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Robotics

New Kit Turns A Raspberry Pi Into A Robot Arm (raspberrypi.org) 33

An anonymous reader writes: A new kit turns your Raspberry Pi into a robotic arm. It's controlled by an on-board joystick, or even a web browser, and "because it's connected to the Pi you can program it through any of the various programming languages that already run on the Pi," according to its creators. "There's also free software available which lets you program it through a web interface using drag and drop programming environments like Scratch and Blockly or with Python and Javascript for the more experienced."

They explain in a video on Kickstarter that "Our mission is to get children excited about technology through building and programming their own robots," and they've already raised three times their original $12,411 fundraising goal. The Raspberry Pi blog describes it as "a great kit for anyone wanting to step into the world of digital making."

Long-time Slashdot reader bjpirt adds that "It's completely open source and hackable."
Classic Games (Games)

MAME Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary (mame.net) 46

After years of work, a fan has finally completed a MAME version of Atari's unreleased game Primal Rage II this week, one more example of the emulator preserving digital history. Long-time Slashdot reader AmiMoJo quotes MAME.net: Way back in 1997, Nicola Salmoria merged a few stand-alone arcade machine emulators into the first Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator. Could he have possibly imagined the significance of what he'd built? Over the past two decades, MAME has brought together over a thousand contributors to build a system that emulates more machines than any other program.

But MAME is more than that: MAME represents the idea that our digital heritage is important and should be preserved for future generations. MAME strives to accurately represent original systems, allowing unmodified software to run as intended. Today, MAME documents over thirty thousand systems, and usably emulates over ten thousand. MAME meets the definitions of Open Source and Free Software, and works with Windows, macOS, Linux and BSD running on any CPU from x86-64 to ARM to IBM zSeries.

A 20th-anniversary blog post thanked MAME's 1,600 contributors -- more than triple the number after its 10th anniversary -- and also thanks MAME's uncredited contributors. "if you've filed a bug report, distributed binaries, run a community site, or just put in a good word for MAME, we appreciate it." I've seen MAME resurrect everything from a rare East German arcade game to a Sonic the Hedgehog popcorn machine. Anybody else have a favorite MAME experience to share?
Yahoo!

Deleting Your Yahoo Email Account? Yeah, Good Luck With That (zdnet.com) 98

In the wake of security breach revelations, many of you might have considered deleting your Yahoo account. Many of you might be thinking about doing so soon. Heads up, it turns out, deleting a Yahoo email account isn't as straightforward as you may have imagined, and you again have Yahoo to blame for that. From a report on ZDNet: Several Yahoo users, who last year decided to leave the service, told us that their accounts remained open for weeks or months after the company said they would be closed. David Clarke was one of those departing users, whose dormant account was slowly accumulating junk over the past few years. "This was an ancient email I had set up, had no personal data in it anymore and had a unique password," writing about his troubles on Medium. "But it's a part of my digital footprint that I no longer required and decided, given the horrible security practices going on at Yahoo, to vote with my account and have it removed." Yahoo makes the account deletion process straightforward enough, but users have to wait "in most cases... approximately 90 days" for the account to close. The company says this is to "discourage users from engaging in fraudulent activity." On day 91, Clarke logged back into his account to find that it was still active. Unbeknownst to him, logging back in simply to check would reset the clock back to zero. "Yahoo confirmed via email yesterday if you access your account it resets the timer," he told me. "So, if you login to ensure your account has been deleted and it hasn't, you have to wait at least another 90 days."
Science

Scientists Use Stem Cells To Grow Animal-Free Pork In a Lab (digitaltrends.com) 126

A new study published in the journal Scientific Reports describes research "designed to generate muscle from a newly established pig stem-cell line, rather than from primary cells taken directly from a pig," says co-author Dr. Nicholas Genovese, a stem-cell biologist. "This entailed understanding the biology of relatively uncharacterized and recently-derived porcine induced pluripotent stem cell lines. What conditions support cell growth, survival and differentiation? These are all questions I had to figure out in the lab before the cells could be turned into muscle." Digital Trends reports: It may not sound like the most appetizing of foodstuffs, but pig skeletal muscle is in fact the main component of pork. The fact that it could be grown from a stem-cell line, rather than from a whole pig, is a major advance. This is also true of the paper's second big development: the fact that this cultivation of pig skeletal muscle didn't use animal serum, a component which has been used in other livestock muscle cultivation processes. [Genovese] acknowledges that there are other non-food-related possibilities the work hints at. "There is a contingent interest in using the pig as a model to study disease and test regenerative therapies for human conditions," he said.
Cellphones

FCC Chairman Wants It To Be Easier To Listen To Free FM Radio On Your Smartphone (recode.net) 205

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Recode: Your smartphone has an FM radio in it, only it's unlikely that you're able to use it. That's because in the U.S., less than half of phones actually have the FM tuner turned on. But FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who just recently assumed the top position at the regulatory agency under President Trump, thinks that should change. In remarks made to the North American Broadcasters Association yesterday, Pai said that it's a public safety issue. Both the former head of the Federal Emergency Management Association and an FCC advisory panel on public safety have advocated for turning on the FM radio capabilities in smartphones, since radio is a reliable source of information when internet or cellphone networks go down in severe weather. Although Pai thinks smartphones should have the FM chip turned on, he doesn't think the government should mandate it: "As a believer in free markets and the rule of law, I cannot support a government mandate requiring activation of these chips. I don't believe the FCC has the power to issue a mandate like that, and more generally I believe it's best to sort this issue out in the marketplace."
Youtube

YouTube Has 1 Billion Videos With Closed-Captioning (But Not All of Them Are Accurate) (variety.com) 52

Over a billion videos on YouTube are accessible to viewers with difficulties in hearing, thanks to the video giant's automated captions, it said Thursday. From a report on Variety: That certainly sounds impressive -- except when you realize that many of the site's automatically generated captions aren't completely right. The Google-owned video giant first launched captions back in 2006, and three years later introduced automatic speech recognition to add closed-captioning to YouTube content. Today, YouTube users watch video with auto-generated captions more than 15 million times per day. But the system is prone to errors. For example, the trailer for Amazon Studio's Oscar-nominated "Manchester by the Sea" (at this link) includes numerous inaccuracies in the auto-transcribed captions, sometimes to hilarious -- not to mention frustrating -- effect.
Microsoft

Microsoft Calls For 'Digital Geneva Convention' (usatoday.com) 140

Microsoft is calling for a digital Geneva Convention to outline protections for civilians and companies from government-sponsored cyberattacks. In comments Tuesday at the RSA security industry conference in San Francisco, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said the rising trend of government entities wielding the internet as a weapon was worrying. From a report on USA Today: In the cyber realm, tech must be committed to "100% defense and zero percent offense," Smith said at the opening keynote at the RSA computer security conference. Smith called for a "digital Geneva Convention," like the one created in the aftermath of World War II which set ground rules for how conduct during wartime, defining basic rights for civilians caught up armed conflicts. In the 21st century such rules are needed "to commit governments to protect civilians from nation-state attacks in times of peace," a draft of Smith's speech released to USA TODAY said. This digital Geneva Convention would establish protocols, norms and international processes for how tech companies would deal with cyber aggression and attacks of nations aimed at civilian targets, which appears to effectively mean anything but military servers.
Robotics

Elon Musk: Humans Need To Merge With Machines Else They Will Become Irrelevant in AI Age (cnbc.com) 251

Billionaire Elon Musk is known for his futuristic ideas. So it didn't come as a surprise when on Monday at the World Government Summit in Dubai, he predicted that over time we will see a "closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence." He added, via a CNBC report: "It's mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output." Musk explained what he meant by saying that computers can communicate at "a trillion bits per second", while humans, whose main communication method is typing with their fingers via a mobile device, can do about 10 bits per second. In an age when AI threatens to become widespread, humans would be useless, so there's a need to merge with machines, according to Musk. "Some high bandwidth interface to the brain will be something that helps achieve a symbiosis between human and machine intelligence and maybe solves the control problem and the usefulness problem," Musk explained.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Three Privacy Groups Challenge The FBI's Malware-Obtained Evidence (eff.org) 115

In 2015 the FBI took over a Tor-accessible child pornography site to infect its users with malware so they could be identified and prosecuted. But now one suspect is challenging that evidence in court, with three different privacy groups filing briefs in his support. An anonymous reader writes. One EFF attorney argues it's a classic case of an unreasonable search, which is prohibited by the U.S. Constitution. "If the FBI tried to get a single warrant to search 8,000 houses, such a request would unquestionably be denied." But there's another problem, since the FBI infected users in 120 different countries. "According to Privacy International, the case also raises important questions: What if a foreign country had carried out a similar hacking operation that affected U.S. citizens?" writes Computerworld. "Would the U.S. welcome this...? The U.S. was overstepping its bounds by conducting an investigation outside its borders without the consent of affected countries, the group said."
The FBI's evidence is also being challenged by the ACLU of Massachusetts, and the EFF plans to file two more challenges in March, warning that otherwise "the precedent is likely to impact the digital privacy rights of all Internet users for years to come... Courts need to send a very clear message that vague search warrants that lack the required specifics about who and what is to be searched won't be upheld."
Communications

TeraHertz Transmitter Can Push 100Gbps+ Wireless Speeds Via a Single Channel (ispreview.co.uk) 53

Mark.JUK writes: A team of Japanese scientists working jointly for Hiroshima University and Panasonic have managed to develop a TeraHertz (THz) transmitter that is capable of transmitting digital data at a rate of 105 Gbps (gigabits per second) over a single channel using the frequency range from 290GHz to 315GHz. Previously it was only possible to achieve such speeds by harnessing multiple channels at the same time.

Professor Minoru Fujishima, Hiroshima University, said: "This year, we developed a transmitter with 10 times higher transmission power than the previous version's. This made the per-channel data rate above 100 Gbit/s at 300 GHz possible. We usually talk about wireless data rates in megabits per second or gigabits per second. But we are now approaching terabits per second using a plain simple single communication channel."

Software

Valve Is Shutting Down Steam's Greenlight Community Voting System (theverge.com) 99

Valve's crowdsourced Greenlight submission program, which let the gaming community select which games get chosen for distribution via Steam, is shutting down after nearly five years. It will be replaced with a new system called Steam Direct that will charge developers a fee for each title they plan to distribute. The Verge reports: Steam Greenlight was launched in 2012 as a way for indie developers to get their games on Steam, even if they weren't working with a big publisher that had a relationship with Valve. Steam users would vote on Greenlight games, and Valve would accept titles with enough support to suggest that they'd sell well. Kroll says that "over 100" Greenlight titles have made $1 million or more. But Greenlight has also had significant problems. Developers could game the system by offering rewards for votes, and worthy projects could get lost amidst a slew of bad proposals. Since Valve ultimately made the call on including games, the process could also seem arbitrary and opaque. The big question is whether what's replacing it is better. To get a game on Steam Direct, developers will need to "complete a set of digital paperwork, personal or company verification, and tax documents similar to the process of applying for a bank account." Then, they'll pay an application fee for each game, "which is intended to decrease the noise in the submission pipeline" -- a polite way of saying that it will make people think twice before spending money submitting a low-quality game. Steam Direct is supposed to launch in spring of 2017, but the application fee hasn't been decided yet. Developer feedback has apparently suggested anything from $100 -- the current Greenlight submission fee -- and $5,000.
Google

Google Might Be Gearing Up To Remove Millions of Play Store Apps Next Month (pcworld.com) 53

An anonymous reader shares a PCWorld report: Take a look at the digital shelves of the Google Play Store and you're likely to come across a bevy of so-called zombie apps. These apps typically take the form of a knock-off of a popular game or a sloppy utility that doesn't quite match its description, and they strategically turn up alongside legitimate apps, which makes them hard to spot if you're not doing a forensic analysis of reviews while you shop. Now it looks like something is finally being done about them. In a letter uncovered by The Next Web, Google has begun warning some developers that one or more of their apps has been flagged for a lack of an adequate privacy policy, a common problem among these sort of hastily published and subsequently ignored apps. In the message, Google reiterates its policy, which "requires developers to provide a valid privacy policy when the app requests or handles sensitive user information." Such permissions include camera, microphone, account, contacts, or phone access, which requires a transparent disclosure of how user data is handled, according to Google's requirements. It's unclear how many letters were sent out, but The Next Web estimates it could affect millions of apps.
Facebook

How Tech Ate the Media and Our Minds (axios.com) 82

From a report: On average, we check our phones 50 times each day -- with some studies suggesting it could three times that amount. We spend around 6 hours per day consuming digital media. As a result, the human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds to eight seconds since 2000, while the goldfish attention span is nine seconds. And we just mindlessly pass along information without reading or checking it. Columbia University found that nearly 60 percent of all social media posts are shared without being clicked on.
Businesses

Apple CEO Tim Cook Tackles Truth in the Digital Age (cnbc.com) 214

Apple CEO Tim Cook visited the University of Glasgow yesterday to be awarded an honorary doctorate. During the Q&A session, one audience member asked Cook to tell what the future looks like. Following is Cook's response: "The world is going through an enormous change. We used to watch three or four people tell us the news, and generally speaking most of us trusted that ... now you are growing up in an environment where everyone is telling you the news and everyone is trying to influence your opinion on something," Cook said. "Generally society hasn't moved as fast as technology has ... so all of us have been put in a position to make sure that when we hear something we automatically take it as our opinion that we think through the different views on it and unfortunately make sure it is accurate as well."
EU

EU Agrees To Cross-Border Access To Streaming Services (variety.com) 55

Putting in place the first piece of its hoped-for unified digital market, the European Union has agreed on new rules allowing subscribers of online services in one E.U. country access to them while traveling in another. From a report: "Today's agreement will bring concrete benefits to Europeans," said vice president in charge of the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip, in a statement. "People who have subscribed to their favorite series, music and sports events at home will be able to enjoy them when they travel in Europe. This is a new important step in breaking down barriers in the Digital Single Market." Variety explain: That said, "portability" is the least contentious of DSM regulations being advanced by the European Commission. Reached yesterday, the agreement between the Commission, the E.U.'s executive arm, the European Parliament and the E.U.'s Council of Ministers, representing its 28 member states, will allow consumers to fully use their online subscriptions to films, sports events, e-books, video games or music services when traveling within the E.U. The online service providers who will be mandated to make these services available range from video-on-demand platforms (Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon Prime, Mubi, Chili TV) to online TV services (Viasat's Viaplay, Sky's Now TV, Voyo), music streaming services (Spotify, Deezer, Google Music) and game online marketplaces (Steam, Origin).
Cellphones

Sony's Latest Smartphone Camera Sensor Can Shoot At 1,000fps (theverge.com) 86

Sony has taken the wraps off of its latest smartphone camera sensor which it says can shoot 1080p slow-motion video at 1,000 frames per second. "The new 3-layer CMOS sensor -- an industry first -- can capture slow motion video about eight times faster than its competition with minimal focal pane distortion, according to Sony," reports The Verge. From their report: The sensor can also take 19.3MP images in 1/120th of a second, which Sony says is four times faster than other chips, thanks to high-capacity DRAM, and a 4-tier construction on the circuit section used to convert analog video signals to digital signals. All of that fancy camera talk basically means this sensor blows every camera currently in a smartphone out of the water. Although the iPhone 7 and the Google Pixel can shoot 1080p slow-motion video at 120fps, they are still miles behind what Sony has reached with its latest sensor. At 1,000fps it even surpasses the Sony RX 100 V, which can only shoot at 960fps.
The Internet

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Makes 375,000 Images Available For Free (fortune.com) 42

The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced Tuesday that more than 375,000 of its "public-domain artworks" are now available for unrestricted use. "We have been working toward the goal of sharing our images with the public for a number of years," said Thomas P. Campbell, director and CEO of the Met, in a statement. "Our comprehensive and diverse museum collection spans 5,000 years of world culture and our core mission is to be open and accessible for all who wish to study and enjoy the works of art in our care." Fortune reports: The image collection covers photographs, paintings, and sculptures, among other works. Images now available for both scholarly and commercial purposes include Emanuel Leutze's famous painting Washington Crossing the Delaware; photographs by Walker Evans, Alfred Steiglitz, and Dorothea Lange; and even some Vincent van Gogh paintings. The Met has teamed up with Creative Commons, Wikimedia, Artstor, Digital Public Library of America, Art Resource, and Pinterest to host and maximize the reach of their enormous collection. There is also a public GitHub repository of the images.
Iphone

Apple's Ultra Accessory Connector Dashes Any Hopes of a USB-C iPhone (theverge.com) 153

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Among all the iPhone 8 concepts and daydreams, my favorite scenario has always been to see Apple replacing its proprietary Lightning connector with the USB-C one that's taken over the entire rest of the smartphone world. Apple is already a strong proponent of USB-C, having moved to it aggressively with the new MacBook Pros in October, but the company also maintains Lightning for its iPhones and iPads -- which creates a lot of headaches for people desiring universal accessories that work with everything inside the Cupertino ecosystem. Alas, after yesterday's revelation of a new Ultra Accessory Connector (UAC), which is intended to ameliorate some of the pain of having both USB-C and Lightning devices, it looks like the dream of a USB-C iPhone will forever remain just that. The UAC connector is going to be used as an intermediary in headphone wires, splitting them in half so that the top part can be universal, and the bottom can be either a Lightning, USB-C, USB-A, or a regular old 3.5mm analog plug. The intent is to restore some of the universality of wired headphones -- which, until not too long ago, all terminated in a 3.5mm connector (or 6.35mm on non-portable hi-fi models designed for at-home listening). With UAC, a headphone manufacturer can issue multiple cable terminations very cheaply, making both the headphones and any integrated electronics, like a digital-to-analog converter or built-in microphone, compatible across devices with different ports. Why this matters with regard to the iPhone's sole remaining port is simple: if Apple was planning to switch its mobile devices to USB-C, it wouldn't have bothered with creating a Made for iPhone standard for UAC. It would have just made the port change.
Businesses

Western Digital Unveils First-Ever 512Gb 64-Layer 3D NAND Chip (betanews.com) 78

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: As great as these solid state drives are now, they are only getting better. For example, SATA-based SSDs were once viewed as miraculous, but they are now looked at as slow -- PCIe-based NVMe drives are all the rage. To highlight the steady evolution of flash storage, Western Digital today unveiled the first-ever 512 gigabit 64-layer 3D NAND chip. "The launch of the industry's first 512Gb 64-layer 3D NAND chip is another important stride forward in the advancement of our 3D NAND technology, doubling the density from when we introduced the world's first 64-layer architecture in July 2016. This is a great addition to our rapidly broadening 3D NAND technology portfolio. It positions us well to continue addressing the increasing demand for storage due to rapid data growth across a wide range of customer retail, mobile and data center applications," says Dr. Siva Sivaram, executive vice president, memory technology, Western Digital. Western Digital further explains that it did not develop this new technology on its own. The company shares, "The 512Gb 64-layer chip was developed jointly with the company's technology and manufacturing partner Toshiba. Western Digital first introduced initial capacities of the world's first 64-layer 3D NAND technology in July 2016 and the world's first 48-layer 3D NAND technology in 2015; product shipments with both technologies continue to retail and OEM customers."
China

China Is Now the World's Largest Solar Power Producer (digitaltrends.com) 131

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: Not only is it the world's most populous country, it's now also the world's biggest producer of solar energy. On Saturday, the National Energy Administration (NEA) noted that the nation officially claimed the title after doubling its installed photovoltaic (PV) capacity last year. By the end of 2016, China's capacity hit 77.42 gigawatts, and while this is great in terms of raw numbers, it's a lot less impressive relative to the country's massive population. As it stands, solar energy represents only one percent of the country's energy output. But this may soon change as China devotes more and more of its attention towards clean energy. The NEA says that China will seek to add more than 110 gigawatts within the next three years, which could help the nation up the proportion of its renewable energy use to 20 percent by 2030. Today, it stands at 11 percent.

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