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Updated: 9 min 4 sec ago

Trump Wants To Modernize Air Travel By Turning Over Control To the Big Airlines

Mon, 05/06/2017 - 9:40pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Today, President Donald Trump endorsed a plan to hand over oversight of the nation's airspace to a non-profit corporation that will likely be largely controlled by the major airlines. Republicans argue that privatizing air traffic control will help save money and fast track important technological upgrades. But Democrats and consumer groups criticize that plan as a corporate giveaway that will inevitably harm passengers. The air traffic reform proposal, which fell short in Congress last year, would transfer oversight from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to a government-sanctioned, independent entity that would be made up of appointees from industry stakeholders. The effort picked up steam when the union representing air traffic controllers endorsed the plan, citing years of understaffing by the FAA. Some passengers may balk at the idea of handing over day-to-day management of the nation's highly complex air traffic control system to the same companies that rack up tens of thousands of customer complaints a year, and occasionally physically assault or drag passengers off their planes. But the Trump administration argues this is the only way to modernize a system that still runs on technology that's been around since World War II. The FAA is already years into a technology upgrade known as NextGen, which involves moving from the current system based on radar and voice communications to one based on satellite navigation and digital communications. The FAA wants to use GPS technology to shorten routes, save time and fuel, and reduce traffic delays by increasing capacity.

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Videotapes Are Becoming Unwatchable As Archivists Work To Save Them

Mon, 05/06/2017 - 9:00pm
Most videotapes were recorded in the 1980s and '90s, when video cameras first became widely available to Americans. Most of those VHS cassettes have become unwatchable, and others are quickly dying, too. Research suggests that tapes like this aren't going to live beyond 15 to 20 years. NPR has a story about a group of archivists and preservationists who are increasingly scrambling through racks of tape decks, oscilloscopes, vector scopes and wave-form monitors to ensure a quality transfer from analog to digital. From the article: Here's how magnetic tapes work: Sounds and images are magnetized onto strips of tape, using the same principle as when you rub a piece of metal with a magnet and it retains that magnetism. But when you take the magnet away, the piece of metal slowly loses its magnetism -- and in the same way, the tape slowly loses its magnetic properties. "Once that magnetic field that's been imprinted into that tape has kind of faded too much, you won't be able to recover it back off the tape after a long period of time," says Howard Lukk, director of standards at the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. Lukk estimates there are billions of tapes sitting around. There are plenty of services out there to digitize tapes -- local stores, online services, even public libraries and universities. Some services are free; some cost a lot of money. The thing is, many people don't realize their tapes are degrading. And some who do know -- even members of the XFR Collective (the aforementioned group), like Mary Kidd -- haven't even gotten around to their own tapes. Digitizing also takes a lot of troubleshooting. Each transfer the Collective does requires them to play the entire tape through while they sit there and watch it.

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San Francisco Goes After Uber, Lyft For Data On City Trips, Driver Bonuses

Mon, 05/06/2017 - 8:18pm
Carolyn Said, reporting for San Francisco Chronicle: It's a San Francisco truism: Every other car on the streets these days seems to bear a logo for Uber or Lyft -- and many are double-parked as they pick up or drop off passengers. Now the city seeks to compel Uber and Lyft to share details on how many cars are roving the streets, so it can ensure that they comply with local laws; assess their impact on traffic congestion, safety, pollution and parking; and ascertain if they are accessible for disabled and low-income riders. City Attorney Dennis Herrera on Monday subpoenaed Uber and Lyft to disgorge records on four years of driving practices, disability access and service in San Francisco. "No one disputes the convenience of the ride-hailing industry, but that convenience evaporates when you're stuck in traffic behind a double-parked Uber or Lyft, or when you can't get a ride because the vehicle isn't accessible to someone with a disability or because the algorithm disfavors the neighborhood where you live," Herrera said in a statement. The subpoenas seek information on "miles and hours logged by drivers, incentives that encourage drivers to 'commute' from as far away as Fresno or Los Angeles, driver guidance and training, accessible vehicle information, and the services provided to residents of every San Francisco neighborhood," Herrera's office said.

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Apple Announces Its 'Next Breakthrough' Product: the HomePod

Mon, 05/06/2017 - 7:34pm
Apple unveiled its home speaker during WWDC 2017 on Monday. The device, called HomePod, will go toe-to-toe with existing competitors such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Apple said it wanted to combine good speakers with smart speakers you can talk to, referencing Sonos and Amazon Alexa. It said the speaker "needs to rock the house" free from distortion. It also needs to have "spatial awareness" to make the music sound good no matter the room size. It also needs to be fun to use, Apple said, adding that the HomePod does all of this with a customer's privacy in mind. From a report: The device is a pill-shaped circular speaker. It has 7 beam-forming tweeter array. It has a custom-made woofer and an Apple A8 chip. It has multi-channel echo cancellation, real-time acoustic modeling and more. The HomePod can scan the space around it to optimize audio accordingly. Schiller spent a lot of time talking about how good it sounds. Of course the speaker works well with Apple Music. You can talk to the speaker to play anything in your Apple Music library and more. You can say "play more songs like that," or "I like this song." [...] It's going to cost $349. It comes in white and space grey. It starts shipping in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. Other countries will get HomePods next year.

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Apple Unveils What's Next For macOS Desktop OS: High Sierra

Mon, 05/06/2017 - 6:50pm
Apple's next big macOS update is coming this fall, the company announced at its developer conference Monday. Apple is improving macOS Sierra, fixing bugs and making existing features and components faster and more reliable. The new version is called High Sierra. From a report: The update includes new features for Safari, with an update that stops autoplaying videos; Mail, with a new split-view mode; and Photos, with improved face detection, editing, and photo printing features. Apple is also bringing the Apple File System to Macs, after adding the technology to iOS in March. Apple is also bringing new virtual reality support to Macs with the Metal 2 framework.

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Apple Announces New iMacs With Better Screens And Modern Processors; Refreshes MacBook Lineup

Mon, 05/06/2017 - 6:14pm
Apple today announced updates to its iMac line and MacBook lineups at WWDC, giving its all-in-one desktop, and laptop series more powerful specifications and the latest Intel chips. From a report: Apple is bringing Intel's 7th generation Kaby Lake processors to the new iMac, along with what Apple calls "the best Mac display ever," offering 500 nits of brightness, or 43 percent brighter than the previous generation. The 21.5-inch model now can be configured up to 32GB of RAM, while the 27-inch goes up to 64GB, twice what had previously been offered. The new iMacs also are getting two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, making it Apple's first desktop computer to embrace the port standard. Graphics cards are getting a spec boost in the updated iMacs, too. The entry level 21.5-inch model will have an Intel Iris Plus 640 GPU, while the 4K 21.5-inch models will get Radeon Pro 555 and 560 graphics cards. Meanwhile, the 27-inch 5K model will have a choice of Radeon Pro 570, 575, and 580 graphics cards, topping out at 8GB of VRAM. The 21.5-inch iMac will start at $1099 and the 4K 21.5-inch model at $1299. As expected, Apple also refreshed the MacBook lineup. From a report: Today Apple provided a minor but wide-ranging refresh to its modern MacBooks and MacBook Pros, adding new processors from Intel and making a handful of other tweaks. The new processors are from Intel's "Kaby Lake" family, and some of them have been available for the better part of a year. Compared to the outgoing Skylake architecture, Kaby Lake introduces a gently tweaked version of Intel's 14nm manufacturing process, provides small boosts to CPU clock speeds, and supports native acceleration for decoding and encoding some kinds of 4K video streams.

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Microsoft Leak Reveals New Windows 10 Workstation Edition For Power Users

Mon, 05/06/2017 - 5:30pm
Upon close inspection of the Windows 10 build that Microsoft accidentally pushed to insiders last week, several users are reporting discovering the reference of a new Windows 10 SKU. From a report: In a leaked slide, Microsoft describes the edition as "Windows 10 Pro for Workstation" with four main capabilities: 1. Workstation mode: Microsoft plans to optimize the OS by identifying "typical compute and graphics intensive workloads" to provide peak performance and reliability when Workstation mode is enabled. 2. Resilient file system: Microsoft's file system successor to NTFS, dubbed ReFS, is enabled in this new version, with support for fault-tolerance, optimized for large data volumes, and auto-correcting. 3. Faster file handling: As workstation machines are typically used for large data volumes across networks, Microsoft is including the SMBDirect protocol for file sharing and high throughput, low latency, and low CPU utilization when accessing network shares. 4. Expanded hardware support: Microsoft is also planning to allow Windows 10 Pro for Workstation on machines with up to 4 CPUs and a memory limit of 6TB. Windows 10 Pro currently only supports 2 CPUs.

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Harvard Pulls Student Offers Over Online Comments

Mon, 05/06/2017 - 4:45pm
Reader joshtops shares a report: Harvard University's student newspaper says the school has revoked admission offers to at least 10 prospective freshmen over offensive online messages. The Harvard Crimson says the students posted images and comments in a private Facebook group mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust and racial minorities. The newspaper reported that several group members said at least 10 people were told by Harvard in April that their acceptances had been withdrawn.

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IBM Research Alliance Has Figured Out How To Make 5nm Chips

Mon, 05/06/2017 - 4:05pm
IBM, GlobalFoundries, and Samsung said Monday that they have found a way to make thinner transistors, which should enable them to pack 30 billion switches onto a microprocessor chip the size of a fingernail. The tech industry has been fueled for decades by the ability of chipmakers to shoehorn ever smaller, faster transistors into the chips that power laptops, servers, and mobile devices. But industry watchers have worried lately that technology was pushing the limits of Moore's Law -- a prediction made by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in 1965 that computing power would double every two years as chips got more densely packed. From a report: Today's chips are built with transistors whose dimensions measure 10 nanometers, which means about 1,000 fit end-to-end across the diameter of a human hair. The next generation will shrink that dimension to 7nm, and the IBM-Samsung development goes one generation beyond that to 5nm. That means transistors can be packed four times as densely on a chip compared with today's technology. "A nanosheet-based 5nm chip will deliver performance and power, together with density," said Huiming Bu, IBM's director of silicon integration and device research. Take all those numbers with a nanograin of salt, though, because chipmakers no longer agree on what exactly they're measuring about transistors. And there's also a long road between this research announcement and actual commercial manufacturing. IBM believes this new process won't cost any more than chips with today's transistor designs, but its approach requires an expensive shift that chipmakers have put off for years: the use of extreme ultraviolet light to etch chip features onto silicon wafers.

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Silicon Valley Is Too Focused On Taking the Easy Path in Health Care

Mon, 05/06/2017 - 3:25pm
Silicon Valley investors are increasingly looking at health space, but they are mostly eyeing for opportunities on the fringes of the traditional health care system to avoid long and complicated regulatory cycles, an analysis on CNBC shows. As a result of this, these start-ups will not help low-income and chronically ill patients who need innovation most. From the article: Founders often talk about about how challenging it can be to break into the multi-trillion dollar medical sector. Health care startups face regulatory hurdles, long sales cycles and a high burden of proof -- and that means it can take more than a decade to make a return. As a result, many venture-backed entrepreneurs are looking instead at opportunities on the fringes of the health care system, such as cash-only health services that don't require insurance or tests and apps that aren't regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. For tech investors, these opportunities hold the chance of an outsized return in five years or less. That often valuations on par with consumer Internet start-ups. [...] Many entrepreneurs acknowledge this, but justify their approach by promising to focus on more at-risk groups once they've nailed the product.

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Supreme Court Agrees To Decide Major Privacy Case On Cellphone Data

Mon, 05/06/2017 - 2:46pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a major case on privacy rights in the digital age that will determine whether police officers need warrants to access past cellphone location information kept by wireless carriers. The justices agreed to hear an appeal brought by a man who was arrested in 2011 as part of an investigation into a string of armed robberies at Radio Shack and T-Mobile stores in the Detroit area over the preceding months. Police helped establish that the man, Timothy Carpenter, was near the scene of the crimes by securing cell site location information from his cellphone carrier. At issue is whether failing to obtain a warrant violates a defendant's right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures under the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment. The information that law enforcement agencies can obtain from wireless carriers shows which local cellphone towers users connect to at the time they make calls. Police can use historical data to determine if a suspect was in the vicinity of a crime scene or real-time data to track a suspect.

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Apple Piles On the Features, and Users Say, 'Enough!'

Mon, 05/06/2017 - 2:05pm
In a few hours, Apple will kickstart its annual developer conference. At the event, the company is expected to announce new MacBook laptops, the next major updates for iOS and MacOS, new features of Siri, and a home-speaker. Ahead of the conference, The New York Times has run a story that talks some of the headline announcements that Apple announced last year: one of which was, the ability to order food, scribble doodles and send funny images known as stickers in chats on its Messages app. Speaking with users, engineers and industry insiders, the Times reports that many of its existing features -- including expansion of Messages -- are too complicated for many users to figure out (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). From the report: The idea was to make Messages, one of the most popular apps on the iPhone, into an all-purpose tool like China's WeChat. But the process of finding and installing other apps in Messages is so tricky that most users have no idea they can even do it, developers and analysts say.

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Moving On From Fire Phone Turmoil, Amazon Plans New Android Smartphones: Report

Mon, 05/06/2017 - 12:35pm
Reader joshtops writes: Amazon plans to have another go at selling its own branded smartphones, according to a new report. The ecommerce giant, which killed off its Fire Phone in 2015, is working on a new lineup of smartphones branded as 'Ice', the report said, citing unnamed sources. Unlike the Fire Phone -- for which Amazon focused largely on the US and a couple of other western markets -- the company is eyeing emerging regions like India for selling its new phones. Amazon's upcoming smartphones run the latest version of Google's Android operating system with Google Mobile Services (GMS) such as Gmail and Google Play, the people said. Incorporating Google Mobile Services in its devices is a major change in strategy for Amazon, which currently offers a range of Android tablets without Google apps on them. The smartphones are being referred to as 'Ice' internally, in what could be a move to distance itself from the disastrous Fire Phone brand, though it's not clear if Amazon will eventually bring the devices under the Ice name. A source cited in the story said the phones will ship with Alexa, Amazon's AI assistant.

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Can Twitter Survive By Becoming A User-Owned Co-Op?

Mon, 05/06/2017 - 11:30am
What's going to happen now that Twitter's stock price has dropped from $66 a share to just $18? An anonymous reader quotes Salon: A small group of shrewd Twitter users and shareholders have come up with proposals to fundamentally restructure the way Twitter is controlled, to turn the company into a public service by removing the need to feed investors' ceaseless appetite for hitting quarterly growth benchmarks... Sonja Trauss, a Bay Area housing policy activist, and Twitter shareholder Alex Chiang proposed earlier this year a resolution for the company's recent annual shareholder vote to promote ways to get Twitter users to buy stock in the company, such as offering ways to buy shares directly through the Twitter website and mobile app. If many individual Twitter users each owned a small piece of the company, then they could participate collectively (through the annual shareholder voting process) in steering the direction of the company. The idea makes sense from a labor standpoint. Twitter's value comes from user's tweets, which provides the backbone for digital advertising revenue. Twitter also sells this user-generated data to third parties that use it mainly for market research. This bloc of user-shareholders could theoretically overtake the control major institutional shareholders...have over the company. Because a lot of owners of a few shares of the company would have little to lose if the stock price doesn't grow or wavers, Twitter would be less beholden to meeting Wall Street's often brutal expectations.

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WSJ: There's An 'Inexorable' Trend Towards Working Remotely

Mon, 05/06/2017 - 7:30am
The Wall Street Journal reports that the trend towards remote working "is inexorable" in America's labor force, with 43% of workers now doing at least some of their work from home (up from 39% in 2012), and 20% now working entirely from home (up from 15%). An anonymous reader writes: Besides lowering an employer's rent, telecommuting also makes employees happier, which helps with both recruiting and retention according to the Journal. Automattic, maker of WordPress, is able to have an almost entirely remote workforce of 558 employees spread across more than 50 countries. But it depends on getting the right set of tools. Automattic uses Slack for conversations, Zoom for videoconferences, "and its own internal system of threaded conversations for documenting everyone's work and for major decisions." One of the company's "happiness engineers" even says online communicaton has created "radical transparency," since it's possible to read and search through internal communcations. Just remember that not every job can work remotely, according to Dell's chief human resources officer. "Engineering, leadership, R&D, sales and customer support -- those are roles that don't lend themselves very well to remote work." It'd be interesting to hear the experiences of Slashdot's readers. Anyone want to share their own experiences with working remotely -- or of working with remote co-workers?

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