Businesses

Apple Blocks Steam's Plan To Extend Its Video Games To iPhones (reuters.com) 66

Citing "business conflicts," Apple has blocked Steam's plans to distribute PC-based video games to iPhones. It's "a sign that Apple is serious about protecting its ability to take a cut of digital purchases made inside games on its mobile devices," reports Reuters. From the report: Steam, the dominant online store for downloaded games played on Windows PCs, had planned to release a free mobile phone app called Steam Link so that gamers could continue playing on their mobile phones while away from their desktop machines. But Apple has rejected the app, blocking its release, according to a statement from Steam's parent company, the Bellevue, Washington-based Valve. Steam did not give a precise reason for the App Store denials, saying only that Apple cited "business conflicts with app guidelines." But the conflict likely centers on what are known as in-app purchases or micro-transactions, in which gamers can spend small sums of money inside games to buy tokens, extra lives or others so-called digital goods. Lombardi said Steam disabled purchasing its iOS app but did not elaborate on how the change was made. Many analysts believe Apple could lose revenue if they allow Steam's app, which is essentially a store-within-a-store. "Apple takes a 30 percent cut of such purchases made within apps distributed through its App Store," Reuters notes. "[T]hose purchases are among the primary drivers of revenue in Apple's services business."
Bitcoin

About $1.2 Billion in Cryptocurrency Stolen Since 2017 (reuters.com) 50

Criminals have stolen about $1.2 billion in cryptocurrencies since the beginning of 2017, as bitcoin's popularity and the emergence of more than 1,500 digital tokens have put the spotlight on the unregulated sector, according to estimates from the Anti-Phishing Working Group released on Thursday. From a report: The estimates were part of the non-profit group's research on cryptocurrency and include reported and unreported theft. "One problem that we're seeing in addition to the criminal activity like drug trafficking and money laundering using cryptocurrencies is the theft of these tokens by bad guys," Dave Jevans, chief executive officer of cryptocurrency security firm CipherTrace, told Reuters in an interview.
Bitcoin

US Launches Criminal Probe Into Bitcoin Price Manipulation (bloomberg.com) 48

The Justice Department has opened a criminal probe into whether traders are manipulating the price of Bitcoin and other digital currencies, dramatically ratcheting up U.S. scrutiny of red-hot markets that critics say are rife with misconduct, Bloomberg reported Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter. From the report: The investigation is focused on illegal practices that can influence prices -- such as spoofing, or flooding the market with fake orders to trick other traders into buying or selling, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the review is private. Federal prosecutors are working with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, a financial regulator that oversees derivatives tied to Bitcoin, the people said. Authorities worry that virtual currencies are susceptible to fraud for multiple reasons: skepticism that all exchanges are actively pursuing cheaters, wild price swings that could make it easy to push valuations around and a lack of regulations like the ones that govern stocks and other assets.
Android

Qualcomm Announces Snapdragon 710 Platform For Midrange Android Phones (anandtech.com) 31

An anonymous reader quotes a report from AnandTech: Today Qualcomm announces a new entry to the Snapdragon lineup with the first 700-series SoC platform. The Snapdragon 710 is a direct successor to the Snapdragon 660 but comes with a new branding more worthy of the increased performance characteristics of the SoC. The big IP blocks found on the Snapdragon 710 are very much derivatives of what's found on the flagship Snapdragon 845. On the CPU side we see the same 2.2GHz maximum clock on the big cores, but the Kryo 360 Cortex A75 based CPUs are microarchitectural upgrade over last year's A72 based Kryo 260. The little cores are also based on the newer Cortex A55's and are clocked at up to 1.7GHz. The performance improvements are quoted as an overall 20% uplift in SPECint2000 and 25% faster performance in Octane and Kraken versus the SD660. The SoC now also uses the new system cache first introduced in the Snapdragon 845 -- although I'm expecting a smaller, yet unconfirmed 1MB size in the SD710. The 700-series SoC platform sports the new 600 series Adreno GPUs. They have an expected frequency of around 750MHz and up to 35% higher performance versus the Adreno 512 in the SD660.

"In terms of connectivity the new SoC implements an X15 modem which is capable of UE Category 15 in the downstream with up to 800Mbps in 4x carrier aggregation and up to UE Category 7 in the upload with up to 2x CA and 256 QAM," reports AnandTech. "The new chipset now also offers 2x2 802.11ac digital backend for Wi-Fi -- however it'll still need an external discrete analog RF frontend."
United States

The US Military is Funding an Effort To Catch Deepfakes and Other AI Trickery (technologyreview.com) 70

The Department of Defense is funding a project that will try to determine whether the increasingly real-looking fake video and audio generated by artificial intelligence might soon be impossible to distinguish from the real thing -- even for another AI system. From a report: This summer, under a project funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the world's leading digital forensics experts will gather for an AI fakery contest. They will compete to generate the most convincing AI-generated fake video, imagery, and audio -- and they will also try to develop tools that can catch these counterfeits automatically. The contest will include so-called "deepfakes," videos in which one person's face is stitched onto another person's body.

Rather predictably, the technology has already been used to generate a number of counterfeit celebrity porn videos. But the method could also be used to create a clip of a politician saying or doing something outrageous. DARPA's technologists are especially concerned about a relatively new AI technique that could make AI fakery almost impossible to spot automatically. Using what are known as generative adversarial networks, or GANs, it is possible to generate stunningly realistic artificial imagery.

Encryption

FBI Repeatedly Overstated Encryption Threat Figures To Congress, Public (techcrunch.com) 158

mi shares a report from The Washington Post (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): The FBI has repeatedly provided grossly inflated statistics to Congress and the public about the extent of problems posed by encrypted cellphones, claiming investigators were locked out of nearly 7,800 devices connected to crimes last year when the correct number was much smaller, probably between 1,000 and 2,000.

Over a period of seven months, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray cited the inflated figure as the most compelling evidence for the need to address what the FBI calls "Going Dark" -- the spread of encrypted software that can block investigators' access to digital data even with a court order. "The FBI's initial assessment is that programming errors resulted in significant over-counting of mobile devices reported,'' the FBI said in a statement Tuesday. The bureau said the problem stemmed from the use of three distinct databases that led to repeated counting of phones. Tests of the methodology conducted in April 2016 failed to detect the flaw, according to people familiar with the work.

Microsoft

The Whole World is Now a Computer, Says Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (zdnet.com) 182

Thanks to cloud computing, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence, we should start to think of the planet as one giant computer, according to Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella. From a report: "Digital technology, pervasively, is getting embedded in every place: every thing, every person, every walk of life is being fundamentally shaped by digital technology -- it is happening in our homes, our work, our places of entertainment," said Nadella speaking in London. "It's amazing to think of a world as a computer. I think that's the right metaphor for us as we go forward."

[...] AI is core to Microsoft's strategy, Nadella said: "AI is the run time which is going to shape all of what we do going forward in terms of applications as well as the platform." Microsoft is rethinking its core products by using AI to connect them together, he said, giving an example of a meeting using translation, transcription, Microsoft's HoloLens and other devices to improve decision-making. "The idea that you can now use all of the computing power that is around you -- this notion of the world as a computer -- completely changes how you conduct a meeting and fundamentally what presence means for a meeting," he said.

Sony

Sony Is Done Working For Peanuts in the Hardware Business, New CEO To Detail Shift Away From Gadgets (bloomberg.com) 132

Kenichiro Yoshida, who took over as chief executive officer in April, is set to unveil a three-year plan on Tuesday that embraces Sony's growing reliance on income from gaming subscriptions and entertainment. From a report: The transition is already happening: even though the company sold fewer hardware products such as televisions, digital cameras, smartphones and PlayStation consoles in the year through March, it was able to post record operating profit. It's a tectonic shift for a company built on manufacturing prowess. Sony popularized transistor radios, gave the world portable music with the Walkman and its TVs were considered top-of-the-line for decades. With the rise of Chinese manufacturing, making and selling gadgets has become a business with razor-thin profit margins. Investors have applauded the transformation that's been under way since Kazuo Hirai took over as CEO in 2012, with the shares climbing more than five-fold amid a turnaround.
AI

New Toronto Declaration Calls On Algorithms To Respect Human Rights 164

A coalition of human rights and technology groups released a new declaration on machine learning standards, calling on both governments and tech companies to ensure that algorithms respect basic principles of equality and non-discrimination. The Verge reports: Called The Toronto Declaration, the document focuses on the obligation to prevent machine learning systems from discriminating, and in some cases violating, existing human rights law. The declaration was announced as part of the RightsCon conference, an annual gathering of digital and human rights groups. "We must keep our focus on how these technologies will affect individual human beings and human rights," the preamble reads. "In a world of machine learning systems, who will bear accountability for harming human rights?" The declaration has already been signed by Amnesty International, Access Now, Human Rights Watch, and the Wikimedia Foundation. More signatories are expected in the weeks to come.

Beyond general non-discrimination practices, the declaration focuses on the individual right to remedy when algorithmic discrimination does occur. "This may include, for example, creating clear, independent, and visible processes for redress following adverse individual or societal effects," the declaration suggests, "[and making decisions] subject to accessible and effective appeal and judicial review."
Privacy

Repo Men Scan Billions of License Plates -- For the Government (washingtonpost.com) 239

The Washington Post notes the billions of license plate scans coming from modern repo men "able to use big data to find targets" -- including one who drives "a beat-up Ford Crown Victoria sedan." It had four small cameras mounted on the trunk and a laptop bolted to the dash. The high-speed cameras captured every passing license plate. The computer contained a growing list of hundreds of thousands of vehicles with seriously late loans. The system could spot a repossession in an instant. Even better, it could keep tabs on a car long before the loan went bad... Repo agents are the unpopular foot soldiers in the nation's $1.2 trillion auto loan market... they are the closest most people come to a faceless, sophisticated financial system that can upend their lives...

Derek Lewis works for Relentless Recovery, the largest repo company in Ohio and its busiest collector of license plate scans. Last year, the company repossessed more than 25,500 vehicles -- including tractor trailers and riding lawn mowers. Business has more than doubled since 2014, the company said. Even with the rising deployment of remote engine cutoffs and GPS locators in cars, repo agencies remain dominant. Relentless scanned 28 million license plates last year, a demonstration of its recent, heavy push into technology. It now has more than 40 camera-equipped vehicles, mostly spotter cars. Agents are finding repos they never would have a few years ago. The company's goal is to capture every plate in Ohio and use that information to reveal patterns... "It's kind of scary, but it's amazing," said Alana Ferrante, chief executive of Relentless.

Repo agents are responsible for the majority of the billions of license plate scans produced nationwide. But they don't control the information. Most of that data is owned by Digital Recognition Network (DRN), a Fort Worth company that is the largest provider of license-plate-recognition systems. And DRN sells the information to insurance companies, private investigators -- even other repo agents. DRN is a sister company to Vigilant Solutions, which provides the plate scans to law enforcement, including police and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Both companies declined to respond to questions about their operations... For repo companies, one worry is whether they are producing information that others are monetizing.

Digital

Rebuilding the PDP-11/70 with a Raspberry Pi (wixsite.com) 93

"You could look at this as a smallish PDP-11/70, built with modern parts," Oscar Vermeulen writes on his site. "Or alternatively, and equally valid, as a fancy front panel case for a Raspberry Pi."

Long-time Slashdot reader cptnapalm writes: Oscar Vermeulen's PiDP-11 front panel, modeling a PDP-11/70 in all its colorful glory, has been released to beta testers. This is Mr. Vermeulen's second DEC front panel; his PiDP-8 was released a few years ago. The PiDP-11 panel is designed to work with a Raspberry Pi running simh or, possibly, a FPGA implementation of the Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-11... In addition to the front panel with its switches and blinkenlights, also included is a prototyping area for the possibility of adding new hardware...

UNIX and later BSD were developed on the PDP-11, including both the creation of the C language, the pipe concept and the text editor vi.

United Kingdom

FM Radio Faces UK Government Switch-Off As Digital Listening Passes 50 Percent Milestone (inews.co.uk) 99

The Amazon Echo and other smart speakers have helped push the audience for digital radio past that of FM and AM in the UK for the first time. According to Radio Joint Audience Research (RAJAR), digital listening has reached a new record share of 50.9%, up from 47.2% a year ago. This milestone will trigger a government review into whether the analog FM radio signal should be switched off altogether. iNews reports: The BBC said it would be "premature" to switch off the FM signal. It could cut off drivers with analogue car radios and disenfranchise older wireless listeners. Margot James, Digital minister, welcomed "an important milestone for radio." She confirmed that the Government will "work closely with all partners -- the BBC, commercial radio, (transmitter business) Arqiva, car manufacturers and listeners" before committing to a timetable for analogue switch-off.

James Purnell, BBC Director of Radio and Education, said: "We're fully committed to digital, and growing its audiences, but, along with other broadcasters, we've already said that it would be premature to switch off FM." Mr Purnell said that BBC podcast listening was up a third across all audiences since the same time last year, accounting now for 40,000 hours a week. But younger audiences have not inherited the habit of listening to "live" radio, even on digital.

Software

In Virtual Reality, How Much Body Do You Need? (nytimes.com) 34

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: Will it soon be possible to simulate the feeling of a spirit not attached to any particular physical form using virtual or augmented reality? If so, a good place to start would be to figure out the minimal amount of body we need to feel a sense of self, especially in digital environments where more and more people may find themselves for work or play. It might be as little as a pair of hands and feet, report Dr. Michiteru Kitazaki and a Ph.D. student, Ryota Kondo. In a paper published Tuesday in Scientific Reports, they showed that animating virtual hands and feet alone is enough to make people feel their sense of body drift toward an invisible avatar (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). Their work fits into a corpus of research on illusory body ownership, which has challenged understandings of perception and contributed to therapies like treating pain for amputees who experience phantom limb.

Using an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset and a motion sensor, Dr. Kitazaki's team performed a series of experiments in which volunteers watched disembodied hands and feet move two meters in front of them in a virtual room. In one experiment, when the hands and feet mirrored the participants' own movements, people reported feeling as if the space between the appendages were their own bodies. In another experiment, the scientists induced illusory ownership of an invisible body, then blacked out the headset display, effectively blindfolding the subjects. The researchers then pulled them a random distance back and asked them to return to their original position, still virtually blindfolded. Consistently, the participants overshot their starting point, suggesting that their sense of body had drifted or "projected" forward, toward the transparent avatar.

Government

Congress Is Looking To Extend Copyright Protection Term To 144 Years (wired.com) 292

"Because it apparently isn't bad enough already, Congress is looking to extend the copyright term to 144 years," writes Slashdot reader llamalad. "Please write to your representatives and consider donating to the EFF." American attorney Lawrence Lessig writes via Wired: Almost exactly 20 years ago, Congress passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which extended the term of existing copyrights by 20 years. The Act was the 11th extension in the prior 40 years, timed perfectly to assure that certain famous works, including Mickey Mouse, would not pass into the public domain. Immediately after the law came into force, a digital publisher of public domain works, Eric Eldred, filed a lawsuit challenging the act [which the Supreme Court later rejected].

Twenty years later, the fight for term extension has begun anew. Buried in an otherwise harmless act, passed by the House and now being considered in the Senate, this new bill purports to create a new digital performance right -- basically the right to control copies of recordings on any digital platform (ever hear of the internet?) -- for musical recordings made before 1972. These recordings would now have a new right, protected until 2067, which, for some, means a total term of protection of 144 years. The beneficiaries of this monopoly need do nothing to get the benefit of this gift. They don't have to make the work available. Nor do they have to register their claims in advance.

AI

Google's Duplex AI Robot Will Warn That Calls Are Recorded (bloomberg.com) 28

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: On Thursday, the Alphabet Inc. unit shared more details on how the Duplex robot-calling feature will operate when it's released publicly, according to people familiar with the discussion. Duplex is an extension of the company's voice-based digital assistant that automatically phones local businesses and speaks with workers there to book appointments. At Google's weekly TGIF staff meeting on Thursday, executives gave employees their first full Duplex demo and told them the bot would identify itself as the Google assistant. It will also inform people on the phone that the line is being recorded in certain jurisdictions, the people said.
Security

Hardcoded Password Found in Cisco Enterprise Software, Again (bleepingcomputer.com) 70

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: Cisco released 16 security advisories yesterday, including alerts for three vulnerabilities rated "Critical" and which received a maximum of 10 out of 10 on the CVSSv3 severity score. The three vulnerabilities include a backdoor account and two bypasses of the authentication system for Cisco Digital Network Architecture (DNA) Center. The Cisco DNA Center is a piece of software that's aimed at enterprise clients and which provides a central system for designing and deploying device configurations (aka provisioning) across a large network. This is, arguably, a pretty complex piece of software, and according to Cisco, a recent internal audit has yielded some pretty bad results.
Bitcoin

Investors Have Placed $1 Billion in Cryptocurrency Offerings Rampant With Red Flags For Fraud (cnbc.com) 49

Investors have sent $1 billion into digital coin projects that flash warning signs for fraud, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. The revelation comes a day after the SEC created its own fake ICO to teach investors a lesson. From a report: In a review of 1,450 digital coin offerings, the Journal said it found 271 bore red flags such as plagiarized documents or fake executive information. Investors have already claimed losses of up to $273 million in these projects, the newspaper said, according to lawsuits and regulatory actions. The coin sales, or "initial coin offerings," give investors the chance to buy into a new digital token while letting developers get easy access to funding. The process may be a little too easy for many projects that are unproven or outright scams.

Coin offerings have raised roughly $9.8 billion in the two years through mid-March, according to financial research firm Autonomous Next. The Journal found widespread plagiarism in 111 projects' online whitepapers, including word-for-word copies of marketing plans and technical features.

It's funny.  Laugh.

The SEC Created Its Own Scammy ICO To Teach Investors a Lesson (theverge.com) 75

In its latest effort to fend off cryptocurrency scams, the Securities and Exchange Commission launched its own fake initial coin offering website today called the Howey Coin to warn people against fraudulent cryptocurrencies. From a report: The name is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Howey Test that the SEC uses to determine whether an investment is a security, which the Commission would therefore have legal jurisdiction over. Click 'Buy Coins Now' on the Howey Coins site and you'll be redirected to an SEC page that states: "We created the bogus HoweyCoins.com site as an educational tool to alert investors to possible fraud involving digital assets like crypto-currencies and coin offerings." It even has a white paper [PDF].
Sony

Sony Ends Production Of Physical Vita Games (kotaku.com) 35

Sony is ending physical production of Vita games, news outlet Kotaku reports. Although the hardware manufacturer says digital distribution will continue, this move will mark the end of physical cards for the maligned portable game system, Kotaku added. From a report: Sony's American and European branches "plan to end all Vita GameCard production by close of fiscal year 2018," the company told developers today in a message obtained by Kotaku. The message asks that all Vita product code requests be submitted by June 28, 2018, and that final purchase orders be entered by February 15, 2019. Sony's 2018 fiscal year will end on March 31, 2019.
Businesses

FedEx Sees Blockchain as 'Next Frontier' For Logistics (bloomberg.com) 106

Convinced that blockchain is on the brink of transforming the package-delivery business, FedEx is testing the technology to track large, higher-value cargo. From a report: "We're quite confident that it has big, big implications in supply chain, transportation and logistics," Chief Executive Officer Fred Smith said at a blockchain conference in New York. "It's the next frontier that's going to completely change worldwide supply chains." Blockchain uses computer code to record every step of a transaction and delivery in a permanent digital ledger, providing transparency. The ledger can't be changed unless all involved agree, reducing common disputes over issues like time stamps, payments and damages. FedEx's interest in blockchain and the Internet of Things are part of the company's strategy to improve customer service and fend off competition, Smith said.

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