Daily Report: A Net Neutrality Setback for Facebook in India
In the United States, the social media giant has been an advocate of equal treatment of all Internet content. In India, regulators who share that belief have effectively blocked a free Facebook service.
Galaxy Fold failings may not bode well for Samsung
Samsung finally announced its first foldable smartphone, the Galaxy Fold, earlier this year. It has been a long time coming. The company has been teasing this device, in some capacity or another, since 2014. Now, in 2019, the Galaxy Fold launches in late April for a price of $1,980.
Initial hands-on impressions of the Galaxy Fold were actually very positive. While there was some trepidation from some, which is expected considering this is the first of its kind and it's an early adopter's dream come true. But, all-in-all, most folks seemed pleasantly surprised by the handset.
Here's a quick recap of what happened earlier today, just in case you missed it: Reports from major publications started coming in, showcasing a broken Galaxy Fold when the handset is opened up. There were, and still are, a lot of them. But, at the same time, there were a few reviewers out there that weren't having any issues at all.
Some pointed out that there is a pre-installed screen protector-like type accessory already in place on the larger internal display. Samsung informed individuals that they shouldn't take it off, but it appears that it wasn't billed as a "If you remove it, you'll break the phone" situation.
Now, it appears that is exactly what's going on. It's basically been confirmed that removing that internal protective layer on the Galaxy Fold will break it, and not in a minor way, either. These are catastrophic hardware issues, with some reviewers noting a bulge under the display itself and along the hinge, as well as other general display failures in general.
Now, we deal with ridiculously expensive smartphones all the time these days, but the Galaxy Fold takes that trend and runs with it. Should someone expect their $1,980 smartphone to fail spectacularly just because they remove a screen protector? Can they put a screen protector over that pre-installed layer (I don't know why someone might want to do that, though)?
I've seen a growing consensus that Samsung has a big hill to climb ahead of it, because the company didn't make it apparent just how important that protective layer is -- and that was to reviewers. How can they expect to express how important it is to the general consumer? Is Samsung going to inform AT&T and T-Mobile employees to stress just how vital it is for these new device buyers to not remove it? What if the customer representative at one of those shops forgets?
Samsung has found itself in some choppy water, and it's unfortunate that it is now marring what was the Galaxy Fold's positive reception. But at least the battery isn't exploding?
The Galaxy Fold goes on sale in less than 10 days. It's not expected to fly off the shelves or anything, but if this particular situation isn't fixed in a major, obvious way the company is going to have an even bigger headache to deal with later this month, and well into the future.
What do you think of all this? How do you think Samsung can make sure all new owners know not to remove this protective layer? Let me know!
"Does it have a dark mode?" It's a pretty common question, especially as of late. When Apple showcased macOS Mojave and presented a system-wide dark mode, there was plenty of applause at the event and positive remarks across social media. And when new apps launch, a dark mode is a basic requirement. Dark mode appears to be the fan favorite these days.
It isn't just an aesthetic thing, either. It can also actually help your battery life, depending on the phone you have. If you're rocking an iPhone X or a XS, or a whole bunch of different Android handsets out there, then the OLED panel won't be as burdened by showing blacks as an LCD panel is. So turning on dark mode in every single app you can, and across the system itself if it's possible, is definitely a good move.
But, for some, it could very well be just an aesthetic thing.
That's certainly the case for me. Lucky for those of us who do like the dark mode look, though, we get the battery benefits with the design we prefer. I have it switched on in this app I'm writing this article in, iA Writer. And despite the fact it can make blemishes on the (aging) display stand out, I still prefer it.
I do this on both my phone and my laptop, neither of which actually benefit from the transition at all. But that doesn't stop me from turning it on in the aforementioned writing app, and Ulysses, and the Twitter app I use. Websites that allow me to switch it on, like YouTube? Yes please. It's come to the point now that apps without a dark mode really stand out, like Instagram and Facebook.
But there's even more dark mode coming down the pipe! Well, part of it's already here. Facebook technically rolled out a dark mode in Messenger not too long ago, but it took sending an emoji to turn it on. That changed today, though, as turning dark mode on or off is just as easy as switching a toggle in the Settings section of the app.
And then there is a rumor that iOS 13 is going to introduce a system-wide dark mode for iPhone and iPad owners. That's good news! Especially considering Apple has now adopted OLED panels for its flagship smartphones, and there is even a rumor that Apple will use an OLED panel in the iPhone XR's successor, too.
Where do you stand on dark mode? Is it a required feature for you? Do you switch it on everywhere you can? Or is dark mode something you can live without, and don't go out of your way to switch it on even when it is available? Let me know!
The major wireless carriers want you to subscribe to their services. That's one of the reasons why they have so many different plans at different price points to choose from. And why most of them are bundling so many different third-party (or first-party) services with the monthly cost. They want to win you over.
But, just in case that doesn't work out, they've also got prepaid options, too.
There is no doubt that prepaid options have blossomed over the last several years, both in terms of availability and usability. It doesn't feel all that long ago that prepaid options weren't worth the money spent on them, even if they did avoid a credit check and were cheaper than the bigger networks.
Both of those things are still true, of course. Prepaid wireless carriers typically avoid the credit check, and they are still a cheaper option. If you want to save money, going with a prepaid network doesn't seem like a last-ditch effort anymore.
Two new options definitely aim to save some money, while offering things like unlimited talk/text/data. There is the new option, Visible, from Verizon. And then Xfinity Mobile. Neither carrier has the phone selection of the bigger wireless carriers, but the options aren't terrible, either.
Visible starts at $40 per month with unlimited data. And Xfinity Mobile starts at $45 per month for unlimited data. Now, both of those plans are capped at download speeds, but that probably isn't a big deal for most customers. Just to compare, Verizon Wireless's unlimited plan for a single line starts at $75 per month! And if you want a slightlyupgraded unlimited experience, you'll need to fork over $95 per month for a single line.
The other major networks aren't much better in this regard. Even if one can try to justify those higher costs with the include bundles and services, some of those things might not be what some customers want. Rather, saving money every single month might be the most sought-after goal.
Which is why I'm curious: Have you switched over to a prepaid service? If so, which one did you go with, and which major carrier did you abandon? Why'd you decide to make the switch? Let me know!
Annual smart street lighting revenues to reach US$1.7 billion in 2026, says ABI Research
Annual revenues from smart street lighting will grow to US$1.7 billion in 2026. Street lighting programs today, and over the next several years, will focus on replacing conventional lamps with LED lamps. However, only 20% of LED streetlamps will be truly "smart" through integration with lighting controls systems. This imbalance will slowly correct itself and by 2026, and central management systems will connect to over two-thirds of all new LED street light installations, according to ABI Research.
With the crypto mining fever subsiding, many Taiwan backend houses have seen their FC-CSP machines dedicated to packaging mining ASICs stay idle since late 2018, forcing them into a price war. But the price competition may start to ease when demand for other consumer ICs picks up in the latter half of the second quarter, according to industry sources.
China makers keen to develop AMOLED, hole-punch panels
Display products highlighted at the recently concluded CITE (China Information Technology Expo) 2019 indicated that China's flat panel players are keen on the development of flexible AMOLED and hole-punch panels, according to Digitimes Research.
As demand for consumer PCs continues dropping, first-tier brand vendors have been expanding in non-consumer areas to maintain growth, with Taiwan-based Acer, Asustek Computer and Micro-Star International (MSI) all eyeing the computer-aided design (CAD) sector.
AU Optronics (AUO) is enforcing a three-axis strategy to tackle challenges and seize business opportunities coming along with the emerging technologies such as 8K displays, foldable smartphones, autonomous driving, AI and IoT in 2019, according to company president and COO Michael Tsai.
Taiwan, Nvidia team up to develop autonomous driving ecosystem
Taiwan's Ministry of Science and Technology has teamed up with Nvidia to develop autonomous driving technology, with science minister Chen Liang-gee urging local firms, startups and academic units to join the government-fostered autonomous driving ecosystem as soon as possible.
Compal and university developing AI diagnosis platform for depression
Compal Electronics has announced a partnership with Taiwan's National Taipei University of Technology (NTUT) to establish a bio-technology firm and will develop a platform to analyze brain waves via artificial intelligence (AI) for treatment of diseases and disorders such as depression.
Job hunting can be very tedious and time-consuming. Fortunately, there are plenty of apps out there which can help you find the perfect job for you. The problem is that there are simply too many apps to choose from. We’ve done some research and narrowed the list down to the top 5 apps you need ...
[Spoiler: It survives!] Samsung Galaxy Fold gets folded 1000 times in 20 mins
Following the recent focus around the durability of the Samsung Galaxy Fold after reports of the screen failing on a few review units surfaced, Unbox Therapy has come to offer some reassurance with a video showing the device being folded a thousand times.
5 new Android games to check out this week (APR 21, 2019)
The Google Play store is full of awesome apps that can help you with tasks or simply help you take a break and relax with an engaging game. But how do you know what ones you should try? We can help you with that! Every week, we will share awesome new apps that we think ...
Scientists Create 'Living' Machines That Eat, Grow, and Evolve
elainerd (Slashdot reader #94,528) shares an article from The Next Web:
Scientists from Cornell University have successfully constructed DNA-based machines with incredibly life-like capabilities. These human-engineered organic machines are capable of locomotion, consuming resources for energy, growing and decaying, and evolving. Eventually they die.
That sure sounds a lot like life, but Dan Luo, professor of biological and environmental engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell, who worked on the research, says otherwise. He told The Stanford Chronicle, "We are introducing a brand-new, lifelike material concept powered by its very own artificial metabolism. We are not making something that's alive, but we are creating materials that are much more lifelike than have ever been seen before." Just how lifelike? According to the research they're on par with biologically complex organisms such as mold.... "Dynamic biomaterials powered by artificial metabolism could provide a previously unexplored route to realize 'artificial' biological systems with regenerating and self-sustaining characteristics."
Basically, the Cornell team grew their own robots using a DNA-based bio-material, observed them metabolizing resources for energy, watched as they decayed and grew, and then programmed them to race against each other... Lead author on the team's paper, Shogo Hamada, told The Stanford Chronicle that "ultimately, the system may lead to lifelike self-reproducing machines."
Kansas Towns 'Rebel' Against Zuckerberg-Funded School Programs
"I want to just take my Chromebook back and tell them I'm not doing it anymore," said Kallee Forslund, 16, a 10th grader in Wellington.
The New York Times reports on a "rebellion" that started in Kansas against an online "personalized learning" program funded by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, and developed by Facebook engineers -- including a classroom walk-out, a sit-in, and parent protests at public school board meetings.
Read the Times' pay-walled original article or this free alternate version. Some highlights:
Eight months earlier, public schools near Wichita had rolled out a web-based platform and curriculum from Summit Learning... Many families in the Kansas towns, which have grappled with underfunded public schools and deteriorating test scores, initially embraced the change. Under Summit's program, students spend much of the day on their laptops and go online for lesson plans and quizzes, which they complete at their own pace. Teachers assist students with the work, hold mentoring sessions and lead special projects. The system is free to schools. The laptops are typically bought separately.
Then, students started coming home with headaches and hand cramps. Some said they felt more anxious. One child began having a recurrence of seizures. Another asked to bring her dad's hunting earmuffs to class to block out classmates because work was now done largely alone. "We're allowing the computers to teach and the kids all looked like zombies," said Tyson Koenig, a factory supervisor in McPherson, who visited his son's fourth-grade class. In October, he pulled the 10-year-old out of the school. In a school district survey of McPherson middle school parents released this month, 77 percent of respondents said they preferred their child not be in a classroom that uses Summit. More than 80 percent said their children had expressed concerns about the platform...
The resistance in Kansas is part of mounting nationwide opposition to Summit, which began trials of its system in public schools four years ago and is now in around 380 schools and used by 74,000 students. In Brooklyn, high school students walked out in November after their school started using Summit's platform. In Indiana, Pa., after a survey by Indiana University of Pennsylvania found 70 percent of students wanted Summit dropped or made optional, the school board scaled it back and then voted this month to terminate it. And in Cheshire, Conn., the program was cut after protests in 2017...
By [this] winter, many McPherson and Wellington students were fed up. While Summit's program asks schools to commit to having students meet weekly in person with teachers for at least 10 minutes, some children said the sessions lasted around two minutes or did not happen.
The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy says the program also "demands an extraordinary amount of personal information about each student and plans to track them through college and beyond." But the real concern is whether the programs are effective. The Times also spoke to a senior scientist at the RAND corporation who's studied digital customized learning programs, who acknowledges "There has not been enough research." And a Wellington city councilman told them that 12 parents actually pulled their children out of the school system after this year's first semester -- and nearly 40 more plan to do so by summer vacation.
One church secretary (with two school-age children) even coined a pithy slogan for her yard sign: "Don't Plummet With Summit."
The Incredibly Stupid Plot To Hijack a Domain By Breaking Into Its Owner's House With A Gun
CNN tells the story of 24-year-old "social media influencer" Rossi Lorathio Adams II who'd wanted his domain to be the slogan of his social media sites (which at one point had over a million followers on Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter). Unfortunately, that domain was already owned by another man in Iowa -- but Adams came up with a solution:
In June 2017, Adams enlisted his cousin to break into the domain owner's home and force him to transfer it. The cousin drove to the domain owner's house and provided a demand note [which contained "a series of directions on how to change an Internet domain name from the domain owner's GoDaddy account to one of Adams' GoDaddy accounts."] After entering the home, the intruder grabbed the victim's arm and ordered him to connect his computer to the internet. He put the firearm against the victim's head and ordered him to follow the instructions.
"Fearing for his life, the victim quickly turned to move the gun away from his head. The victim then managed to gain control of the gun," court records show. The victim shot the intruder multiple times and called the police. The intruder, Adams' cousin Sherman Hopkins Jr., was sentenced to 20 years in prison last year. Now it's Adams' turn. He will remain in custody pending sentencing. He faces a maximum 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
Fast Company shares an essay from an anthropologist who researches human agency, algorithms, AI, and automation in the context of social systems:
With the advent of computational tools for quantitative measurement and metrics, and the development of machine learning based on the big data developed by those metrics, organizations, Amazon among them, started to transition through a period of what I refer to as "extreme data analysis," whereby anything and anyone that can be measured, is. This is a problem. Using counting, metrics, and implementation of outcomes from extreme data analysis to inform policies for humans is a threat to our well-being, and results in the stories we are hearing about in the warehouse, and in other areas of our lives, where humans are too often forfeiting their agency to algorithms and machines. Unfortunately, after decades of building this quantitative scaffolding, a company such as Amazon has pretty much baked it into their infrastructure and their culture....
As the world continues to automate things, processes, and services, humans are put in positions where we must constantly adapt, since at the moment, automation cannot, and does not, cooperate with us outside of its pre-programmed repertoire. Thus, in many instances we must do the yielding of our agency and our choices, to the algorithms or robots, to reach the cooperative outcomes we require.... If every process is eventually automated and restricts human agency, while simultaneously requiring our servitude to function, we will be pinned to the wall with no choices, nothing left to give, and no alternatives for coping with it.
One example provided was the Amazon worker who complained the warehouse temperatures were always kept too hot -- to accommodate the needs of Amazon's robots. But the article argues we also forfeit agency "Every time we use a computer, or any computationally based device...
"We do this by sitting or standing to use a keyboard, by typing, clicking, scrolling, checking boxes, pulling down menus, and filling in data in a way that the machine can understand."
Firefox's former VP accused Google of sabotaging Firefox -- for example, when Gmail and Google Docs "started to experience selective performance issues and bugs on Firefox" and demo sites "would falsely block Firefox as 'incompatible'... There were dozens of oopses. Hundreds maybe... [W]hen you see a sustained pattern of 'oops' and delays from this organization -- you're being outfoxed."
Now Nightingale's accusations have stirred up some follow-up from technology reporters. An anonymous reader shares a blog post by ZDNet security reporter Catalin Cimpanu:
At this point, it's very hard not to believe or take Nightingale's comments seriously. Slowly but surely, Google is becoming the new Microsoft, and Chrome is slowly turning into the new IE, an opinion that more and more users are starting to share.
On Twitter, a senior editor at the Verge added "Google did a lot of 'oops' accidents to Windows Phone, too. Same pattern of behavior with its services and Edge. Oopsy this, oopsy that." The site MSPowerUser also shares a similar story from former Microsoft Edge intern, Joshua Bakita. "I very recently worked on the Edge team, and one of the reasons we decided to end EdgeHTML was because Google kept making changes to its sites that broke other browsers, and we couldn't keep up."
Meanwhile, Computerworld argues that data "backs up Nightingale's admission, to a point."
[I]f Google monkey business contributed to Firefox's fall, it must have really damaged Microsoft's IE. During the time it took Chrome to replace Firefox as the No. 2 browser, Firefox lost just 9% of its user share, while IE shed 22%. And Chrome's most explosive growth - which began in early 2016 - didn't come at Firefox's expense; instead, it first hollowed out IE, then suppressed any potential enthusiasm for the follow-on Edge.
Chrome didn't reach its current place -- last month capturing nearly 68% of all browser activity -- by raiding Firefox. It did it by destroying IE.
Bitcoin Couldn't Hide Russia's Operatives From Mueller's Investigation
"Russian operatives used cryptocurrency at almost every stage in their online efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, according to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's final report on his investigation." So says CNN, adding that "Systems used in the hacking of the Democratic Party were paid for using Bitcoin, as were online hosting services that supported websites which published hacked materials and were used in the targeting of disinformation at American voters."
The Russian operatives (a.k.a. the Fancy Bear team) withdrew funds from both the CEX.io and BTC-e.com cryptocurrency exchanges to fund domain purchases, server rentals, and VPN services, reports Draconi, Slashdot reader #38,078. He's correlated the Mueller report with the Bitcoin blockchain addresses referenced (indirectly) in two indictments brought by America's Department of Justice -- one for interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, and one for the public leak of Olympic drug-testing results -- and shared the results of his investigation with CNN.
Russian agents, including those from the GRU, Russia's military intelligence agency, had sought to, as the Mueller indictment of GRU agents last July outlined, "capitalize on the perceived anonymity of cryptocurrencies." But while Bitcoin allowed Russians to "avoid direct relationships with traditional financial institutions, allowing them to evade greater scrutiny of their identities and sources of funds," according to the same indictment, it wasn't enough to evade Mueller's investigation.
Tim Cotten, a blockchain developer and security researcher who has done extensive work in tracking Russian Bitcoin accounts unearthed by Mueller's team, noted in an interview with CNN Business that trading Bitcoins on exchanges usually requires users to set up Bitcoin wallets that are tied to an email address. Federal investigators were able to access at least some of the email accounts used in the operation, which, Cotten says, would have made tracing Bitcoin transactions a lot easier. Investigators' access to the "the other side of the blockchain equation," as he described it, was important because, "Rather than having to search the blockchain for clues, they already had all of the receipts demonstrating which accounts were under the GRU's control."
The Russians used stolen and false identities in setting up some of these accounts, according to Mueller's team, but had used some of the same accounts to purchase servers and website domains involved in the hacking of the Democratic Party and the publishing of the hacked materials, Mueller's indictment outlines. That, Cotten said, would have made it easier for investigators to tie the case together.
"The purchase trails are fully exposed in the Bitcoin blockchain as funds are used, consolidated, and deposited into secondary online wallets such as SpectroCoin.com and Xapo.com," Cotten writes on his site. "Anyone can follow along and trace the payment chains to see exactly how the Russians were spending their money, when, and on what."
'Pi VizuWall' Is a Beowulf Cluster Built With Raspberry Pi's
Why would someone build their own Beowulf cluster -- a high-performance parallel computing prototype -- using 12 Raspberry Pi boards? It's using the standard Beowulf cluster architecture found in about 88% of the world's largest parallel computing systems, with an MPI (Message Passing Interface) system that distributes the load over all the nodes.
Matt Trask, a long-time computer engineer now completing his undergraduate degree at Florida Atlantic University, explains how it grew out of his work on "virtual mainframes":
In the world of parallel supercomputers (branded 'high-performance computing', or HPC), system manufacturers are motivated to sell their HPC products to industry, but industry has pushed back due to what they call the "Ninja Gap". MPI programming is hard. It is usually not learned until the programmer is in grad school at the earliest, and given that it takes a couple of years to achieve mastery of any particular discipline, most of the proficient MPI programmers are PhDs. And this, is the Ninja Gap -- industry understands that the academic system cannot and will not be able to generate enough 'ninjas' to meet the needs of industry if industry were to adopt HPC technology.
As part of my research into parallel computing systems, I have studied the process of learning to program with MPI and have found that almost all current practitioners are self-taught, coming from disciplines other than computer science. Actual undergraduate CS programs rarely offer MPI programming. Thus my motivation for building a low-cost cluster system with Raspberry Pis, in order to drive down the entry-level costs. This parallel computing system, with a cost of under $1000, could be deployed at any college or community college rather than just at elite research institutions, as is done [for parallel computing systems] today.
The system is entirely open source, using only standard Raspberry Pi 3B+ boards and Raspbian Linux. The version of MPI that is used is called MPICH, another open-source technology that is readily available.
But there's an added visual flourish, explains long-time Slashdot reader iamacat. "To visualize computing, each node is equipped with a servo motor to position itself according to its current load -- lying flat when fully idle, standing up 90 degrees when fully utilized."
Its data comes from the /proc filesystem, and the necessary hinges for this prototype were all generated with a 3D printer. "The first lesson is to use CNC'd aluminum for the motor housings instead of 3D-printed plastic," writes Trask. "We've seen some minor distortion of the printed plastic from the heat generated in the servos."
'How the Boeing 737 Max Disaster Looks to a Software Developer'
Slashdot reader omfglearntoplay shared this article from IEEE's Spectrum. In "How the Boeing 737 Max Disaster Looks to a Software Developer," pilot (and software executive) Gregory Travis argues Boeing tried to avoid costly hardware changes to their 737s with a flawed software fix -- specifically, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (or MCAS):
It is astounding that no one who wrote the MCAS software for the 737 Max seems even to have raised the possibility of using multiple inputs, including the opposite angle-of-attack sensor, in the computer's determination of an impending stall. As a lifetime member of the software development fraternity, I don't know what toxic combination of inexperience, hubris, or lack of cultural understanding led to this mistake. But I do know that it's indicative of a much deeper problem. The people who wrote the code for the original MCAS system were obviously terribly far out of their league and did not know it.
So Boeing produced a dynamically unstable airframe, the 737 Max. That is big strike No. 1. Boeing then tried to mask the 737's dynamic instability with a software system. Big strike No. 2. Finally, the software relied on systems known for their propensity to fail (angle-of-attack indicators) and did not appear to include even rudimentary provisions to cross-check the outputs of the angle-of-attack sensor against other sensors, or even the other angle-of-attack sensor. Big strike No. 3... None of the above should have passed muster. None of the above should have passed the "OK" pencil of the most junior engineering staff... That's not a big strike. That's a political, social, economic, and technical sin...
The 737 Max saga teaches us not only about the limits of technology and the risks of complexity, it teaches us about our real priorities. Today, safety doesn't come first -- money comes first, and safety's only utility in that regard is in helping to keep the money coming.
The problem is getting worse because our devices are increasingly dominated by something that's all too easy to manipulate: software.... I believe the relative ease -- not to mention the lack of tangible cost -- of software updates has created a cultural laziness within the software engineering community. Moreover, because more and more of the hardware that we create is monitored and controlled by software, that cultural laziness is now creeping into hardware engineering -- like building airliners. Less thought is now given to getting a design correct and simple up front because it's so easy to fix what you didn't get right later.
The article also points out that "not letting the pilot regain control by pulling back on the column was an explicit design decision. Because if the pilots could pull up the nose when MCAS said it should go down, why have MCAS at all?
"MCAS is implemented in the flight management computer, even at times when the autopilot is turned off, when the pilots think they are flying the plane."
Sprint: LG G Flex Will Launch Online on January 31 for $299 on Contract
Starting today, Sprint customers can pre-order the unique LG G Flex smartphone for $299 online with a two year contract. By pre-ordering between now and January 31st, customers will receive a complimentary Quickwindow Folio Case, which is valued at $60. Sprint…
Motorola Announces Moto X Launch in UK, France, and Germany on February 1
Certain European consumers interested in the Moto X smartphone from Motorola will soon have their chance to purchase the excellent handset. Expected to launch on February 1st, Motorola will sell its iconic Moto X device in Black or White in…