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Transportation

Flying Car Prototype Ready By End of 2017, Says Airbus CEO (venturebeat.com) 124

Airbus plans to test a prototype for a self-piloted flying car as a way of avoiding gridlock on city roads by the end of the year, the aerospace group's chief executive said on Monday. From a report: Airbus last year formed a division called Urban Air Mobility that is exploring concepts such as a vehicle to transport individuals or a helicopter-style vehicle that can carry multiple riders. The aim would be for people to book the vehicle using an app, similar to car-sharing schemes. "One hundred years ago, urban transport went underground, now we have the technological wherewithal to go above ground," Airbus CEO Tom Enders told the DLD digital tech conference in Munich, adding he hoped the Airbus could fly a demonstration vehicle for single-person transport by the end of the year. "We are in an experimentation phase, we take this development very seriously," he said, adding that Airbus recognized such technologies would have to be clean to avoid further polluting congested cities.
Privacy

Tor Onion Browser's Creator Explains Free Version For iOS (mike.tig.as) 26

The free iOS version of the Tor browser "sparked a tidal wave of interest" after its release in December, according to Silicon.co. Mickeycaskill writes: The cost has been scrapped due to developer Mike Tigas' worries that the price was limiting access to anonymous browsing for those who need it most. "Given recent events, many believe it's more important than ever to exercise and support freedom of speech, privacy rights, and digital security," Tigas wrote in a blog post. "I think now is as good a time as ever to make Onion Browser more accessible to everyone."
"I'm still a little terrified that I've made this change," Tigas adds. For four years the Tor Onion browser was available on the Apple App Store for $0.99, the lowest non-free price allowed by Apple, providing a "reliable" income to Tigas which helped him move to New York for a new job while allowing him "the economic freedom to continue working on side projects that have a positive impact in the world." Tigas also writes that "there's now a Patreon page and other ways to support the project."

Last month the Tor Project also released the first alpha version of the sandboxed Tor Browser.
Communications

Open Source Codec Encodes Voice Into Only 700 Bits Per Second (rowetel.com) 128

Longtime Slashdot reader Bruce Perens writes: David Rowe VK5DGR has been working on ultra-low-bandwidth digital voice codecs for years, and his latest quest has been to come up with a digital codec that would compete well with single-sideband modulation used by ham contesters to score the longest-distance communications using HF radio. A new codec records clear, but not hi-fi, voice in 700 bits per second -- that's 88 bytes per second. Connected to an already-existing Open Source digital modem, it might beat SSB. Obviously there are other uses for recording voice at ultra-low-bandwidth. Many smartphones could record your voice for your entire life using their existing storage. A single IP packet could carry 15 seconds of speech. Ultra-low-bandwidth codecs don't help conventional VoIP, though. The payload size for low-latency voice is only a few bytes, and the packet overhead will be at least 10 times that size.
Music

Cassettes Are Back, and Booming (fastcompany.com) 562

Long time reader harrymcc writes: By now, it isn't news that vinyl albums continue to sell, even in the Spotify era. But a new report says that sales of music on cassette are up 140 percent. The antiquated format is being embraced by everyone from indie musicians to Eminem and Justin Bieber. Fast Company's John Paul Titlow took a look at tape's unexpected revival, and why it's not solely about retro hipsterism.
Anime

Amazon Launches Anime Channel for $5 Per Month, Its First Branded Subscription Channel (variety.com) 114

Todd Spangler, writing for Variety: Amazon is rolling out its first branded on-demand subscription service for Amazon Channels: Anime Strike, offering more than 1,000 series episodes and movies ranging from classic titles to current shows broadcast on Japanese TV. The Anime Strike channel is available to U.S. Amazon Prime members for $4.99 per month after a seven-day free trial, the newest addition to the lineup of around 100 services now available in Amazon Channels. Amazon has struck exclusive U.S. streaming deals for several series on Anime Strike, including "Scum's Wish," "Onihei," "The Great Passage," "Vivid Strike!," "Crayon-Shin Chan Gaiden: Alien vs. Shinnosuke," and "Chi's Sweet Adventure."
Privacy

Japan Researchers Warn of Fingerprint Theft From 'Peace' Sign (phys.org) 119

Tulsa_Time quotes a report from Phys.Org: Could flashing the "peace" sign in photos lead to fingerprint data being stolen? Research by a team at Japan's National Institute of Informatics (NII) says so, raising alarm bells over the popular two-fingered pose. Fingerprint recognition technology is becoming widely available to verify identities, such as when logging on to smartphones, tablets and laptop computers. But the proliferation of mobile devices with high-quality cameras and social media sites where photographs can be easily posted is raising the risk of personal information being leaked, reports said. The NII researchers were able to copy fingerprints based on photos taken by a digital camera three meters (nine feet) away from the subject.
Television

Streaming TV is Beginning To Look a Lot Like Cable (theverge.com) 209

The advent of streaming TV services and over the top devices that support them has come at a cost. They used to work on a simple, unwritten principle: being different from normal cable services. You didn't have to pay for large, non-configurable bundles of channels that played shows in linear fashion and required you to use a digital video recorder built into the box (often for an extra fee) if you wanted to create your own collection of programming to watch on your own schedule. But that's not the case anymore, argues veteran technology columnist Walt Mossberg. He writes: The general idea is that each of these TV services will appeal to cord-cutters and cord-nevers who merely consider old-style cable and satellite TV too costly. To overcome that, each offers what are called "skinny bundles" of channels, with fewer choices, at various prices. On Sling, for instance, you start at about 30 channels for $20 a month. On DirecTV Now, it's 60 channels for $35 a month. Both offer other, costlier plans, with more channels, or add-on plans for HBO, or for specialized programming such as sports, or kids' shows. Both are working on DVR offerings. In other words, while the bundles may be cheaper and skinnier, they're still bundles, not unlike the tiers of programming offered by traditional cable and satellite services. And you can't assemble your own custom bundle. Also, unlike in the Netflix / Hulu model, the emphasis here is on networks, not shows.
The Internet

Monopoly May Replace Iconic Pieces With Emoji Faces and Hashtags (cnet.com) 123

Hasbro, the toymaker behind Monopoly, is letting the public decide whether or not they should replace the game's iconic game pieces with new pieces inspired by pop culture and social media. CNNMoney reports: Gamers can visit the Vote Monopoly site and choose from more than 50 new options. The old tokens, including the thimble, top hat and Scottie dog, are also on the table. The voting takes place inside a digital house with shelves and furniture stocked with both classic and newfangled token options. Jazzy music plays in the background as you explore and take a closer look at the figurines. Some aren't too surprising. There's a horse, a sailboat, an airplane, a bike and a helicopter. Two of the stranger options are sliced bread and a fuzzy bunny slipper. Hasbro is offering up a number of tokens that may appeal to tech consumers. There's a cell phone that looks like it came out of the '80s, a television that looks very '50s, and a computer with keyboard that vaguely resembles the first flat-screen iMac. Internet denizens can also vote for a hashtag and emoji options, including a winking smiley-face, thumbs-up symbol, crying-laughing face and a Rich Uncle Pennybags version of an emoji face. Voting is open to internet users worldwide until January 31. The chosen tokens will be part of a fresh Monopoly game due to hit stores this summer, so think long and hard about whether you want to stare at a kissy-face emoji for the next decade or so. A special edition called Token Madness will offer the original tokens as well as the new winners.
Music

Streaming Now Officially the Number One Way We Listen to Music in America (pitchfork.com) 180

An anonymous reader writes: It's official: according to a new year-end report released by Nielsen, over the course of 2016, streaming became the primary mode of music consumption in the U.S. Overall on-demand audio streams surpassed 251 billion in 2016 -- a 76 percent increase that accounts for 38 percent of the entire music consumption market. Plus, "the on-demand audio streaming share [of total music consumption] has now surpassed total digital sales (digital albums + digital track equivalents) for the first time in history." Nielsen's data is in line with others' findings.
Red Hat Software

Interviews: Ask Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst A Question (redhat.com) 165

Jim Whitehurst joined Red Hat in 2008, as its valuation rose past $10 billion and the company entered the S&P 500. He believes that leaders should engage people, and then provide context for self-organizing, and in 2015 even published The Open Organization: Igniting Passion and Performance (donating all proceeds to the Electronic Frontier Foundation). The book describes a post-bureaucratic world of community-centric companies led with transparency and collaboration, with chapters on igniting passion, building engagement, and choosing meritocracy over democracy.

Jim's argued that Red Hat exemplifies "digital disruption," and recently predicted a world of open source infrastructure running proprietary business software. Fortune has already called Red Hat "one of the geekiest firms in the business," and their open source cloud computing platform OpenStack now competes directly with Amazon Web Services. Red Hat also sponsors the Fedora Project and works with the One Laptop Per Child initiative.

So leave your best questions in the comments. (Ask as many questions as you'd like, but please, one per comment.) We'll pick out the very best questions, and then forward them on for answers from Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst.
AI

Huawei Snubs Google, Ships An Android Phone With Alexa (reuters.com) 63

Huawei announced its flagship handset will gives users access to Amazon's Alexa assistant in the U.S., suggesting a new worry for Google, according to Reuters. An anonymous reader writes: "The adoption of Alexa by a prominent Android manufacturer indicates that Amazon may have opened up an early lead over Google as the companies race to present their digital assistants to as many people as possible, analysts said." Analyst Jan Dawson at Jackdaw Research even told Reuters that if Google's personal assistant lags in popularity when voice becomes the most popular interface, "that's a huge loss for Google in terms of data gathering, training its AI, and ultimately the ability to drive advertising revenue."

Tension may have started when Google decided to debut Google Assistant on their own Pixel smartphones. "While Google has expressed an interest in bringing its assistant to other Android smartphones, the decision to debut the feature on its own hardware may have strained relations with manufacturers, Dawson said. 'It highlights just what a strategic mistake it can be for services companies to make their own hardware and give it preferential access to new services.'"

Nvidia announced this week at CES that they'd be using Google Assistant for their Shield TVs, while Whirlpool and Ford both announced Alexa-enabled products. But this article argues Google Assistant has one thing that Alexa doesn't have: a search engine.
Debian

Linux.com Announces The Best Linux Distros for 2017 (linux.com) 224

Friday Linux.com published their list of "what might well be the best Linux distributions to be found from the ever-expanding crop of possibilities... according to task." Here's their winners (as chosen by Jack Wallen), along with a short excerpt of his analysis.
  • Best distro for sysadmins : Parrot Linux. "Based on Debian and offers nearly every penetration testing tool you could possibly want. You will also find tools for cryptography, cloud, anonymity, digital forensics, programming, and even productivity."
  • Best lightweight distribution: LXLE. "Manages to combine a perfect blend of small footprint with large productivity."
  • Best desktop distribution: Elementary OS "I'm certain Elementary OS Loki will do the impossible and usurp Linux Mint from the coveted 'best desktop distribution' for 2017."
  • Best Linux for IoT: Snappy Ubuntu Core "Can already be found in the likes of various hacker boards (such as the Raspberry Pi) as well as Erle-Copter drones, Dell Edge Gateways, Nextcloud Box, and LimeSDR."
  • Best non-enterprise server distribution: CentOS. "Since 2004, CentOS has enjoyed a massive community-driven support system."
  • Best enterprise server distribution: SUSE. "Don't be surprised if, by the end of 2017, SUSE further chips away at the current Red Hat market share."

Wallen also chose Gentoo for "Best distribution for those with something to prove," saying "This is for those who know Linux better than most and want a distribution built specifically to their needs... a source-based Linux distribution that starts out as a live instance and requires you to then build everything you need from source." And surprisingly, he didn't mention his own favorite Linux distro, Bodhi Linux, which he describes elsewhere as "a melding of Ubuntu and Enlightenment".


Transportation

Corning Brings Gorilla Glass To The Automotive Industry (digitaltrends.com) 114

At CES 2017, Corning has unveiled a concept car covered in Gorilla Glass. The car is augmented with the same Gorilla Glass that has protected smartphones for years, making the vehicle significantly more durable than a car wearing normal glass. Digital Trends reports: Corning's concept features hybrid Gorilla Glass on the windshield, sunroof, rear window, side windows, and the dashboard, which adds up to noticeable weight savings all around. Corning says Gorilla Glass is 30 percent lighter than the soda lime glass featured on most production vehicles, which not only improves fuel economy, it moves the center of gravity lower in the car to improve handling. In addition to the physical advantages, Gorilla Glass is also clearer than normal glass, which allows for more vibrant head-up displays, connected surfaces, and entire dashboards that function as touchscreens. That's not all though, because on the rear window, Corning slipped an electronically controlled opacity film between the layers of glass. With the push of a button, the window went from crystal clear to a dark tint. That'll surely come in hand if you feel the sudden need for privacy. "By bringing Corning Gorilla Glass to the automotive industry, Corning is delivering lighter, tougher, and more optically advantaged solutions, enabling improved fuel efficiency, and a safer, more enhanced user experience for both drivers and passengers," said Marty Curran, executive vice president at Corning. "Corning's leading position in mobile device cover glass has provided an excellent launch pad for glass solutions enabling smartphone like connectivity in cars. We are excited to be demonstrating all of these new technologies and opportunities in a custom-built connected car, shown for the first time at CES."
Businesses

Microsoft Plans Big Reorganization Of Partner and Services Groups Starting Feb 1 (geekwire.com) 34

Microsoft is planning to consolidate many of its partner and services teams in a reorganization, as well as add a new digital team focused on the cloud. From a report: Microsoft confirmed that the shift will take effect Feb. 1, and the goal is to unify teams across its Worldwide Commercial Business group. Microsoft has been working to break down barriers between teams to better serve partners and customers for years, going back to CEO Steve Ballmer's 2013 One Microsoft plan. Microsoft said in a statement that no layoffs will occur as a direct result of the reorganization, which is being announced internally today. Microsoft added that "like all companies, Microsoft reviews its resources and investments on an ongoing basis." As part of the move, Microsoft says it will bring together its enterprise and partner group and public sector, small and mid-market solutions, and partners teams. A new group called Microsoft Digital will push Microsoft's current customers and partners to use the company's cloud programs.
Communications

Norway To Become First Country To Switch Off FM Radio (reuters.com) 303

Norway is set to become the first country to switch off its FM radio network next week, as it takes the unpopular leap to digital technology. Reuters reports: Critics say the government is rushing the move and many people may miss warnings on emergencies that have until now been broadcast via the radio. Of particular concern are the 2 million cars on Norway's roads that are not equipped with Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) receivers, they say. Sixty-six percent of Norwegians oppose switching off FM, with just 17 percent in favor and the rest undecided, according to an opinion poll published by the daily Dagbladet last month. Nevertheless, parliament gave the final go-ahead for the move last month, swayed by the fact that digital networks can carry more radio channels. By the end of the year, all national FM broadcasts will be closed in favor of DAB, which backers say carries less hiss and clearer sound throughout the large nation of 5 million people cut by fjords and mountains. Torvmark said cars were the "biggest challenge" - a good digital adapter for an FM car radio costs 1,500 Norwegian crowns ($174.70), he said. For the same cost, digital radio in Norway allows eight times more radio stations than FM. The current system of parallel FM and digital networks, each of which cost about 250 million crowns ($29 million), saps investments in programs.
Google

Google Really, Really Wants To Bring India's Small Businesses Online (buzzfeed.com) 36

An anonymous reader shares a report: Millions more Indians are now coming online, but India's small businesses -- including everything from decades-old mom and pop stores to neighborhood bakeries -- are lagging behind. Google wants to change that. At an event in New Delhi today, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced a brand new program called Digital Unlocked aimed at helping India's 51 million small and medium businesses establish an online presence. Over the next three years, Google will hold 5,000 daylong classes in 40 Indian cities to teach business owners everything from the basics -- getting their business listed on Google Maps, for instance -- to advanced courses like running an online advertising campaign and measuring analytics.
Intel

Intel Acquires 15 Percent Stake In Mapping Firm HERE (reuters.com) 22

As the company looks to build its presence in automated driving technology, Intel announced on Tuesday it will acquire a 15 percent stake in German digital mapping firm HERE. Reuters reports: A filing to the German cartel office on Tuesday showed Intel has sought approval to buy a stake in the company, which is controlled by German carmakers Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen. Intel and HERE said in a statement that they had also signed an agreement to collaborate on the research and development of real-time updates of high definition (HD) maps for highly- and fully-automated driving. Intel did not disclose how much it would pay for the stake but said the transaction is expected to close in the first quarter. The deal highlights a shift in the dynamics of research and development in the car industry, which until recently saw automakers largely dictating terms for suppliers to manufacture their proprietary technologies at specified volumes and prices. Now carmakers are increasingly striking partnerships with technology firms using open technology standards, seeking to harness their expertise in areas including machine learning and mapping as they race against Silicon Valley companies such as Google, Tesla and Apple to develop driverless vehicles.
Books

Scribd Pulls Digital Comics From Its Subscription Reading Service (the-digital-reader.com) 32

Popular ebooks platform, Scribd has quietly removed digital comics from its subscription reading service. According to a report on The Digital Reader, the feature was added in February 2015, and may have been pulled as part of a cost-cutting measure. From the article: Scribd confirmed the news in a statement: "We launched comics in 2015, and while we were excited to bring new content to our readers, few actively took advantage of them. We will be focusing our efforts on enhancing the experience surrounding our other great content types including books, audiobooks, magazines, and documents. We alerted comic readers of the news via email in early December. We understand that this news is disappointing to comic readers. This was a difficult decision, and we hope that they'll explore the rest of what Scribd has to offer in the coming months." It's interesting that Scribd says that they informed subscribers, because that is not the impression I get from the complaints on Twitter. Many were surprised when they noticed, and based on the timestamps the comics were apparently pulled on or before 1 December.
The Almighty Buck

Bitcoin Breaks $1,000 Level, Highest in More Than 3 Years (cnbc.com) 146

The price of digital currency bitcoin has hit the $1,000 mark for the first time in three years. From a report on CNBC: The cryptocurrency was trading at $1,021 at the time of publication, according to CoinDesk data, at level not seen since November 2013, with its market capitalization exceeding $16 billion. Bitcoin has been on a steady march higher for the past few months, driven by a number of factors such as the devaluation of the yuan, geopolitical uncertainty and an increase in professional investors taking an interest in the asset class. "We are seeing the aftermath of zero interest rates run amok. So bitcoin is a healthy reminder that we don't have to hold on to dollars or renminbi, which is subject to capital controls and loss of purchasing power. Rather it's a new asset class," Bobby Lee, chief executive of BTC China, one of the world's largest bitcoin exchanges, told CNBC by phone.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

2016 Saw A Massive Increase In Encrypted Web Traffic (eff.org) 91

EFF's "Deeplinks" blog has published nearly two dozen "2016 in Review" posts over the last nine days, one of which applauds 2016 as "a great year for adoption of HTTPS encryption for secure connections to websites." An anonymous reader writes: In 2016 most pages viewed on the web were encrypted. And over 21 million web sites obtained security certificates -- often for the first time -- through Let's Encrypt. But "a sizeable part of the growth in HTTPS came from very large hosting providers that decided to make HTTPS a default for sites that they host, including OVH, Wordpress.com, Shopify, Tumblr, Squarespace, and many others," EFF writes. Other factors included the support of Transport Layer Security (TLS) 1.3 by Firefox, Chrome, and Opera.
Other "2016 in Review" posts from EFF include Protecting Net Neutrality and the Open Internet and DRM vs. Civil Liberties. Click through for a complete list of all EFF "2016 in Review" posts.

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