Harvard's Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. The Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Fund, the name of the fund, expects to grow as new funders continue to come on board. AI systems work by analyzing massive amounts of data, which is first profiled and categorized by humans, with all their prejudices and biases in tow. The money will pay for research to investigate how socially responsible artificially intelligent systems can be designed to, say, keep computer programs that are used to make decisions in fields like education, transportation and criminal justice accountable and fair. The group also hopes to explore ways to talk with the public about and foster understanding of the complexities of artificial intelligence. The two universities will form a governing body along with Hoffman and the Omidyar Network to distribute the funds. The $20 million from Hoffman and the Omidyar Network are being given as a philanthropic grant -- not an investment vehicle.

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AT&T Imposes Another $5 Rate Hike On Grandfathered Unlimited Data Plans

Slashdot - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 23:45
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: ATT is raising the price of its grandfathered unlimited data plans by $5 a month, the second such increase in the past year. The price increase affects longtime mobile customers who have held onto unlimited data plans for years after ATT stopped selling them to new subscribers. The latest price increase was reported by DSLReports yesterday, and ATT confirmed the move to Ars. "If you have a legacy unlimited data plan, you can keep it; however, beginning in March 2017, it will increase by $5 per month," ATT said. The unlimited data price had been $30 a month for seven years, until ATT raised it to $35 in February 2016. The price increase this year will bring it up to $40. That amount is just for data: Including voice and texting, the smartphone plans cost around $90 a month. ATT encouraged customers to move to one of its new plans, most of which have data limits, saying the newer packages "provide several benefits that our legacy unlimited plan doesn't." For example, the newer plans support mobile hotspot connections allowing a phone's Internet service to be shared with another device. ATT had stopped selling unlimited smartphone data to new customers and to customers who are switching plans, but last year introduced a new unlimited plan that's available only to people who also subscribe to DirecTV or U-verse TV.

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Pentagon Successfully Tests Micro-Drone Swarm

Slashdot - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 23:05
schwit1 quotes a report from Phys.Org: The Pentagon may soon be unleashing a 21st-century version of locusts on its adversaries after officials on Monday said it had successfully tested a swarm of 103 micro-drones. The important step in the development of new autonomous weapon systems was made possible by improvements in artificial intelligence, holding open the possibility that groups of small robots could act together under human direction. Military strategists have high hopes for such drone swarms that would be cheap to produce and able to overwhelm opponents' defenses with their great numbers. The test of the micro-drone swarm in October included 103 Perdix micro-drones measuring around six inches (16 centimeters) launched from three F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets, the Pentagon said in a statement.

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Apple Patent Paves Way For iPhone With Full-Face Display, HUD Windows

Slashdot - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 22:25
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Apple Insider: Apple on Tuesday was granted a patent detailing technology that allows for ear speakers, cameras and even a heads-up display to hide behind an edge-to-edge screen, a design rumored to debut in a next-generation iPhone later this year. Awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple's U.S. Patent No. 9,543,364 for "Electronic devices having displays with openings" describes a method by which various components can be mounted behind perforations in a device screen that are so small as to be imperceptible to the human eye. This arrangement would allow engineers to design a smartphone or tablet with a true edge-to-edge, or "full face," display. With smartphones becoming increasingly more compact, there has been a push to move essential components behind the active -- or light-emitting -- area of incorporated displays. Apple in its patent suggests mounting sensors and other equipment behind a series of openings, or through-holes, in the active portion of an OLED or similar panel. These openings might be left empty or, if desired, filled with glass, polymers, radio-transparent ceramic or other suitable material. Positioning sensor inputs directly in line with said openings facilitates the gathering of light, radio waves and acoustic signals. Microphones, cameras, antennas, light sensors and other equipment would therefore have unimpeded access beyond the display layer. The design also accommodates larger structures like iPhone's home button. According to the document, openings are formed between pixels, suggesting a self-illuminating display technology like OLED is preferred over traditional LCD structures that require backlight and filter layers. Hole groupings can be arranged in various shapes depending on the application, and might be larger or smaller than the underlying component. If implemented into a future iPhone, the window-based HUD could be Apple's first foray into augmented reality. Apple leaves the mechanics unmentioned, but the system could theoretically go beyond AR and into mixed reality applications.

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