Science & Tech News

Minnesota Senate Votes To Bar Selling ISP Data

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 03/31/2017 - 5:00am
Kagato quotes a report from St. Paul Pioneer Press: In a surprise move, the Minnesota Senate on Wednesday voted to bar internet service providers from selling their users' personal data without express written consent. The move was a reaction to a Tuesday vote in Congress to lift a ban on that practice imposed in 2016 by the Federal Communication Commission. Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, offered the amendment onto the Senate's economic development budget bill, saying it was urgently needed to protect Minnesotans' privacy after the congressional vote. Latz's amendment was challenged under Senate rules on the grounds that it would impose a cost on a state agency and thus needed to go through committee rather than be added on the floor. Republican Sen. Warren Limmer, of Maple Grove, broke with his party to overturn the Senate president's ruling and allow the internet privacy amendment to continue by a single vote. Once the amendment cleared this procedural hurdle, it was overwhelmingly added to the bill on a 66-1 vote. The lone critic, Sen. David Osmek, R-Mound, said Latz's amendment needed more study and review before being adopted. The Register reports that Illinois has also fought back against Tuesday's vote by approving two new privacy measures. "On Thursday, the state's Cybersecurity, Data Analytics and IT Committee approved two new privacy measures," reports The Register. "One would allow state residents to demand what data companies such as Comcast, Verizon, Google and Facebook is sharing about them. The other would require consent before an app can track users' locations."

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Video projector creates augmented reality with no bulky headset

New Scientist - Breaking news - Fri, 03/31/2017 - 3:00am
A new product called Lightform uses a standard projector to superimpose animations on surrounding objects, so any surface can act like a screen
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AMD Ryzen Game Patch Optimizations Show Significant Gains On Zen Architecture

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 03/31/2017 - 2:00am
MojoKid writes: AMD got the attention of PC performance enthusiasts everywhere with the recent launch of its Ryzen 7 series processors. The trio of 8-core chips competitively take on Intel's Core i7 series at the high-end of its product stack. However, with the extra attention AMD garnered, came significant scrutiny as well. With any entirely new platform architecture, there are bound to be a few performance anomalies -- as was the case with the now infamous lower performance "1080p gaming" situation with Ryzen. In a recent status update, AMD noted they were already working with developers to help implement "simple changes" that can help a game engine's understanding of the AMD Zen core topology that would likely provide an additional performance uplift with Ryzen. Today, we have some early proof-positive of that, as Oxide Games, in concert with AMD, released a patch for its game title Ashes Of The Singularity. Ashes has been a "poster child" game engine of sorts for AMD Radeon graphics over the years (especially with respect to DX12) and it was one that ironically showed some of the worst variations in Ryzen CPU performance versus Intel. With this new patch that is now public for the game, however, AMD claims to have regained significant ground in benchmark results at all resolutions. In the 1080p benchmarks with powerful GPUs, a Ryzen 7 1800X shows an approximate 20% performance improvement with the latest version of the Ashes, closing the gap significantly versus Intel. This appears to be at least an early sign that AMD can indeed work with game and other app developers to tune for the Ryzen architecture and wring out additional performance.

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Apple Opens App Accelerator in Bangalore, India To Foster iOS App Development

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 03/31/2017 - 1:44am
From a report: Apple is taking further steps to foster the developer ecosystem in the world's fastest growing smartphone market. The Cupertino-based company said it has opened a new App Accelerator in Bangalore, India. The announcement comes less than a year after the company said it would open an iOS App Design and Development Accelerator in India's Silicon Valley. Through the new App Accelerator, the company hopes to offer specialised support to developers as well as tools to help them push the boundaries. At the centre, a group of experts will lead briefings and provide one-on-one app reviews for developers. [...] With Apple's push to turn India into its next major market, it will pay in the long run to have quality apps that solve local problems on the App Store.

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Smartphones May Be To Blame For Unprecedented Spike In Pedestrian Deaths, Says Report

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 03/30/2017 - 11:00pm
According to a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association, the United States saw its largest annual increase in pedestrian fatalities since such record keeping began 40 years ago. "The [association] estimated there were 6,000 pedestrian deaths in 2016, the highest number in more than 20 years," reports CNN. "Since 2010, pedestrian fatalities have grown at four times the rate of overall traffic deaths." From the report: The thing that has changed dramatically in recent years is smartphone use. The volume of wireless data used from 2014 to 2015 more than doubled, according to the Wireless Association. Drivers and pedestrians who are distracted by their smartphones are less likely to be aware of their surroundings, creating the potential for danger. The Governors Highway Safety Association looked at data from the first six months of 2016 that came from 50 state highway safety offices and the District of Columbia. The complete data will be available later this year. The findings come as traffic safety experts have called for totally eliminating deaths on roadways. Near-term solutions include designing roads and vehicles to be safer. Cutting down on speeding and drunk driving are obvious targets.

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Amazon and Walmart Are In An All-Out Price War That Is Terrifying Big Brands

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 03/30/2017 - 7:30pm
gollum123 quotes a report from Recode: Last month, Walmart gathered some of America's biggest household brands near its Arkansas headquarters for a tough talk. For years, Walmart had dominated the retail landscape on the back of its "Everyday Low Price" guarantee. Walmart wants to have the lowest price on 80 percent of its sales, according to a presentation the company made at the summit, which Recode reviewed. To accomplish that, the brands that sell their goods through Walmart would have to cut their wholesale prices or make other cost adjustments to shave at least 15 percent off. In some cases, vendors say they would lose money on each sale if they met Walmartâ(TM)s demands. Brands that agree to play ball with Walmart could expect better distribution and more strategic help from the giant retailer. And to those that didnâ(TM)t? Walmart said it would limit their distribution and create its own branded products to directly challenge its own suppliers. But this time around, Walmart's renewed focus on its "Everyday Low Price" promise coincides with Amazon's increased aggressiveness in its own pricing of the packaged goods that are found on supermarket shelves and are core to Walmart's success, industry executives and consultants say. The result in recent months has been a high-stakes race to the bottom between Walmart and Amazon that seems great for shoppers, but has consumer packaged goods brands feeling the pressure.

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House Approves Bill To Force Public Release of EPA Science

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 03/30/2017 - 5:25pm
schwit1 quotes a report from Associated Press: House Republicans are taking aim at the Environmental Protection Agency, targeting the way officials use science to develop new regulations. A bill approved Wednesday by the GOP-controlled House would require that data used to support new regulations to protect human health and the environment be released to the public. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said "the days of 'trust me' science are over," adding that the House bill would restore confidence in the EPA's decision-making process. Connecticut Rep. Elizabeth Esty and other Democrats said the bill would cripple EPA's ability to conduct scientific research based on confidential medical information and risks privacy violations by exposing sensitive patient data. The bill was approved 228-194 and now goes to the Senate. According to The Hill, "The bill would also require that any scientific studies be replicable, and allow anyone who signs a confidentiality agreement to view redacted personal or trade information in data."

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Your Save Data Is Not Safe On the Nintendo Switch

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 03/30/2017 - 4:45pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In a post-launch update to our initial Nintendo Switch review, we noted that there is no way to externally back up game save data stored on the system. A recent horror story from a fellow writer who lost dozens of hours of game progress thanks to a broken system highlights just how troublesome this missing feature can be. Over at GamesRadar, Anthony John Agnello recounts his experience with Nintendo support after his Switch turned into a useless brick for no discernible reason last week (full disclosure: I know Agnello personally and have served with him on some convention panels). After sending his (under warranty) system to Nintendo for repair, Agnello received a fixed system and the following distressing message from the company two days later: "We have inspected the Nintendo Switch system that was sent to us for repair and found that the issue has made some of the information on this system unreadable. As a result, the save data, settings, and links with any Nintendo Accounts on your system were unable to be preserved." Agnello says he lost 55 hours of progress on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, as well as more progress on a few other downloadable games. While he was able to redownload the games that were deleted, he'd have to start from scratch on each one (if only all that progress was easily, instantly unlockable in some way...)

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SpaceX Makes Aerospace History With Successful Launch, Landing of a Used Rocket

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 03/30/2017 - 4:05pm
Eloking quotes a report from The Verge: After more than two years of landing its rockets after launch, SpaceX finally sent one of its used Falcon 9s back into space. The rocket took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, this evening, sending a communications satellite into orbit, and then landed on one of SpaceX's drone ships floating in the Atlantic Ocean. It was round two for this particular rocket, which already launched and landed during a mission in April of last year. But the Falcon 9's relaunch marks the first time an orbital rocket has launched to space for a second time. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk appeared on the company's live stream shortly after the landing and spoke about the accomplishment. "It means you can fly and refly an orbital class booster, which is the most expensive part of the rocket. This is going to be, ultimately, a huge revolution in spaceflight," he said. "It's been 15 years to get to this point, it's taken us a long time," Musk said. "A lot of difficult steps along the way, but I'm just incredibly proud of the SpaceX for being able to achieve this incredible milestone in the history of space."

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UK plans to bring 20 species back from brink of extinction

New Scientist - Breaking news - Thu, 03/30/2017 - 4:01pm
A major funding boost of by £4.6 million is expected to protect little-known but highly endangered plants and animals across the country
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IBM Technology Creates Smart Wingman For Self-Driving Cars

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 03/30/2017 - 3:20pm
coondoggie quotes a report from Network World: IBM said that it has patented a machine learning technology that defines how to shift control of an autonomous vehicle between a human driver and a vehicle control processor in the event of a potential emergency. Basically the patented IBM system employs onboard sensors and artificial intelligence to determine potential safety concerns and control whether self-driving vehicles are operated autonomously or by surrendering control to a human driver. The idea is that if a self-driving vehicle experiences an operational glitch like a faulty braking system, a burned-out headlight, poor visibility, bad road conditions, it could decide whether the on-board self-driving vehicle control processor or a human driver is in a better position to handle that anomaly. If the comparison determines that the vehicle control processor is better able to handle the anomaly, the vehicle is placed in autonomous mode," IBM stated. "The technology would be a smart wingman for both the human and the self-driving vehicle," said James Kozloski, manager, Computational Neuroscience and Multiscale Brain Modeling, IBM Research and co-inventor on the patent.

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AT&T Receives $6.5 Billion To Build Wireless Network For First Responders

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 03/30/2017 - 2:40pm
The First Responder Network, FirstNet, an independent arm of the Department of Commerce, has awarded a contract to AT&T to build a nationwide wireless broadband network to better equip first responders. "FirstNet will provide 20MHz of high-value, telecommunications spectrum and success-based payments of $6.5 billion over the next five years to support the network buildout," AT&T said in its announcement. Reuters reports: The effort to set up a public safety network was triggered by communications failures during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, when first responders were unable to effectively communicate as they used different technologies and networks. The FirstNet network will help emergency medical personnel, firefighters and police officers communicate vital information on one single network in real time, as opposed to using thousands of separate, incompatible systems. The rollout of the network, which will cover will cover all states, five U.S. territories and the District of Columbia, will begin later this year, AT&T said on Thursday. AT&T will spend about $40 billion over the period of the 25-year agreement to build, operate and maintain the network.

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Publish Georgia's State Laws, You'll Get Sued For Copyright and Lose

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 03/30/2017 - 2:00pm
Presto Vivace writes: If you want to read the official laws of the state of Georgia, it will cost you more than $1,000. Open-records activist Carl Malamud bought a hard copy, and it cost him $1,207.02 after shipping and taxes. A copy on CD was $1,259.41. The "good" news for Georgia residents is that they'll only have to pay $385.94 to buy a printed set from LexisNexis. Malamud thinks reading the law shouldn't cost anything. So a few years back, he scanned a copy of the state of Georgia's official laws, known as the Official Georgia Code Annotated, or OCGA. Malamud made USB drives with two copies on them, one scanned copy and another encoded in XML format. On May 30, 2013, Malamud sent the USB drives to the Georgia speaker of the House, David Ralson, and the state's legislative counsel, as well as other prominent Georgia lawyers and policymakers. Now, the case has concluded with U.S. District Judge Richard Story having published an opinion (PDF) that sides with the state of Georgia. The judge disagreed with Malamud's argument that the OCGA can't be copyrighted and also said Malamud's copying of the laws is not fair use. "The Copyright Act itself specifically lists 'annotations' in the works entitled to copyright protection," writes Story. "Defendant admits that annotations in an unofficial code would be copyrightable." Slashdot reader Presto Vivace adds: "It could have been worse, at least he was not criminally charged liked Aaron Schwartz."

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Comcast Launches Contract-Free Xfinity Prepaid Internet Service

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 03/30/2017 - 1:40pm
Comcast has been testing its Xfinity prepaid internet service for several years and now it appears to be ready for the masses. "The package allows consumers to pay for internet service on a pay-as-you-go basis, with refills ranging from seven to 30 days," reports The Verge. From the report: Comcast is partnering with Boost Mobile to sell the $80 prepaid internet starter kits, which come with a wireless DOCSIS 3.0 gateway and 30 days of service. Download speeds measure up to 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps for uploads, and refills start at $15 for one week. The prepaid plans works anywhere within Xfinity's coverage area, and while there's no credit check involved, you do have to be 18 years or older to sign up. The partnership also gives Boost Mobile customers $5 off refills. At launch, customers will be able to find the the Xfinity starter kits at Boost Mobile stores around Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas. The company plans to roll out the kits to all 4,000 stores (that are within Comcast's coverage area) by the end of the year.

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Twitter Will No Longer Count Usernames Against a Tweet's 140-Character Limit

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 03/30/2017 - 1:20pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from PhoneDog: Last year, Twitter updated its service so that photos, videos, and other media wouldn't count against your 140-character limit. Now it's excluding another feature from that limit. Twitter is now rolling out an update that excludes usernames from your tweet's 140-character limit. This means that you can tag as many people in your tweet as you'd like, but still have 140 characters for your actual message. With this change, Twitter is also tweaking how usernames are shown when you're @ replying to people. Now you'll see "Replying to" followed by user names at the top of your tweet, rather than a long string of user names in the tweet itself. Tapping this will show you exactly who you're replying to. This update is now rolling out to Twitter.com as well as the Twitter apps for Android and iOS.

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