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Valve Bans Developer After Employees Leave Fake User Reviews

1 week 1 day ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Insel Games, a Maltese developer of online multiplayer titles, has been banned from Steam and had all its titles removed from Valve's storefront after evidence surfaced that it was encouraging employees to manipulate user review scores on the service. Yesterday, redditor nuttinbutruth posted a purported leaked email from Insel Games' CEO encouraging employees to buy reimbursed copies of the game in order to leave a Steam review. "Of course I cannot force you to write a review (let alone tell you what to write) -- but I should not have to," the email reads. "Neglecting the importance of reviews will ultimately cost jobs. If [Wild Busters] fails, Insel fails... and then we will all have no jobs next year." In a message later in the day, Valve said it had investigated the claims in the Reddit post and "identified unacceptable behavior involving multiple Steam accounts controlled by the publisher of this game. The publisher appears to have used multiple Steam accounts to post positive reviews for their own games. This is a clear violation of our review policy and something we take very seriously." While Valve has ended its business relationship with Insel Games, users who previously purchased the company's games on Steam will still be able to use them.

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Apple's HomePod Speakers Leave White Marks on Wood

1 week 1 day ago
Apple's new smart speakers can discolour wooden surfaces, leaving a white mark where they are placed, the firm has acknowledged. From a report: The US company has suggested that owners may have to re-oil furniture if the HomePod is moved. The device went on sale last week after having been delayed from its original 2017 release date. Apple told Pocket-lint that it was "not unusual" for speakers with silicone bases to leave a "mild mark." But the gadget review site told the BBC it had never seen anything like this problem. The website's founder, Stuart Miles, told the BBC that a speaker left a mark on his kitchen worktop within 20 minutes.

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Even Apple and Google Engineers Can't Really Afford To Live Near Their Offices

1 week 1 day ago
That's according to the Y Combinator-backed real-estate startup Open Listings, which looked at median home sales prices near the headquarters (meaning within a 20-minute commute) of some of the Bay Area's biggest and best-known tech companies. Fast Company: Using public salary data from Paysa, Open Listings then looked at how many software engineers from those companies could actually afford to buy a house close to their office. Here's what it found: Engineers at five major SF-based tech companies would need to spend over the 28% threshold of their income to afford a monthly mortgage near their offices. Apple engineers would have to pay an average of 33% of their monthly income for a mortgage near work. That's the highest percentage of the companies analyzed, and home prices in Cupertino continue to skyrocket. Google wasn't much better at 32%, and living near the Facebook office would cost an engineer 29% of their monthly paycheck.

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Best Linux Distribution

1 week 1 day ago
Linux Journal: We started things off with Best Linux Distribution, and nearly 10,000 readers voted. The winner was Debian, with many commenting "As for servers, Debian is still the best" or similar. One to watch that is rising in the polls is Manjaro (7 percent), which is independently based on the Arch Linux. Manjaro is a favorite for Linux newcomers and is known for its user-friendliness and accessibility. And, now for the top three LJ winners: Debian (33 percent), openSUSE (12 percent), and Fedora (11 percent).

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Crypto-currency Craze 'Hinders Search For Alien Life'

1 week 1 day ago
Scientists listening out for broadcasts by extra-terrestrials are struggling to get the computer hardware they need, thanks to the crypto-currency mining craze, a radio-astronomer has said. From a report: Seti (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) researchers want to expand operations at two observatories. However, they have found that key computer chips are in short supply. "We'd like to use the latest GPUs [graphics processing units]... and we can't get 'em," said Dan Werthimer. Demand for GPUs has soared recently thanks to crypto-currency mining. "That's limiting our search for extra-terrestrials, to try to answer the question, 'Are we alone? Is there anybody out there?'," Dr Werthimer told the BBC. "This is a new problem, it's only happened on orders we've been trying to make in the last couple of months."

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Apple's Software 'Problem' and 'Fixing' It

1 week 1 day ago
According to media reports, Apple is planning to postpone some new features for iOS and macOS this year to focus on improving reliability, stability and performance of the existing versions. Steven Sinofsky, a former President of the Windows Division, shared his insights into the significance of this development: Several important points are conflated in the broad discussion about Apple and software: Quality, pace of change, features "versus" quality, and innovation. Scanning the landscape, it is important to recognize that in total the work Apple has been doing across hardware, software, services, and even AI/ML, in total -- is breathtaking and unprecedented in scope, scale, and quality. Few companies have done so much for so long with such a high level of consistency. This all goes back to the bet on the NeXT code base and move to Intel for Mac OS plus the iPod, which began the journey to where we are today. [...] What is lost in all of this recent discussion is the nuance between features, schedule, and quality. It is like having a discussion with a financial advisor over income, risk, and growth. You don't just show up and say you want all three and get a "sure." On the other hand, this is precisely what Apple did so reliably over 20 years. But behind the scenes there is a constant discussion over balancing these three legs of the tripod. You have to have all of them but you "can't" but you have to. This is why they get paid big $. [...] A massive project like an OS (+h/w +cloud) is like a large investment portfolio and some things will work (in market) and others won't, some things are designed to return right away, some are safe bets, some are long term investments. And some mistakes... Customers don't care about any of that and that's ok. They just look for what they care about. Each evaluates through their own lens. Apple's brilliance is in focusing mostly on two audiences -- Send-users and developers -- tending to de-emphasize the whole "techie" crowd, even IT. When you look at a feature like FaceID and trace it backwards all the way to keychain -- see how much long term thought can go into a feature and how much good work can go unnoticed (or even "fail") for years before surfacing as a big advantage. That's a long term POV AND focus. This approach is rather unique compared to other tech companies that tend to develop new things almost independent of everything else. So new things show up and look bolted on the side of what already exists. (Sure Apple can do that to, but not usually). All the while while things are being built the team is just a dev team and trying to come up with a reliable schedule and fix bug. This is just software development.

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Messenger Kids Advocates Were Facebook-Funded

1 week 1 day ago
Fast Company: Facebook unveiled this kid-friendly version of its signature messaging service in December, while the YouTube Kids scandal was in full swing. Messenger Kids, Facebook said, had been designed to serve as a "fun, safer solution" for family communications. It would be available for children as young as 6, the company said. To forestall criticism, Facebook asserted that the app had been developed alongside thousands of parents and a dozen expert advisors. But it looks like many of those outside experts were funded with Facebook dollars. According to Wired, "At least seven members of Facebook 13-person advisory board have some kind of financial tie to the company." Those advisors include the National PTA, Blue Star Families, Connect Safely, and the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.

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Kaspersky Lab Sues Over Second Federal Ban

1 week 1 day ago
Cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab has filed a lawsuit targeting the second of two federal bans on its wares. The latest suit goes after language in a defense law explicitly blocking the purchase of Kaspersky products. An earlier suit targets a Homeland Security directive doing the same. From a report: The bigger picture: With the White House reluctant to institute additional sanctions on Russia, White House Cyber Czar Rob Joyce pointed to Kaspersky as an example of the Trump administration taking Russia seriously. While Kaspersky isn't alleged to be involved in the election hacks of 2016, it's hard not to see the actions against the firm in the context of deteriorated relations with Moscow, as part of a growing spat between the two countries.

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Germany Considers Free Public Transport in Fight To Banish Air Pollution

1 week 1 day ago
"Car nation" Germany has surprised neighbours with a radical proposal to reduce road traffic by making public transport free, as Berlin scrambles to meet EU air pollution targets and avoid big fines. From a report: The move comes just over two years after Volkswagen's devastating "dieselgate" emissions cheating scandal unleashed a wave of anger at the auto industry, a keystone of German prosperity. "We are considering public transport free of charge in order to reduce the number of private cars," three ministers including Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks wrote to EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella in the letter seen by AFP Tuesday.

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Google's Chrome Ad Blocking Arrives Tomorrow

1 week 1 day ago
Google is enabling its built-in ad blocker for Chrome tomorrow (February 15th). From a report: Chrome's ad filtering is designed to weed out some of the web's most annoying ads, and push website owners to stop using them. Google is not planning to wipe out all ads from Chrome, just ones that are considered bad using standards from the Coalition for Better Ads. Full page ads, ads with autoplaying sound and video, and flashing ads will be targeted by Chrome's ad filtering, which will hopefully result in less of these annoying ads on the web. Google is revealing today exactly what ads will be blocked, and how the company notifies site owners before a block is put in place. On desktop, Google is planning to block pop-up ads, large sticky ads, auto-play video ads with sound, and ads that appear on a site with a countdown blocking you before the content loads. Google is being more aggressive about its mobile ad blocking, filtering out pop-up ads, ads that are displayed before content loads (with or without a countdown), auto-play video ads with sound, large sticky ads, flashing animated ads, fullscreen scroll over ads, and ads that are particularly dense.

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AMP For Email Is a Terrible Idea

1 week 1 day ago
An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via TechCrunch, written by Devin Coldewey: Google just announced a plan to "modernize" email with its Accelerated Mobile Pages platform, allowing "engaging, interactive, and actionable email experiences." Does that sound like a terrible idea to anyone else? It sure sounds like a terrible idea to me, and not only that, but an idea borne out of competitive pressure and existing leverage rather than user needs. Not good, Google. Send to trash. See, email belongs to a special class. Nobody really likes it, but it's the way nobody really likes sidewalks, or electrical outlets, or forks. It not that there's something wrong with them. It's that they're mature, useful items that do exactly what they need to do. They've transcended the world of likes and dislikes. Email too is simple. It's a known quantity in practically every company, household, and device. The implementation has changed over the decades, but the basic idea has remained the same since the very first email systems in the '60s and '70s, certainly since its widespread standardization in the '90s and shift to web platforms in the '00s. The parallels to snail mail are deliberate (it's a payload with an address on it) and simplicity has always been part of its design (interoperability and privacy came later). No company owns it. It works reliably and as intended on every platform, every operating system, every device. That's a rarity today and a hell of a valuable one. More important are two things: the moat and the motive. The moat is the one between communications and applications. Communications say things, and applications interact with things. There are crossover areas, but something like email is designed and overwhelmingly used to say things, while websites and apps are overwhelmingly designed and used to interact with things. The moat between communication and action is important because it makes it very clear what certain tools are capable of, which in turn lets them be trusted and used properly. We know that all an email can ever do is say something to you (tracking pixels and read receipts notwithstanding). It doesn't download anything on its own, it doesn't run any apps or scripts, attachments are discrete items, unless they're images in the HTML, which is itself optional. Ultimately the whole package is always just going to be a big , static chunk of text sent to you, with the occasional file riding shotgun. Open it a year or ten from now and it's the same email. And that proscription goes both ways. No matter what you try to do with email, you can only ever say something with it -- with another email. If you want to do something, you leave the email behind and do it on the other side of the moat.

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The Next Falcon Heavy Will Carry the Most Powerful Atomic Clock Ever Launched

1 week 1 day ago
schwit1 shares a report from Space.com: This isn't your average timekeeper. The so-called Deep Space Atomic Clock (DSAC) is far smaller than Earth-bound atomic clocks, far more precise than the handful of other space-bound atomic clocks, and more resilient against the stresses of space travel than any clock ever made. According to a NASA statement, it's expected to lose no more than 2 nanoseconds (2 billionths of a second) over the course of a day. That comes to about 7 millionths of a second over the course of a decade. n an email to Live Science, Andrew Good, a Jet Propulsion Laboratory representative, said the first DSAC will hitch a ride on the second Falcon Heavy launch, scheduled for June. Every deep-space mission that makes course corrections needs to send signals to ground stations on Earth. Those ground stations rely on atomic clocks to measure just how long those signals took to arrive, which allows them to locate the spacecrafts position down to the meter in the vast vacuum. They then send signals back, telling the craft where they are and where to go next. Thats a cumbersome process, and it means any given ground station can support only one spacecraft at a time. The goal of DSAC, according to a NASA fact sheet, is to allow spacecraft to make precise timing measurements onboard a spacecraft, without waiting for information from Earth. A DSAC-equipped spacecraft, according to NASAs statement, could calculate time without waiting for measurements from Earth -- allowing it to make course adjustments or perform precision science experiments without pausing to turn its antennas earthward and waiting for a reply.

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New Horizons Probe Captures Images At Record Distance From Earth

1 week 1 day ago
jwhyche writes: The New Horizons probe has captured the farthermost images of Earth. The probe took images of Earth from a distance of over 3.79 billion miles on December 5th, 2017. This beats the image Voyager 1 captured 27 years ago. The Voyager image was taken at a distance of 3.75 billion miles and has become known as the "Pale Blue Dot" photo. Engadget notes that this new record is likely to be broken again within a matter of months. "The [New Horizons spacecraft] is slated to swing by another Kuiper Belt object (2014 MU69) on January 1st, 2019 and record more imagery in the process," reports Engadget. "So long as the mission goes according to plan, New Horizons could hold on to its lead for a long time."

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Hospitals May Turn To Algorithms To Fight Fatal Infections

1 week 1 day ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Scientific American: Clostridium difficile, a deadly bacterium spread by physical contact with objects or infected people, thrives in hospitals, causing 453,000 cases a year and 29,000 deaths in the United States, according to a 2015 study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Traditional methods such as monitoring hygiene and warning signs often fail to stop the disease. But what if it were possible to systematically target those most vulnerable to C-diff? Erica Shenoy, an infectious-disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Jenna Wiens, a computer scientist and assistant professor of engineering at the University of Michigan, did just that when they created an algorithm to predict a patient's risk of developing a C-diff infection, or CDI. Using patients' vital signs and other health records, this method -- still in an experimental phase -- is something both researchers want to see integrated into hospital routines. The CDI algorithm -- based on a form of artificial intelligence called machine learning -- is at the leading edge of a technological wave starting to hit the U.S. health care industry. After years of experimentation, machine learning's predictive powers are well-established, and it is poised to move from labs to broad real-world applications, said Zeeshan Syed, who directs Stanford University's Clinical Inference and Algorithms Program. Shenoy and Wiens' CDI algorithm analyzed a data set from 374,000 inpatient admissions to Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Michigan Health System, seeking connections between cases of CDI and the circumstances behind them. The records contained over 4,000 distinct variables. As it repeatedly analyzes this data, the ML process extracts warning signs of disease that doctors may miss -- constellations of symptoms, circumstances and details of medical history most likely to result in infection at any point in the hospital stay.

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New York Times CEO: Print Journalism Has Maybe Another 10 Years

1 week 1 day ago
New York Times CEO Mark Thompson believes that the newspaper printing presses may have another decade of life in them, but not much more. "I believe at least 10 years is what we can see in the U.S. for our print products," Thompson said on "Power Lunch." He said he'd like to have the print edition "survive and thrive as long as it can," but admitted it might face an expiration date. "We'll decide that simply on economics," he said. "There may come a point when the economics of [the print paper] no longer make sense for us. The key thing for us is that we're pivoting. Our plan is to go on serving our loyal print subscribers as long as we can. But meanwhile to build up the digital business, so that we have a successful growing company and a successful news operation long after print is gone." CNBC reports: Digital subscriptions, in fact, may be what's keeping the New York Times afloat for a new generation of readers. While Thompson said the number of print subscribers is relatively constant, "with a little bit of a decline every time," the company said last week that it added 157,000 digital subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2017. The majority were new subscribers, but that number also included cooking and crossword subscriptions. Revenue from digital subscriptions increased more than 51 percent in the quarter compared with a year earlier. Overall subscription revenue increased 19.2 percent. Meanwhile, the company's fourth-quarter earnings and revenue beat analysts expectations, "even though the print side of the business is still somewhat challenged," Thompson said. Total revenue rose 10 percent from a year earlier to $484.1 million. New York Times' shares have risen more than 20 percent this year. "Without question we make more money on a print subscriber," Thompson added. "But the point about digital is that we believe we can grow many, many more of them. We've already got more digital than print subscribers. Digital is growing very rapidly. Ultimately, there will be many times the number of digital subscribers compared to print."

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Kaspersky Says Telegram Flaw Used For Cryptocurrency Mining

1 week 1 day ago
According to Kaspersky Lab, hackers have been exploiting a vulnerability in Telegram's desktop client to mine cryptocurrencies such as Monero and ZCash. "Kaspersky said on its website that users were tricked into downloading malicious software onto their computers that used their processing power to mine currency, or serve as a backdoor for attackers to remotely control a machine," reports Bloomberg. From the report: While analyzing the servers of malicious actors, Kaspersky researchers also found archives containing a cache of Telegram data that had been stolen from victims. The Russian security firm said it "reported the vulnerability to Telegram and, at the time of publication, the zero-day flaw has not since been observed in messenger's products."

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Seattle To Remove Controversial City Spying Network After Public Backlash

1 week 1 day ago
schwit1 shares a report from Activist Post: Following years of resistance from citizens, the city of Seattle has decided to completely remove controversial surveillance equipment -- at a cost of $150,000. In November 2013, Seattle residents pushed back against the installation of several mesh network nodes attached to utility poles around the downtown area. The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and privacy advocates were immediately concerned about the ability of the nodes to gather user information via the Wi-Fi connection. The Seattle Times reports on the latest developments: "Seattle's wireless mesh network, a node of controversy about police surveillance and the role of federal funding in city policing, is coming down. Megan Erb, spokeswoman for Seattle Information Technology, said the city has budgeted $150,000 for contractor Prime Electric and city employees to remove dozens of surveillance cameras and 158 'wireless access points' -- little, off-white boxes with antennae mounted on utility poles around the city." The nodes were purchased by the Seattle Police Department via a $3.6 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security. The Seattle Police Department argued the network would be helpful for protecting the port and for first-responder communication during emergencies. As the Times notes, "the mesh network, according to the ACLU, news reports and anti-surveillance activists from Seattle Privacy Coalition, had the potential to track and log every wireless device that moved through its system: people attending protests, people getting cups of coffee, people going to a hotel in the middle of the workday." However, by November 2013, SPD spokesman Sean Whitcomb announced, "The wireless mesh network will be deactivated until city council approves a draft (privacy) policy and until there's an opportunity for vigorous public debate." The privacy policy for the network was never developed and, instead, the city has now opted to remove the devices at a cost of $150,000. The Times notes that, "crews are tearing its hardware down and repurposing the usable parts for other city agencies, including Seattle Department of Transportation traffic cameras."

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Trump Administration Wants To Fire 248 Forecasters At the National Weather Service

1 week 1 day ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune: After a year that saw over $300 million in damages from hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters, the Trump administration is proposing significant cuts to the National Weather Service (NWS) and hopes to eliminate the jobs of 248 weather forecasters. The idea, which is part of the 2019 fiscal budget proposal and caught the agency by surprise, is being derided by the NWS's labor union, which says the cuts will impact the reliability of future weather forecasts and warnings. All totaled, the Weather Service faces cuts of $75 million in the initial proposal. Some or all of those cuts could be jettisoned before the bill is voted upon. "We can't take any more cuts and still do the job that the American public needs us to do -- there simply will not be the staff available on duty to issue the forecasts and warnings upon which the country depends," said Dan Sobien, the president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization. Further reading: The Washington Post

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Google Is Adding Snapchat-Style Stories To Mobile Search Results

1 week 2 days ago
Google is rolling out tappable, visual stories that incorporate text, images, and videos in the style made popular by Snapchat. "It started widely testing the multimedia format, called AMP stories, today (Feb. 13) in an effort to help publishers engage more with readers on mobile," reports Quartz. Google announced the feature in a developer blog post. From the report: Users can now find Google stories in search results -- in a box called "visual stories" -- when they search on mobile at g.co/ampstories for the names of publishers that have begun using the format, such as CNN, Conde Nast, Hearst, Mashable, Meredith, Mic, Vox Media, and the Washington Post brands. Google worked with those publishers to develop the format. Desktop users can also get a taste of stories through Google's Accelerate Mobile Pages site. When a user selects a story, like Cosmopolitan magazine's piece on apple cider vinegar, it displays in a full-screen, slideshow format, similar to those on Snapchat and Instagram. The multimedia format is part of Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project, a competitor to Facebook's Instant Articles that helps load pages faster on mobile devices. Like AMP, the AMP story format is open-sourced, so anyone can use it. However, Google is reportedly only displaying stories from a select group of publishers, including those it partnered with on the development, on its own site at the moment. The company said it plans to bring AMP stories to more Google products in the future, and expand the ways they appear in Google search.

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