Science & Tech News

Google Home Now Recognizes Specific Users' Voices, Gains Support For Multiple Accounts

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 3:20pm
Google has issued a long-awaited feature for Google Home: support for multiple users. In an update rolling out today, up to six people will be able to connect their Google account to a Google Home, and the unit will try to distinguish each person's voice from the other users connected to the device. Therefore, each person will be able to get access to their schedule, playlists, and more. PhoneDog reports: Support for multiple users is rolling out in the U.S. now and will be available in the U.K. in the coming months. To know if the feature is available to you, launch the Google Home app and look for a card that says "Multi-user is available." You can also click the icon in the upper right corner, find your Google Home, and select "Link your account." From there, you'll train the Google Assistant to recognize your voice so that it knows it's you when you're talking and not the other people with connected accounts. You'll say "Ok Google" and "Hey Google" twice each.

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FCC Takes First Step Toward Allowing More Broadcast TV Mergers

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 2:40pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: In a divided vote today, the Federal Communications Commission took steps that could lead to more consolidation among TV broadcasters, reducing the number of sources of local news. Today's changes revolve around the media ownership cap -- a limit on how many households a TV or radio broadcaster is allowed to reach. The rules are meant to promote diversity of media ownership, giving consumers access to different content and viewpoints. The cap currently prevents a company from reaching no more than 39 percent of U.S. households with broadcast TV. Large broadcasters hate the cap because it prevents them from getting even bigger. And since Trump took office and Ajit Pai was named chairman of the FCC, they've been lobbying to have it revised. The FCC's vote today starts to do that. First, it reinstates a rule known as the "UHF discount," which lets broadcasters have a bigger reach in areas where they use a certain type of technology. And second, it starts plans to revisit and raise the media ownership cap.

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Airbnb Fires Back, Accuses Hotel Industry Of Punishing the Middle-Class

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 2:00pm
According to a legal documents, the American Hotel and Lodging Association (lobbying group for hotels in the U.S.) kicked off a plan last year to fight back Airbnb and other home-sharing services with a $5.6 million annual budget. Airbnb has responded to the revelation. From a report: The company's head of policy, Christopher Lehane, accused hoteliers of price-gouging customers and called their fight against Airbnb a "campaign to punish the middle-class" in a letter. It's only the latest salvo in a long fight between Airbnb and the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), which believes the startup is cutting into its business. [...] In a letter to the AHLA, Airbnb accused the group of trying to hurt middle-class property owners. The Airbnb head of policy argued that "we ought to be able to agree that the middle-class family that shares their home while traveling is not a commercial operator running a business." In its minutes, the AHLA alleged that many of the listings on Airbnb are operated by commercial entities. Lehane also accused the AHLA of being inconsistent on homesharing. He said the group's board meeting showed support for "the rights of property owners to occasionally rent out a room or their home."

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CC'ing the Boss on Email Makes Employees Feel Less Trusted, Study Finds

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 1:20pm
Do you ever loop your boss when having a conversation with a colleague when his or her presence in the thread wasn't really necessary? Turns out, many people do this, and your colleague doesn't find it helpful at all. From an article: My collaborators and I conducted a series of six studies (a combination of experiments and surveys) to see how cc'ing influences organizational trust. While our findings are preliminary and our academic paper is still under review, a first important finding was that the more often you include a supervisor on emails to coworkers, the less trusted those coworkers feel (alternative link). In our experimental studies, in which 594 working adults participated, people read a scenario where they had to imagine that their coworker always, sometimes, or almost never copied the supervisor when emailing them. Participants were then required to respond to items assessing how trusted they would feel by their colleague. ("In this work situation, I would feel that my colleague would trust my 'competence,' 'integrity,' and 'benevolence.'") It was consistently shown that the condition in which the supervisor was "always" included by cc made the recipient of the email feel trusted significantly less than recipients who were randomly allocated to the "sometimes" or "almost never" condition. Organizational surveys of 345 employees replicated this effect by demonstrating that the more often employees perceived that a coworker copied their supervisor, the less they felt trusted by that coworker. To make matters worse, my findings indicated that when the supervisor was copied in often, employees felt less trusted, and this feeling automatically led them to infer that the organizational culture must be low in trust overall, fostering a culture of fear and low psychological safety.

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China's First Cargo Spacecraft Launch a 'Crucial Step' To Space Station

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 12:40pm
Earlier today, China launched its first unmanned cargo spacecraft on a mission to dock with the country's space station, marking further progress in the ambitious Chinese space program. Chinese state media Xinhua described the event as a "crucial step for China's plan to have an operational space station by 2020." From a report: The Tianzhou-1 took off from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in China's southern Hainan province, on track to dock with the orbiting space lab Tiangong-2. The launch was the latest in a series of major announcements by the Chinese space program, which celebrated its longest-ever space mission in November.

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File System Improvements To the Windows Subsystem for Linux

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 12:00pm
An anonymous reader shares a new article published on MSDN: In the latest Windows Insider build, the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) now allows you to manually mount Windows drives using the DrvFs file system. Previously, WSL would automatically mount all fixed NTFS drives when you launch Bash, but there was no support for mounting additional storage like removable drives or network locations. Now, not only can you manually mount any drives on your system, we've also added support for other file systems such as FAT, as well as mounting network locations. This enables you to access any drive, including removable USB sticks or CDs, and any network location you can reach in Windows all from within WSL.

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Amazon Cloud Chief Jabs Oracle: 'Customers Are Sick of It'

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 11:20am
It's no secret that Amazon and Oracle don't see eye to eye. But things are far from improving, it appears. From a report: On Wednesday, two months after Oracle co-CEO Mark Hurd called Amazon's cloud infrastructure "old" and claimed his company was gaining share, Amazon Web Services chief Andy Jassy slammed Oracle for locking customers into painfully long and expensive contracts. "People are very sensitive about being locked in given the experience they've had the last 10 to 15 years," Jassy said on Wednesday on stage at Amazon's AWS Summit in San Francisco. "When you look at cloud, it's nothing like being locked into Oracle." Jassy was addressing a cultural shift in the way technology is bought and sold. No longer does the process involve the purchase of heavy proprietary software with multi-year contracts that include annual maintenance fees. Now, Jassy says, it's about choice and ease of use, including letting clients turn things off if they're not working.

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The incredible naked mole rat can survive with hardly any oxygen

New Scientist - Breaking news - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 11:00am
These animal superheroes get on fine in conditions that would kill us and can go into a kind of suspended animation if oxygen levels drop too low
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Mastercard is Building Fingerprint Scanners Directly Into Its Cards

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 10:40am
Mastercard said on Thursday it's beginning trials of its "next-generation biometric card" in South Africa. In addition to the standard chip and pin, the new cards have a built-in fingerprint reader that the user can use to authenticate every purchase. From a report: Impressively, the new card is no thicker or larger than your current credit and debit cards.

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How pregnancy could affect an elite athlete like Serena Williams

New Scientist - Breaking news - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 10:11am
Williams was 8 weeks pregnant at the Australian Open. Some theories suggest early pregnancy boosts athletic performance, but there isn’t much evidence
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Microsoft Says It Will Release Two Feature Updates Per Year For Windows 10, Office

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 10:00am
Microsoft is making a few changes to how it will service Windows, Office 365 ProPlus and System Center Configuration Manager. From a report: Announced today, Microsoft will be releasing two feature updates a year for Windows 10 in March in September and with each release, System Center Configuration Manager will support this new aligned update model for Office 365 ProPlus and Windows 10, making both easier to deploy and keep up to date. This is a big change for Microsoft as Windows will now be on a more predictable pattern for major updates and by aligning it with Office 365 Pro Plus, this should make these two platforms easier to service from an IT Pro perspective. The big news here is also that Microsoft is announcing when Redstone 3 is targeted for release. The company is looking at a September release window but it is worth pointing out that they traditionally release the month after the code is completed.

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Has the social media political bubble theory just been popped?

New Scientist - Breaking news - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 9:57am
If life online drives increasingly partisan attitudes, how come offline older generations are getting polarised quicker than the young, wonders Lara Williams
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President Trump Misses 90-Day Deadline To Appoint a Cybersecurity Team After Alleged Russian Hacking

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 9:23am
From a report: President-elect Donald Trump was very clear: "I will appoint a team to give me a plan within 90 days of taking office," he said in January, after getting a U.S. intelligence assessment of Russian interference in last year's elections and promising to address cybersecurity. Thursday, Trump hits his 90-day mark. There is no team, there is no plan, and there is no clear answer from the White House on who would even be working on what. It's the latest deadline Trump's set and missed -- from the press conference he said his wife would hold last fall to answer questions about her original immigration process to the plan to defeat ISIS that he'd said would come within his first 30 days in office. Since his inauguration, Trump's issued a few tweets and promises to get to the bottom of Russian hacking -- and accusations of surveillance of Americans, himself included, by the Obama administration.

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Machine learning shows exactly when to zap brain to boost memory

New Scientist - Breaking news - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 9:00am
Jolting the brain with electricity really does seem to boost memory, but only if it’s done at the right time. Now we can detect when the brain could use a shock
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Environment chief says US should exit Paris climate agreement

New Scientist - Breaking news - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 8:42am
The US appears to be getting closer to quitting the Paris climate agreement, with Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA, saying it’s a bad deal for the country
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Discovery May Help Decipher Ancient Inca String Code

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 8:40am
A discovery made in a remote mountain village high in the Peruvian Andes suggests that the ancient Inca used accounting devices made of knotted, colored strings for more than accounting. From a report on National Geographic: The devices, called khipus (pronounced kee-poos), used combinations of knots to represent numbers and were used to inventory stores of corn, beans, and other provisions. Spanish accounts from colonial times claim that Inca khipus also encoded history, biographies, and letters, but researchers have yet to decipher any non-numerical meaning in the cords and knots. Now a pair of khipus protected by Andean elders since colonial times may offer fresh clues for understanding how more elaborate versions of the devices could have stored and relayed information. "What we found is a series of complex color combinations between the cords," says Sabine Hyland, professor of anthropology at University of St Andrews in Scotland and a National Geographic Explorer. "The cords have 14 different colors that allow for 95 unique cord patterns. That number is within the range of symbols in logosyllabic writing systems." Hyland theorizes that specific combinations of colored strings and knots may have represented syllables or words.

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Wikipedia's 'Ban' of 'The Daily Mail' Didn't Really Happen

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 8:00am
Earlier this year, The Guardian reported that editors at Wikipedia had "voted to ban the Daily Mail as a source for the website," calling the publication "generally unreliable." Two months later, not only previous Daily Mail citations on Wikipedia pages are still alive, several new ones have also appeared since. So what's going on? The Outline has the story: There are no rules on Wikipedia, just guidelines. Of Wikipedia's five "pillars," the fifth is that there are no firm rules. There is no formal hierarchy either, though the most dedicated volunteers can apply to become administrators with extra powers after being approved by existing admins. But even they don't say what goes on the site. If there's a dispute or a debate, editors post a "request for comment," asking whoever is interested to have their say. The various points are tallied up by an editor and co-signed by four more after a month, but it's not a vote as in a democracy. Instead, the aim is to reach consensus of opinion, and if that's not possible, to weigh the arguments and pick the side that's most compelling. There was no vote to ban the Daily Mail because Wikipedia editors don't vote. (emphasis ours.) So what happened? The article adds: In this case, an editor submitted a broader request for comment about its [the Daily Mail's] general reliability. Seventy-seven editors participated in the discussion and two thirds supported prohibiting the Daily Mail as a source, with one editor and four co-signing editors (more than usual) chosen among administrators declaring that a consensus, though further discussion continued on a separate noticeboard, alongside complaints that the debate should have been better advertised. Though it's discouraged, the Daily Mail can be (and still is) cited. An editor I met at a recent London "Wikimeet" said he'd used the Daily Mail as a source in the last week, as it was the only source available for the subject he was writing about.

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The Biggest Time Suck at the Office Might Be Your Computer

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 7:20am
Sharing personal anecdotes and recent studies, a new report on Bloomberg blames outdated computers, decade-old operating systems and ageing equipments for being one of the biggest hurdles that prevents people from doing actual work in their offices. From the article: Slow, outdated computers and intermittent internet connections demoralize workers, a survey of 6,000 European workers said. Half of U.K. employees said creaking computers were "restrictive and limiting," and 38 percent said modern technology would make them more motivated, according to the survey, commissioned by electronics company Sharp. Scott's (a 25-year-old researcher who works at an insurance firm) PC runs the relatively up-to-date Windows 8 operating system, but his computer sometimes struggles to handle large spreadsheets and multiple documents open simultaneously, slowing him down. Others are in a worse spot. One in every eight business laptops and desktops worldwide still run Windows XP, which was introduced in 2001. [...] Some businesses can't help using old hardware or operating systems, because they use specialized software that also hasn't been brought up-to-date.

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MIT No Longer Owns 18.0.0.0/8

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 7:00am
An anonymous reader shares: MIT no longer owns 18.0.0.0/8. That's a very big block of scarce IPv4 addresses that have become available again. One block inside this /8, more specifically 18.145.0.0/16, was transferred to Amazon.

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Microsoft To Shut Down Wunderlist, an App It Acquired Two Years Ago, In Favor Of Homegrown App To-Do

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 6:40am
From a report on TechCrunch: Microsoft acquired the popular mobile to do list application Wunderlist back in 2015, and now it's preparing users for its eventual demise with the release of its new application "To-Do," it announced this week. The new app was built by the team behind Wunderlist, and will bring in the favorite elements of that app in the months ahead, Microsoft insists. The company also added that it won't shut down Wunderlist until it's confident that it has "incorporated the best of Wunderlist into To-Do." In case you're hoping Wunderlist will get some sort of reprieve, Microsoft makes its forthcoming demise pretty clear. Stating its plans in black-and-white: "we will retire Wunderlist," it says in a blog post. In the meantime, Microsoft is encouraging Wunderlist users to make the switch by offering an importer that will bring in your lists and to-dos from Wunderlist into To-Do, where those items will now be available in other Microsoft products, like Exchange and Outlook.

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