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03/08/2021 01:29:40  

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: Every jobseeker welcomes an invitation to a second interview, because it signals a company's interest. A third interview might feel even more positive, or even be the precursor to an offer. But what happens when the process drags on to a fourth, fifth or sixth round -- and it's not even clear how close you are to the 'final' interview? That's a question Mike Conley, 49, grappled with earlier this year. The software engineering manager, based in Indiana, US, had been seeking a new role after losing his job during the pandemic. Five companies told him they had to delay hiring because of Covid-19 -- but only after he'd done the final round of interviews. Another three invited him for several rounds of interviews until it was time to make an offer, at which point they decided to promote internally. Then, he made it through three rounds of interviews for a director-level position at a company he really liked, only to receive an email to co-ordinate six more rounds. "When I responded to the internal HR, I even asked, 'Are these the final rounds?,'" he says. "The answer I got back was: 'We don't know yet.'" That's when Conley made the tough decision to pull out. He shared his experience in a LinkedIn post that's touched a nerve with fellow job-seekers, who've viewed it 2.6 million times as of this writing. Conley says he's received about 4,000 public comments of support, and "four times that in private comments" from those who feared being tracked by current or prospective employers. [...] In fact, the internet is awash with similar stories jobseekers who've become frustrated with companies -- particularly in the tech, finance and energy sectors -- turning the interview process into a marathon. That poses the question: how many rounds of interviews should it take for an employer to reasonably assess a candidate before the process veers into excess? And how long should candidates stick it out if there's no clear information on exactly how many hoops they'll have to jump through to stay in the running for a role? Google recently determined that four interviews was enough to make a hiring decision with 86% confidence, noting that there was a diminishing return on interviewer feedback thereafter. "John Sullivan, a Silicon Valley-based HR thought leader, says companies should nail down a hire-by date from the start of the recruitment process, because the best candidates only transition the job market briefly," reports the BBC. "According to a survey from global staffing firm Robert Half, 62% of US professionals say they lose interest in a job if they don't hear back from the employer within two weeks -- or 10 business days -- after the initial interview. That number jumps to 77% if there is no status update within three weeks. "

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03/08/2021 00:29:37  

Along with other optimizations to benefit the Steam Deck, AMD and Valve have been jointly working on CPU frequency/power scaling improvements to enhance the Steam Play gaming experience on modern AMD platforms running Linux. Phoronix reports: It's no secret that the ACPI CPUFreq driver code has at times been less than ideal on recent AMD processors with delivering less than expected performance/behavior with being slow to ramp up to a higher performance state or otherwise coming up short of disabling the power management functionality outright. AMD hasn't traditionally worked on the Linux CPU frequency scaling code as much as Intel does to their P-State scaling driver and other areas of power management at large. AMD is ramping up efforts in these areas including around the Linux scheduler given their recent hiring spree while it now looks like thanks to the Steam Deck there is renewed interest in better optimizing the CPU frequency scaling under Linux. AMD and Valve have been working to improve the performance/power efficiency for modern AMD platforms running on Steam Play (Proton / Wine) and have spearheaded "[The ACPI CPUFreq driver] was not very performance/power efficiency for modern AMD platforms...a new CPU performance scaling design for AMD platform which has better performance per watt scaling on such as 3D game like Horizon Zero Dawn with VKD3D-Proton on Steam." AMD will be presenting more about this effort next month at XDC. It's quite possible this new effort is focused on ACPI CPPC support with the previously proposed AMD_CPUFreq. Back when Zen 2 launched in 2019, AMD did post patches for their new CPUFreq driver that leveraged ACPI Collaborative Processor Performance Controls but the driver was never mainlined nor any further iterations of the patches posted. When inquiring about that work a few times since then, AMD has always said it's been basically due to resource constraints that it wasn't a focus at that time. Upstream kernel developers also voiced their preference to seeing AMD work to improve the generic ACPI CPPC CPUFreq driver code rather than having another vendor-specific solution. It's also possible AMD has been working on better improvements around the now-default Schedutil governor for scheduler utilization data in making CPU frequency scaling decisions.

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03/08/2021 00:29:37  

An Australian Court has decided that an artificial intelligence can be recognized as an inventor in a patent submission. The Register reports: In a case brought by Stephen Thaler, who has filed and lost similar cases in other jurisdictions, Australia's Federal Court last month heard and decided that the nation's Commissioner of Patents erred when deciding that an AI can't be considered an inventor. Justice Beach reached that conclusion because nothing in Australia law says the applicant for a patent must be human. As Beach's judgement puts it: "... in my view an artificial intelligence system can be an inventor for the purposes of the Act. First, an inventor is an agent noun; an agent can be a person or thing that invents. Second, so to hold reflects the reality in terms of many otherwise patentable inventions where it cannot sensibly be said that a human is the inventor. Third, nothing in the Act dictates the contrary conclusion." The Justice also worried that the Commissioner of Patents' logic in rejecting Thaler's patent submissions was faulty. "On the Commissioner's logic, if you had a patentable invention but no human inventor, you could not apply for a patent," the judgement states. "Nothing in the Act justifies such a result." Justice Beach therefore sent Thaler's applications back to the Commissioner of Patents, with instructions to re-consider the reasons for their rejection. Thaler has filed patent applications around the world in the name of DABUS -- a Device for the Autonomous Boot-strapping of Unified Sentience. Among the items DABUS has invented are a food container and a light-emitting beacon.

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02/08/2021 23:30:04  

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Axios: The concept of a new media ecosystem that's non-profit, publicly funded and tech-infused is drawing interest in policy circles as a way to shift the power dynamics in today's information wars. Revamping the structure and role of public media could be part of the solution to shoring up local media, decentralizing the distribution of quality news, and constraining Big Tech platforms' amplification of harmful or false information. Congress in 1967 authorized federal operating money to broadcast stations through a new agency, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and what is now PBS launched down-the-middle national news programming and successful kids shows like "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" and "Sesame Street." NPR was born in 1971. Despite dust-ups over political interference of national programming and funding, hundreds of local community broadcast stations primarily received grants directly to choose which national programs to support. A new policy paper from the German Marshall Fund proposes a full revamp of the CPB to fund not just broadcast stations, but a wide range of digital platforms and potential content producers including independent journalists, local governments, nonprofits and educational institutions. The idea is to increase the diversity of local civic information, leaning on anchor institutions like libraries and colleges that communities trust. Beyond content, the plan calls for open protocol standards and APIs to let consumers mix and match the content they want from a wide variety of sources, rather than being at the mercy of Facebook, Twitter or YouTube algorithms. Data would be another crucial component. In order to operate, entities in the ecosystem would have to commit to basic data ethics and rules about how personal information is used.

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02/08/2021 22:30:10  

A recovery mission off Vietnam's coast showed how advances in technology have given new reach to the Pentagon's search for American war dead. From a report: On a July morning in 1967, two American B-52 bombers collided over the South China Sea as they approached a target in what was then South Vietnam. Seven crew members escaped, but rescue units from the Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard were unable to find six other men, including a navigator from New York, Maj. Paul A. Avolese. It wasn't until last year that scientists scanning the seafloor found one of the B-52s and recovered Major Avolese's remains. "It was very humbling to be diving a site that turned out as hallowed ground, and realizing that maybe we were in a position to help bring closure back to families that had been missing this lost aviator," said Eric J. Terrill, one of two divers who descended to the wreck. Scientists say the recovery highlights a shift in the Pentagon's ability to search for personnel still missing from the Vietnam War. For decades, such efforts have mainly focused on land in former conflict zones. But in this case, American investigators looked at an underwater site near Vietnam's long coastline, using high-tech robots. Their use of that technology is part of a larger trend. Robotic underwater and surface vehicles are "rapidly becoming indispensable tools for ocean science and exploration," said Rear Adm. Nancy Hann, who manages a fleet of nine aircraft and 16 research and survey vessels for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "They have proven to be a force multiplier when it comes to mapping the seafloor, locating and surveying wrecks and other sunken objects, and collecting data in places not easily accessed by ships and other vehicles," Admiral Hann said. One reason for the new focus on Vietnam's undersea crash sites is that many land-based leads have been exhausted, said Andrew Pietruszka, the lead archaeologist for Project Recover, a nonprofit organization. The group worked on the recent recovery mission with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, or D.P.A.A., the arm of the Pentagon tasked with finding and returning fallen military personnel. "Over time, a lot of the really good land cases and sites they've already done, they've already processed them," said Mr. Pietruszka, a former forensic archaeologist for D.P.A.A. who now works for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. "Now the majority of sites that haven't been looked at are falling in that underwater realm," he added.

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02/08/2021 22:30:10  

Events in the genome of Welwitschia have given it the ability to survive in an unforgiving desert for thousands of years. From a report: The longest-lived leaves in the plant kingdom can be found only in the harsh, hyperarid desert that crosses the boundary between southern Angola and northern Namibia. A desert is not, of course, the most hospitable place for living things to grow anything, let alone leafy greens, but the Namib Desert -- the world's oldest with parts receiving less than two inches of precipitation a year -- is where Welwitschia calls home. In Afrikaans, the plant is named "tweeblaarkanniedood," which means "two leaves that cannot die." The naming is apt: Welwitschia grows only two leaves -- and continuously -- in a lifetime that can last millenniums. "Most plants develop a leaf, and that's it," said Andrew Leitch, a plant geneticist at Queen Mary University of London. "This plant can live thousands of years, and it never stops growing. When it does stop growing, it's dead." Some of the largest plants are believed to be over 3,000 years old, with two leaves steadily growing since the beginning of the Iron Age, when the Phoenician alphabet was invented and David was crowned King of Israel. By some accounts, Welwitschia is not much to look at. Its two fibrous leaves, buffeted by dry desert winds and fed on by thirsty animals, become shredded and curled over time, giving Welwitschia a distinctly octopus-like look. One 19th-century director of Kew Gardens in London remarked, "it is out of the question the most wonderful plant ever brought to this country and one of the ugliest." But since it was first discovered, Welwitschia has captivated biologists including Charles Darwin and the botanist Friedrich Welwitsch after whom the plant is named: It is said that when Welwitsch first came across the plant in 1859, "he could do nothing but kneel down on the burning soil and gaze at it, half in fear lest a touch should prove it a figment of the imagination." In a study published last month in Nature Communications, researchers report some of the genetic secrets behind Welwitschia's unique shape, extreme longevity and profound resilience.

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02/08/2021 21:29:51  

Hackers have attacked and shut down the IT systems of the company that manages COVID-19 vaccination appointments for the Lazio region surrounding Rome, the regional government said on Sunday. From a report: "A powerful hacker attack on the region's CED (database) is under way," the region said in a Facebook posting. It said all systems had been deactivated, including those of the region's health portal and vaccination network, and warned the inoculation programme could suffer a delay. "It is a very powerful hacker attack, very serious... everything is out. The whole regional CED is under attack," Lazio region's health manager Alessio D'Amato said.

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02/08/2021 20:29:40  

Google has provided tens of millions of pounds of funding to academics investigating issues closely related to its business model. From a report: A recent scientific paper proposed that, like Big Tobacco in the Seventies, Big Tech thrives on creating uncertainty around the impacts of its products and business model. One of the ways it does this is by cultivating pockets of friendly academics who can be relied on to echo Big Tech talking points, giving them added gravitas in the eyes of lawmakers. Google highlighted working with favourable academics as a key aim in its strategy, leaked in October 2020, for lobbying the EU's Digital Markets Act -- sweeping legislation that could seriously undermine tech giants' market dominance if it goes through. Now, a New Statesman investigation can reveal that over the last five years, six leading academic institutes in the EU have taken tens of millions of pounds of funding from Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft to research issues linked to the tech firms' business models, from privacy and data protection to AI ethics and competition in digital markets. While this funding tends to come with guarantees of academic independence, this creates an ethical quandary where the subject of research is also often the primary funder of it. The New Statesman has also found evidence of an inconsistent approach to transparency, with some senior academics failing to disclose their industry funding. Other academics have warned that the growing dependence on funding from the industry raises questions about how tech firms influence the debate around the ethics of the markets they have created.

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02/08/2021 20:29:39  

How much is your palm print worth? If you ask Amazon, it's about $10 in promotional credit if you enroll your palm prints in its checkout-free stores and link it to your Amazon account. From a report: Last year, Amazon introduced its new biometric palm print scanners, Amazon One, so customers can pay for goods in some stores by waving their palm prints over one of these scanners. By February, the company expanded its palm scanners to other Amazon grocery, book and 4-star stores across Seattle. Amazon has since expanded its biometric scanning technology to its stores across the U.S., including New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Texas. The retail and cloud giant says its palm scanning hardware "captures the minute characteristics of your palm -- both surface-area details like lines and ridges as well as subcutaneous features such as vein patterns -- to create your palm signature," which is then stored in the cloud and used to confirm your identity when youâ(TM)re in one of its stores.

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02/08/2021 19:30:16  

When Microsoft unveiled its Windows 365 Cloud PC desktop-as-a-service product last month, officials said they'd release pricing on the day the service became generally available, August 2. As promised, the company has published pricing, and it ranges from $20 per user per month for the lowest end SKU, to $162 per user per month for the most expensive one. From a report: Windows 365 is available in two editions: Windows 365 Business and Windows 365 Enterprise. The Windows 365 Business SKUs are capped at 300 users per organization. The $20 per user per month Business price is for a single virtual core, 2 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage -- and requires the Windows Hybrid Benefit. (Hybrid Benefits are Microsoft's Bring-Your-Own license model, which allows customers to apply existing (or new) licenses toward the cost of a product.) Without the Hybrid Benefit discount, that same SKU is $24 per user per month. At the high end, the Business SKU with eight virtual cores, 32 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage costs $162 per user per month --- or $158 per user per month with the Windows Hybrid Benefit. The Enterprise SKUs for Windows 365 are priced similarly. A single virtual core, 2 GB of RAM and 64 GV of storage will go for $20 per user per month. At the high end, the 8 virtual core, 32 GB of RAM, 512 GB of storage SKU will go for $158 per user per month.

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02/08/2021 18:29:55  

Google announced Monday it will build its own smartphone processor, called Google Tensor, that will power its new Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro phones this fall. From a report: It's another example of a company building its own chips to create what it felt wasn't possible with those already on the market. In this case, Google is ditching Qualcomm. The move follows Apple, which is using its own processors in its new computers instead of Intel chips. And like Apple, Google is using an Arm-based architecture. Arm processors are lower power and are used across the industry for mobile devices, from phones to tablets and laptops. Google Tensor will power new flagship phones that are expected to launch in October. (Google will reveal more details about those phones closer to launch.) That, too, is a strategy shift for Google, which in recent years has focused on affordability in its Pixel devices instead of offering high-end phones. And it shows that Google is again trying to compete directly in the flagship space against Apple and Samsung. The name Google Tensor is a nod to the name of Google's Tensor Processing Unit the company uses for cloud computing. It's a full system on a chip, or SoC, that the company says will offer big improvements to photo and video processing on phones, along with features like voice-to-speech and translation. And it includes a dedicated processor that runs artificial intelligence applications, in addition to a CPU, GPU and image signal processor. It will allow the phone to process more information on the device instead of having to send data to the cloud. Further reading: Google's New Pixel Phones Features a Processor Designed In-House.

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02/08/2021 18:29:54  

An anonymous reader shares a report: When three Chinese nationals were jailed in Beijing almost a decade ago and accused of selling fake Hewlett-Packard networking gear, it looked like an example of U.S. companies getting what they'd long demanded: aggressive protection of intellectual property in the world's most populous nation. A drawn-out court case heading to trial in Massachusetts paints a much muddier picture. The three, exonerated in China, accuse the former Silicon Valley icon of setting them up. They argue that it was H-P units that conspired to sell counterfeit gear, and then pinned the blame on them. H-P disputes the claims, and is asking a U.S. federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit, saying the story was concocted by Integrated Communications & Technologies Inc., the Massachusetts-based company that employed the three Chinese nationals, to cover up its own criminal behavior. U.S. District Judge Leo T. Sorokin may rule on the dismissal request at any time. If he lets the case continue, a trial is scheduled for February. Western companies have been calling on China for years to combat counterfeiting and take action against those that steal their intellectual property. One of the triggers for former U.S. President Donald Trump's trade war was the technology industry's lobbying of the American government to help protect their IP. A loss for either side in the lawsuit would tarnish its reputation in the world's largest market for computers by marking them as an organization that fraudulently sold counterfeit goods. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative identified China as the "primary source" of counterfeit goods in a 2020 report. With Hong Kong, the document details, China accounts for 92% of the value of fake goods seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in 2019. In this case, the networking gear was made by an affiliate of H-P's in China, exported to India on lease, then sold back into the Chinese market.

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02/08/2021 17:30:10  

Ethereum, the second-largest blockchain network, is about to undergo a technical adjustment that will significantly alter the way transactions are processed, as well as reduce the supply of the ether token and sharply boost its price. The scheduled coding revamp will go live on Aug. 4. From a report: The upgrade known as Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP) 1559 is similar, analysts said, to a bitcoin "halving" event in which periodic adjustments reduced the supply of bitcoin. Each halving helped propel bitcoin's price to higher records. While bitcoin is the preferred store of value in the digital ecosystem, Ethereum has emerged as the leading financial infrastructure, settling over $12 billion of daily transactions, according to a Grayscale report released in February this year. Andrew Keys, managing partner at DARMA Capital, said ether's current price has yet to factor in the looming software upgrade. He estimates that the expected software adjustment next week, coupled with another upgrade in the first quarter of 2022, should "easily quintuple the price of ether" by next year. On Thursday, ether was up 0.6% at $2,312. EIP-1559 is a software upgrade that fundamentally changes the way transactions are processed on Ethereum by providing clear pricing on transaction fees in ether paid to miners to validate transactions and "burning" a small amount of those tokens. The burned tokens will be permanently taken out of circulation. In token burning, miners would typically send the tokens to specialized addresses that have unobtainable private keys. Without access to a private key, no one can use the tokens, putting them outside the circulating supply. By reducing the number of tokens, the currencies that remain in circulation become rarer and more valuable.

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02/08/2021 16:30:15  

The hackers who breached Electronic Arts last month have released the entire cache of stolen data after failing to extort the company and later sell the stolen files to a third-party buyer. From a report: The data, dumped on an underground cybercrime forum on Monday, July 26, is now being widely distributed on torrent sites. According to a copy of the dump obtained by The Record, the leaked files contain the source code of the FIFA 21 soccer game, including tools to support the company's server-side services. The existence of this leak was initially disclosed on June 10, when the hackers posted a thread on an underground hacking forum claiming to be in possession of EA data, which they were willing to sell for $28 million.

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02/08/2021 16:30:15  

AnandTech: An executive visiting various research divisions across the globe isn't necessarily new, but with a focus on social media driving named individuals at each company to keep their followers sitting on the edge of their seats means that we get a lot more insights into how these companies operate. The downside of posting to social media is when certain images exposing unreleased information are not vetted by PR or legal, and we get a glimpse into the next generation of technology. That is what happened over the weekend. EVP and GM of Intel's Client Computing Group, Gregory Bryant, last week spent some time at Intel's Israel R&D facilities in his first overseas Intel trip in of 2021. An early post on Sunday morning, showcasing Bryant's trip to the gym to overcome jetlag, was followed by another later in the day with Bryant being shown the offices and the research. The post contained four photos, but was rapidly deleted and replaced by a photo with three. The photo removed showcases some new information about next-generation Thunderbolt technology. In this image we can see a poster on the wall showcasing '80G PHY Technology,' which means that Intel is working on a physical layer (PHY) for 80 Gbps connections. Off the bat this is double the bandwidth of Thunderbolt 4, which runs at 40 Gbps. The second line confirms that this is 'USB 80G is targeted to support the existing USB-C ecosystem,' which follows along that Intel is aiming to maintain the USB-C connector but double the effective bandwidth. The third line is actually where it gets technically interesting. 'The PHY will be based on novel PAM-3 modulation technology.' This is talking about how the 0 and 1s are transmitted -- traditionally we talk about NRZ encoding, which just allows for a 0 or a 1 to be transmitted, or a single bit. The natural progression is a scheme allowing two bits to be transferred, and this is called PAM-4 (Pulse Amplitude Modulation), with the 4 being the demarcation for how many different variants two bits could be seen (either as 00, 01, 10, or 11). PAM-4, at the same frequency, thus has 2x the bandwidth of an NRZ connection.

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02/08/2021 15:29:51  

In a blockbuster deal that rocks the fintech world, Square announced today that it is acquiring Australian buy now, pay later giant Afterpay in a $29 billion all-stock deal. From a report: The purchase price is based on the closing price of Square common stock on July 30, which was $247.26. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2022, contingent upon certain closing conditions. It values Afterpay at more than 30% premium to its latest closing price of A$96.66. Square co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey said in a statement that the two fintech behemoths "have a shared purpose." "We built our business to make the financial system more fair, accessible, and inclusive, and Afterpay has built a trusted brand aligned with those principles," he said in the statement. "Together, we can better connect our Cash App and Seller ecosystems to deliver even more compelling products and services for merchants and consumers, putting the power back in their hands." The combination of the two companies would create a payments giant unlike any other. Over the past 18 months, the buy now, pay later space has essentially exploded, appealing especially to younger generations drawn to the idea of not using credit cards or paying interest and instead opting for the installment loans, which have become ubiquitous online and in retail stores.

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02/08/2021 13:29:49  

Some protesters in Minnesota set a fire last year. But then the surveillance footage from that day "set off a nearly yearlong, international manhunt...involving multiple federal agencies and Mexican police. The pursuit also involved a facial recognition system made by a Chinese company that has been blacklisted by the U.S. government." The New York Times tells the story of the couple who was eventually arrested: Ms. Yousif gave birth while on the run, and was separated from her baby for four months by the authorities. To prosecutors, the pursuit of Mr. Felan, who was charged with arson, and Ms. Yousif, who was charged with helping him flee, was a routine response to a case of property destruction... But beyond the prosecutorial aftermath of the racial justice protests, the eight-month saga of a young Minnesota couple exposed an emerging global surveillance system that might one day find anyone, anywhere, the technology traveling easily over borders while civil liberties struggle to keep pace... They drove, heading south on Interstate 35, a highway that runs down the middle of the country, stretching from Duluth, Minn., on Lake Superior, to Laredo, Texas, on the Mexican border. They had made their way through Iowa and just hit the northern part of Missouri, 300 miles from Rochester, when police first caught up with them. A warrant had been issued for Mr. Felan's arrest, allowing the authorities to ping his cellphone to locate him. According to a court document, late on a Monday night, more than a week after the events in St. Paul, local police in rural western Missouri, who were asked to go where the phone was pinging, stopped a black S.U.V. registered to Mr. Felan. Ms. Yousif was driving, and said she didn't know where Mr. Felan was. The police let her go... Over the next week, police kept pinging the location of Mr. Felan's phone but kept missing him. According to a court document, he sent a message to his brother in Texas saying he was turning it off between messages, worried about being tracked; the couple eventually bought new phones... On a Friday night in mid-June 2020, a surveillance camera at a Holiday Inn outside San Antonio captured Ms. Yousif and Mr. Felan driving his mother's brown Toyota Camry into the hotel's parking lot. They got out of the car, walked outside the view of the camera and then disappeared... Later in Mexico, at a meeting with law enforcement officials in Coahuila, Federico Pérez Villoro, an investigative journalist, remembers meeting a government employee in charge of Mexico's first large-scale facial recognition system who'd said America's FBI had asked them for help finding people accused of terrorism. This is significant because they were using the Dahua surveillance system from China, that's partly state-owned and "blacklisted by the U.S. government in 2019...According to a notice in the Federal Register, Dahua's products were used in "China's campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention and high-technology surveillance" against Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups." Ironically, in the end it wasn't the $30 million system that identified the couple, according to the U.S. Justice Department. It was somebody who'd contacted them directly to collect the $20,000 reward. "But the technology is spreading globally, in part because China is aggressively marketing it abroad, said Marc Rotenberg, president of the Center for A.I. and Digital Policy, a nonprofit in Washington.... China is marketing mass surveillance technology to its trading partners in Africa, Asia and South America, he explained, pitching it as a way to minimize crime and promote public order in major metropolitan areas." In a 2019 report on video analytics, the American Civil Liberties Union argued that millions of surveillance cameras installed in recent decades are "waking up" thanks to automation, such as facial recognition technology, which allows them to not just record, but to analyze what is happening and flag what they see...

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02/08/2021 09:29:54  

A new $500 million startup is now offering high-end apartments for short- and long-term rentals in America's "most vibrant, walkable neighborhoods". (And long-term renters can also avail themselves of its "turn-key homesharing program" to offset some of their rent.) The Seattle Post-Intelligencer says it's "aimed mainly at tech workers, nomadic independent contractors and other folks whose work is no longer tied to a specific location." [A]menities might include workspaces offering private and collaborative office space. Inside the units themselves, residents might find work-from-home perks like adjustable height desks and ergonomic chairs. And let's not forget that work-life balance: Sentral buildings offer rooftop pools, outdoor kitchens and fire pits, gyms, photo booths, theaters, and more — as well as offering a plethora of curated events to its residents... The folks behind the idea are savvy: CEO Jon Slavet is formerly of WeWork and Rodan + Fields. Michael Curtis, formerly VP of Engineering at Airbnb is now a strategy advisor at Sentral... The price to lease at Sentral, given the amenities, isn't much higher than regular rent prices in the major cities it serves. The LIVE program offers designer-furnished homes for stays over 30 days starting at $2,500 a month. For comparison purposes, a studio in downtown Seattle listed on Craigslist (with none of the bling offered at Sentral) is asking $1,890 a month. Sentral operates now in seven cities: LA, Austin, Chicago, Seattle, Denver, Chicago, Miami. An Atlanta location is next up, with more growth planned. Sentral's press release calls them seven "vibrant gateway cities... a launchpad to explore the country's most exciting neighborhoods" (assisted by "a world-class onsite team that fosters a true sense of community"). Sentral enables residents to live or visit stylish buildings in the nation's most coveted cities for any period of time, whether a night, a month, or multiple years. Qualifying residents can also monetize their homes through Sentral's managed homeshare program... From the city registration process to logistical details such as housekeeping, insurance, photography, contactless check-in, and around-the-clock service, Sentral's turn-key platform makes homesharing seamless for hosts, enhancing their financial freedom and fueling their ability to travel and explore. A recent tweet calls it "the future of living," while the company's new web site promises it offers "The comforts you crave + the freedom to travel." "There has been a massive shift to a 'work-from-anywhere' culture that is blurring the lines among home, work, and travel," argues CEO Jon Slavet in Sentral's press release. And the lavish press release ends by saying that the company "is creating a global community of modern adventurers with the freedom to monetize their homes, explore their passion for travel, and live life on their own terms."

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02/08/2021 08:29:45  

The New York Times tells the story of 17-year-old Ellie Zeiler, a TikTok creator with over 10 million followers, who received an email in June from Village Marketing, an influencer marketing agency. "It said it was reaching out on behalf of another party: the White House." Would Ms. Zeiler, a high school senior who usually posts short fashion and lifestyle videos, be willing, the agency wondered, to participate in a White House-backed campaign encouraging her audience to get vaccinated against the coronavirus...? Ms. Zeiler quickly agreed, joining a broad, personality-driven campaign to confront an increasingly urgent challenge in the fight against the pandemic: vaccinating the youthful masses, who have the lowest inoculation rates of any eligible age group in the United States... To reach these young people, the White House has enlisted an eclectic army of more than 50 Twitch streamers, YouTubers, TikTokers and the 18-year-old pop star Olivia Rodrigo, all of them with enormous online audiences. State and local governments have begun similar campaigns, in some cases paying "local micro influencers" — those with 5,000 to 100,000 followers — up to $1,000 a month to promote Covid-19 vaccines to their fans. The efforts are in part a counterattack against a rising tide of vaccine misinformation that has flooded the internet, where anti-vaccine activists can be so vociferous that some young creators say they have chosen to remain silent on vaccines to avoid a politicized backlash... State and local governments have taken the same approach, though on a smaller scale and sometimes with financial incentives. In February, Colorado awarded a contract worth up to $16.4 million to the Denver-based Idea Marketing, which includes a program to pay creators in the state $400 to $1,000 a month to promote the vaccines... Posts by creators in the campaign carry a disclosure that reads "paid partnership with Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment...." Other places, including New Jersey, Oklahoma City County and Guildford County, N.C., as well as cities like San Jose, Calif., have worked with the digital marketing agency XOMAD, which identifies local influencers who can help broadcast public health information about the vaccines. In another article, the Times notes that articles blaming Bill Gates for the pandemic appeared on two local news sites (one in Atlanta, and one in Phoenix) that "along with dozens of radio and television stations, and podcasts aimed at local audiences...have also become powerful conduits for anti-vaccine messaging, researchers said."

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02/08/2021 03:29:41  

"Since its own brush with antitrust regulation decades ago, Microsoft has slipped past significant scrutiny," argues a new article from The Atlantic. But it also asks if there's now a case for another antitrust action — or if we're convinced instead that "The company is reluctantly guilty of the sin of bigness, yes, but it is benevolent, don't you see? Reformed, even! No need to cast your pen over here!" Right now, it's not illegal to be big. It's not illegal to be really big. In fact, it's not even illegal to be a monopoly. Current antitrust law allows for the possibility that you might be the sole player in your industry because you're just that well managed and your product is just that good, or it's just cost-prohibitive for any other company to compete with you. Think power utilities, such as Duke Energy, or the TV and internet giant Comcast. Antitrust law comes into play only if you use your monopoly to suppress competition or to charge unfairly high prices. (If this feels like a legal tautology, it sort of is: Who's to know what's a fair price if there isn't any competition? Nevertheless, here we are...) Yet if bigness alone is enough to draw scrutiny, Microsoft must draw it. Courts have disagreed on what size market share a product or company must own to be considered a monopoly, but the historical benchmark is about 75 percent. Estimates vary as to what percentage of computers run Microsoft's Windows operating system, but Gartner research puts it as high as 83 percent... Biden, Khan, Senator Amy Klobuchar, and others are asking whether consumers suffer any nonfinancial harm from this lack of competition. Is switching from Windows to Apple's Mac OS unnecessarily hard? Is Windows as good a product as it would be if it faced more robust competition? When Windows has major security flaws, for example, billions of customers and companies are impacted, because of its market share. If we're wondering whether crappy airline experiences are a competition problem, should the same question apply to crappy computer security? In fact, in areas where Microsoft faces strong competition, it's reverting to some of the behaviors that got it sued in the '90s — namely, bundling. Microsoft and Amazon are essentially a duopoly when it comes to cloud services... Microsoft offers its big business customers an "integrated ecosystem" of Windows, Office, and its back-end cloud services; some analysts even point to this as a reason to keep buying Microsoft stock. That's just smart business, right? Yes, unless you're at a disadvantage by not taking the bundle. Some customers have complained that Microsoft charges extra for some Windows licenses if you're not using its cloud-computing business, Azure... Microsoft does much more that we're happy to call "evil" when other companies are involved. It defied its own workers in favor of contracts with the Department of Defense; it's been quietly doing lots of business with China for decades, including letting Beijing censor results on its Bing search engine and developing AI that critics say can be used for surveillance and repression; it reportedly tried to sell facial-recognition technology to the DEA. So why does none of it stick? Well, partly because it's possible that Microsoft isn't actually doing anything wrong, from a legal perspective. Yet it's so big and so dominant and owns so much expensive physical infrastructure that hardly any company can compete with it. Is that illegal? Should it be? It's now the world's second largest tech company by market valuation — over $2 trillion and even ahead of Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Tesla (and behind only Apple). For the three months ended in June, Microsoft's net income rose 47% over the same period a year ago, according to TechCrunch, with a revenue for just those three months of $46.2 billion. The Atlantic argues Microsoft has successfully rebranded itself as nice and a little boring, while playing up the fact that it lost a decade in consumer markets like smartphones because it was distracted by its last antitrust lawsuit. Yet meanwhile it's acquired major tech brands like LinkedIn, Minecraft, Skype, and even attempted to buy TikTok, Pinterest, and Discord (as well as "almost two dozen game-development studios to beef up its Xbox offerings"). And of course, GitHub.

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02/08/2021 00:29:59  

Zoom has agreed to pay $85 million — and to bolster its security practices — to settle a lawsuit that had claimed Zoom violated users' privacy rights by sharing their personal data with Facebook, Google and LinkedIn, and by failing to stop Zoombombing. Engadget reports: The preliminary settlement also requires tougher security measures, such as warning about participants with third-party apps and offering special privacy-oriented training to Zoom staff. Judge Lucy Koh said the company was largely protected against zoombombing claims thanks to the Communications Decency Act's Section 230 safeguards against liability for users' actions. The settlement could also lead to payouts if the lawsuit achieves a proposed class action status, but don't expect a windfall. Subscribers would receive a refund of either 15 percent or $25, whichever was larger, while everyone else would receive as much as $15. Lawyers intended to collect up to $21.25 million in legal costs.

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01/08/2021 23:29:58  

"Almost half of the packages in the official Python Package Index (PyPI) repository have at least one security issue," reports TechRadar, citing a new analysis by Finnish researchers, which even found five packages with more than a thousand issues each... The researchers used static analysis to uncover the security issues in the open source packages, which they reason end up tainting software that use them. In total the research scanned through 197,000 packages and found more than 749,000 security issues in all... Explaining their methodology the researchers note that despite the inherent limitations of static analysis, they still found at least one security issue in about 46% of the packages in the repository. The paper reveals that of the issues identified, the maximum (442,373) are of low severity, while 227,426 are moderate severity issues. However, 11% of the flagged PyPI packages have 80,065 high severity issues. The Register supplies some context: Other surveys of this sort have come to similar conclusions about software package ecosystems. Last September, a group of IEEE researchers analyzed 6,673 actively used Node.js apps and found about 68 per cent depended on at least one vulnerable package... The situation is similar with package registries like Maven (for Java), NuGet (for .NET), RubyGems (for Ruby), CPAN (for Perl), and CRAN (for R). In a phone interview, Ee W. Durbin III, director of infrastructure at the Python Software Foundation, told The Register, "Things like this tend not to be very surprising. One of the most overlooked or misunderstood parts of PyPI as a service is that it's intended to be freely accessible, freely available, and freely usable. Because of that we don't make any guarantees about the things that are available there..." Durbin welcomed the work of the Finnish researchers because it makes people more aware of issues that are common among open package management systems and because it benefits the overall health of the Python community. "It's not something we ignore but it's also not something we historically have had the resources to take on," said Durbin. That may be less of an issue going forward. According to Durbin, there's been significantly more interest over the past year in supply chain security and what companies can do to improve the situation. For the Python community, that's translated into an effort to create a package vulnerability reporting API and the Python Advisory Database, a community-run repository of PyPI security advisories that's linked to the Google-spearheaded Open Vulnerability Database.

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01/08/2021 22:29:52  

At the start of the pandemic, remembers MIT Technology Review's senior editor for AI, the community "rushed to develop software that many believed would allow hospitals to diagnose or triage patients faster, bringing much-needed support to the front lines — in theory. "In the end, many hundreds of predictive tools were developed. None of them made a real difference, and some were potentially harmful." That's the damning conclusion of multiple studies published in the last few months. In June, the Turing Institute, the UK's national center for data science and AI, put out a report summing up discussions at a series of workshops it held in late 2020. The clear consensus was that AI tools had made little, if any, impact in the fight against covid. This echoes the results of two major studies that assessed hundreds of predictive tools developed last year. Laure Wynants, an epidemiologist at Maastricht University in the Netherlands who studies predictive tools, is lead author of one of them, a review in the British Medical Journal that is still being updated as new tools are released and existing ones tested. She and her colleagues have looked at 232 algorithms for diagnosing patients or predicting how sick those with the disease might get. They found that none of them were fit for clinical use. Just two have been singled out as being promising enough for future testing. "It's shocking," says Wynants. "I went into it with some worries, but this exceeded my fears." Wynants's study is backed up by another large review carried out by Derek Driggs, a machine-learning researcher at the University of Cambridge, and his colleagues, and published in Nature Machine Intelligence. This team zoomed in on deep-learning models for diagnosing covid and predicting patient risk from medical images, such as chest x-rays and chest computer tomography (CT) scans. They looked at 415 published tools and, like Wynants and her colleagues, concluded that none were fit for clinical use. "This pandemic was a big test for AI and medicine," says Driggs, who is himself working on a machine-learning tool to help doctors during the pandemic. "It would have gone a long way to getting the public on our side," he says. "But I don't think we passed that test...." If there's an upside, it is that the pandemic has made it clear to many researchers that the way AI tools are built needs to change. "The pandemic has put problems in the spotlight that we've been dragging along for some time," says Wynants. The article suggests researchers collaborate on creating high-quality (and shared) data sets — possibly by creating a common data standard — and also disclose their ultimate models and training protocols for review and extension. "In a sense, this is an old problem with research. Academic researchers have few career incentives to share work or validate existing results. "To address this issue, the World Health Organization is considering an emergency data-sharing contract that would kick in during international health crises."

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01/08/2021 21:30:04  

Slashdot reader fahrbot-bot quotes the New York Times: Two red things are hiding in a part of the solar system where they shouldn't be. The space rocks may have come from beyond Neptune, and potentially offer hints at the chaos of the early solar system. Scientists led by Sunao Hasegawa from JAXA, the Japanese space agency, reported in The Astrophysical Journal Letters on July 26, 2021 that two objects, called 203 Pompeja and 269 Justitia, spotted in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter appear to have originated beyond Neptune. The discoveries could one day provide direct evidence of the chaos that existed in the early solar system. "If true it would be a huge deal," says Hal Levison, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Colorado, who was not involved in the research... "People have been talking about some fraction of asteroids coming from the Kuiper belt for quite a while now," said Josh Emery, a planetary scientist from Northern Arizona University who was not involved in the paper. He said the research "definitely takes a step" toward finding evidence to support that hypothesis. Not everyone is convinced just yet. Dr. Levison, who was also not involved in the paper, says objects should become less red as they approach the sun. "It seems to be inconsistent with our models," said Dr. Levison, who is the head of NASA's Lucy mission, which is scheduled to launch in October to study Jupiter's Trojans [asteroids captured in its orbit]. Michaël Marsset from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a co-author on the paper, agrees that it's not clear why they would be so red, but it is possibly related to how long it took them to become implanted into the asteroid belt. Some Trojans may also be as red, but haven't been found yet. To truly confirm the origin of 203 Pompeja and 269 Justitia, a spacecraft would likely need to visit them.

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01/08/2021 20:29:56  

"It was pretty strange when Russia decided to announce last week that it had successfully run tests between June 15 and July 15 to show it could disconnect itself from the internet," writes an associate professor of cybersecurity policy at Tufts Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. The tests seem to have gone largely unnoticed both in and outside of Russia, indicating that whatever entailed did not involve Russia actually disconnecting from the global internet... since that would be impossible to hide. Instead, the tests — and, most of all, the announcement about their success — seem to be intended as some kind of signal that Russia is no longer dependent on the rest of the world for its internet access. But it's not at all clear what that would even mean since Russia is clearly still dependent on people and companies in other countries for access to the online content and services they create and host — just as we all are... For the past two years, ever since implementing its "sovereign internet law" in 2019, Russia has been talking about establishing its own domestic internet that does not rely on any infrastructure or resources located outside the country. Presumably, the tests completed this summer are related to that goal of being able to operate a local internet within Russia that does not rely on the global Domain Name System to map websites to specific IP addresses. This is not actually a particularly ambitious goal — any country could operate its own domestic internet with its own local addressing system if it wanted to do so instead of connecting to the larger global internet... The Center for Applied Internet Data Analysis at the University of California San Diego maintains an Internet Outage Detection and Analysis tool that combines three data sets to identify internet outages around the world... The data sets for Russia from June 15 through July 15, the period of the supposed disconnection tests, shows few indications of any actual disconnection other than a period around July 5 when unsolicited traffic from Russia appears to have dropped off. Whatever Russia did this summer, it did not physically disconnect from the global internet. It doesn't even appear to have virtually disconnected from the global internet in any meaningful sense. Perhaps it shifted some of its critical infrastructure systems to rely more on domestic service providers and resources. Perhaps it created more local copies of the addressing system used to navigate the internet and tested its ability to rely on those. Perhaps it tested its ability to route online traffic within the country through certain chokepoints for purposes of better surveillance and monitoring. None of those are activities that would be immediately visible from outside the country and all of them would be in line with Russia's stated goals of relying less on internet infrastructure outside its borders and strengthening its ability to monitor online activity. But the goal of being completely independent of the rest of the world's internet infrastructure while still being able to access the global internet is a nonsensical and impossible one. Russia cannot both disconnect from the internet and still be able to use all of the online services and access all of the websites hosted and maintained by people in other parts of the world, as appears to have been the case during the monthlong period of testing... Being able to disconnect your country from the internet is not all that difficult — and certainly nothing to brag about. But announcing that you've successfully disconnected from the internet when it's patently clear that you haven't suggests both profound technical incompetence and a deep-seated uncertainty about what a domestic Russian internet would actually mean.

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