When it comes to artificial intelligence, "companies have been overselling the concept and otherwise normal people are taking the bait," writes Hackaday:
Not to pick on Amazon, but all of the home assistants like Alexa and Google Now tout themselves as AI. By the most classic definition, that's true. AI techniques include matching natural language to predefined templates. That's really all these devices are doing today. Granted the neural nets that allow for great speech recognition and reproduction are impressive. But they aren't true intelligence nor are they even necessarily direct analogs of a human brain... The danger is that people are now getting spun up that the robot revolution is right around the corner...
[N]othing in the state of the art of AI today is going to wake up and decide to kill the human masters. Despite appearances, the computers are not thinking. You might argue that neural networks could become big enough to emulate a brain. Maybe, but keep in mind that the brain has about 100 billion neurons and almost 10 to the 15th power interconnections. Worse still, there isn't a clear consensus that the neural net made up of the cells in your brain is actually what is responsible for conscious thought. There's some thought that the neurons are just control systems and the real thinking happens in a biological quantum computer... Besides, it seems to me if you build an electronic brain that works like a human brain, it is going to have all the problems a human brain has (years of teaching, distraction, mental illness, and a propensity for error).
Citing the dire predictions of Elon Musk and Bill Gates, the article argues that "We are a relatively small group of people who have a disproportionate influence on what our friends, families, and co-workers think... We need to spread some sense into the conversation."
Long-time Slashdot reader Mikkeles quotes the BBC:
Saudi Arabia's education minister has apologised for the production of a school textbook in which the Star Wars character Yoda is seen superimposed on a photograph of the late King Faisal... The image, which shows the diminutive Jedi Master sitting beside King Faisal as he signs the UN Charter in 1945, was created by the Saudi artist Shaweesh. He told the BBC it was not yet clear how it had ended up in the textbook... The 2013 artwork, entitled United Nations (Yoda), is part of a series in which symbols of American pop culture -- ranging from Captain America to Darth Vader -- are superimposed onto archive photos of historical events... Shaweesh said he included Yoda because, like King Faisal, he was "wise, strong and calm".
"Someone should have checked the image before printing," he added.
Security researcher Brian Krebs complains that Experian's identity-protecting credit freezes are easily unfrozen online. An anonymous reader quotes the Verge:
Experian makes it easy to undo a credit freeze, resetting a subject's PIN through an easily accessible account recovery page. That page only asks for a person's name, address, date of birth, and Social Security number...data [that] was compromised in the Equifax breach, as well as other breaches, so we can probably assume hackers possess this information. After entering that data, attackers then just have to enter an email address -- any email -- and answer a few security questions.
That might not jump out as insecure; security questions exist for a reason. But the questions themselves are easy to answer, particularly if you know how to use the internet and a search bar. Krebs says sample questions include asking users to identify cities where they've previously lived and the people that resided with them. Much of that information is available through a person's own social media accounts, search engines, or Yellow Pages-like databases, including Spokeo and Zillow... In response to Krebs' report, Experian claims that it goes beyond the measures identified to authenticate users. "While we do not disclose those additional processes," said the company in a statement, "they include a broad array of checks that are not visible to the consumer."
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports that Experian is also advertising a "free scan of the dark Web" which actually binds anyone who accepts it to their 17,600-word terms of service, as well as acceptance of "advertisements or offers" from financial products companies -- plus "an arbitration clause preventing you from suing the company" which a spokesperson acknowledges could remain in effect for several years.
Amazon aggressively recruited thousands of retirees living in mobile homes to migrate to Amazon's warehouses for seasonal work, according to a story shared by nightcats. Wired reports:From a hiring perspective, the RVers were a dream labor force. They showed up on demand and dispersed just before Christmas in what the company cheerfully called a "taillight parade." They asked for little in the way of benefits or protections. And though warehouse jobs were physically taxing -- not an obvious fit for older bodies -- recruiters came to see CamperForce workers' maturity as an asset. These were diligent, responsible employees. Their attendance rates were excellent. "We've had folks in their eighties who do a phenomenal job for us," noted Kelly Calmes, a CamperForce representative, in one online recruiting seminar... In a company presentation, one slide read, "Jeff Bezos has predicted that, by the year 2020, one out of every four workampers in the United States will have worked for Amazon."
The article is adapted from a new book called "Nomadland," which also describes seniors in mobile homes being recruited for sugar beet harvesting and jobs at an Iowa amusement park, as well as work as campground hsots at various national parks. Many of them "could no longer afford traditional housing," especially after the financial downturn of 2008.
But at least they got to hear stories from their trainers at Amazon about the occasional "unruly" shelf-toting "Kiva" robot:
They told us how one robot had tried to drag a worker's stepladder away. Occasionally, I was told, two Kivas -- each carrying a tower of merchandise -- collided like drunken European soccer fans bumping chests. And in April of that year, the Haslet fire department responded to an accident at the warehouse involving a can of "bear repellent" (basically industrial-grade pepper spray). According to fire department records, the can of repellent was run over by a Kiva and the warehouse had to be evacuated.
In 1970 mathematician John Conway created rules for the "Game of Life," a now famous "zero-player game" where a grid of cells evolves (following Conway's rules) from an initial state proposed by the player. In 2013 someone challenged readers of StackExchange's "Programming Puzzles & Code Golf" section to devise an initial state "that will allow for the playing of a game of Tetris."
An anonymous Slashdot reader reports that "This challenge sat around, gathering upvotes but no answer, for four years. Then, it was answered." Citing the work of seven contributors, a massive six-part response says their solution took one and a half years to create, and "began as a quest but ended as an odyssey." The team created their own assembly language, known as QFTASM (Quest for Tetris Assembly) for use within Conway's mathematical universe, and then also designed their own processor architecture, and eventually even a higher-level language that they named COGOL. Their StackExchange response includes a link to all of their code on GitHub, as well as to a page where you can run the code online.
One StackExchange reader hailed the achievement as "the single greatest thing I've ever scrolled through while understanding very little."
Spain's autonomous Catalonia region wants to hold a referendum on independence next weekend. Spain's Constitutional Court insists that that vote is illegal, and has taken control of Catalonia's police force to try to stop the vote. They're deploying thousands of additional police officers and have seized nearly 10 million ballots. And now the Internet Society has gotten involved, according to an announcement shared by Slashdot reader valinor89: Measures restricting free and open access to the Internet related to the independence referendum have been reported in Catalonia. There have been reports that major telecom operators have been asked to monitor and block traffic to political websites, and following a court order, law enforcement has raided the offices of the .cat registry in Barcelona, examining a computer and arresting staff. We are concerned by reports that this court order would require a top-level domain (TLD) operator such as .cat to begin to block "all domains that may contain any kind of information about the referendum."
"Static vs dynamic typing is always one of those topics that attracts passionately held positions," writes the Morning Paper -- reporting on an "encouraging" study that attempted to empirically evaluate the efficacy of statically-typed systems on mature, real-world code bases. The study was conducted by Christian Bird at Microsoft's "Research in Software Engineering" group with two researchers from University College London. Long-time Slashdot reader phantomfive writes:
An anonymous reader quotes Popular Mechanics:
Microsoft, Facebook and global telecommunication infrastructure company Telxius have completed the Marea subsea cable, the world's most technologically advanced undersea cable. The Marea crosses the Atlantic Ocean over 17,000 feet below the ocean's surface, connecting Virginia Beach with Bilbao, Spain. Over 4,000 miles (6,600 kilometers) long and weighing nearly 10.25 million pounds (4.65 million kilograms), the Marea can transmit up to 160 terabits of data per second, which Microsoft notes is "more than 16 million times faster than the average home internet connection, making it capable of streaming 71 million high-definition videos simultaneously."
The undersea cable -- about 1.5 times the diameter of a garden hose -- contains eight pairs of fiber optic cables encircled by copper, a protective layer of hard plastic, and then waterproof coating. Its 4,000-mile route had to avoid everything from earthquake zones to active volcanoes.
Cables under the Atlantic Ocean carry 55% more data than cables under the Pacific, Microsoft writes, adding that "the project highlights the increasing role of private companies in building the infrastructure of the future."
An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld:
Swift 4.0 is now available. It's a major upgrade to Apple's Swift, the three-year old successor to the Objective-C language used for MacOS and iOS application development. The Swift 4 upgrade enhances the Swift Package Manager and provides new compatibility modes for developers. Apple said Swift 4 also makes Swift more stable and improves its standard library. Swift 4 is largely source-compatible with Swift 3 and ships as part of Apple's Xcode 9 IDE...
Swift 4's new compatibility modes could save you from having to modify code to be able to use the new version of the compiler. Two modes are supported, including the Swift 3.2 mode, which accepts most source files built with Swift 3.x compilers, and the Swift 4.0 mode, which includes Swift 4 and API changes. Apple said that some source migration will be needed for many projects, but the number of source changes are "quite modest" compared to many previous major changes between Swift releases.
Apple calls Swift 4.0 "a major language release" that also includes new language changes and updates that came through the Swift Evolution process.
An anonymous reader quotes the Register:
Faced with growing dissatisfaction about licensing requirements for some of its open-source projects, Facebook said it will move React, Jest, Flow, and Immutable.js under the MIT license next week. "We're relicensing these projects because React is the foundation of a broad ecosystem of open source software for the web, and we don't want to hold back forward progress for nontechnical reasons," said Facebook engineering director Adam Wolff in a blog post on Friday. Wolff said while Facebook continues to believe its BSD + Patents license has benefits, "we acknowledge that we failed to decisively convince this community"... Wolff said the updated licensing scheme will arrive next week with the launch of React 16, a rewrite of the library designed for more efficient operation at scale.
Facebook was facing strong criticism from the Apache Software Foundation and last week Wordpress.com had announced plans to move away from React.
"Wolff said Facebook considered a license change for its other open-source projects, but wasn't ready to commit to anything," the Register adds. "Some projects, he said, will keep the BSD + Patents license."
"Three-point-one-four was more than a number to museum curator Larry Shaw," writes the San Francisco Chronicle. Long-time Slashdot reader linuxwrangler writes: In 1988 at a retreat for San Francisco Exploratorium staff, Larry Shaw proposed linking the digits of pi, which begins 3.14, with the date March 14. Initially the "holiday" was only celebrated by museum staff but it didn't take long for the idea to spread and Pi Day was born. For 38 years, Mr. Shaw donned a red cap emblazoned with the magic digits and led a parade of museum goers, each of them holding a sign bearing one of the digits of pi. Shaw died August 19 at age 78 and a memorial is planned for Sunday September 24. The memorial will be held in Mill Valley, California, the Chronicle reports, adding that "pie will be served."
"Back in the old days, you needed to buy or lease a server if you needed access to compute power," remembers Amazon's AWS blog. "When Amazon launched EC2 back in 2006, the ability to use an instance for an hour, and to pay only for that hour, was big news. The pay-as-you-go model inspired our customers to think about new ways to develop, test, and run applications of all types."
But now from the 2nd of October, Amazon will start billing Linux virtual machines by the second, with a one minute minimum.
An anonymous reader quotes TechRepublic:
On Wednesday, IBM revealed the Open Liberty project, open sourcing its WebSphere Liberty code on GitHub to support Java microservices and cloud-native apps. The company created Liberty five years ago to help developers more quickly and easily create applications using agile and DevOps principles, according to an IBM developerWorks blog post from Ian Robinson, WebSphere Foundation chief architect at IBM... Developers can also choose to move to the commercial versions of WebSphere Liberty at any time, he noted, which include technical support and more specialized features... "We hope Open Liberty will help more developers turn their ideas into full-fledged, enterprise ready apps," Robinson wrote. "We also hope it will broaden the WebSphere family to include more ideas and innovations to benefit the broader Java community of developers at organizations big and small."
IBM argues that Open Liberty, along with the OpenJ9 VM they open sourced last week, "provides the full Java stack from IBM with a fully open licensing model."
Interestingly, Slashdot ran a story asking "IBM WebSphere SE To Be Opened?" -- back in 2000.
Following a report from Reuters claiming T-Mobile is close to agreeing on a deal to merge with Sprint, an anonymous Slashdot reader shares a report from DSLReports arguing how such a merger would remain "a very bad deal for consumers": The Sprint-T-Mobile merger could prove problematic for not only wireless prices, but the recent resurgence in unlimited data plans. While wireless carriers still often engage in theatrical non-price competition more often than not, the government's decision to block AT&T's acquisition of T-Mobile several years ago helped spur an unprecedented period of competition in wireless (something large ISPs and their policy armies like to ignore). The end result was a brasher and more competitive T-Mobile, who lead the way on a wave of improvements in the sector culminating most recently in the return of simpler, easier unlimited data plans. The government's decision to block Sprint from acquiring T-Mobile helped keep that competition intact, something large ISPs and their policy folk would similarly like you to forget. As a result, T-Mobile has added more customers per quarter than any other wireless carrier for several years running, as the resulting competition put an end to numerous, nasty industry tactics including overcharging for international roaming, to obnoxious fees and long-term contracts. And while the new, combined company will likely still be run by current popular T-Mobile CEO John Legere, the very act of eliminating one of only four major players in the wireless market will indisputably reduce the incentive to more seriously compete on price, and could help reverse the progress the sector has seen in recent years. It's well within reason that this reduced competition could also bring back metered plans and put an end to unlimited data.
Jason Koebler writes: Apple's top environmental officer made the company's most extensive statements about the repairability of Apple hardware on Tuesday: "Our first thought is, 'You don't need to repair this.' When you do, we want the repair to be fairly priced and accessible to you," Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of policy and social initiatives said at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco. "To think about these very complex products and say the answer to all our problems is that you should have anybody to repair and have access to the parts is not looking at the whole problem." Apple has lobbied against "Fair Repair" bills in 11 states that would require the company to make its repair guides available and to sell replacement parts to the general public. Instead, it has focused on an "authorized service provider" model that allows the company to control the price and availability of repair.
schwit1 writes about a new mass-market Broadcom chip designed for the next generation of smartphones: It'll know where you are to within 30 centimeters (11.8 inches), rather than five meters. At least that's the claim chip maker Broadcom is making. It says that some of its next-generation smartphone chips will use new global positioning satellite signals to boost accuracy. In a detailed report on the announcement and how the new signals work, IEEE Spectrum says that the new chips, which are expected to appear in some phones as soon as next year, will also use half the power of today's chips and even work in cities where tower blocks often interfere with existing systems. All told, it sounds like a massive change for those who rely on their phones to find their way.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: Scientists have engineered an antibody that attacks 99% of HIV strains and can prevent infection in primates. It is built to attack three critical parts of the virus -- making it harder for HIV to resist its effects. The work is a collaboration between the US National Institutes of Health and the pharmaceutical company Sanofi. Our bodies struggle to fight HIV because of the virus' incredible ability to mutate and change its appearance. These varieties of HIV -- or strains -- in a single patient are comparable to those of influenza during a worldwide flu season. So the immune system finds itself in a fight against an insurmountable number of strains of HIV. But after years of infection, a small number of patients develop powerful weapons called "broadly neutralizing antibodies" that attack something fundamental to HIV and can kill large swathes of HIV strains. Researchers have been trying to use broadly neutralizing antibodies as a way to treat HIV, or prevent infection in the first place. The study, published in the journal Science, combines three such antibodies into an even more powerful "tri-specific antibody." The experiments conducted on 24 monkeys showed none of those given the tri-specific antibody developed an infection when they were later injected with the virus. "We're getting 99% coverage, and getting coverage at very low concentrations of the antibody," said Dr Gary Nabel, the chief scientific officer at Sanofi and one of the report authors.
AmiMoJo shares a report from Mac Rumors: Over the last day or two, several Mac users appear to have been locked out of their machines after hackers signed into their iCloud accounts and initiated a remote lock using Find My iPhone. With access to an iCloud user's username and password, Find My iPhone on iCloud.com can be used to "lock" a Mac with a passcode even with two-factor authentication turned on, and that's what's going on here. Affected users who have had their iCloud accounts hacked are receiving messages demanding money for the passcode to unlock a locked Mac device. The usernames and passwords of the iCloud accounts affected by this "hack" were likely found through various site data breaches and have not been acquired through a breach of Apple's servers. Impacted users likely used the same email addresses, account names, and passwords for multiple accounts, allowing people with malicious intent to figure out their iCloud details.
The International Trade Commission has ruled that American companies are being hurt by cheap solar panels from overseas, providing an opportunity for President Donald Trump to tax imports from countries like China. The Verge reports: Today's unanimous decision ruled that the companies SolarWorld Americans and Suniva were struggling financially not because of their own poor management, but because they couldn't compete with cheap panels from countries like China, Mexico, and South Korea. Suniva is now suggesting import duties of 40 cents a watt for solar cells, and a floor price of 78 cents a watt for panels. (Right now, the average floor price, worldwide, for panels is about 32 cents.) The Solar Energy Industries Association warned that implementing these suggestions could end up doubling the price of solar, thus destroying demand and causing Americans to lose their jobs.