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AT&T

AT&T Brings Fiber To Rich Areas While the Rest Are Stuck On DSL, Study Finds (arstechnica.com) 127

According to a new study from UC Berkeley's Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, AT&T has been focused on deploying fiber-to-the-home in the higher-income neighborhoods of California, giving wealthy people access to gigabit internet while others are stuck with DSL internet that doesn't even meet state and federal broadband standards. Ars Technica reports: California households with access to AT&T's fiber service have a median income of $94,208, according to "AT&T's Digital Divide in California," in which the Haas Institute analyzed Federal Communications Commission data from June 2016. The study was funded by the Communications Workers of America, an AT&T workers' union that's been involved in contentious negotiations with the company. By contrast, the median household income is $53,186 in California neighborhoods where AT&T provides only DSL, with download speeds typically ranging from 768kbps to 6Mbps. At the low end, that's less than 1 percent of the gigabit speeds offered by AT&T's fiber service. The median income in areas with U-verse VDSL, which ranges from 12Mbps to 75Mbps, is $67,021. In 4.1 million California households, representing 42.8 percent of AT&T's California service area, AT&T's fastest speeds fell short of the federal broadband definition of 25Mbps downloads and 3Mbps uploads, the report said.
EU

EU Lawmakers Include Spotify and iTunes In Geoblocking Ban (reuters.com) 54

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: European Union lawmakers voted on Tuesday to ban online retailers from treating consumers differently depending on where they live and expanded their proposed law to include music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple's iTunes. Ending so-called geoblocking is a priority for the European Commission as it tries to create a single market for digital services across the 28-nation bloc, but many industries argue that they tailor their prices to specific domestic markets. The proposal, which will apply to e-commerce websites such as Amazon, Zalando and eBay, as well as for services provided in a specific location like car rental, forbids online retailers from automatically re-routing customers to their domestic website without their consent. In a blow for the book publishing and music industries, European Parliament members voted to include copyright-protected content such as music, games, software and e-books in the law. That would mean music streaming services such as Spotify and iTunes would not be able to prevent, for example, a French customer buying a cheaper subscription in Croatia, if they have the required rights.
Music

Streaming Services Help Global Music Industry To Fastest Growth in Nearly 20 Years (billboard.com) 43

The global music industry grew by 5.9 percent in 2016, its fastest rate of growth since 1997, as revenue generated by streaming services surged 60 percent. From a report: The IFPI's Global Music Report (previously known as the Digital Music Report) states that trade revenue generated by the global recorded music industry climbed by 5.9 percent to $15.7 billion, with digital sales up 17.7 percent across the board. After digital revenue surpassed physical for the first time in 2015, digital hits another milestone in 2016, accounting for 50 percent ($7.8 billion) of all music sales for the first time. More importantly, 2016 marked the second successive year that the recorded music market grew after nearly two decades of continually falling sales during which revenues dropped by almost 40 percent at their lowest point. [...] Breaking down the Global Music Report findings, the mass adoption of streaming services such as Spotify, Amazon and Apple Music in both established and emerging markets is -- as expected -- the main driver behind the industry's sustained upturn.
Businesses

Amazon Launches Marketplace For Digital Subscriptions (talkingnewmedia.com) 7

Amazon said on Monday it is launching a platform for companies with subscription services -- from newspapers, magazines to TV streaming. The "Subscribe with Amazon" marketplace allows consumers to buy subscriptions to products like SlingTV streaming, Headspace meditation, Dropbox Plus, as well as workout videos, online classes, meal plans and even matchmakers. The marketplace also features more traditional subscriptions, similar to those that have become popular on Amazon's Kindle tablets, including the Chicago Tribune, LA Times, Wall Street Journal and New Yorker.
Businesses

Uber Tried To Hide Its Secret IPhone Fingerprinting From Apple (cnbc.com) 113

theodp quotes today's New York Times profile of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick: For months, Mr. Kalanick had pulled a fast one on Apple by directing his employees to help camouflage the ride-hailing app from Apple's engineers. The reason? So Apple would not find out that Uber had secretly been tracking iPhones even after its app had been deleted from the devices, violating Apple's privacy guidelines.
Uber told TechCrunch this afternoon that it still uses a form of this device fingerprinting, saying they need a way to identify those devices which committed fraud in the past -- especially in China, where Uber drivers used stolen iPhones to request dozens of rides from themselves to increase their pay rate. It's been modified to comply with Apple's rules, and "We absolutely do not track individual users or their location if they've deleted the app..." an Uber spokesperson said. "Being able to recognize known bad actors when they try to get back onto our network is an important security measure for both Uber and our users."

The article offers a longer biography of Kalanick, who dropped out of UCLA in 1998 to start a peer-to-peer music-sharing service named Scour. (The service eventually declared bankruptcy after being sued for $250 billion for alleged copyright infringement.) Desperately trying to save his next company, Kalanick "took the tax dollars from employee paychecks -- which are supposed to be withheld and sent to the Internal Revenue Service," according to the Times, "and reinvested the money into the start-up, even as friends and advisers warned him the action was potentially illegal." The money eventually reached the IRS as he "staved off bankruptcy for a second time by raising another round of funding." But the article ultimately argues that Kalanick's drive to win in life "has led to a pattern of risk-taking that has put his ride-hailing company on the brink of implosion."
Social Networks

Startup Still Working On 'Immortal Avatars' That Will Live Forever (cnet.com) 90

Startup Eternime, founded by MIT fellow Marius Ursache, is still working on "immortal avatars" that, after your death, will continue interacting with your loves ones from beyond the grave. An anonymous reader quotes CNET: Give Eternime access to your social media profiles and the startup's algorithms will scrape your posts and interactions to build a profile... The algorithms will study your memories and mannerisms. They'll learn how to be "you"... Eternime was announced in 2014 after Ursache developed the idea during the MIT Entrepreneurship Development Program. He wasn't entirely sure if he should develop the project further and wanted to get a sense of public reaction.

In the first four days, 3,000 people signed up at Eterni.me, the company's website, for a private beta. Then, Urasche received an email from a man dying of terminal cancer. "Eternime, he wrote, was the last chance to leave something behind for friends and family," Urasche told me. "That was the moment I decided that this was something worth dedicating my life to"... Since 2014, the Eternime website has largely been silent, although it continues to take names of people who want to test the service. Ursache says the Eternime team has been refining the product over the last two years, testing features, figuring out what will work and what won't.

"The private beta test is ongoing," according to the article, "and Ursache says the feedback has been positive." But unfortunately, the service still isn't operational yet.
Businesses

How Tilt Went From Hot $375 Million Startup To Fire Sale (fastcompany.com) 167

tedlistens writes: Not long ago, social payments company Tilt seemed to have it all -- a hot idea; cool, young founders with Y Combinator pedigrees; and $67 million in funding -- not to mention a $375 million valuation. But Tilt was more successful at cultivating its user growth and fun, frat-tastic office culture than at nailing down a viable business model. When Tilt finally ran out of cash, the party ended with the company's sale at fire-sale prices to fellow Y Combinator alums Airbnb in an aqui-hire deal. Where did it all go wrong? Here's an excerpt from the report: "Tilt was based on the premise that 'something like PayPal and Facebook would collide,' Tilt founder and CEO James Beshara says. The company aspired to be a social network for money -- instead of sharing photos and videos, users exchanged digital cash for birthday ragers and beer runs. During Tilt's early years, the pitch was simple, and carefully calibrated for Silicon Valley boardrooms: 'Let's prove that we can dominate the globe.' [...] By early 2013, millions in venture dollars were pouring into Tilt's coffers. Investors were lured by the same strong social metrics (viral coefficient, for example, a measure of user growth) that had marked Facebook as a winner. But the hopes embedded in Tilt's $375 million valuation came crashing down to earth last year. Beshara hadn't built a business; instead, he had manufactured a classic Silicon Valley mirage. While investors were throwing millions of dollars at the promise of a glittering business involving 'social' and 'money,' their Mark Zuckerberg-in-the-making was basking in the sunny glow of Bay Area praise and enjoying the ride with his bros. Revenue was not a top priority -- a remarkable oversight for any company, and a particularly galling one for a payments company. Eventually, with cash running low, Tilt went looking for a buyer..."
AI

AI Can Predict Heart Attacks More Accurately Than Doctors (digitaltrends.com) 48

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.
Cellphones

Children As Young As 13 Attending 'Smartphone Rehab' As Concerns Grow Over Screen Time (independent.co.uk) 152

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Independent: Children refusing to put down their phones is a common flashpoint in many homes, with a third of British children aged 12 to 15 admitting they do not have a good balance between screen time and other activities. But in the U.S., the problem has become so severe for some families that children as young as 13 are being treated for digital technology addiction. One "smartphone rehab" center near Seattle has started offering residential "intensive recovery programs" for teenagers who have trouble controlling their use of electronic devices. The Restart Life Center says parents have been asking it to offer courses of treatment to their children for more than eight years. Hilarie Cash, the Center's founder, told Sky News smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices can be so stimulating and entertaining that they "override all those natural instincts that children actually have for movement and exploration and social interaction."
Advertising

Burger King Won't Take a Hint; Alters TV Ad To Evade Google's Block (washingtonpost.com) 606

ewhac writes: Earlier this week, Burger King released a broadcast television ad that opened with an actor saying, "Ok, Google, what is the Whopper?" thereby triggering any Google Home device in hearing range to respond to the injected request with the first line from the Whopper's Wikipedia page. Google very properly responded to the injection attack by fingerprinting the sound sample and blocking it from triggering responses. However, it seems Burger King and/or its ad agency are either unwilling or congenitally incapable of getting the hint, and has released an altered version of the ad to evade Google's block. According to spokesperson Dara Schopp, BK regards the ad as a success, as it has increased the brand's "social conversation" on Twitter by some 300%. It seems that Burger King thinks that malware-laden advertising infesting webpages is a perfectly wonderful idea (in principle, at least), and has taken it to the next level by reaching through your TV speakers and directly messing with your digital devices. You may wish to consider alternate vendors for your burger needs.
Operating Systems

Roku-Enabled TVs Will Soon 'Listen' To Programs You're Watching To Suggest Streaming Content (variety.com) 52

Roku-enabled TVs will be receiving a new OS update that will listen to what show or movie you're watching via your cable or satellite set-top or over-the-air antenna, in order to suggest internet-streaming content. "Compatible TVs will use automatic content recognition (ACR) technology to identify the content and then suggest additional viewing options available on via streaming services like Netflix, Hulu or Vudu," reports Variety. From the report: It may seem vaguely Big Brother-ish, but Roku is being careful about ensuring consumer privacy: Users will be required to enable the feature via an opt-in prompt. In addition, the "More Ways to Watch" feature can be turned off at any time (although Roku says viewing information collected prior to the feature being turned off will not be deleted). For now, the "More Ways to Watch" feature is available only in the U.S., and only for Roku-enabled television sets available from Best Buy's Insignia, Sharp, Hisense and TCL. It will be coming first to conventional HDTV models first, followed by support for 4K Roku TV models later this summer.
Cellphones

Researchers Develop Master Fingerprints That Can Break Into Smartphones (digitaltrends.com) 29

Researchers at New York University and Michigan State University have recently found that the fingerprint sensor on your phone is not as safe as you think. "The team has developed a set of fake fingerprints that are digital composites of common features found in many people's fingerprints," reports Digital Trends. "Through computer simulations, they were able to achieve matches 65 percent of the time, though they estimate the scheme would be less successful in real life, on an actual phone." From the report: Nasir Memon, a computer science and engineering professor at New York University, explained the value of the study to The New York Times. Modern smartphones, tablets, and other computing devices that utilize biometric authentication typically only take a snapshots of sections of a user's finger, to compose a model of one fingerprint. But the chances of faking your way into someone else's phone are much higher if there are multiple fingerprints recorded on that device. "It's as if you have 30 passwords and the attacker only has to match one," Memon said. The professor, who was one of three authors on the study, theorized that if it were possible to create a glove with five different composite fingerprints, the attacker would likely be successful with about half of their attempts. For the record, Apple reported to the Times that the chance of a false match through the iPhone's TouchID system is 1 in 50,000 with only one fingerprint recorded.
Microsoft

Microsoft To Offer Digital Refunds in Xbox and Windows Stores (polygon.com) 15

Microsoft is finally planning to introduce refunds for digital content purchased from the Xbox Games Store and Windows Store, bringing those storefronts in line with popular digital retailers for PC games. From a report: The refund feature is included in the latest alpha release for the Xbox One Insider program. Refunds apply only for full games and paid apps, not downloadable content or season passes. These "self-service refunds" are designed to "provide a quick, simple way of returning a digital product," according to Microsoft. Microsoft says it has begun testing the feature with select users.
Android

Samsung Is Delaying the 'Voice' Part of Its New Bixby Voice Assistant (washingtonpost.com) 38

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Washington Post: A much-touted feature of Samsung's next smartphones isn't going to work as advertised when the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ launch April 21. Samsung said it's delaying the launch of voice-command capabilities for its Bixby voice assistant in English, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Although some of its features will still work, the report said, Bixby -- Samsung's answer to Apple's Siri -- won't be able to respond to any user voice commands, perhaps until as late as May. The Korean-language version of Bixby will have all of its features at launch, the Journal report said. The reason this is a big deal is because Samsung has touted Bixby as a big new feature for the Galaxy S8. Not only is it baked into the software, but it features a dedicated Bixby button on the lefthand side of the phone. The new assistant is designed to "perform almost every task that the app normally supports using touch," according to PhoneDog. "It'll be able to understand the current context and the state of the app that you're in without interrupting the work that you're doing," and will be able to "understand commands with incomplete commands, meaning you don't have to remember the exact phrase that you have to say to perform a task with an assistant."
Cellphones

Scientists Prove Your Phone's PIN Can Be Stolen Using Its Gyroscope Data (digitaltrends.com) 61

A team of scientists at Newcastle University in the UK managed to reveal a user's phone PIN code using its gyroscope data. "In one test, the team cracked a passcode with 70 percent accuracy," reports Digital Trends. "By the fifth attempt, the accuracy had gone up to 100 percent." From the report: It takes a lot of data, to be sure. The Guardian notes users had to type 50 known PINs five times before the researchers' algorithm learned how they held a phone when typing each particular number. But it highlights the danger of malicious apps that gain access to a device's sensors without requesting permission. The risk extends beyond PIN codes. In total, the team identified 25 different smartphone sensors which could expose compromising user information. Worse still, only a small number -- such as the camera and GPS -- ask the user's permission before granting access to that data. It's precise enough to track behavior. Using an "orientation" and "emotion trace" data, the researchers were able to determine what part of a web page a user was clicking on and what they were typing. The paper has been published in International Journal of Information Security.
Businesses

McDonald's Is Now Accepting Snapchats As Job Applications (thenextweb.com) 155

McDonald's Australian subsidiary is now accepting job applications via Snapchat. Specifically, McDonald's wants potential candidates to send the company a 10-second video using a filter that shows them wearing a McDonald's uniform. Matthew Hughes reports via The Next Web: The job applications, which McDonalds calls "Snaplications" (I vomited a little), will be the first step in the recruitment process. The company will then review the submissions, pick out the favorites, and send digital applications to those selected. Speaking to Australian news website news.com.au, McDonald's Australia COO Shaun Ruming said the company is looking for applicants with a "bubbly personality." He also added that he'd "learned a lot about Snapchat recently from my 14-year-old daughter."
The Courts

DMCA 'Safe Harbor' Up In the Air For Online Sites That Use Moderators (arstechnica.com) 96

"The Digital Millennium Copyright Act's so-called 'safe harbor' defense to infringement is under fire from a paparazzi photo agency," reports Ars Technica. "A new court ruling says the defense may not always be available to websites that host content submitted by third parties." The safe harbor provision "allow[s] websites to be free from legal liability for infringing content posted by their users -- so long as the website timely removes that content at the request of the rights holder," explains Ars. From the report: [A] San Francisco-based federal appeals court is ruling that, if a website uses moderators to review content posted by third parties, the safe harbor privilege may not apply. That's according to a Friday decision in a dispute brought by Mavrix Photographs against LiveJournal, which hosts the popular celebrity fan forum "Oh No they Didn't." The site hosted Mavrix-owned photos of Beyonce Knowles, Katy Perry, and other stars without authorization. LiveJournal claimed it was immune from copyright liability because it removed the photos. Mavrix claimed that the site's use of voluntary moderators removed the safe-harbor provision. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Mavrix to a degree, but the court wants to know how much influence the moderators had on what was and was not published. With that, the court sent the case back to a lower court in Los Angeles to figure that out, perhaps in a trial. The highly nuanced decision overturned a lower court ruling that said LiveJournal was protected by safe harbor. The lower court said LiveJournal does not solicit any specific infringing material from its users or edit the content of its users' posts.
Businesses

Sleep Is the New Status Symbol (nytimes.com) 117

The New York Times has a good story on how sleep is increasingly becoming a big business -- and the tech industry is rushing in to tweak our natural rhythms. From the article: At M.I.T.'s Media Lab, the digital futurist playground, David Rose is investigating swaddling, bedtime stories and hammocks, as well as lavender oil and cocoons. [...] Meanwhile, at the University of California, Berkeley, Matthew P. Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology and the director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory there, is working on direct current stimulation as a cure for sleeplessness in the aging brain. [...] In Paris, Hugo Mercier, a computer science engineer, has invested in sound waves. He has raised over $10 million to create a headband that uses them to induce sleep. [...] Ben Olsen, an Australian entrepreneur, hopes to introduce Thim, a gadget you wear on your finger that uses sound to startle you awake every three minutes for an hour, just before you go to sleep. [...] Sleep entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley and beyond have poured into the sleep space, as branders like to say -- a $32 billion market in 2012 -- formerly inhabited by old-style mattress and pharmaceutical companies.
Programming

Major Banks and Parts of Federal Gov't Still Rely On COBOL, Now Scrambling To Find IT 'Cowboys' To Keep Things Afloat (reuters.com) 300

From a report on Reuters: Bill Hinshaw is not a typical 75-year-old. He divides his time between his family -- he has 32 grandchildren and great-grandchildren -- and helping U.S. companies avert crippling computer meltdowns. Hinshaw, who got into programming in the 1960s when computers took up entire rooms and programmers used punch cards, is a member of a dwindling community of IT veterans who specialize in a vintage programming language called COBOL. The Common Business-Oriented Language was developed nearly 60 years ago and has been gradually replaced by newer, more versatile languages such as Java, C and Python. Although few universities still offer COBOL courses, the language remains crucial to businesses and institutions around the world. In the United States, the financial sector, major corporations and parts of the federal government still largely rely on it because it underpins powerful systems that were built in the 70s or 80s and never fully replaced. And here lies the problem: if something goes wrong, few people know how to fix it. The stakes are especially high for the financial industry, where an estimated $3 trillion in daily commerce flows through COBOL systems. The language underpins deposit accounts, check-clearing services, card networks, ATMs, mortgage servicing, loan ledgers and other services. The industry's aggressive push into digital banking makes it even more important to solve the COBOL dilemma. Mobile apps and other new tools are written in modern languages that need to work seamlessly with old underlying systems. That is where Hinshaw and fellow COBOL specialists come in. A few years ago, the north Texas resident planned to shutter his IT firm and retire after decades of working with financial and public institutions, but calls from former clients just kept coming.
News

Spotify Executive Chris Bevington Dies In Stockholm Attack (variety.com) 366

"On Friday, four people were killed and about 15 more were injured when a truck plowed through a shopping area in the heart of Sweden's capital," reports Variety. One of the four victims was Chris Bevington, an executive at Spotify. An anonymous reader writes: "The British 41-year-old had served as Spotify's director of global partnerships/business development, working from Stockholm," reports Variety. The streaming service's founder, Daniel Ek, confirmed the news with a Facebook post on Sunday. "Chris has been a member of our band for over five years. He has had a great impact on not just the business but on everyone who had the privilege to know and work with him. There are no words for how missed he will be or for how sad we all are to have lost him like this."

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