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Updated: 6 min 55 sec ago

MegaBots Is Finally Going To Take On Japan In the World's First Giant Robot Duel

Sat, 05/08/2017 - 7:00am
A company called MegaBots released a video two years ago challenging a Japanese collective to a giant robot fight. About a week later, the Japanese group, Suidobashi Heavy Industry, agreed. Now, according to MegaBots co-founderes, Matt Oehrlein and Gui Cavalcanti, the battle is set to take place in September. Quartz reports: The battle would have happened a bit sooner, but apparently there have been "logistical issues at the originally-chosen venue," according to a release shared with Quartz by MegaBots. Unfortunately for fans hoping to see the battle in action -- presumably including those who backed the Kickstarter project to the tune of $550,000 to bring this robot to life -- the event will be closed to the public and recorded, for fears over the teams' ability to keep spectators safe. (One of the earliest conversations MegaBots had with Suidobashi was trying to figure out how the human pilots inside the robots would themselves "figure out how to not die.") Fans will be able to watch the fight on MegaBots' Facebook and YouTube sites, but it's not clear whether the fight will be live.

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Lovers Share Colonies of Skin Microbes, Study Finds

Sat, 05/08/2017 - 3:30am
Aneri Pattani reports via The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternate source): Couples who live together share a lot of things: beds, bathrooms, food, toiletries. But one thing they might not expect to share? Skin bacteria. In a study published Thursday in mSystems, an open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology, researchers studied the skin microbiomes of 10 sexually active, heterosexual couples living together. A microbiome is a mini-ecosystem of bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microorganisms living on and in the body. Each square centimeter of skin hosts between one million and one billion microorganisms, according to the study. After analyzing 330 skin swabs collected from 17 parts of the body on each participant, the researchers found that each person significantly influenced the microbial communities on a lover's skin. In fact, computer algorithms relying on microbial data were able to accurately match couples with up to 86 percent accuracy.

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BLU Claims Innocence, Gets Phones Reinstated On Amazon

Sat, 05/08/2017 - 1:00am
Earlier this week, Amazon suspended budget phone maker BLU from selling its phones on the site, citing a "potential security issue." A few days have passed and BLU has made its defense. SlashGear reports: AdUps, the Chinese company that provides affordable firmware update software to countless budget Android phones, is not spyware and not even Kryptowire, the security firm that broke the news last year, called it that, insists BLU. To be fair, Kryptowire really didn't. In its 2016 report, it simply described AdUps' OTA software as "FIRMWARE THAT TRANSMITTED PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION (PII) WITHOUT USER CONSENT OR DISCLOSURE." Curiously, that is more or less how the FTC defines spyware (PDF). In its 2017 follow-up, it did drop the second part of that phrase and simply reported on "mobile devices for Personally Identifiable Information (PII) collection and transmission to third parties." While BLU, and a few other OEMs, was caught unaware by the first report, it's insisting on its innocence in this second instance. Its defense stems from the argument that it is doing nothing that violates its Privacy Policy and, therefore, doesn't constitute any wrongdoing. Yes, that privacy policy that barely anyone reads, which can't legally be blamed on manufacturers anyway. In other words, when you agreed to use BLU's devices, you basically agreed that such PII could possibly be transmitted to a third party outside the US. In this particular case, that does apply to the situation with AdUps. Interestingly, the policy's copyright dates back to 2016, when the AdUps issue first came up. The Internet Archives doesn't seem to have any version of that page before April this year. And so we come to BLU's second arguments: everybody's doing it. The data that AdUps collects is the same or even just a fraction of what other OEMs are collecting. Google is hardly the bastion of privacy and other OEMs are also collecting such data and sending it to servers in China, as is the case with Huawei and ZTE. Finally, BLU says that Kryptowire's new report really only identifies the Cubot X16S, from a Chinese OEM, as the only smartphone really spying on its users. UPDATE: BLU has confirmed that its devices "are now back up for sale on Amazon."

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Apple Plans To Release a Cellular-Capable Watch To Break iPhone Ties

Sat, 05/08/2017 - 12:20am
According to Bloomberg, Apple is planning to release a version of the Apple Watch later this year that can connect directly to cellular networks, a move designed to reduce the device's reliance on the iPhone. From the report: Currently, Apple requires its smartwatch to be connected wirelessly to an iPhone to stream music, download directions in maps, and send messages while on the go. Equipped with LTE chips, at least some new Apple Watch models, planned for release by the end of the year, will be able to conduct many tasks without an iPhone in range, the people said. For example, a user would be able to download new songs and use apps and leave their smartphone at home. Intel Corp. will supply the LTE modems for the new Watch, according to another person familiar with the situation. Apple is already in talks with carriers in the U.S. and Europe about offering the cellular version, the people added. The carriers supporting the LTE Apple Watch, at least at launch, may be a limited subset of those that carry the iPhone, one of the people said.

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Vermont Medical School Says Goodbye To Lectures

Fri, 04/08/2017 - 11:40pm
The University of Vermont's Larner College of Medicine has begun phasing out lectures in favor of what's known as "active learning" and plans to be done with lectures altogether by 2019. NPR spoke with William Jeffries, a dean at the school who's leading the effort, about the thinking behind this move. From the report: Why are lectures bad? Well, I wouldn't say that they're bad. The issue is that there is a lot of evidence that lectures are not the best way to accumulate the skills needed to become a scientist or a physician. We've seen much evidence in the literature, accumulated in the last decade, that shows that when you do a comparison between lectures and other methods of learning -- typically called "active learning" methods -- that lectures are not as efficient or not as successful in allowing students to accumulate knowledge in the same amount of time. Give us an example of a topic taught in a traditional lecture versus an "active learning" setting. A good example would be the teaching of what we would call pharmacokinetics -- the science of drug delivery. So, how does a drug get to the target organ or targeted receptor? A lot of the science of pharmacokinetics is simply mathematical equations. If you have a lecture, it's simply presenting those equations and maybe giving examples of how they work. In an active learning setting, you expect the students to learn about the equations before they get there. And when you get into the classroom setting, the students work in groups solving pharmacokinetic problems. Cases are presented where the patient gets a drug in a certain dose at a certain time, and you're looking at the action of that over time and the concentration of the drug in the blood. So, those are the types of things where you're expecting the student to know the knowledge in order to use the knowledge. And then they don't forget it.

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Supreme Court Moves Toward Digital With Online Court Filings

Fri, 04/08/2017 - 11:00pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill: Supreme Court case documents will soon be made available for the first time online. The court announced Thursday that it will launch an electronic filing system on Nov. 13 that will make "virtually all new filings" accessible to the public via the court's website for free. Court documents for the lower courts are typically available online through the Public Access to Court Electronics Records, which charges a fee per page. The court's announcement comes just days after the high court unveiled a newly designed website. Court watchers say it's a surprising, but welcome, jump into the 21st century for a court that's been reluctant over the years to advance its technologies.

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Apple Owns $52.6 Billion In US Treasury Securities, More Than Mexico, Turkey or Norway

Fri, 04/08/2017 - 10:20pm
randomErr shares a report from CNBC: If Apple were a foreign country, CEO Tim Cook might have considerable political clout in the United States. That's because the tech giant owns $52.6 billion in U.S. Treasury securities, which would rank it among the top 25 major foreign holders, according to estimates from the Treasury Department and Apple's SEC filings released Wednesday. Apple's stake in U.S. government securities as of June, up from $41.7 billion as of last September, puts it ahead of Israel, Mexico and the Netherlands, according to Treasury data released last month, which tracks up to May of this year. With $20.1 billion in short-term Treasury securities and $31.35 billion in long-term marketable Treasury securities, Apple still falls far below countries like China and Japan, which hold over a trillion dollars in U.S. government debt each -- which has caused considerable hand-wringing in Washington. Still, Apple is way above other big companies like Amazon, which owns less than $5 billion in U.S. government or agency securities combined, according to regulatory filings.

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US Army Calls Halt On Use of Chinese-Made Drones By DJI

Fri, 04/08/2017 - 9:40pm
Due to "an increased awareness of cyber vulnerabilities with DJI products," the U.S. Army is asking all units to discontinue the use of DJI drones. The news comes from an internal memo obtained by the editor of SUAS News. It notes that the Army had issued over 300 separate releases authorizing the use of DJI products for Army missions, meaning a lot of hardware may have been in active use prior to the memo, which is dated August 2nd, 2017. The Verge reports: SUAS News published a piece back in May of this year that made a number of serious accusations about data gathered by DJI drones. Author Kevin Pomaski starts out writing, "Using a simple Google search the data mined by DJI from your provided flights (imagery, position and flight logs) and your audio can be accessed without your knowing consent." However, he never follows up with evidence to demonstrate how this data becomes public or can be found through a Google search. Pomaski also point out, correctly, that when DJI users elect to upload data to their SkyPixel accounts through the DJI app, this data can be stored on servers in the U.S., Hong Kong, and China. This data can include videos, photos, and audio recorded by your phone's microphone, and telemetry data detailing the height, distance, and position of your recent flights. DJI provided the following statement to The Verge: "People, businesses and governments around the world rely on DJI's products and technology for a variety of uses including sensitive and mission critical operations. The Department of the Army memo even reports that they have 'issued over 300 separate Airworthiness Releases for DJI products in support of multiple organizations with a variety of mission sets.' We are surprised and disappointed to read reports of the U.S. Army's unprompted restriction on DJI drones as we were not consulted during their decision. We are happy to work directly with any organization, including the U.S. Army, that has concerns about our management of cyber issues. We'll be reaching out to the U.S. Army to confirm the memo and to understand what is specifically meant by 'cyber vulnerabilities.' Until then, we ask everyone to refrain from undue speculation."

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Silicon Valley Says Trump Plan To Reduce Immigration Will Hurt Economy

Fri, 04/08/2017 - 9:00pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBS Local: President Donald Trump's push to cut legal immigration to the United States in half is being met by opposition from Silicon Valley leaders, economists, and even some Republicans senators, who all say legal immigration is key to economic prosperity. The Trump administration Wednesday endorsed the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act or RAISE Act, a Senate bill introduced by two Republican senators earlier this year, that aims to cut all U.S. immigration in half. Business leaders, especially those in California's tech industry, say the bill will stymie their ability to fill jobs and grow the U.S. economy. California's economy is the sixth largest in the world and many attribute that success, in part, to immigration. The Information Technology Industry Council, which represents companies including Amazon, Apple, Adobe, Dell, Facebook, Hewlett-Packard, Google, Visa, Nokia, and Microsoft railed against the bill. Dean Garfield, President and CEO of the council said, "This is not the right proposal to fix our immigration system because it does not address the challenges tech companies face, injects more bureaucratic dysfunction, and removes employers as the best judge of the employee merits they need to succeed and grow the U.S. economy." Garfield argues that the tech industry cannot find enough STEM-skilled Americans to fill open positions and that U.S. immigration policy "stops us from keeping the best and brightest innovators here in the U.S. and instead we lose out to our overseas competitors."

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Popular Password Manager LastPass Doubles Price of Its Premium Plan, Removes features From Its Free Service Tier

Fri, 04/08/2017 - 8:20pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: In November, LastPass made a big change to its service, allowing users to keep track of their passwords across all their internet-enabled mobile and desktop devices, free of charge. In addition to the free tier, the cross-platform password manager - available on iOS, Android, and Windows 10 -- also offered a Premium plan with additional features, priced at $12 per year. Today, LastPass announced another wave of changes to its lineup for individual users -- but this time, the changes are unlikely to be welcomed with open arms by its customers. LastPass Premium has now doubled in price to $24 a year, which includes "emergency access, the ability to share single passwords and items with multiple people, priority tech support, advanced multi-factor authentication, LastPass for applications, and 1GB of encrypted file storage," along with all the other features of the Free tier. In a statement, the company said, "While LastPass Free continues to offer access on all browsers and devices and the core LastPass password management functionality, unlimited sharing and emergency access are now Premium features. Free users will be able to share one item with one other individual.

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