Intel

Intel Has Axed the Group Working on Fitness Trackers and Health Wearables (cnbc.com) 2

Intel has axed the division that worked on health wearables, including fitness trackers, CNBC is reporting citing a source. From the report: The company has been slowly de-emphasizing its own line of wearables for the past several years, and has not mentioned wearables on its earnings calls since 2014. In November, TechCrunch reported that the company was planning to take a step back from the business after its acquisition of the Basis fitness watch didn't pan out as expected. Intel denied at the time that it was stepping back. But a source told CNBC that the chip maker in fact let go about 80 percent of the Basis group in November. Many of the people were given the opportunity to relocate to other parts of the business. About two weeks ago, Intel completely eliminated the group, this person said. The company's New Technologies Group, which looks at cutting-edge business areas, is now focusing on augmented reality, another source told CNBC.
United States

US Ends Controversial Laptop Ban On Flights From Middle East (theguardian.com) 18

The United States has ended a four-month ban on passengers carrying laptops onboard US-bound flights from certain airports in the Middle East and North Africa, bringing to an end one of the controversial travel restrictions imposed by President Donald Trump's administration. From a report: Riyadh's King Khalid international airport was the last of 10 airports to be exempted from the ban, the US department of homeland security (DHS) confirmed in a tweet late on Wednesday local time. Middle East carriers have blamed Trump's travel restrictions, which include banning citizens of some Muslim-majority countries from visiting the United States, for a downturn in demand on US routes. In March, the United States banned large electronics in cabins on flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa over concerns that explosives could be concealed in the devices taken onboard aircraft. The ban has been lifted on the nine airlines affected -- Emirates, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Royal Jordanian , Kuwait Airways, EgyptAir and Royal Air Maroc -- which are the only carriers to fly direct to the US from the region. A ban on citizens of six Muslim-majority countries -- Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, -- remains in place, though has been limited after several US court hearings challenged the restrictions.
Government

US House Panel Approves Broad Proposal On Self-Driving Cars (reuters.com) 67

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: A U.S. House panel on Wednesday approved a sweeping proposal by voice vote to allow automakers to deploy up to 100,000 self-driving vehicles without meeting existing auto safety standards and bar states from imposing driverless car rules. Representative Robert Latta, a Republican who heads the Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee overseeing consumer protection, said he would continue to consider changes before the full committee votes on the measure, expected next week. The full U.S. House of Representatives will not take up the bill until it reconvenes in September after the summer recess. The measure, which would be the first significant federal legislation aimed at speeding self-driving cars to market, would require automakers to submit safety assessment reports to U.S. regulators, but would not require pre-market approval of advanced vehicle technologies. Automakers would have to show self-driving cars "function as intended and contain fail safe features" to get exemptions from safety standards but the Transportation Department could not "condition deployment or testing of highly automated vehicles on review of safety assessment certifications," the draft measure unveiled late Monday said.
Mars

SpaceX Pulls the Plug On Its Red Dragon Plans (arstechnica.com) 99

SpaceX has largely confirmed the rumors that the company is no longer planning to send an uncrewed version of its Dragon spacecraft to Mars in 2020, or later. Ars Technica reports: The company had planned to use the propulsive landing capabilities on the Dragon 2 spacecraft -- originally developed for the commercial crew variant to land on Earth -- for Mars landings in 2018 or 2020. Previously, it had signed an agreement with NASA to use some of its expertise for such a mission and access its deep-space communications network. On Tuesday, however, during a House science subcommittee hearing concerning future NASA planetary science missions, Florida Representative Bill Posey asked what the agency was doing to support privately developed planetary science programs. Jim Green, who directs NASA's planetary science division, mentioned several plans about the Moon and asteroids, but he conspicuously did not mention Red Dragon. After this hearing, SpaceX spokesman John Taylor didn't return a response to questions from Ars about the future of Red Dragon. Then, during a speech Wednesday at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference, Musk confirmed that the company is no longer working to land Dragon propulsively for commercial crew.

"Yeah, that was a tough decision," Musk acknowledged Wednesday with a sigh. "The reason we decided not to pursue that heavily is that it would have taken a tremendous amount of effort to qualify that for safety for crew transport," Musk explained Wednesday. "There was a time when I thought the Dragon approach to landing on Mars, where you've got a base heat shield and side mounted thrusters, would be the right way to land on Mars. But now I'm pretty confident that is not the right way." Musk added that his company has come up with a "far better" approach to landing on Mars that will be incorporated into the next iteration of the company's proposed Mars transportation hardware.

AI

Researchers Have Figured Out How To Fake News Video With AI (qz.com) 73

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: A team of computer scientists at the University of Washington have used artificial intelligence to render visually convincing videos of Barack Obama saying things he's said before, but in a totally new context. In a paper published this month, the researchers explained their methodology: Using a neural network trained on 17 hours of footage of the former U.S. president's weekly addresses, they were able to generate mouth shapes from arbitrary audio clips of Obama's voice. The shapes were then textured to photorealistic quality and overlaid onto Obama's face in a different "target" video. Finally, the researchers retimed the target video to move Obama's body naturally to the rhythm of the new audio track. In their paper, the researchers pointed to several practical applications of being able to generate high quality video from audio, including helping hearing-impaired people lip-read audio during a phone call or creating realistic digital characters in the film and gaming industries. But the more disturbing consequence of such a technology is its potential to proliferate video-based fake news. Though the researchers used only real audio for the study, they were able to skip and reorder Obama's sentences seamlessly and even use audio from an Obama impersonator to achieve near-perfect results. The rapid advancement of voice-synthesis software also provides easy, off-the-shelf solutions for compelling, falsified audio. You can view the demo here: "Synthesizing Obama: Learning Lib Sync from Audio"
Piracy

Game of Thrones Pirates Being Monitored By HBO, Warnings On The Way (torrentfreak.com) 218

HBO is leaving no stones unturned in keeping Game of Thrones' piracy under control. The company is monitoring various popular torrent swarms and sending thousands of warnings targeted at internet subscribers whose connections are used to share the season 7 premiere of the popular TV series, reports TorrentFreak: Soon after the first episode of the new season appeared online Sunday evening, the company's anti-piracy partner IP Echelon started sending warnings targeted at torrenting pirates. The warnings in question include the IP-addresses of alleged BitTorrent users and ask the associated ISPs to alert their subscribers, in order to prevent further infringements. "We have information leading us to believe that the IP address xx.xxx.xxx.xx was used to download or share Game of Thrones without authorization," the notification begins. "HBO owns the copyright or exclusive rights to Game of Thrones, and the unauthorized download or distribution constitutes copyright infringement. Downloading unauthorized or unknown content is also a security risk for computers, devices, and networks." Under US copyright law, ISPs are not obligated to forward these emails, which are sent as a DMCA notification. However, many do as a courtesy to the affected rightsholders. The warnings are not targeted at a single swarm but cover a wide variety of torrents. TorrentFreak has already seen takedown notices for the following files, but it's likely that many more are being tracked.
Bitcoin

Ethereum Co-Founder Says Cryptocurrencies Are 'a Ticking Time Bomb' (bloomberg.com) 52

randomErr writes from a report via Business Insider (alternate source): Ethereum, the rival to bitcoin, has been on a tear. Its founders said the latest trend in the cryptocurrency space may not be as good for the cryptocurrency as some might think. Ethereum is up 1,700% over the last year, and that spike has occurred in tandem with the growth of the hottest new trend in fundraising: initial coin offerings. Approximately $1.2 billion has been raised by the new cryptocurrency-based capital raising method this year, according to Autonomous Next, a financial technology analytics service. It is a trend that has sparked excitement across Wall Street. But the cofounder of the company behind the cryptocurrency, Charles Hoskinson, told Bloomberg that initial coin offerings may not benefit Ethereum. "People say ICOs are great for ethereum because, look at the price, but it's a ticking time-bomb," said Hoskinson. "There's an over-tokenization of things as companies are issuing tokens when the same tasks can be achieved with existing blockchains. People are blinded by fast and easy money."
Security

Hacker Steals $30 Million Worth of Ethereum From Parity Multi-Sig Wallets (bleepingcomputer.com) 55

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: An unknown hacker has used a vulnerability in an Ethereum wallet client to steal over 153,000 Ether, worth over $30 million dollars. The hack was possible due to a flaw in the Parity Ethereum client. The vulnerability allowed the hacker to exfiltrate funds from multi-sig wallets created with Parity clients 1.5 and later. Parity 1.5 was released on January 19, 2017. The attack took place around 19:00-20:00 UTC and was immediately spotted by Parity, a company founded by Gavin Wood, Ethereum's founder. The company issued a security alert on its blog. The Ether stolen from Parity multi-sig accounts was transferred into this Ethereum wallet, currently holding 153,017.021336727 Ether. Because Parity spotted the attack in time, a group named "The White Hat Group" used the same vulnerability to drain the rest of Ether stored in other Parity wallets that have not yet been stolen by the hacker. This money now resides in this Ethereum wallet. According to messages posted on Reddit and in a Gitter chat, The White Hat Group appears to be formed of security researchers and members of the Ethereum Project that have taken it into their own hands to secure funds in vulnerable wallets. Based on a message the group posted online, they plan to return the funds they took. Their wallet currently holds 377,116.819319439311671493 Ether, which is over $76 million.
The Military

Navy Unveils First Active Laser Weapon In Persian Gulf (cnn.com) 267

schwit1 shares a report from CNN: In the sometimes hostile waters of the Persian Gulf looms the U.S. Navy's first -- in fact, the world's first -- active laser weapon. The LaWS, an acronym for Laser Weapons System, is not science fiction. It is not experimental. It is deployed on board the USS Ponce amphibious transport ship, ready to be fired at targets today and every day by Capt. Christopher Wells and his crew. It costs "about a dollar a shot" to fire, said Lt. Cale Hughes, laser weapons system officer. LaWS begins with an advantage no other weapon ever invented comes even close to matching. It moves, by definition, at the speed of light. For comparison, that is 50,000 times the speed of an incoming ICBM. For the test, the USS Ponce crew launched the target -- a drone aircraft, a weapon in increasing use by Iran, North Korea, China, Russia and other adversaries. In an instant, the drone's wing lit up, heated to a temperature of thousands of degrees, lethally damaging the aircraft and sending it hurtling down to the sea. "It operates in an invisible part of the electromagnetic spectrum so you don't see the beam, it doesn't make any sound, it's completely silent and it's incredibly effective at what it does," said Hughes.
Facebook

Facebook Is Looking Into Allowing Paywall For Selected Media Stories (techcrunch.com) 33

New submitter sarbonn writes: Facebook is testing whether or not it can start charging for stories by placing a paywall that appears after ten stories have been viewed from one of its media sources. An interesting takeaway is that Facebook would like to do this by avoiding the mandatory 30 percent cut that Apple and Google get from their stores by going around their app stores. This is being targeted for around October. The news comes from Campbell Brown, who heads Facebook's new partnerships business. "We are in early talks with several news publishers about how we might better support subscription business models on Facebook. As part of the Facebook Journalism Project, we are taking the time to work closely together with our partners and understand their needs," Brown told TechCrunch in a statement via a spokesperson.
Government

Russia Is Investigating Fidget Spinners After Reports Claim They 'Zombify' Youth (theverge.com) 131

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: In a recent report, Russia-24, a state-owned news channel, suggests that fidget spinners are being used by Russian opposition parties in order to recruit young people. As reported by The New York Times, the reporters in Russia-24's initial story say, "It is a mystery why it has become so popular in Russia right now. Who is promoting this to the masses so actively?" The video segment says the toys were being distributed at a rally for opposition leader Alexei Navalny and in online ads that direct viewers to YouTube channels that promote opposition politicians. The reporters said that while the toy's popularity was declining in the West, fidget spinners are more popular than ever in Russia. "As you can see here there is only writing in English, on the other side there is not a word in Russian," says one of the show's anchors during the report, presenting a new spinner in its packaging to the camera. According to Newsweek, a second report on Russia-24 also aired on July 12th, directly saying fidget spinners were an "object for zombifying" and a form of "hypnosis." The program featured a report from psychologist Svetlana Filatova, claiming that the spinners could help dexterity in children but otherwise "dulls" people's minds. The reports spurred Russia's consumer protection agency, Rospotrebnadzor, into action, saying on Tuesday they would launch an investigation into the toy.
Businesses

Why is Comcast Using Self-driving Cars To Justify Abolishing Net Neutrality? (theverge.com) 193

Earlier this week, Comcast filed its comments in favor of the FCC's plan to eliminate the 2015 net neutrality rules. While much of the document was devoted to arguments we've heard before -- Comcast believes the current rules are anti-competitive and hurt investment, but generally supports the principles of net neutrality -- one statement stood out. The Verge adds: Buried in the 161-page document was this quirky assertion (emphasis ours): "At the same time, the Commission also should bear in mind that a more flexible approach to prioritization may be warranted and may be beneficial to the public... And paid prioritization may have other compelling applications in telemedicine. Likewise, for autonomous vehicles that may require instantaneous data transmission, black letter prohibitions on paid prioritization may actually stifle innovation instead of encouraging it. In other words, Comcast is arguing for paid prioritization and internet fast lanes to enable self-driving cars to communicate better with other vehicles and their surrounding environment, thus making them a safer and more efficient mode of transportation. The only problem is that autonomous and connected cars don't use wireless broadband to communicate. When cars talk with each other, they do it by exchanging data wirelessly over an unlicensed spectrum called the Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) band, using technology similar to Wi-Fi. The FCC has set aside spectrum in the 5.9GHz band specifically for this purpose, and it is only meant to be used for vehicle-to-everything (V2X) applications. That includes vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I), and vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) -- so cars talking to other cars, to traffic signals, to the phone in your pocket... you name it. Soon enough, all cars sold in the US will be required to include V2V technology for safety purposes, if the Department of Transportationâ(TM)s new rule goes into effect.
AI

Many Firms Are 'AI Washing' Claims of Intelligent Products (axios.com) 87

Software companies are seeking to exploit the current artificial intelligence craze by "AI washing" -- exaggerating the role of AI in their products, according to a new report by Gartner, the research firm. From a report: Gartner, which tracks commercial manias through a tool it calls the Hype Cycle, compares what is currently going on in AI with a prior surge in environmental over-statement -- "greenwashing, in which companies exaggerate the environmental-friendliness of their products or practices for business benefit." The bottom line: More than 1,000 vendors say their products employ AI, but many are "applying the AI label a little too indiscriminately," Gartner says in its report. Kriti Sharma, who runs the AI team at Sage, tells Axios that a lot of companies are seeking to solve problems using AI that would be better done by humans. And what is often called AI "is just automation that you are doing," she said.
Businesses

Microsoft's Wilsonville Jobs Are Going To China, Underscoring Travails of Domestic Tech Manufacturing (oregonlive.com) 138

An anonymous reader tips us a story: Just two years ago, Microsoft cast its Wilsonville factory as the harbinger of a new era in American technology manufacturing. The tech giant stamped, "Manufactured in Portland, OR, USA" on each Surface Hub it made there. It invited The New York Times and Fast Company magazine to tour the plant in 2015, then hired more than 100 people to make the enormous, $22,000 touch-screen computer. But last week Microsoft summoned its Wilsonville employees to an early-morning meeting and announced it will close the factory and lay off 124 employees -- nearly everyone at the site -- plus dozens of contract workers. Panos Panay, the vice president in charge of the Surface product group, traveled from corporate headquarters in Redmond, Washington, to tell the staff that Microsoft was moving production to the same place it makes all other Surface products. Though workers present say he didn't disclose the location, Microsoft has previously said it makes its other Surface computers in China. The company hasn't explained, in public or to its Wilsonville employees, why it gave up on domestic manufacturing so quickly and didn't respond to repeated inquiries for comment. But the only thing surprising about Microsoft's decision is that it tried to make its computers in the U.S. in the first place.
Businesses

iPhones Are Priced 'High in the Extreme' But They're Worth It, Says Apple Co-founder Wozniak (scmp.com) 262

An anonymous reader shares a report: Apple's iPhone has been losing ground to domestic competitors in China. That is because Chinese smartphone makers offer sophisticated functions at reasonable prices, according to Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder and one of the pioneers of the personal computer industry. "Here is what I admire about Chinese phones: really good, intelligent decisions about how to lower the cost but keep enough of the functionality in, because I am into products that are good, well designed, nice looking, but at prices that the average person can afford," he said. Still, Wozniak believes the quality of Apple's product makes it worth the high price tag. "In life I don't believe in quantity as much as I do in quality. So you may not have the hugest share in the market or be the No 1, but you should have the best product you can possibly build and Apple qualifies for that," Wozniak, told reporters after he discussed artificial intelligence with Liu Zihong, chairman and chied executive of Royole, in a technology forum held at Tianan Cyber Park in Dongguan, Guangdong province, on Tuesday. Unlike Chinese smartphone brands that prioritise cost-effectiveness, Apple's popular and more expensive iPhone handsets are still the leader in innovation in certain features despite being more of a "safe product," he said. "Apple products are safe. And Apple's pricing is high in the extreme. It's a safe bet for a lot of people, and when you love Apple you are willing to pay for it," he said.
Earth

New Research Shows Humans Could Outrun T. Rex 243

bongey writes: T-Rex would have a hard time even catching an average human running, much less Usain Bolt or Jeeps, without shattering their legs into pieces. New research based on simulations that include the load on the bones show that T-Rex would have a hard time running faster than 12 miles per hour (5.4 meters per second) without bones breaking. The new research correlates to speeds calculated from adolescence sized T-Rex dinosaur footprints in 2016, which showed walking speeds to be only 2-5mph, and estimated running speeds 11-18 mph. Gizmodo notes that while T. rex was unable to pursue its prey at high speeds, high speed is a relative term. "For reference, typical humans can sprint anywhere between eight to 15 miles per hour (elite athletes can exceed 20 mph). So to outrun a T. rex, many animals -- or fictional humans -- would still have to run like hell."
Medicine

The Myth of Drug Expiration Dates (propublica.org) 307

schwit1 shares a report from ProPublica: Hospitals and pharmacies are required to toss expired drugs, no matter how expensive or vital. Meanwhile the FDA has long known that many remain safe and potent for years longer. The box of prescription drugs had been forgotten in a back closet of a retail pharmacy for so long that some of the pills predated the 1969 moon landing. Most were 30 to 40 years past their expiration dates -- possibly toxic, probably worthless. But to Lee Cantrell, who helps run the California Poison Control System, the cache was an opportunity to answer an enduring question about the actual shelf life of drugs: Could these drugs from the bell-bottom era still be potent?

Gerona and Cantrell, a pharmacist and toxicologist, knew that the term "expiration date" was a misnomer. The dates on drug labels are simply the point up to which the Food and Drug Administration and pharmaceutical companies guarantee their effectiveness, typically at two or three years. But the dates don't necessarily mean they're ineffective immediately after they "expire" -- just that there's no incentive for drugmakers to study whether they could still be usable.

Tests on the decades-old drugs including antihistamines, pain relievers and stimulants. All the drugs tested were in their original sealed containers. The findings surprised both researchers: A dozen of the 14 compounds were still as potent as they were when they were manufactured, some at almost 100 percent of their labeled concentrations. Experts say the United States might be squandering a quarter of the money spent on health care. That's an estimated $765 billion a year.

Transportation

Oregon Passes First Statewide Bicycle Tax In Nation (washingtontimes.com) 638

turkeydance writes: In Oregon, a state known for its avid bicycling culture, the state legislature's approval of the first bike tax in the nation has fallen flat with riders. Democratic Gov. Kate Brown is expected to sign the sweeping $5.3 billion transportation package, which includes a $15 excise tax on the sale of bicycles costing more than $200 with a wheel diameter of at least 26 inches. Even though the funding has been earmarked for improvements that will benefit cyclists, the tax has managed to irk both anti-tax Republicans and environmentally conscious bikers. The bike tax is aimed at raising $1.2 million per year in order to improve and expand paths and trails for bicyclists and pedestrians. Supporters point out that Oregon has no sales tax, which means buyers won't be dinged twice for their new wheels.
Communications

FCC Refuses To Release Text of More Than 40,000 Net Neutrality Complaints (arstechnica.com) 60

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Federal Communications Commission has denied a request to extend the deadline for filing public comments on its plan to overturn net neutrality rules, and the FCC is refusing to release the text of more than 40,000 net neutrality complaints that it has received since June 2015. The National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) request in May of this year for tens of thousands of net neutrality complaints that Internet users filed against their ISPs. The NHMC argues that the details of these complaints are crucial for analyzing FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's proposal to overturn net neutrality rules. The coalition also asked the FCC to extend the initial comment deadline until 60 days after the commission fully complies with the FoIA request. A deadline extension would have given people more time to file public comments on the plan to eliminate net neutrality rules. Instead, the FCC yesterday denied the motion for an extension and said that it will only provide the text for a fraction of the complaints, because providing them all would be too burdensome.
Security

Should We Ignore the South Carolina Election Hacking Story? (securityledger.com) 133

chicksdaddy provides five (or more) "good" reasons why we should ignore the South Carolina election hacking story that was reported yesterday. According to yesterday's reports, South Carolina's voter-registration system was hit with nearly 150,000 hack attempts on election day. Slashdot reader chicksdaddy writes from an opinion piece via The Security Ledger: What should we make of the latest reports from WSJ, The Hill, etc. that South Carolina's election systems were bombarded with 150,000 hacking attempts? Not much, argues Security Ledger in a news analysis that argues there are lots of good reasons to ignore this story, if not the very real problem of election hacking. The stories were based on this report from The South Carolina Election Commission. The key phrase in that report is "attempts to penetrate," Security Ledger notes. Information security professionals would refer to that by more mundane terms like "port scans" or probes. These are kind of the "dog bites man" stories of the cyber beat -- common (here's one from 2012 US News & World Report) but ill informed. "The kinds of undifferentiated scans that the report is talking about are the internet equivalent of people driving slowly past your house." While some of those 150,000 attempts may well be attempts to hack South Carolina's elections systems, many are undifferentiated, while some may be legitimate, if misdirected. Whatever the case, they're background noise on the internet and hardly unique to South Carolina's voter registration systems. They're certainly not evidence of sophisticated, nation-state efforts to crack the U.S. election system by Russia, China or anyone else, Security Ledger argues. "The problem with lumping all these 'hacking attempts' in the same breath as you talk about sophisticated and targeted attacks on the Clinton Campaign, the DCCC, and successful penetration of some state election boards is that it dramatically distorts the nature and scope of the threat to the U.S. election system which -- again -- is very real." The election story is one "that demands thoughtful and pointed reporting that can explore (and explode) efforts by foreign actors to subvert the U.S. vote and thus its democracy," the piece goes on to argue. "That's especially true in an environment in which regulators and elected officials seem strangely incurious about such incidents and disinclined to investigate them."

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