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Updated: 14 min 24 sec ago

FCC Chief Tells Apple To Turn on iPhone's FM Radio Chip

Thu, 28/09/2017 - 8:45pm
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai pushed Apple on Friday to activate the FM radio chips in the iPhone. From a report: In the wake of three major hurricanes that have wiped out communications for millions of people over the past month, Pai issued a statement urging Apple, one of the largest makers of cellphones in the US, to "reconsider its position, given the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria." FM radios that are already included in every phone could be used to access "life-saving information" during disasters, he said. For years the majority of smartphones sold in the US have included FM radios, but most of them have been turned off so that you couldn't use the function. Why? Mobile customers would be a lot less likely to subscribe to streaming music services if they could just listen to traditional, free broadcast radio. This incentive is especially true for Apple, which has a streaming music service. Apple said in a statement: "iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models do not have FM radio chips in them nor do they have antennas designed to support FM signals, so it is not possible to enable FM reception in these products."

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More Than Half of American Workers Can't Sue Their Employer

Thu, 28/09/2017 - 8:05pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: In the past two years, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and Oracle have faced various high-profile lawsuits related to their employment practices. And while those cases generated headlines, workers in almost every sector sue their bosses over emotional abuse, unpaid wages, and discrimination. The ability to sue over wrongful treatment at work is essential to the balance of bargaining power between employer and employee. Unfortunately, more than half of non-union, privately employed Americans -- some 60 million people -- have signed away this right. They are instead beholden to a process known as arbitration. Signing a mandatory arbitration agreement is theoretically voluntary, but refusing to do so can cost a candidate their job offer. Once signed, the agreement strips the employee of the right to take her employer to court for unfairly low pay, termination because of pregnancy, race-based discrimination, loss of paternity or maternity leave, and much more. According to a study published this week by Alexander Colvin of Cornell, more than half (54%) of private, non-unionized workplaces have mandatory arbitration procedures. For larger companies (over 1,000 workers), that jumps to 65%. By contrast, in 2003 Colvin found that just 14% of companies had arbitration agreements.

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Ikea's Stuff is Tough To Assemble, So It Bought a Startup To Do It For You

Thu, 28/09/2017 - 7:25pm
One of the most popular jobs on TaskRabbit, a service that lets you hire workers for quick gigs, is assembling Ikea furniture. So perhaps it's no surprise that the Swedish retail giant has acquired the startup for an undisclosed price. From a report: For now, TaskRabbit services -- where each worker sets their own rates but the company takes 20 percent -- are available in 40 American cities and in London. The majority of its American workers (or "taskers" as the company dubs them) do not receive any health or retirement benefits, as is typical in so-called "gig economy" jobs. While TaskRabbit itself has not been sued in federal court by any of its workers so far, other companies in the industry have been -- numerous labor cases filed against Uber were recently heard at the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeal in San Francisco. It seems unlikely that Swedish business culture will have any impact on TaskRabbit's workers, the overwhelming majority of whom are ad hoc contractors. Sweden, which generally lacks a similar "gig economy" environment, boasts universal public health care and housing and child care subsidies. Employees in Sweden are required to be provided a minimum of five weeks paid annual leave, and wages are typically set by annual collective bargaining. According to Ikea's statement, TaskRabbit will remain an independent company and will remain in San Francisco -- as such, its taskers aren't considered to be employees.

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System76 Pop!_OS Beta Ubuntu-based Linux Distribution Now Available To Download

Thu, 28/09/2017 - 7:05pm
BrianFagioli writes: Next month, a new era of Ubuntu begins. Unity is dead, and GNOME 3 takes over as the default desktop environment. While this change was for the best, it was still shocking for many. For a company like System76, for instance, that sells computers pre-loaded with Ubuntu, this was problematic. Why? Well, the company essentially lost control of the overall user experience by relying on vanilla Ubuntu. It was being forced to follow Canonical's path. To solve this, and regain some control, System76 has been developing its own operating system called 'Pop!_OS.' No, it is not reinventing the wheel here -- it will still use Ubuntu as a base, and GNOME will be the desktop environment. The company is customizing the operating system, however, with things like fonts, themes, and icons, to create something truly unique. This could lead to an improved user experience. Today, the first official beta of the operating system becomes available for download.

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Google Quietly Discontinues NFC Smart Unlock Without Explanation

Thu, 28/09/2017 - 6:45pm
Mark Wilson writes: Android users have been slowly discovering that Google has killed off NFC Smart Unlock. The feature, which makes it possible to unlock a phone with an NFC device such as a ring or bracelet, has been discontinued without explanation. Earlier in the month, Android users started to post messages on Google's Issue Tracker website, indicating that the feature was no longer available to them. Three weeks later, Google has finally responded, indicating that NFC Smart Unlock has been deprecated.

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'Lost Continent' Rises Again With New Expedition

Thu, 28/09/2017 - 6:05pm
Tens of millions of years after it disappeared under the waters of the Pacific Ocean, scientists have completed the first explorations of what some scientists are calling a hidden continent. From a report: During a two-month ocean voyage this summer, a team of more than 30 scientists from 12 countries explored the submerged landmass of Zealandia on an advanced research vessel and collected samples from the seabed. Scientists were able to drill into the ocean floor at depths of more than 4,000 feet, collecting more than 8,000 feet of sediment cores that provides a window into 70 million years of geologic history, reports Georgie Burgess for ABC News. More than 8,000 fossils from hundreds of species were also collected in the drilling, giving scientists a glimpse at terrestrial life that lived tens of millions of years ago in the area. "The discovery of microscopic shells of organisms that lived in warm shallow seas, and of spores and pollen from land plants, reveal that the geography and climate of Zealandia were dramatically different in the past," expedition leader Gerald Dickens said in a statement. While more than 90 percent of Zealandia is now submerged under more than a kilometer (two-thirds of a mile) of water, when it was above the surface, it likely provided a path that many land animals and plants could have used to spread across the South Pacific, notes Naaman Zhou of the Guardian.

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Not Many People Are Buying Andy Rubin's iPhone-Killer Essential Phone, It Seems

Thu, 28/09/2017 - 5:25pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: Essential Products has sold an estimated 5,000 phones through Sprint since the gadget made its big retail debut in the United States earlier this month, according to estimates from BayStreet Research. That figure would put Essential, whose maker became a unicorn without shipping handset, well below market heavyweights like Apple and Samsung, which typically sell tens of millions of phones per quarter in the United States. BayStreet tracks shipments of phones and other devices across the United States. Essential representatives didn't respond to requests for comment on the BayStreet estimates. BayStreet also clarified that its 5,000 figure is an estimate of Essential's sell-through (when a customer buys a product from a retailer) rather than its sell-in (when a retailer buys something from a manufacturer). Sprint is the exclusive carrier for the phone; most phones in the United States are sold through carriers. However, Essential also offers an unlocked version of its gadget. Essential, the first major startup from Android founder Andy Rubin's venture capital firm Playground, currently sells the $699 Android-powered Essential Phone through Sprint and promises to release the Essential Home smart-home hub later this year. Essential was named as one of FierceWireless' top 15 startups to watch in 2017.

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Moscow Deploys Facial Recognition to Spy on Citizens in Streets

Thu, 28/09/2017 - 4:45pm
Moscow is adding facial-recognition technology to its network of 170,000 surveillance cameras across the city in a move to identify criminals and boost security. From a report: Since 2012, CCTV recordings have been held for five days after they're captured, with about 20 million hours of video stored at any one time. "We soon found it impossible to process such volumes of data by police officers alone," said Artem Ermolaev, head of the department of information technology in Moscow. "We needed an artificial intelligence to help find what we are looking for." Moscow says the city's centralized surveillance network is the world's largest of its kind. The U.K. is one of the most notorious for its use of CCTV cameras but precise figures are difficult to obtain. However, a 2013 report by the British Security Industry Association estimated there were as many as 70,000 cameras operated by the government across the nation.

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Companies Are Once Again Storing Data On Tape, Just in Case

Thu, 28/09/2017 - 4:05pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: To stay up to date in the battle against hackers, some companies are turning to a 1950s technology. Storing data on tape seems impossibly inconvenient in an age of easy-access cloud computing. But that is the big security advantage of this vintage technology, since hackers have no way to get at the information. The federal government, financial-services firms, health insurers and other regulated industries still keep tape as a backup to digital records. Now a range of other companies are returning to tape as hackers get smarter about penetrating defenses -- and do much more damage when they do get in. Rob Pritchard, founder of the Cyber Security Expert consulting firm and associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute think tank, has noticed the steady resurgence of tape as part of best-practice backup strategies. "Companies of all sizes must be able to restore data quickly if needed," he says, "but also have a robust, slower-time, recovery mechanism should the worst happen." Mr. Pritchard, who works with a range of organizations to improve corporate cybersecurity practices, says: "A good backup strategy will have multiple layers. Cloud and online services have their place, but can be compromised."

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5,000 People Are Working On Amazon's Digital Assistant Alexa

Thu, 28/09/2017 - 3:20pm
Amazon said this week at an event unveiling the next generation Echo device that it has the equivalent of a small town of people -- more than 5,000 -- working on the company's digital assistant, Alexa. From a report: And Amazon's not even at full capacity when it comes to Alexa. The company's job site shows close to 1,100 open positions on a variety of Alexa-focused teams. Voice-activated assistants appear to be the Next Big Thing in the tech world, and Amazon is competing with a who's who of tech giants, including Apple, Microsoft, Google and more. Interestingly, Amazon and Microsoft recently formed a pact that will see the two company's digital assistants gain the ability to talk to one another.

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Refresh Is Sacred

Thu, 28/09/2017 - 2:40pm
Several Slashdot readers share a blog post: There are two kinds of client applications: The first kind has a "refresh" or "reload" button to make sure your app's in sync with its server's view of the world. The second kind is broken. Of late, I have to deal regularly with several apps, notably including an emailer and car-sharing service, that lack such a button. I can imagine why -- a customer focused product manager said "Steve Jobs taught us that fewer controls are better and we should just take care of making sure we're in sync with the cloud. So lose the button. Except, it doesn't work. Apparently nobody in the world is smart enough to arrange flawlessly reliable hands-off client/cloud synchronization. There are times when you just know that what you're seeing on the screen is wrong and if the stupid app would just assume everything it knows is wrong and ask for a brain transplant from its server, things would be OK.

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Airlines Suffer Worldwide Delays After Global Booking System Fails

Thu, 28/09/2017 - 2:00pm
rastos1 writes: Airlines worldwide were forced to delay flights Thursday as a global flight-bookings system operated by Amadeus IT Group SA suffered what the company called a "network issue." Major carriers including British Airways, Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Cathay Pacific Airways and Qantas Airways were among those reportedly impacted by the outage. Singapore's Changi airport said via Twitter that a technical issue affecting some operators was delaying the check-in process, with boarding passes having to be issued manually. "Amadeus confirms that, during the morning, we experienced a network issue that caused disruption to some of our systems," the Madrid-based company said in a statement. Technical teams took immediate action to identify the cause of the issue and services are "gradually being restored," it said.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Rejects Trump Bias Claims

Thu, 28/09/2017 - 12:00pm
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has dismissed comments made by Donald Trump that the site has always been against him. From a report: The US president accused the social network of "collusion" on Twitter, branding it "anti-Trump". He made the same claim against the New York Times and the Washington Post. Facebook will shortly hand over 3,000 political adverts to congressional investigators probing alleged Russian meddling in the US election. The site believes the ads were probably purchased by Russian entities during and after the 2016 presidential contest. Facebook, Twitter and Google have been asked to testify before the US Senate Intelligence Committee on 1 November about the allegations of Russian interference. Mark Zuckerberg has made it clear in the past that he doesn't like Donald Trump -- or at least, his policies. "This statement shows frustration, I think. Not just with the president, but at the atmosphere swirling around Facebook at the moment -- commentary that is painting it as a burden on the electoral process, and maybe even on society as a whole. He's trying to show all the good -- as he sees it -- that Facebook has done.

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Equifax Will Offer Free Credit Locks for Life, New CEO Says

Thu, 28/09/2017 - 9:00am
Equifax will debut a new service that will permanently give consumers the ability to lock and unlock their credit for free. From a report: The service will be introduced by Jan. 31, Chief Executive Officer Paulino do Rego Barros Jr. wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed Wednesday, a day after taking the helm. The company will also extend the sign-up period for TrustedID Premier, the free credit-monitoring service it's offering all U.S. consumers, he said. "The service we are developing will let consumers easily lock and unlock access to their Equifax credit files," Barros wrote. "You will be able to do this at will. It will be reliable, safe and simple. Most significantly, the service will be offered free, for life." Barros was named interim CEO on Tuesday, less than three weeks after Equifax disclosed that hackers accessed sensitive data for 143 million U.S. consumers.

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