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Updated: 4 min 22 sec ago

Uber Says It Will Apply For Self-Driving Permit In California

Fri, 03/03/2017 - 1:45am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Mercury News: Uber will apply for a state permit to test its self-driving cars on public roads [in California], the company said Thursday, more than a month after the California Department of Motor Vehicles shut down Uber's autonomous vehicle pilot program. The DMV already has reinstated the registrations for two of Uber's self-driving Volvos, which are back on the road in San Francisco, an Uber spokeswoman said. The cars will not go into self-driving mode until the permit is issued, she said. "These cars are legally registered and are being driven manually," an Uber spokeswoman said. "We are taking steps to complete our application to apply for a DMV testing permit. As we said in December, Uber remains 100 percent committed to California." DMV spokeswoman Jessica Gonzalez confirmed that regulators have been working with Uber on the application process. "Uber hasn't formally submitted their autonomous vehicle tester program application," Gonzalez wrote in an email, "but just as we would with any other manufacturer, the DMV is providing assistance with the steps necessary to apply for and receive a test permit."

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AMD Ryzen 7 Series Processor Reviews Go Live, Zen Looks Strong Vs Intel

Fri, 03/03/2017 - 12:45am
MojoKid writes: AMD has finally lifted the veil on independent reviews of its new Ryzen series of desktop processors that bring the company's CPU architecture back more on competitive footing versus its rival, Intel's Core series. The initial family of Ryzen processors consists of three 8-core chips, the Ryzen 7 1800X at 3.6GHz with boost to 4.1GHz, the Ryzen 7 1700X at 3.4Ghz with boost to 3.8GHz, and the Ryzen 7 1700 at 3GHz with boost to 3.7GHz. Each has support for 2 threads per core, for a total of 16 threads with 16MB of L3 cache on-board, 512K of L2 and TDPs that range from 65 watts for the Ryzen 7 1700 at the low-end, on up to 95 watts for the 1700X and 1800X. In comparison to AMD's long-standing A-series APUs and FX-series processors, the new architecture is significantly more efficient and performant than any of AMD's previous desktop processor offerings. AMD designed the Zen microarchitecture at the heart of Ryzen with performance, throughput, and efficiency in mind. Initially, AMD had reported a 40% target for IPC (instructions per clock) improvement with Zen but actually realized about a 52% lift in overall performance. In the general compute workloads, rendering, and clock-for-clock comparisons, the Ryzen 7 1800X either outperformed or gives Intel's much more expensive Core i7-6900K a run for its money. The lower clock speeds of the Ryzen 7 1700X and 1700 obviously resulted in performance a notch behind the flagship 1800X, but those processors also performed quite well. Ryzen was especially strong in heavily threaded workloads like 3D rendering and Ray Tracing, but even in less strenuous tests like PCMark, the Ryzen 7 series competed favorably. It's not all good news, though. With some older code, audio encoding, lower-res gaming, and platform level tests, Ryzen trailed Intel -- sometimes by a wide margin. There's obviously still optimization work that needs to be done -- from both AMD and software developers.

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Researchers Store Computer OS, Short Movie On DNA

Fri, 03/03/2017 - 12:05am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: In a new study published in the journal Science, a pair of researchers at Columbia University and the New York Genome Center (NYGC) show that an algorithm designed for streaming video on a cellphone can unlock DNA's nearly full storage potential by squeezing more information into its four base nucleotides. They demonstrate that this technology is also extremely reliable. Erlich and his colleague Dina Zielinski, an associate scientist at NYGC, chose six files to encode, or write, into DNA: a full computer operating system, an 1895 French film, "Arrival of a train at La Ciotat," a $50 Amazon gift card, a computer virus, a Pioneer plaque and a 1948 study by information theorist Claude Shannon. They compressed the files into a master file, and then split the data into short strings of binary code made up of ones and zeros. Using an erasure-correcting algorithm called fountain codes, they randomly packaged the strings into so-called droplets, and mapped the ones and zeros in each droplet to the four nucleotide bases in DNA: A, G, C and T. The algorithm deleted letter combinations known to create errors, and added a barcode to each droplet to help reassemble the files later. In all, they generated a digital list of 72,000 DNA strands, each 200 bases long, and sent it in a text file to a San Francisco DNA-synthesis startup, Twist Bioscience, that specializes in turning digital data into biological data. Two weeks later, they received a vial holding a speck of DNA molecules. To retrieve their files, they used modern sequencing technology to read the DNA strands, followed by software to translate the genetic code back into binary. They recovered their files with zero errors, the study reports. The study also notes that "a virtually unlimited number of copies of the files could be created with their coding technique by multiplying their DNA sample through polymerase chain reaction (PCR)." The researchers also "show that their coding strategy packs 215 petabytes of data on a single gram of DNA."

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Virginia Becomes First State To Legalize Delivery Robots

Thu, 02/03/2017 - 11:20pm
According to Recode, Virginia is the first state to pass legislation allowing delivery robots to operate on sidewalks and crosswalks across the state. The law (HB 2016) was signed by the governor last Friday and will go into effect on July 1. Recode reports: The two Virginia lawmakers who sponsored the bill, Ron Villanueva and Bill DeSteph, teamed up with Starship Technologies, an Estonian-based ground delivery robotics company, to draft the legislation. Robots operating under the new law won't be able to exceed 10 miles per hour or weigh over 50 pounds, but they will be allowed to rove autonomously. The law doesn't require robots to stay within line of sight of a person in control, but a person is required to at least remotely monitor the robot and take over if it goes awry. Robots are only allowed on streets in a crosswalk. Municipalities in the state are allowed to regulate how robots will operate locally, like if a city council wants to impose a stricter speed limit or keep them out entirely.

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The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review By Ars Technica

Thu, 02/03/2017 - 10:40pm
Kyle Orland writes via Ars Technica: At this point, the Legend of Zelda series operates on a rhythm so predictable you can practically set your watch to it. In a Zelda game, after an extremely slow-paced tutorial, you progress from puzzle-filled dungeon to puzzle-filled dungeon, finding in each one a key item that -- coincidentally -- is crucial to beating the dungeon boss and to finding the next dungeon. Between dungeons, you face perfunctory battles with simple enemies on a vast overworld map dotted with small towns and occasional mini-games and side-quests. Most of these give you rewards that are already so plentiful as to be practically worthless (oh, goodie, more rupees to fill my already full wallet). By the time you reach Ganon, your circuitous trip from point A to point B has given you a set of required powers that help you take on the big bad boss threatening the kingdom. Individual Zelda games each make slight variations to this formula, but the basic rhythm is there every time. And then there's the new Breath of the Wild (BotW), a Zelda game that throws off this established rhythm so quickly, and with such force, that it practically feels like a whole new genre. In doing so, Breath of the Wild offers a compelling take on a stagnating series, bringing a sense of wonder and excitement back to Zelda that hasn't been felt this strongly since the original NES game. "Breath of the Wild is my new favorite 3D Zelda game and in contention for the top spot in the series overall," Orland writes in ending. "Don't miss it." You can read his full review here

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One Bitcoin Is Now Worth More Than One Ounce of Gold

Thu, 02/03/2017 - 10:00pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: For the first time ever, the price of one bitcoin has surpassed the price of one ounce of gold. While today's swap can be attributed to a good day for bitcoin (up ~3%) and a bad day for gold (down ~1.3%), the big picture is that bitcoin has more than doubled in the last year (up ~185% from a year ago) while gold is essentially trading exactly at the price it was a year ago. Even though bitcoin and gold are both thought of as alternative assets, they don't usually trade in correlation. Still, it's notable that bitcoin has (at least temporally) surpassed the price of gold. Gold is quite literally the "gold standard" of alternative assets, often used by investors to hedge against potential losses in more traditional assets like real estate and the stock market.

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NASA's Scott Kelly Shares What He Discovered After a Year In Space

Thu, 02/03/2017 - 9:21pm
Kelly, who returned to Earth after 340 days in space last year, is working on a memoir about his experience in the space since, and how he has been seeing the planet since. Two excerpts from his article on Time: The mission that I prepared for was, for the most part, the mission I flew. The data is still being analyzed, but the scientists are excited about what they are seeing so far. The genetic differences that appeared between my twin brother Mark and me could unlock new knowledge, not only about what spaceflight does to our bodies but also about how we age here on Earth. Emerging results reveal the condition of my telomeres -- the ends of our chromosomes that indicate our genetic age -- actually improved while I was in space compared to Mark's, contrary to expectations. The studies I worked on show promise in helping scientists reach solutions to health problems that emerge in long-duration spaceflight -- problems such as bone loss, muscle deterioration, damage to vision and the effects of extended radiation exposure. [...] Personally, I've learned that nothing feels as amazing as water. The night my plane landed in Houston and I finally got to go home, I did exactly what I'd been saying all along I would do: I walked in the front door, walked out the back door and jumped into the swimming pool, still in my flight suit. I'll never take water for granted again. Russian cosmonaut Misha Kornienko says he feels the same way. I've learned that showing up early, whether it's to a job interview or a spacewalk, is the only way to stay ahead of the game and be successful. "If you're not five minutes early, you're already late."

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Uber Ex-engineer Who Alleged Sexism Retains Lawyer

Thu, 02/03/2017 - 9:01pm
Marco della Cava and Jessica Guynn, writing for USA Today: The former Uber engineer whose critical blog post has stirred a storm of controversy for the ride-hailing giant has retained an attorney, charging that her former employer is blaming her for a rash of app deletions. Susan Fowler, whose Feb. 19 essay detailed myriad examples of sexism, tweeted Thursday that "Uber names/blames me for account deletes, and has a different law firm - not Holders (sic) - investigating me."

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AI Scientists Gather to Plot Doomsday Scenarios

Thu, 02/03/2017 - 8:41pm
Dina Bass, reporting for Bloomberg: Artificial intelligence boosters predict a brave new world of flying cars and cancer cures. Detractors worry about a future where humans are enslaved to an evil race of robot overlords. Veteran AI scientist Eric Horvitz and Doomsday Clock guru Lawrence Krauss, seeking a middle ground, gathered a group of experts in the Arizona desert to discuss the worst that could possibly happen -- and how to stop it. Their workshop took place last weekend at Arizona State University with funding from Tesla co-founder Elon Musk and Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn. Officially dubbed "Envisioning and Addressing Adverse AI Outcomes," it was a kind of AI doomsday games that organized some 40 scientists, cyber-security experts and policy wonks into groups of attackers -- the red team -- and defenders -- blue team -- playing out AI-gone-very-wrong scenarios, ranging from stock-market manipulation to global warfare.

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Google Increases Gmail Attachment Limit To 50MB For Recipients

Thu, 02/03/2017 - 8:01pm
Mark Wilson, writing for BetaNews: With Gmail you can now receive attachments up to 50MB in size. It's important to note that the new attachment limit only applies to incoming email. Google would much rather you make use of Google Drive if you want to send large files to people. When it comes to sending files, you are limited to attaching up to 25MB of data in the form of one or many files. If you try to attach files that go over this limit, you'll be prompted to go down the Google Drive route instead. Not much useful, then.

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Instant Messaging App Snapchat-Maker Snap's IPO Opened Trading At $24 a Share, Making the Company Worth $33 Billion

Thu, 02/03/2017 - 7:25pm
Snap, the company behind instant messaging app Snapchat, went public this morning at price that values the loss-making tech company at $33 billion. Here's how the investors are valuing the company: At $33 billion, investors are saying Snap is worth 35 times what it's estimated to generate in sales this year, or about $936 million, according to eMarketer. Compare that with Facebook, which is currently worth about 10.5 times its estimated 2017 revenue. In other words, investors, for the moment, think Snap has three times more potential value than Facebook. That's a big bet. Snap lost $514 million last year on $404 million in revenue. Compare that with Twitter, which lost $79 million the year before its IPO, while Facebook made $1 billion in profit. Snap has 158 million daily active users. Facebook at its IPO had 845 million monthly active users and 483 million daily active users.

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An Incorrect Command Entered By Employee Triggered Disruptions To S3 Storage Service, Knocking Down Dozens of Websites, Amazon Says

Thu, 02/03/2017 - 6:46pm
Amazon is apologizing for the disruptions to its S3 storage service that knocked down and -- in some cases affected -- dozens of websites earlier this week. The company also outlined what caused the issue -- the event was triggered by human error. The company said an authorized S3 team member using an established playbook executed a command which was intended to remove a small number of servers for one of the S3 subsystems that is used by the S3 billing process. "Unfortunately, one of the inputs to the command was entered incorrectly and a larger set of servers was removed than intended," the company said in a press statement Thursday. It adds: The servers that were inadvertently removed supported two other S3 subsystems. One of these subsystems, the index subsystem, manages the metadata and location information of all S3 objects in the region. This subsystem is necessary to serve all GET, LIST, PUT, and DELETE requests. The second subsystem, the placement subsystem, manages allocation of new storage and requires the index subsystem to be functioning properly to correctly operate. The placement subsystem is used during PUT requests to allocate storage for new objects. Removing a significant portion of the capacity caused each of these systems to require a full restart. While these subsystems were being restarted, S3 was unable to service requests. Other AWS services in the US-EAST-1 Region that rely on S3 for storage, including the S3 console, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) new instance launches, Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) volumes (when data was needed from a S3 snapshot), and AWS Lambda were also impacted while the S3 APIs were unavailable.

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Skin deep? Robots To Wear Real Human Tissue

Thu, 02/03/2017 - 6:01pm
Scientists are already growing muscles, bones, and mini-organs in the lab. But these tissues are generally small and simple. That's why two scientists from Oxford University are proposing that we use humanoid robots to grow engineered tissues instead. From a report: Robots dressed in human flesh would benefit people who need tissue transplants, Oxford University researchers have said this week. At present human cells are grown in stationary environments, but moving humanoids could help them develop in a far more healthier way. Robots could "wear" tissue grafts before transplantation, researchers Pierre-Alexis Mouthuy and Andrew Carr propose in the latest issue of Science Robotics. Today sheets of cells are grown in stagnant tanks, but these "fail to mimic the real mechanical environment for cells," say the scientists. The resulting tissues aren't used to moving, stretching and straining, which make them problematic for use by patients.

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Chevrolet To Offer Unlimited Data Plan With Cars

Thu, 02/03/2017 - 5:21pm
Chevrolet has become the first carmaker to offer an unlimited data plan with its cars. From a report on BBC: The deal, for a 4G LTE data plan, applies to cars sold in the US from 3 March and will cost $20 a month. It is being offered with the help of US carrier OnStar and will see vehicles fitted with a wi-fi hotspot that connects to the web via LTE. Chevrolet said it was offering the deal because in-car data use had grown so fast. Figures gathered by Chevrolet suggest the amount of data used via wi-fi in its cars jumped by 200% last year. In 2016, it said, Chevrolet in-car hotspots had handled about four million gigabytes of data. The LTE-based hotspots are available across the entire range of vehicles made by Chevrolet.

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'Robots Won't Just Take Our Jobs -- They'll Make the Rich Even Richer'

Thu, 02/03/2017 - 4:41pm
Robotics and artificial intelligence will continue to improve -- but without political change such as a tax, the outcome will range from bad to apocalyptic, writes technology and politics journalist Ben Tarnoff, citing experts and studies, for The Guardian. From the article, shared by six anonymous readers: Despite a steady stream of alarming headlines about clever computers gobbling up our jobs, the economic data suggests that automation isn't happening on a large scale. The bad news is that if it does, it will produce a level of inequality that will make present-day America look like an egalitarian utopia by comparison. The real threat posed by robots isn't that they will become evil and kill us all, which is what keeps Elon Musk up at night -- it's that they will amplify economic disparities to such an extreme that life will become, quite literally, unlivable for the vast majority. A robot tax may or may not be a useful policy tool for averting this scenario. But it's a good starting point for an important conversation. Mass automation presents a serious political problem -- one that demands a serious political solution. Automation isn't new. In the late 16th century, an English inventor developed a knitting machine known as the stocking frame. By hand, workers averaged 100 stitches per minute; with the stocking frame, they averaged 1,000. This is the basic pattern, repeated through centuries: as technology improves, it reduces the amount of labor required to produce a certain number of goods. So far, however, this phenomenon hasn't produced extreme unemployment. That's because automation can create jobs as well as destroy them. What's different this time is the possibility that technology will become so sophisticated that there won't be anything left for humans to do. What if your ATM could not only give you a hundred bucks, but sell you an adjustable-rate mortgage?

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Fed Up Indian IT Professionals Want To Be Able To Leave Their Jobs Sooner

Thu, 02/03/2017 - 4:01pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: India's major IT firms have long required their employees to give a three-month, "non-negotiable" notice before leaving the company, but they could be soon forced to change that. Fed-up IT professionals from across India have reached out to the government, complaining that it is "unrealistic" for anyone to plan that far ahead. Over 28,000 professionals have signed a petition, addressed to the ministry of labor, to take immediate action on the matter. Part of the problem is that many companies are unwilling to wait for three months to have a person join them, many cited in the report say. Some of India's top IT firms including Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, Tech Mahindra, HCL, Accenture and IBM impose the three-month notice period policy on their employees.

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Laid-Off IT Workers Worry US Is Losing Tech Jobs To Outsourcing

Thu, 02/03/2017 - 3:21pm
An anonymous reader shares a CIO article: Sixty-three-year-old Bob Zhang is worried about the future of tech jobs in the U.S. Will the high-paying positions be a thing of the past? Zhang thinks it's already starting to happen. He's one of 79 IT workers from the University of California, San Francisco, who've been laid off. Tuesday was their last day on the job. To replace them, the school is outsourcing some of their work to an Indian firm. "Usually, they outsource the low-paying jobs," he said at a gathering outside a school building. "But now they use H-1B (visa) and use foreign workers to replace the high-paying jobs. This trend is dangerous." It was a sentiment shared among the laid-off IT workers, who've tried to push the school to save their positions, to no avail. Now they fear other publicly-funded universities will take the same approach, and replace U.S. employees with foreign workers. "Once you send out the manufacturing jobs, once you send out the service jobs, once you send out the research jobs, what's left? There's nothing left," said Tan, who's 55 and now looking for a new job. Kurt Ho, another laid-off worker, said he was paid an annual salary of about US$110,000, but the new workers replacing his position will fraction that amount. "In two years, I could be at another company, and I could be facing the same thing," he said.

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A Norwegian Website Is Making Readers Pass a Quiz Before Commenting

Thu, 02/03/2017 - 2:41pm
Joseph Lichterman, writing for Nieman Lab: Two weeks ago, NRKbeta, the tech vertical of the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, published an explainer about a proposed new digital surveillance law in the country. Digital security is a controversial topic, and the conversation around security issues can become heated. But the conversation in the comments of the article was respectful and productive: Commenters shared links to books and other research, asked clarifying questions, and offered constructive feedback. The team at NRKbeta attributes the civil tenor of its comments to a feature it introduced last month. On some stories, potential commenters are now required to answer three basic multiple-choice questions about the article before they're allowed to post a comment. The goal is to ensure that the commenters have actually read the story before they discuss it.

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