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Updated: 13 min 18 sec ago

Chemists May Be Zeroing In On Chemical Reactions That Sparked the First Life

Sat, 20/05/2017 - 10:00am
sciencehabit quotes a report from Scientific Magazine: DNA is better known, but many researchers today believe that life on Earth got started with its cousin RNA, since that nucleic acid can act as both a repository of genetic information and a catalyst to speed up biochemical reactions. But those favoring this "RNA world" hypothesis have struggled for decades to explain how the molecule's four building blocks could have arisen from the simpler compounds present during our planet's early days. Now chemists have identified simple reactions that, using the raw materials on early Earth, can synthesize close cousins of all four building blocks. The resemblance isn't perfect, but it suggests scientists may be closing in on a plausible scenario for how life on Earth began. The study has been published in the journal Nature.

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Scientists Claim 'Cold Spot' In Space Could Offer Evidence of a Parallel Universe

Sat, 20/05/2017 - 7:00am
New submitter LCooke writes: A international research team led by the University of Durham thinks a mysterious cold spot in the universe could offer evidence of a parallel universe. The cold spot could have resulted after our universe collided with another. Physicist Tom Shanks said, [...] "the cold spot might be taken as the first evidence for the multiverse -- and billions of other universes may exist like our own." From the report via Inhabitat: "NASA first discovered the baffling cold spot in 2004. The cold spot is 1.8 billion light years across and, as you may have guessed, colder than what surrounds it in the universe. Scientists thought perhaps it was colder because it had 10,000 less galaxies than other regions of similar size. They even thought perhaps the cold spot was just a trick of the light. But now an international team of researchers think perhaps the cold spot could actually offer evidence for the concept of a multiverse. The Guardian explains an infinite number of universes make up a multiverse; each having its own reality different from ours. These scientists say they've ruled out the last-ditch optical illusion idea. Instead, they think our universe may have collided with another in what News.com.au described as something like a car crash; the impact could have pushed energy away from an area of space to result in the cold spot." The study has been published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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Robots Could Wipe Out Another 6 Million Retail Jobs

Sat, 20/05/2017 - 3:30am
According to a new study this week from financial services firm Cornerstone Capital Group, between 6 million and 7.5 million retail jobs are at risk of being replaced over the course of the next 10 years by some form of automation. "That represents at least 38% of the current retail work force, which consists of 16 million workers," reports CNN. "Retail could actually lose a greater proportion of jobs to automation than manufacturing has, according to the study." From the report: That doesn't mean that robots will be roving the aisles of your local department store chatting with customers. Instead, expect to see more automated checkout lines instead of cashiers. This shift alone will likely eliminate millions of jobs. "Cashiers are considered one of the most easily automatable jobs in the economy," said the report. And these job losses will hit women particularly hard, since about 73% of cashiers are women. There will also be fewer sales jobs, as more and more consumers use in-store smartphones and touchscreen computers to find what they need, said John Wilson, head of research at Cornerstone. There will still be some sales people on the floor, but just not as many of them. Rising wages are also helping to drive automation, as state and city governments hike their minimum wages. Additionally, several major retailers including Walmart, the nation's largest employer, have increased wages in order to find and retain the workers they need. The increased competition from e-commerce is also a factor, since it requires retailers to be as efficient as possible in order to compete.

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Uber Starts Charging What It Thinks You're Willing To Pay

Sat, 20/05/2017 - 1:25am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Uber drivers have been complaining that the gap between the fare a rider pays and what the driver receives is getting wider. After months of unsatisfying answers, Uber is providing an explanation: It's charging some passengers more because it needs the extra cash. The company detailed for the first time in an interview with Bloomberg a new pricing system that's been in testing for months in certain cities. On Friday, Uber acknowledged to drivers the discrepancy between their compensation and what riders pay. The new fare system is called "route-based pricing," and it charges customers based on what it predicts they're willing to pay. It's a break from the past, when Uber calculated fares using a combination of mileage, time and multipliers based on geographic demand. Daniel Graf, Uber's head of product, said the company applies machine-learning techniques to estimate how much groups of customers are willing to shell out for a ride. Uber calculates riders' propensity for paying a higher price for a particular route at a certain time of day. For instance, someone traveling from a wealthy neighborhood to another tony spot might be asked to pay more than another person heading to a poorer part of town, even if demand, traffic and distance are the same.

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UK Conservatives Pledge To Create Government-Controlled Internet

Sat, 20/05/2017 - 12:45am
Martin S. writes: Theresa May, the leader of the UK Conservative Party has pledged to create new internet that would be controlled and regulated by government on re-election. An early lead in the polls appears to be slipping but not slowly enough to change the result. Social Media has rapidly become an intense political battlefield. Known as #Mayhem in some circles, but seemingly able to command significant support from new and old media. Also, applying new social media analytics. According to the manifesto, the plans will allow Britain to become "the global leader in the regulation of the use of personal data and the internet." It states, "Some people say that it is not for government to regulate when it comes to technology and the internet... We disagree."

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BlackBerry Working With Automakers On Antivirus Tool For Your Car

Sat, 20/05/2017 - 12:05am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: BlackBerry is working with at least two automakers to develop a security service that would remotely scan vehicles for computer viruses and tell drivers to pull over if they were in critical danger, according to a financial analyst. The service, which would also be able to install security patches to an idle car, is being tested by luxury automakers Aston Martin and Range Rover. The service could be launched as early as next year, generating about $10 a month per vehicle for BlackBerry, according to Papageorgiou, who has followed BlackBerry for more than 15 years. Vehicles increasingly rely on dozens of computers that connect to each other as well as the internet, mobile networks and Bluetooth communications systems that make them vulnerable to remote hacks.

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London City First In UK To Get Remote Air Traffic Control

Fri, 19/05/2017 - 11:42pm
New submitter lifeisshort writes: "Instead of sitting in a tower overlooking the runway, controllers will be 80 miles away, watching live footage from high-definition cameras," reports BBC. "The new system, due to be completed in 2018, will be tested for a year before becoming fully operational in 2019. The technology has been developed by Saab, the Swedish defense and security company, and will be introduced as part of a 350 million EUR development program to upgrade London City Airport. It will also include an extended terminal building, enabling it to serve two million more passengers a year by 2025.The remote digital system will provide controllers with a 360-degree view of the airfield via 14 high-definition cameras and two cameras which are able to pan, tilt and zoom. The cameras will send a live feed via fibre cables to a new operations room built at the Hampshire base of Nats, Britain's air traffic control provider." As far as reliability is concerned, "the system will use three different cables, taking different routes between the airport and the control centre, to ensure there is a back up if one of those cables fails." In spite of recent large scale hacks, what could possibly go wrong? And the next obvious step is giant Bangalore ATC outsourcing company...

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Sweden Drops Julian Assange Rape Investigation

Fri, 19/05/2017 - 11:20pm
rmdingler writes: "Sweden is dropping its investigation into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on rape allegations, according to a prosecution statement released Friday," reports CNN. "Assange, who has always denied wrongdoing, has been holed up at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012, in an effort to avoid a Swedish arrest warrant." Despite Friday's announcement, he's unlikely to walk out of the embassy imminently. There is no apparent change in the risk of being detained in the west, particularly in the U.S., but it's definitely a win for Assange. Joshua.Niland adds: The pressure on Julian Assange may have lifted ever so slightly with Swedish prosecutors dropping their investigation into the allegations of rape. A brief statement ahead of a press conference by the prosecutor later on Friday said: "Director of Public Prosecution, Ms Marianne Ny, has today decided to discontinue the investigation regarding suspected rape (lesser degree) by Julian Assange." This will not likely deter the United States from pursuing their own charges against him for publishing tens of thousands of military documents leaked by Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning. After describing the development as "an important victory," Assange said, "[...] it by no means erases seven years of detention without charge under house arrest and almost five years here in this embassy without sunlight. Seven years without charge while my children grow up without me. That is not something I can forgive. It is not something I can forget."

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Uber Threatens To Fire Engineer Accused of Stealing Trade Secrets From Waymo

Fri, 19/05/2017 - 10:40pm
Uber's general counsel Salle Yoo has warned Anthony Levandowski that if he doesn't return the files he's accused of stealing from Google's self-driving car unit and using them to develop similar technology at Uber, or open deny taking them, he could be fired. Gizmodo reports: Uber's general counsel Salle Yoo warned Levandowski in a letter sent Monday and made public last night that, if he didn't return the stolen files or openly deny taking them, he could be fired. The letter is a result of a court order issued Monday, and Levandowski has until the end of the month to comply. "We understand that this letter requires you to turn over information wherever located, including but not limited to, your personal devices, and to waive any Fifth Amendment protection you may have," Yoo wrote. "While we have respected your personal liberties, it is our view that the Court's Order requires us to make these demands of you." Despite the allegations against him, Levandowski's job at Uber has been protected so far by his reputation as a rising star in the self-driving industry and his close friendship with CEO Travis Kalanick, who called Levandowski his brother from another mother. However, Yoo's letter hints that the tide at Uber may be turning against Levandowsk -- in addition to demanding he return Waymo's documents, Yoo also asks Levandowski to return any Uber files he may have and to only use Uber-issued devices for work, where his actions will be monitored. "If you have not fully complied with our prior request to return all Uber-owned documents in your possession, custody, or control, you must immediately return all such documents to us," Yoo wrote.

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About 37,000 AT&T Workers Go On Three-Day Strike

Fri, 19/05/2017 - 10:20pm
Roughly 37,000 AT&T workers -- less than 14 percent of the company's total workforce -- began a three-day strike on Friday after failing to reach an agreement with the No. 2 U.S. wireless carrier over new contracts. Reuters reports: This is the first time that AT&T wireless workers are on strike, which could result in closed retail stores during the weekend, according to the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union. The workers on strike are members of the CWA. The workers are demanding wage increases that cover rising healthcare costs, job security against outsourcing, affordable healthcare and a fair scheduling policy. Slightly over half of the workers on strike are part of the wireless segment and the rest wireline workers, including a small number of DirecTV technicians, AT&T spokesman Marty Richter told Reuters. The CWA had said on Wednesday that wireless workers across 36 states and Washington, D.C. would walk-off their jobs if an agreement was not reached by Friday 3 p.m. ET.

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Almost All WannaCry Victims Were Running Windows 7

Fri, 19/05/2017 - 10:00pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: According to data released today by Kaspersky Lab, roughly 98 percent of the computers affected by the ransomware were running some version of Windows 7, with less than one in a thousand running Windows XP. 2008 R2 Server clients were also hit hard, making up just over 1 percent of infections. Windows 7 is still by far the most common version of Windows, running on roughly four times as many computers as Windows 10 worldwide. Since more recent versions of Windows aren't vulnerable to WannaCry, it makes sense that most of the infections would hit computers running 7. Still, the stark disparity emphasizes how small of a role Windows XP seems to have played in spreading the infection, despite early concerns about the outdated operating system. The new figures also bear on the debate over Microsoft's patching practices, which generated significant criticism in the wake of the attack. Microsoft had released a public patch for Windows 7 months before the attack, but the patch for Windows XP was only released as an emergency measure after the worst of the damage had been done. The patch was available earlier to paying Custom Support customers, but most XP users were left vulnerable, each unpatched computer a potential vector to spread the ransomware further. Still, Kaspersky's figures suggest that unpatched XP devices played a relatively small role in the spread of the ransomware.

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Federal Agents Used a Stingray To Track an Immigrant's Phone

Fri, 19/05/2017 - 9:20pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: Investigators from Immigration and Custom Enforcement as well as the FBI have been using controversial cell-spoofing devices to secretly track down undocumented immigrants, court records show. According to a report the Detroit News, which obtained an unsealed federal search warrant affidavit, FBI and ICE agents in Michigan used a Stingray device to ensnare a restaurant worker from El Salvador in March. The devices, which were originally intended for counter-terrorism use, have come under fire because there are currently no clear rules governing when law enforcement is allowed to deploy them. Even in cases where authorities have a clear target in mind, they run the risk of exposing personal information of other innocent people in range. Until 2015, Federal investigators were free to deploy the devices without a search warrant. At that point the Justice Department laid out a policy requiring investigators get approval to use the devices first.

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A Bug in Twitter's Old Vine App May Have Exposed Your Email

Fri, 19/05/2017 - 8:40pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: If you had a Vine account, there's an alert you may want to know about. The video app, which Twitter bought in 2012 and shut down last year after its six-second videos failed to take off, sent out emails to some users Friday alerting them to a vulnerability in its service. Yeah, that's right, Vine is dead, but your account may have been compromised anyway. Apparently, the "bug" potentially exposed email addresses to hackers or other "third parties under certain circumstances." The vulnerability apparently existed for less than 24 hours, or 14,400 Vine videos. "We take these incidents very seriously, and we're sorry this occurred," Vine wrote in its email. It also said the information exposed could not be used to access accounts, and there were no indications any of the data had been misused.

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Linux Distros Won't Run On Microsoft's Education-Focused Windows 10 S OS

Fri, 19/05/2017 - 8:00pm
Reader BrianFagioli writes: I was sort of hopeful for Windows 10 S when Microsoft made a shocking announcement at Build 2017 that it is bringing Linux distributions to the Windows Store. This gave the impression that students using the S variant of the OS would be able to tinker with Linux. Unfortunately, this is not the case as Microsoft will be blocking Linux on the new OS. In other words, not all apps in the store will be available for Windows 10 S. "Windows 10 S does not run command-line applications, nor the Windows Console, Cmd / PowerShell, or Linux/Bash/WSL instances since command-line apps run outside the safe environment that protects Windows 10 S from malicious / misbehaving software," says Rich Turner, Senior Product Manager, Microsoft. Tuner further explains, "Linux distro store packages are an exotic type of app package that are published to the Windows Store by known partners. Users find and install distros , safely, quickly, and reliably via the Windows Store app. Once installed, however, distros should be treated as command-line tools that run outside the UWP sandbox and secure runtime infrastructure. They run with the capabilities granted to the local user -- in the same way as Cmd and PowerShell do. This is why Linux distros don't run on Windows 10 S: Even though they're delivered via the Windows Store, and installed as standard UWP APPX's, they run as non-UWP command-line tools and this can access more of a system than a UWP can."

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Americans No Longer Have To Register Non-Commercial Drones With the FAA

Fri, 19/05/2017 - 7:20pm
A federal appeals court on Friday struck down a federal rule that required owners of recreational drones and other model aircraft to register the devices with the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA had announced the rule in 2015 in response to growing reports of drones flying near manned aircraft and airports. Drones have become increasingly popular with hobbyists and more than 550,000 unmanned aircraft were registered within the first year it was required. From a report: The court ruled that the FAA's drone registration rules, which have been in place since 2015, were in violation of a law passed by Congress in 2012. That law, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, prohibited the FAA from passing any rules on the operation of model aircraft -- in other words, rules that restrict how non-commercial hobbyist drone operators fly. Now, if a person buys a new drone to fly for fun, they no longer have to register that aircraft with the FAA. But if flying for commercial purposes, drone buyers still need to register. The lawsuit was won by John Taylor, a model aircraft enthusiast, who brought the case against the FAA in January 2016. Since first opening the FAA's registration system in December 2015, more than 820,000 people have registered to fly drones.

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CIA Co-Developed 'Athena' Windows Malware With US Cyber Security Company, WikiLeaks Reveals

Fri, 19/05/2017 - 6:40pm
An anonymous reader writes: Today, WikiLeaks leaked documentation about a tool called Athena. According to leaked documents, which WikiLeaks previously claimed it received from hackers and CIA insiders, Athena is an implant -- a CIA technical term for "malware" -- that can target and infect any Windows system, from Windows XP to Windows 10, Microsoft's latest OS version. Documents leaked today are dated between September 2015 and February 2016, showing that the CIA had the ability to hack Windows 10 months after its launch, despite Microsoft boasting about how hard it would be to hack its new OS. [...] The documents reveal that CIA had received help from a non-government contractor in developing the malware. The company is Siege Technologies, a cyber-security company based in New Hampshire, which was acquired on November 15, 2016, by Nehemiah Security, another US company, based in Tysons, Virginia, on the outskirts of Washington and near CIA's headquarters, in a zone peppered with various military and defense contractors.

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'Without Action on Antibiotics, Medicine Will Return To the Dark Ages'

Fri, 19/05/2017 - 6:00pm
Four years ago professor Sally Davies, England's chief medical officer, gave the world a sombre warning of the growing threat posed by bacteria evolving resistance to life-saving antibiotics. If this were left unaddressed, she argued, it would lead to the erosion of modern medicine as we know it. Doctors and scientists had long warned of the problem, but few outside medicine were taking real heed. Consumption of antibiotics rose 36% between 2000 and 2010, writes Ed Whiting, director of policy and chief of staff at Wellcome, a biomedical research charity based in London. He notes that much of the progress in the field is yet to be made: We urgently need new antibiotics. No new classes of antibiotics have been approved since the early 1980s. Between 1940 and 1962 about 20 classes were produced, but industry backing has decreased significantly since that golden age. The pipeline of new treatments is all but dry, the void fast exploited by resistant bacteria. A concerning number are now resistant to drugs reserved as the last line of defence, and the most vulnerable are in greatest danger -- the young, old and critically ill. Blood infections caused by drug-resistant microbes kill more than 200,000 newborn babies each year. The reason for the lack of interest from the pharmaceutical industry is simple: the economics don't add up. Developing new antibiotics is scientifically challenging, time-consuming and costly. The medicines we so badly need cannot be allowed to be sold in volume; they must be conserved for real need, with fair access guaranteed. This limits their retail value. Many early-stage projects will fail, making them a risky bet. Even those that are successful will take at least a decade to produce medicines that are safe for human use.

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A Tip for Apple in China: Your Hunger for Revenue May Cost You

Fri, 19/05/2017 - 5:20pm
Li Yuan, writing for the WSJ: Apple's latest predicament centers on its App Store. Last month, Apple told several Chinese social-networking apps, including the wildly popular messaging platform WeChat, to disable their "tip" functions to comply with App Store rules (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source), according to executives at WeChat and other companies. That function allows users to send authors and other content creators tips, from a few yuan to hundreds, via transfers from mobile-wallet accounts. Those transfers are offered by the social-networking apps free of charge, as a way to inspire user engagement. Now, those tips will be considered in-app purchases, just like buying games, music and videos, entitling Apple to a 30% cut. For Apple, which has been observing slowing growth in mature markets, China is increasingly becoming important. But the company's my way or high-way approach might hurt the company's image in China. And that image as well as fortunes of local companies, is what the Chinese authorities deeply care about. As Yuan adds, "while it's understandable that Apple wants to tap the App Store for more money, its pressure on the app platforms risks alienating powerful Chinese companies, turning off Chinese iPhone users and drawing unnecessary attention from the regulators." Executives of these IM messaging apps tell WSJ that Apple has threatened that it would kick their apps out of the App Store if they don't comply. The problem is, WeChat is way more popular in China than Apple -- or its iPhones or its services or both combined, analysts say. WeChat is insanely popular in China, and people love to use the app to pay for things they purchase and send money to friends. Apple's greed could end up resulting in millions of new Android users, analysts said.

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IBM is Telling Remote Workers To Get Back in the Office Or Leave

Fri, 19/05/2017 - 4:40pm
For the last few years, IBM has built up a remote work program for its 380,000 employees. Now the Wall Street Journal reports that IBM is "quietly dismantling" this option, and has told its employees this week that they either need to work in the office or leave the company (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). From the report: IBM is giving thousands of its remote workers in the U.S. a choice this week: Abandon your home workspaces and relocate to a regional office -- or leave the company. The 105-year-old technology giant is quietly dismantling its popular decades-old remote work program to bring employees back into offices, a move it says will improve collaboration and accelerate the pace of work. The changes comes as IBM copes with 20 consecutive quarters of falling revenue and rising shareholder ire over Chief Executive Ginni Rometty's pay package. The company won't say how many of its 380,000 employees are affected by the policy change, which so far has been rolled out to its Watson division, software development, digital marketing, and design -- divisions that employ tens of thousands of workers. The shift is particularly surprising since the Armonk, N.Y., company has been among the business world's staunchest boosters of remote work, both for itself and its customers. IBM markets software and services for what it calls "the anytime, anywhere workforce," and its researchers have published numerous studies on the merits of remote work.

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IBM, a Pioneer of Remote Work, Calls Workers Back to the Office

Fri, 19/05/2017 - 4:40pm
For the last few years, IBM has built up a remote work program for its 380,000 employees. Now the Wall Street Journal reports that IBM is "quietly dismantling" this option, and has told its employees this week that they either need to work in the office or leave the company (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). From the report: IBM is giving thousands of its remote workers in the U.S. a choice this week: Abandon your home workspaces and relocate to a regional office -- or leave the company. The 105-year-old technology giant is quietly dismantling its popular decades-old remote work program to bring employees back into offices, a move it says will improve collaboration and accelerate the pace of work. The changes comes as IBM copes with 20 consecutive quarters of falling revenue and rising shareholder ire over Chief Executive Ginni Rometty's pay package. The company won't say how many of its 380,000 employees are affected by the policy change, which so far has been rolled out to its Watson division, software development, digital marketing, and design -- divisions that employ tens of thousands of workers. The shift is particularly surprising since the Armonk, N.Y., company has been among the business world's staunchest boosters of remote work, both for itself and its customers. IBM markets software and services for what it calls "the anytime, anywhere workforce," and its researchers have published numerous studies on the merits of remote work.

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