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Updated: 17 min 38 sec ago

Despite Well Known Risks, Survey Finds Most People Use Smartphones While Driving

Tue, 18/04/2017 - 4:00pm
From a report: Everyone knows it's dangerous, but a lot of people are still doing it -- driving while distracted. In a survey of 3-million motorists, almost 9 out of 10 admitted to using their smartphone behind the wheel. According to a report by Zendrive, which studied device use among 3.1 million drivers over 5.6 billion miles of driving, in 88 percent of trips, drivers made at least some use of their phones. On average, they spent more than three-minute on the phone.

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Google Earth Gets a New Home On the Web

Tue, 18/04/2017 - 3:20pm
To celebrate the Earth Day, Google says it is rolling out what was a two-year in the making major update to Google Earth. From a report: V9 is designed to run in a Web browser (just Chrome for now), but there's now a standalone home for Google Earth. The Android app has been updated, too (iOS is coming soon). Version 9 puts a big focus on guided tours via the "Voyager" section, which serves as a jumping off point for YouTube videos, 360-degree content, Street View, and Google Earth landmarks. The tours are led by scientists and documentarians, with some content produced by well-known groups like the BBC's Planet Earth team. For kids, there's a Sesame Street muppet section.

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Google's Featured Snippets Are Damaging To Small Businesses that Depend On Search Traffic

Tue, 18/04/2017 - 2:40pm
The Outline tells the story of CelebrityNetWorth.com, a website launched in 2008 that tells you how much a celebrity is worth. The site was an instant success, but things have turned sore in the last two years. The creator of the website Brian Warner blames Google for it. From the article: For most of its history, Google was like a librarian. You asked a question, and it guided you to the section of the web where you might find the answer. But over the past five years, Google has been experimenting with being an oracle. Type in a question, and you might see a box at the top of the search results page with the answer in large bold type. [...] In 2014, Warner received an email from Google asking if he would be interested in giving the company access to his data in order to scrape it for Knowledge Graph, for free. He said no, as he feared the traffic would plummet. [...] In February 2016, Google started displaying a Featured Snippet for each of the 25,000 celebrities in the CelebrityNetWorth database, Warner said. He knew this because he added a few fake listings for friends who were not celebrities to see if they would pop up as featured answers, and they did. "Our traffic immediately crumbled," Warner said. He acknowledged the risks in building a site that depends so heavily on Google for search traffic, and whose research can easily be reduced to a single number. But he still thinks what Google did is unfair.

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Steve Ballmer's New Project: Find Out How the Government Spends Your Money

Tue, 18/04/2017 - 2:00pm
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer isn't satisfied with owning the Los Angeles Clippers and teaching at Stanford and USC. On Tuesday, the billionaire announced USAFacts, his new startup that aims to improve political discourse by making government financial data easier to access. A small "army" of economists, professors and other professionals will be looking into and publishing data structured similarly to the 10-K filings companies issue each year -- expenses, revenues and key metrics pulled from dozens of government data sources and compiled into a single massive collection of tables. From a report on The Verge: The nonpartisan site traces $5.4 trillion in government spending under four categories derived from language in the US Constitution. Defense spending, for example, is categorized under the header "provide for the common defense," while education spending is under "secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our prosperity." Spending allocation and revenue sources are each mapped out in blue and pink graphics, with detailed breakdowns along federal, state and local lines. Users can also search for specific datasets, such as airport revenue or crime rates, and the site includes a report of "risk factors" that could inhibit economic growth. The New York Times has the story on how this startup came to be.

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Trump To Overhaul H-1B Visa Program To Encourage Hiring Americans

Tue, 18/04/2017 - 1:00pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: In a bid to court working class voters, Donald Trump will sign an executive order on Tuesday to revamp a temporary visa program used to bring foreign workers to fill jobs in the U.S. The president will use a visit to a manufacturing company in Kenosha, Wisconsin, a crucial state he snatched from Hillary Clinton in the election, to promote his latest "Buy America Hire America" offensive. Trump's executive order will call on government departments to introduce reforms to ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the "most skilled or highest paid applicants," a senior administration official said. The executive order will also call for the "strict enforcement" of laws governing entry to the U.S. of labor from overseas, with a view to creating higher wages and employment rates for U.S. workers. The order will also call on government departments to "take prompt action to crack down on fraud and abuse" in the immigration system, a senior administration official said. The administration official sad: "Right now H-1B visas are awarded by random lottery and many of you will be surprised to know that about 80% of H-1B workers are paid less than the median wage in their fields. Only 5% to 6%, depending on the year, of H-1B workers command the highest wage tier recognized by the Department of Labor. [...] If you change that current system that awards visas randomly, without regard for skill or wage, to a skills-based awarding, it makes it extremely difficult to use the visa to replace or undercut American workers [...] It's a very elegant way of solving very systemic problems in the H-1B guest worker visa."

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Google Agrees To Open Android To Other Search Engines In Russia

Tue, 18/04/2017 - 10:00am
Google has reached a $7.8 million antitrust settlement with Russian watchdog group FAS. According to BGR, the company will loosen restrictions on Android's built-in search engines to allow for Russian competitors to take a share of the pie. From the report: Android's heavy reliance on Google services is to be expected, but in 2015 the Russian antitrust group -- officially the Federal Antimonopoly Service -- ruled that Google was breaking the law by forcing users to lean on Google for search. The ruling was the result of a complaint filed by Yandex, a Russian competitor to Google that runs the largest search engine in the country as well as web mail, news, maps, and other services. Google's settlement of the issue comes with the condition that Android will no longer lock down the search engine to Google, and must allow users the ability to change it if they want from within the Chrome web browser. Google will also loosen its exclusivity of the default apps on Android devices sold in Russia, potentially allowing for Yandex and other regional competitors to muscle in and replace the built-in apps with their own versions, depending on user preference.

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Slashdot Asks: What's Your Favorite Sci-Fi Movie?

Tue, 18/04/2017 - 8:00am
Many say it's the golden age of science fiction cinema. And rightly so, every month, we have a couple of movies that bend the rules of science to explore possibilities that sometimes make us seriously consider if things we see on the big screen could actually be true. The advances in graphics, and thanks to ever-so-increasing video resolution, we're increasingly leaving the theaters with visually appealing memories. That said, there are plenty of movies made back in the day that are far from ever getting displaced by the reboots spree that the Hollywood is currently embarking. With readers suggesting us this question every week, we think it's time we finally asked, what's your favorite science-fiction movie? Also, what are some other sci-fi movies that you have really enjoyed but think they have not received enough praises or even much acknowledgement? Editor's note: the story has been moved up on the front page due its popularity.

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Netflix Nears 100 Million Subscribers

Tue, 18/04/2017 - 7:00am
With the release of its first-quarter earnings, Netflix predicted it will surpass 100 million global subscribers this weekend. "The service added nearly 5 million subscribers during the first three months of the year, and will end March with 98.7 million customers in roughly 190 countries," reports ABC News. From the report: About 51 million of Netflix's subscribers are in the U.S. By the end of this year, Piper Jaffray analyst Michael Olson expects the majority of the company's subscribers to be overseas. Netflix ended March with nearly 48 million subscribers outside the U.S. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings expects the next 100 million subscribers to come more quickly than the first 100 million, but he didn't provide a specific timetable during online video review of the company's first quarter. The Los Gatos, California company currently has a market value of about $63 billion. Its stock rose $1.90 to $149.15 in Monday's extended trading, even though subscriber growth during the first quarter came in slightly below management forecasts. As it is, Netflix expects to spend about $6 billion on programming this year. The Los Gatos, California, company earned $178 million on revenue of $2.6 billion in the first quarter. Analysts predict Netflix will make $482 million on revenue of more than $11 billion for the entire year.

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AI Can Predict Heart Attacks More Accurately Than Doctors

Tue, 18/04/2017 - 3:30am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: Scientists from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom have managed to develop an algorithm that outperforms medical doctors when it comes to predicting heart attacks. As it stands, around 20 million people fall victim to cardiovascular disease, which includes heart attacks, strokes, and blocked arteries. Today, doctors depend on guidelines similar to those of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association (ACC/AHA) in order to predict individuals' risks. These guidelines include factors like age, cholesterol level, and blood pressure. In employing computer science, Stephen Weng, an epidemiologist at the University of Nottingham, took the ACC/AHA guidelines and compared them to four machine-learning algorithms: random forest, logistic regression, gradient boosting, and neural networks. The artificially intelligent algorithms began to train themselves using existing data to look for patterns and create their own "rules." Then, they began testing these guidelines against other records. And as it turns out, all four of these methods "performed significantly better than the ACC/AHA guidelines," Science reports. The most successful algorithm, the neural network, actually was correct 7.6 percent more often than the ACC/AHA method, and resulted in 1.6 percent fewer false positives. That means that in a sample size of around 83,000 patient records, 355 additional lives could have been saved.

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New Approach To Virtual Reality Shocks You Into Believing Walls Are Real

Tue, 18/04/2017 - 2:10am
A team of researchers from Germany's Hasso-Plattner Institute is trying to find an effective way to trick the mind into thinking a virtual object or wall is real. They have developed a new device that "sends little electric shocks to sensors on your arms that stimulate your muscles whenever you press against a wall or try to lift a heavy object in virtual reality," reports Motherboard. From the report: The team's main goal was to create this illusion as cheaply as possible. Their contraption, seen in the video above, consists of little more than an electric muscle stimulator stuffed in a backpack, the sensors, and a Samsung GearVR device accompanied by motion trackers. In other words, if you've been turned off by the clunky headsets of the contemporary VR experience, this probably won't do much to win you over.

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Chinese Warehouse Cut Labor Costs In Half With a Fleet of Tiny Robots

Tue, 18/04/2017 - 1:30am
Many people around the world fear their job will eventually be replaced by a machine, including many Slashdotters. But workers in China may be the most fearful as Asia produces more robots than the rest of the world combined. Last week, a Chinese shipping company, called Shentong Express, showed off a mildly-dystopian automated warehouse that reportedly cut its labor costs in half using a fleet of tiny robots, according to the South China Morning Post. Quartz reports: In a video, tiny orange robots made by Hikvision ferry packages around an eastern China warehouse, taking each parcel from a human worker, driving under a scanner, and then dumping the package down a specific chute for it to be shipped. The human's main job in the video appears to be picking up packages and placing them label-up on top of the robot, a task modern robotics is only just starting to put into warehouse production. A spokesperson told the Post that Shentong is using the robot in two of its warehouses, and hopes to expand use to the rest of the country.

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Dingo Wins The World's Most Interesting Genome Competition

Tue, 18/04/2017 - 1:00am
An anonymous reader shares a report: It sounds like an argument scientists might have during a night of drinking: Which creature has the most interesting genome in the world? But the question is more than a passing musing. San Francisco biotech company Pacific Biosciences held a public competition to determine which critter should receive the honor. The winner: Sandy Maliki, an Australian desert dingo. The company will now sequence the dingo's genome to help researchers study animal domestication. Sandy beat out four other interesting finalists in the competition, receiving 41 percent of the public votes, which were cast from around the world. This is the fourth year the company has sponsored the competition. The company invites researchers to send in grant proposals explaining why the interesting plants and animals they study should be sequenced. Then a committee of scientists whittles the entries down to five finalists for the final public vote.

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For the First Time On Record, Human-Caused Climate Change Has Rerouted an Entire River

Tue, 18/04/2017 - 12:30am
A team of scientists on Monday documented what they're describing as the first case of large-scale river reorganization as a result of human-caused climate change (Editor's note: could be paywalled; alternative source). From a report: They found that in mid-2016, the retreat of a very large glacier in Canada's Yukon territory led to the rerouting of its vast stream of meltwater from one river system to another -- cutting down flow to the Yukon's largest lake, and channeling freshwater to the Pacific Ocean south of Alaska, rather than to the Bering Sea. The researchers dubbed the reorganization an act of "rapid river piracy," saying that such events had often occurred in the Earth's geologic past, but never before, to their knowledge, as a sudden present-day event. They also called it "geologically instantaneous." "The river wasn't what we had seen a few years ago. It was a faded version of its former self," lead study author Daniel Shugar of the University of Washington at Tacoma said of the Slims River, which lost much of its flow because of the glacial change. "It was barely flowing at all. Literally, every day, we could see the water level dropping, we could see sandbars popping out in the river."

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New York Plans To Force Uber To Add Tipping Option

Mon, 17/04/2017 - 11:50pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission announced a proposal today that could force Uber to finally allow riders to tip drivers within its app. The full proposal will be introduced in a few months and would require "car services that only accept credit cards" to let passengers tip with their cards in the app, according to The New York Times. "We have not seen the proposal and look forward to reviewing it," an Uber spokesperson told The Verge. "Uber is always striving to offer the best earning opportunity for drivers and we are constantly working to improve the driver experience." Cash tips have long been a part of a New York City cab ride, and Uber hasn't explicitly stopped riders from tipping its drivers in cash. But the touchscreen interfaces of New York City taxis allow riders to tip a driver even when paying with a credit card. Uber's app, meanwhile, has never had a similar option for including credit card-based tips.

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Samsung Blocks Ability To Remap Galaxy S8's Bixby Button

Mon, 17/04/2017 - 11:10pm
A Samsung representative confirmed today via Twitter that the company has blocked the ability for users to remap the Bixby hardware button on the Galaxy S8. For soon-to-be Galaxy S8 owners, the news will come as a disappointment, especially since the Bixby voice assistant in English has been delayed and will not be fully functional when units starting shipping later this week. ZDNet reports: XDA Developers first reported a Galaxy S8 firmware update blocked the ability to remap the button to perform a variety of tasks. Before, the button could even be remapped to launch Google Assistant. It's not clear if Samsung will ever support remapping the button. A representative for Samsung tweeted: "Can't say it will never happen, but we won't officially support."

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How the Six-Hour Workday Actually Saves Money

Mon, 17/04/2017 - 10:30pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: In February, after almost two years worth of six-hour workdays, nurses at the Svartedalens elderly care facility in Gothenburg, Sweden went back to eight hour shifts -- despite recently published research showing the benefits of the shortened workdays. The City of Gothenburg didn't extend the experiment in part because funding ran out. It cost about 12 million krona ($1.3 million) to hire the 17 extra staff members needed to fill the gaps created by shorter work hours. The city had only budgeted for two years, and legislators said it would be too expensive to implement the project across the entire municipality. So, for now, the project has come to an end. Yet, there are longer term savings the study didn't take into account. Working shorter hours resulted in healthier workers, researcher Bengt Lorentzon found in a new paper. "They were less tired, less sick, had more energy coming home and more time to do activities," said Lorentzon. Specifically, the nurses took fewer sick days than they did when working longer, eight hour days. They also took fewer sick days than nurses in the control group. In fact, they took fewer sick days than nurses across the entire city of Gothenburg.

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Leaked Documents Reveal the Hotel Lobby's Aggressive Plan To Undermine Airbnb

Mon, 17/04/2017 - 9:50pm
The New York Times has obtained a document revealing the hotel lobby's aggressive plan to undermine Airbnb's business "by pushing for bills to regulate the company at every level of government," reports Gizmodo. From the report: According to documents from the American Hotel and Lodging Association -- a trade group that includes the country's biggest hotel chains, including Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, the Four Seasons and Starwood Hotels -- the organization is planning a multi-pronged attack at local, state, and federal levels to prevent Airbnb from spreading to new cities across the country. Part of the strategy includes "aggressively countering" Airbnb's claim that it's just helping the middle class make ends meet "with a wave of personal testimonials of consumer harm." The document essentially serves as opposition research and gives its members talking points about Airbnb's alleged racism and taxation issues. According to the document, the association will focus its efforts on Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Washington, and Miami, where Airbnb has yet to establish a strong footing.

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Cylance Accused of Distributing Fake Malware Samples To Customers To Close Deals

Mon, 17/04/2017 - 9:10pm
New submitter nyman19 writes: Ars Technica reports how security vendor Cylance has been distributing non-functioning malware samples to prospective customers in order to "close the sale[s] by providing files that other products wouldn't detect" According to the report: "A systems engineer at a large company was evaluating security software products when he discovered something suspicious. One of the vendors [Cylance] had provided a set of malware samples to test -- 48 files in an archive stored in the vendor's Box cloud storage account. The vendor providing those samples was Cylance, the information security company behind Protect, a 'next generation' endpoint protection system built on machine learning. In testing, Protect identified all 48 of the samples as malicious, while competing products flagged most but not all of them. Curious, the engineer took a closer look at the files in question -- and found that seven weren't malware at all."

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Trump Administration Kills Open.Gov, Will Not Release White House Visitor Logs

Mon, 17/04/2017 - 8:30pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Techdirt: It will never be said that the Trump presidency began with a presumption of openness. His pre-election refusal to release his tax returns set a bit of precedent in that regard. The immediate post-election muffling of government agency social media accounts made the administration's opacity goals um clearer. So, in an unsurprising move, the Trump administration will be doing the opposite of the Obama administration. The American public will no longer have the privilege of keeping tabs on White House visitors. TIME reports: "The Trump Administration will not disclose logs of those who visit the White House complex, breaking with his predecessor, the White House announced Friday. White House communications director Michael Dubke said the decision to reverse the Obama-era policy was due to 'the grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.' Instead, the Trump Administration is relying on a federal court ruling that most of the logs are 'presidential records' and are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act." So, to further distance himself from the people he serves (and the people who elected him), Trump and his administration have shut down the transparency portal put in place by the previous Commander-in-Chief: "White House officials said the Administration is ending the contract for Open.gov, the Obama-era site that hosted the visitor records along with staff financial disclosures, salaries, and appointments. An official said it would save $70,000 through 2020 and that the removed disclosures, salaries and appointments would be integrated into WhiteHouse.gov in the coming months."

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Microsoft Says Previous Windows Patches Fixed Newly Leaked NSA Exploits

Mon, 17/04/2017 - 7:40pm
Microsoft said it has already patched vulnerabilities revealed in last week's high-profile leak of suspected U.S. National Security Agency spying tools, meaning customers should be protected if they've kept their software up-to-date. From a report: Friday's leak caused concern in the security community. The spying tools include about 20 exploits designed to hack into old versions of Windows, such as Windows XP and Windows Server 2008. However, Microsoft said several patches -- one of which was made only last month -- address the vulnerabilities. "Our engineers have investigated the disclosed exploits, and most of the exploits are already patched," the company said in a blog post late on Friday. Three of the exploits found in the leak have not been patched but do not work on platforms that Microsoft currently supports, such as Window 7 or later and Exchange 2010 or later.

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