Facebook

Facebook Bans Sale of Piracy-Enabling Set-Top Boxes 67

Lirodon quotes a report from Variety: Facebook has joined the fight against illegal video-streaming devices. The social behemoth recently added a new category to products it prohibits users to sell under its commerce policy: Products or items that "facilitate or encourage unauthorized access to digital media." The change in Facebook's policy, previously reported by The Drum, appears primarily aimed at blocking the sale of Kodi-based devices loaded with software that allows unauthorized, free access to piracy-streaming services. Kodi is free, open-source media player software. The app has grown popular among pirates, who modify the code with third-party add-ons for illegal streaming. Even with the ban officially in place, numerous "jail-broken" Kodi-enabled devices remain listed in Facebook's Marketplace section, indicating that the company has yet to fully enforce the new ban. A Facebook rep confirmed the policy went into effect earlier this month. In addition, the company updated its advertising policy to explicitly ban ads for illegal streaming services and devices.
AI

Apple Is Working On a Dedicated Chip To Power AI On Devices (bloomberg.com) 51

According to Bloomberg, Apple is working on a processor devoted specifically to AI-related tasks. "The chip, known internally as the Apple Neural Engine, would improve the way the company's devices handle tasks that would otherwise require human intelligence -- such as facial recognition and speech recognition," reports Bloomberg, citing a person familiar with the matter. From the report: Engineers at Apple are racing to catch their peers at Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc. in the booming field of artificial intelligence. While Siri gave Apple an early advantage in voice-recognition, competitors have since been more aggressive in deploying AI across their product lines, including Amazon's Echo and Google's Home digital assistants. An AI-enabled processor would help Cupertino, California-based Apple integrate more advanced capabilities into devices, particularly cars that drive themselves and gadgets that run augmented reality, the technology that superimposes graphics and other information onto a person's view of the world. Apple devices currently handle complex artificial intelligence processes with two different chips: the main processor and the graphics chip. The new chip would let Apple offload those tasks onto a dedicated module designed specifically for demanding artificial intelligence processing, allowing Apple to improve battery performance.
Businesses

Sean Parker Is Going To Great Lengths To Ensure 'Screening Room' Is Piracy Free, Patents Reveal (torrentfreak.com) 139

Napster co-founder Sean Parker has been working on his new service called Screening Room, which when becomes reality, could allow people to watch the latest Hollywood blockbusters in their living room as soon as they premiere at the box office. This week we get a glimpse at the kind of technologies Parker is using to ensure that the movies don't get distributed easily. From a report: Over the past several weeks, Screening Room Media, Inc. has submitted no less than eight patent applications related to its plans, all with some sort of anti-piracy angle. For example, a patent titled "Presenting Sonic Signals to Prevent Digital Content Misuse" describes a technology where acoustic signals are regularly sent to mobile devices, to confirm that the user is near the set-top box and is authorized to play the content. Similarly, the "Monitoring Nearby Mobile Computing Devices to Prevent Digital Content Misuse" patent, describes a system that detects the number of mobile devices near the client-side device, to make sure that too many people aren't tuning in. The general technology outlined in the patents also includes forensic watermarking and a "P2P polluter." The watermarking technology can be used to detect when pirated content spreads outside of the protected network onto the public Internet. "At this point, the member's movie accessing system will be shut off and quarantined. If the abuse or illicit activity is confirmed, the member and the household will be banned from the content distribution network," the patent reads. [...] Screening Room's system also comes with a wide range of other anti-piracy scans built in. Among other things, it regularly scans the Wi-Fi network to see which devices are connected, and Bluetooth is used to check what other devices are near.
The Almighty Buck

Messenger App Kik Debuts Its Own Digital Currency (bloomberg.com) 51

The messaging app Kik Interactive has decided to create its own digital currency. Kik's plans are for an "initial coin offering," a process by which it sells tokens that can be used to buy services on its platform. "The idea is that as more and more people use Kik, the value of those tokens, called 'Kin,' will rise in value," reports TechCrunch. From the report: Kik, which has raised about $120 million (in real money) from investors including Tencent Holdings Ltd., could serve to add a new layer of legitimacy to the process. "Kik will be the largest install base of cryptocurrency users in the world," Chief Executive Officer Ted Livingston said. "Kin, on day one will be the most-used cryptocurrency in the world." The move comes as Kik finally reveals how many people actually use its app regularly each month: 15 million. That's a far-cry from the 300 million total registered users number it was sharing around this time last year. Kik plans to gift a certain amount of Kin to each user. They'll be able use the new currency to buy games, live video streams and other digital products. The company's goal is to attract new merchants to sell on the platform, creating a snowball effect where Kin becomes more valuable and more sellers pile onto Kik, increasing its popularity.
Television

Cord-Cutters Are Ditching Their Cable Packages At the Fastest Rate Ever (axios.com) 201

Sara Fischer, writing for Axios: Cord-cutters are ditching their cable packages at the fastest rate ever, opting instead for cheaper, bundled digital TV options, according to the latest Magid Broadcast Study. The trend reflects consumers' preferences to ditch bundled cable packages for more affordable, niche bundled services that can be accessed on TV box tops or on mobile. For consumers, there are more bundled packages than ever, all popping up around similar price ranges. YouTube TV and Hulu TV launched within the past two month, joining the likes of SlingTV and DirectTV Now -- all at a roughly $40 monthly price point -- a bargain considering the average American pays $92 monthly for cable.
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Surges 10% To All-Time High Above $2,700, Has Now Doubled in May (cnbc.com) 139

An anonymous reader writes: In another intraday jump of more than $200, bitcoin surged to a record Thursday on strong Asian demand overnight. Bitcoin jumped more than 10 percent to an all-time high of $2,752.07, more than twice its April 30 price of $1,347.96 according to CoinDesk. The digital currency last traded near $2,726. At Thursday's record, Bitcoin has now gained more than 45 percent since last Thursday and more than 180 percent for the year so far. "There is no question that we are in the middle of a price frenzy," said Brian Kelly of BKCM, in a note to clients Thursday. "There will be a correction and it could be severe, but it's unclear if that correction will start from current prices of $2700 or from some place much higher."
Robotics

Consumers Trust Robots For Surgery Over Savings, Research Finds (bloomberg.com) 67

An anonymous reader shares an article: Andy Maguire faces a challenge: tasked with upgrading HSBC's digital-banking systems, he has discovered that customers are twice as likely to trust a robot for heart surgery than for picking a savings account. "I do find it slightly odd," said the chief operating officer of Europe's largest bank, referring to its survey of more than 12,000 consumers in 11 countries published this week. Just 7 percent of respondents would trust a robot with their savings, versus the 14 percent willing to submit to a machine for heart surgery. "You think, gosh, one would've imagined the world had moved on further or was moving faster than that," Maguire said in an interview. While consumers tend naturally to trust medical professionals, the "bar is pretty high" for banks dealing with people's money, he said. Banks around the world are spending billions of dollars to bolster creaking computer systems in a push to ward off startup competitors and cut long-term operating expenses. But consumers and regulators are holding them to ever-higher standards of security and convenience, driving the cost of overhauls higher and potentially eroding any savings.
China

China Censored Google's AlphaGo Match Against World's Best Go Player (theguardian.com) 93

DeepMind's board game-playing AI, AlphaGo, may well have won its first game against the Go world number one, Ke Jie, from China -- but most Chinese viewers could not watch the match live. From a report: The Chinese government had issued a censorship notice to broadcasters and online publishers, warning them against livestreaming Tuesday's game, according to China Digital Times, a site that regularly posts such notices in the name of transparency. "Regarding the go match between Ke Jie and AlphaGo, no website, without exception, may carry a livestream," the notice read. "If one has been announced in advance, please immediately withdraw it." The ban did not just cover video footage: outlets were banned from covering the match live in any way, including text commentary, social media, or push notifications. It appears the government was concerned that 19-year-old Ke, who lost the first of three scheduled games by a razor-thin half-point margin, might have suffered a more damaging defeat that would hurt the national pride of a state which holds Go close to its heart.
Advertising

Google Following Your Offline Credit Card Spending To Tell Advertisers If Their Ads Work (consumerist.com) 147

One of the new tools Google has announced for its advertisers today promises to tie your offline credit card data together with all your online viewing to tell advertisers exactly what's working as they try to target you and your wallet. Consumerist reports: That return, for decades, was hard to measure in all but the most vaguely correlative of ways. Did people buy your product after seeing your TV ad? After seeing your billboard? On a whim after seeing neither? Who knows! But in the age of highly targeted, algorithmic advertising, the landscape is completely different. The apps on your phone know what you looked at and when, and can tie that in to what you see on other devices you're also logged into their services on (like your work computer). Meanwhile, you're leaving tracks out in the physical world -- not only the location history of your phone, but also the trail of payments you leave behind you if you pay with a credit card, debit card, or app (as millions of us do). Google also introduced some offline measurements to its online tool suite back in 2014, when it started using phone location data to try to match store visit location data to digital ad views. But a store doesn't make any money when you simply walk into it; you need to buy something. So Google's tracking that very granularly now, too. "In the coming months, we'll be rolling out store sales measurement at the device and campaign levels. This will allow you to measure in-store revenue in addition to the store visits delivered by your Search and Shopping ads," Google explains to advertisers. That's very literally a collection of spending data matched to the people who spent it, matched in turn to people who saw ads.
Encryption

Hackers Unlock Samsung Galaxy S8 With Fake Iris (vice.com) 79

From a Motherboard report: Despite Samsung stating that a user's irises are pretty much impossible to copy, a team of hackers has done just that. Using a bare-bones selection of equipment, researchers from the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) show in a video how they managed to bypass the scanner's protections and unlock the device. "We've had iris scanners that could be bypassed using a simple print-out," Linus Neumann, one of the hackers who appears in the video. The process itself was apparently pretty simple. The hackers took a medium range photo of their subject with a digital camera's night mode, and printed the infrared image. Then, presumably to give the image some depth, the hackers placed a contact lens on top of the printed picture. And, that's it. They're in.
Data Storage

Microsoft Wants To Use DNA For Cloud Data Storage (technologyreview.com) 50

Last July, researchers from Microsoft and the University of Washington said that they had successfully encoded about 200 megabytes of data onto synthetic DNA molecules. The company is now planning to take the technology commercial. "Computer architects at Microsoft Research say the company has formalized a goal of having an operational storage system based on DNA working inside a data center toward the end of this decade," reports MIT Technology Review. "The aim is a 'proto-commercial system in three years storing some amount of data on DNA in one of our four centers for at least a boutique application,' says Doug Carmean, a partner architect at Microsoft Research." From the report: Internally, Microsoft harbors the even more ambitious goal of replacing tape drives, a common format used for archiving information. Major obstacles to a practical storage system remain. Converting digital bits into DNA code (made up of chains of nucleotides labeled A, G, C, and T) remains laborious and expensive because of the chemical process used to manufacture DNA strands. In its demonstration project, Microsoft used 13,448,372 unique pieces of DNA. Experts say buying that much material on the open market would cost $800,000. According to Microsoft, the cost of DNA storage needs to fall by a factor of 10,000 before it becomes widely adopted. While many experts say that's unlikely, Microsoft believes such advances could occur if the computer industry demands them.
United Kingdom

London City First In UK To Get Remote Air Traffic Control (bbc.co.uk) 43

New submitter lifeisshort writes: "Instead of sitting in a tower overlooking the runway, controllers will be 80 miles away, watching live footage from high-definition cameras," reports BBC. "The new system, due to be completed in 2018, will be tested for a year before becoming fully operational in 2019. The technology has been developed by Saab, the Swedish defense and security company, and will be introduced as part of a 350 million EUR development program to upgrade London City Airport. It will also include an extended terminal building, enabling it to serve two million more passengers a year by 2025.The remote digital system will provide controllers with a 360-degree view of the airfield via 14 high-definition cameras and two cameras which are able to pan, tilt and zoom. The cameras will send a live feed via fibre cables to a new operations room built at the Hampshire base of Nats, Britain's air traffic control provider." As far as reliability is concerned, "the system will use three different cables, taking different routes between the airport and the control centre, to ensure there is a back up if one of those cables fails." In spite of recent large scale hacks, what could possibly go wrong? And the next obvious step is giant Bangalore ATC outsourcing company...
IBM

IBM is Telling Remote Workers To Get Back in the Office Or Leave (wsj.com) 215

For the last few years, IBM has built up a remote work program for its 380,000 employees. Now the Wall Street Journal reports that IBM is "quietly dismantling" this option, and has told its employees this week that they either need to work in the office or leave the company (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). From the report: IBM is giving thousands of its remote workers in the U.S. a choice this week: Abandon your home workspaces and relocate to a regional office -- or leave the company. The 105-year-old technology giant is quietly dismantling its popular decades-old remote work program to bring employees back into offices, a move it says will improve collaboration and accelerate the pace of work. The changes comes as IBM copes with 20 consecutive quarters of falling revenue and rising shareholder ire over Chief Executive Ginni Rometty's pay package. The company won't say how many of its 380,000 employees are affected by the policy change, which so far has been rolled out to its Watson division, software development, digital marketing, and design -- divisions that employ tens of thousands of workers. The shift is particularly surprising since the Armonk, N.Y., company has been among the business world's staunchest boosters of remote work, both for itself and its customers. IBM markets software and services for what it calls "the anytime, anywhere workforce," and its researchers have published numerous studies on the merits of remote work.
Government

Apple Is Lobbying Against Your Right To Repair iPhones, New York State Records Confirm (vice.com) 235

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Lobbying records in New York state show that Apple, Verizon, and the tech industry's largest trade organizations are opposing a bill that would make it easier for consumers and independent companies to repair your electronics. The bill, called the "Fair Repair Act," would require electronics companies to sell replacement parts and tools to the general public, would prohibit "software locks" that restrict repairs, and in many cases would require companies to make repair guides available to the public. Apple and other tech giants have been suspected of opposing the legislation in many of the 11 states where similar bills have been introduced, but New York's robust lobbying disclosure laws have made information about which companies are hiring lobbyists and what bills they're spending money on public record. According to New York State's Joint Commission on Public Ethics, Apple, Verizon, Toyota, the printer company Lexmark, heavy machinery company Caterpillar, phone insurance company Asurion, and medical device company Medtronic have spent money lobbying against the Fair Repair Act this year. The Consumer Technology Association, which represents thousands of electronics manufacturers, is also lobbying against the bill. The records show that companies and organizations lobbying against right to repair legislation spent $366,634 to retain lobbyists in the state between January and April of this year. Thus far, the Digital Right to Repair Coalition -- which is generally made up of independent repair shops with several employees -- is the only organization publicly lobbying for the legislation. It has spent $5,042 on the effort, according to the records.
Security

Any Half-Decent Hacker Could Break Into Mar-a-Lago (alternet.org) 327

MrCreosote writes: Properties owned and run by the Trump Organization, including places where Trump spends much of his time and has hosted foreign leaders, are a network security nightmare. From a report via ProPublica (co-published with Gizmodo): "We parked a 17-foot motor boat in a lagoon about 800 feet from the back lawn of The Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach and pointed a 2-foot wireless antenna that resembled a potato gun toward the club. Within a minute, we spotted three weakly encrypted Wi-Fi networks. We could have hacked them in less than five minutes, but we refrained. A few days later, we drove through the grounds of the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, with the same antenna and aimed it at the clubhouse. We identified two open Wi-Fi networks that anyone could join without a password. We resisted the temptation. We have also visited two of President Donald Trump's other family-run retreats, the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., and a golf club in Sterling, Virginia. Our inspections found weak and open Wi-Fi networks, wireless printers without passwords, servers with outdated and vulnerable software, and unencrypted login pages to back-end databases containing sensitive information. The risks posed by the lax security, experts say, go well beyond simple digital snooping. Sophisticated attackers could take advantage of vulnerabilities in the Wi-Fi networks to take over devices like computers or smart phones and use them to record conversations involving anyone on the premises."
Wireless Networking

Comcast's New Wireless Service Goes Live For Current Xfinity Subscribers (digitaltrends.com) 52

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: Comcast already pipes internet into millions of homes, and now it wants to take its service to the airwaves. In April, the media giant announced the details of a new service, Xfinity Mobile, that will compete toe-to-toe with Google Fi, US Cellular, and incumbents like AT&T and T-Mobile. Now it appears the company is in the initial stages of launching the service nationwide. If you're already an Xfinity subscriber, you can head to the company's new mobile website now to get started. The service is available in all markets in which Comcast already operates. Xfinity Mobile features an unlimited data, talk, and text plan starting at $65 a month for up to five lines ($45 per line for customers with Comcast's top X1 TV packages), or $12 per GB a month a la carte. The unlimited option has been reduced to $45 a month through July 31 for the network's first customers. A combination of Comcast's 16 million Wi-Fi hot spots and Verizon's network will supply coverage, and, as with Google's Fi technology, phones will automatically switch between Wi-Fi and cellular depending on network conditions. Xfinity Mobile customers have their choice of the iPhone, 7, 6S, and SE series, the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S7 series, and the LG X Power.
United States

The Tech Sector Is Leaving the Rest of the US Economy In Its Dust (theverge.com) 155

Yesterday afternoon, the S&P 500 closed at a record high, and is up over $1.5 trillion since the start of 2017. "And the companies doing the most to drive that rally are all tech firms," reports The Verge. "Apple, Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft make up a whopping 37 percent of the total gains." From the report: All of these companies saw their share prices touch record highs in recent months. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the U.S. economy, which grew at a rate of less than 1 percent during the first three months of this year. That divide is the culmination of a long-term trend, according to a recent report featured in The Wall Street Journal: "In digital industries -- technology, communications, media, software, finance and professional services -- productivity grew 2.7% annually over the past 15 years...The slowdown is concentrated in physical industries -- health care, transportation, education, manufacturing, retail -- where productivity grew a mere 0.7% annually over the same period." There is no industry where these players aren't competing. Music, movies, shipping, delivery, transportation, energy -- the list goes on and on. As these companies continue to scale, the network effects bolstering their business are strengthening. Facebook and Google accounted for over three-quarters of the growth in the digital advertising industry in 2016, leaving the rest to be divided among small fry like Twitter, Snapchat, and the entire American media industry. Meanwhile Apple and Alphabet have achieved a virtual duopoly on mobile operating systems, with only a tiny sliver of consumers choosing an alternative for their smartphones and tablets.
Data Storage

HPE Unveils The Machine, a Single-Memory Computer Capable of Addressing 160 Terabytes (venturebeat.com) 150

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Hewlett Packard Enterprise announced what it is calling a big breakthrough -- creating a prototype of a computer with a single bank of memory that can process enormous amounts of information. The computer, known as The Machine, is a custom-built device made for the era of big data. HPE said it has created the world's largest single-memory computer. The R&D program is the largest in the history of HPE, the former enterprise division of HP that split apart from the consumer-focused division. If the project works, it could be transformative for society. But it is no small effort, as it could require a whole new kind of software. The prototype unveiled today contains 160 terabytes (TB) of memory, capable of simultaneously working with the data held in every book in the Library of Congress five times over -- or approximately 160 million books. It has never been possible to hold and manipulate whole data sets of this size in a single-memory system, and this is just a glimpse of the immense potential of Memory-Driven Computing, HPE said. Based on the current prototype, HPE expects the architecture could easily scale to an exabyte-scale single-memory system and, beyond that, to a nearly limitless pool of memory -- 4,096 yottabytes. For context, that is 250,000 times the entire digital universe today.
AI

Amazon Targets Cord Cutters With First-Ever Integrated Fire TV Sets (variety.com) 80

An anonymous reader writes: Amazon is going to start shipping TV sets powered by the company's own smart TV operating system soon: The company began listing Element's Fire TV Edition TV sets for pre-order Tuesday, and is expected to start shipping them next month, when the devices will also reach other retailers. Amazon and Element as well as Element's sister company Westinghouse first announced Fire TV-based TV sets at CES in Las Vegas earlier this year. Now, the companies shared a number of additional details, including pricing. Element's 43-inch Fire TV Edition will retail for $449. A 50-inch model and a 55-inch model will cost $549 and $649, respectively, and a $65-inch model will retail for $899. Each of these devices support 4K video, and pack a quad-core processor, 4GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage for apps -- beefed-up specs that won't just guarantee smooth app performance and streaming, according to Amazon's VP of Smart TVs Sandeep Gupta, but are also meant to future-proof the device. "It will have a longer life cycle than a regular smart TV," he told Variety during a recent interview. The interface of the TV is virtually identical to that of a Fire TV box or stick, save for a few differences. There are extra tiles that let users switch their input devices to access game consoles, Blu-ray players and cable boxes.
Security

Breach at DocuSign Led To Targeted Email Malware Campaign (krebsonsecurity.com) 20

Digital signature service DocuSign said Monday that an unnamed third-party had got access to email addresses of its users after hacking into its systems. From a report: DocuSign, a major provider of electronic signature technology, acknowledged today that a series of recent malware phishing attacks targeting its customers and users was the result of a data breach at one of its computer systems. The company stresses that the data stolen was limited to customer and user email addresses, but the incident is especially dangerous because it allows attackers to target users who may already be expecting to click on links in emails from DocuSign. [...] In an update late Monday, DocuSign confirmed that this malicious third party was able to send the messages to customers and users because it had broken in and stolen DocuSign's list of customers and users.

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