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Google

Sergey Brin Is Reportedly Building 'Massive Airship' In NASA Research Center (bloomberg.com) 117

Google co-founder Sergey Brin is secretly building a "massive airship" inside of Hangar 2 at the NASA Ames Research Center, according to a report from Bloomberg. "It's unclear whether the craft, which looks like a zeppelin, is a hobby or something Brin hopes to turn into a business," reports Bloomberg. When asked about further details, Brin wrote in an email: "Sorry, I don't have anything to say about this topic right now." From the report: The people familiar with the project said Brin has long been fascinated by airships. His interest in the crafts started when Brin would visit Ames, which is located next to Google parent Alphabet Inc.'s headquarters in Mountain View, California. In the 1930s, Ames was home to the USS Macon, a huge airship built by the U.S. Navy. About three years ago, Brin decided to build one of his own after ogling old photos of the Macon. In 2015, Google unit Planetary Ventures took over the large hangars at Ames from NASA and turned them into laboratories for the company. Brin's airship, which isn't an Alphabet project, is already taking shape inside one. Engineers have constructed a metal skeleton of the craft, and it fills up much of the enormous hangar. Alan Weston, the former director of programs at NASA Ames, is leading Brin's airship project, according to the people, who asked not to be named discussing the secretive plans. Weston didn't respond to requests for comment.
The Courts

Uber Must Provide Waymo With Data Regarding Its Otto Acquisition, Rules Court (thetechportal.com) 31

An appeals court today has ruled that Anthony Levandowski, the Uber executive accused of taking documents from Google's Waymo, can't use the Fifth Amendment to prevent Uber from turning over documents in the case. "The court has now directed Uber to provide data associated with its Otto acquisition to Waymo," reports The Tech Portal. From the report: Following the case, Levandowski invoked the fifth amendment, so as to prevent any other information which could implicate him from coming to the surface. Meanwhile, Waymo has been claiming that Levandowski and Uber signed an agreement with each other just a few days after the former quit his job at Google. The company has also asked Uber to provide it with a log containing details of the cab aggregator's legal involvement with Levandowski. Levandowski has been opposing the motion, stating that it would violate his fifth amendment. However, a new court ruling has quashed these hopes. With this ruling, Waymo can technically also request Uber for a copy of the due diligence report. The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said: "Mr. Levandowski argues that he is entitled to relief under the Fifth Amendment because production of the unredacted privilege log could potentially incriminate him. We are not persuaded that the district court erred in its ruling requiring defendants to produce an unredacted privilege log."
China

Netflix Is Now In China Via a Deal With iQiyi (techcrunch.com) 17

randomErr writes: Last year, Netflix tried to go into China but ran into regulatory issues. So Netflix has entered into a licensing deal with iQiyi. iQiyi was founded in 2010 by Baidu in a very similar way that Google owns YouTube. What Netflix content will be shown and how the subscription service will work has yet to be announced.
Transportation

Alphabet's Self-Driving Cars To Get Their First Real Riders (bloomberg.com) 53

After almost a decade of research, Google's autonomous car project is close to becoming a real service. From a report on Bloomberg: Now known as Waymo, the Alphabet self-driving car unit is letting residents of Phoenix sign up to use its vehicles, a major step toward commercializing a technology that could one day upend transportation. For the service, Waymo is adding 500 customized Chrysler Pacifica minivans to its fleet. Waymo has already tested these vehicles, plus other makes and models, on public roads, but only with its employees and contractors as testers. By opening the doors to the general public with a larger fleet, the company will get data on how people experience and use self-driving cars -- and clues on ways to generate revenue from the technology.
Google

Google Looks at People As it Pledges To Fight Fake News and 'Offensive' Content (betanews.com) 172

Google said today it is taking its first attempt to combat the circulation of "fake news" on its search engine. The company is offering new tools that will allow users to report misleading or offensive content, and it also pledged to improve results generated by its algorithm. From a report: While the algorithm tweaks should impact on general search results, the reporting tools have been designed for Google's Autocomplete predictions and Featured Snippets which have been problematic in recent months. Updated algorithms should help to ensure more authoritative pages receive greater prominence, while low-quality content is demoted. Vice president of engineering at Google Search, Ben Gomes, admits that people have been trying to "game" the system -- working against the spirit of the purpose of algorithms -- to push poor-quality content and fake news higher up search results. He says that the problem now is the "spread of blatantly misleading, low quality, offensive or downright false information."
Businesses

Amazon Might Be Planning To Use Driverless Cars for Delivery (fortune.com) 119

Amazon could be eyeing driverless car technology as a way to get items to people's doors faster, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal. From an article: It seems nearly every tech and auto giant are now evaluating autonomous vehicle technology. Google-owner Alphabet recently spun out its self-driving car unit, Waymo, into its own subsidiary. Apple was just granted a license in California to test autonomous vehicles. Ford and General Motors are also doubling down on creating autonomous vehicles. Amazon's ambitions, however, may not be to actually build these cars. Instead, the e-commerce giant has a team of around a dozen employees thinking of ways to potentially use the nascent technology to expand its own retail and logistics operations. Operating fleets of driverless trucks to ship items bought from its marketplace could help lower costs for the company.
Transportation

No Longer a Dream: Silicon Valley Takes On the Flying Car (theverge.com) 148

Last year, Bloomberg reported that Google co-founder Larry Page had put money in two "flying car" companies. One of those companies, Kitty Hawk, has published the first video of its prototype aircraft. From a report on The Verge: The company describes the Kitty Hawk Flyer as an "all-electric aircraft" that is designed to operate over water and doesn't require a pilot's license to fly. Kitty Hawk promises people will be able to learn to fly the Flyer "in minutes." A consumer version will be available by the end of this year, the company says. The video is part commercial and part test footage, starting with a lakeside conversation between friends about using the Flyer to meet up before switching to what The New York Times says are shots of an aerospace engineer operating the craft in Northern California.
Social Networks

Is Social Media Making Us Hate Each Other? (bostonglobe.com) 312

Nicholas Carr's book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains was a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize. Now an anonymous Slashdot reader reports on Carr's newest warning: It seems obvious: The more we learn about other people, the more we'll come to like them. The assumption underpins our deep-seated belief that communication networks, from the telephone system to Facebook, will help create social harmony. But what if the opposite is true? In a Boston Globe article, Nicholas Carr presents evidence showing that as we get more information about other people, we tend to like them less, not more. Through a phenomenon called "dissimilarity cascades," we place greater stress on personal and cultural differences than on similarities, and the bias strengthens as information accumulates. "Proximity makes differences stand out," he writes. The phenomenon intensifies online, where people are rewarded for sharing endless information about themselves. What the research indicates, warns Carr, is that the spread of social media is more likely to create social strife than social harmony.
The article concludes by opposing the idea that "If we get the engineering right, our better angels will triumph. It's a pleasant thought, but it's a fantasy... Technology is an amplifier. It magnifies our best traits, and it magnifies our worst. What it doesn't do is make us better people. That's a job we can't offload on machines."
Security

Companies Are Paying Millions For White Hat Hacking (nypost.com) 58

White hat hackers "are in very high demand," says PwC's director of cyber investigation and breach response, in a New York Post article titled "Companies are paying millions to get hacked -- on purpose." An anonymous reader quotes their report: HackerOne, a San Francisco-based "vulnerability coordination and bug bounty platform," reports that it has some 800 corporate customers who paid out more than $15 million in bonuses to white-hat hackers since its founding in 2012. Most of that bounty was paid in the past two years, as companies have become more aware of their cyber vulnerabilities. Clients that have used the platform include General Motors, Uber, Twitter, Starbucks and even the US Department of Defense.
Google paid $3 million last year through its own bounty program, according to HackerOne's CEO Marten Micko, who touts his company's "turn-key" solution -- a platform which now offers the services of 100,000 ethical (and vetted) hackers. "With a diverse group, all types of vulnerabilities can be found," Micko told TechRepublic. "This is a corollary to the 'given enough eyeballs' wisdom... they find them faster than other solutions, the hunting is ongoing and not happening at just one time, and the cost is a tenth of what it would be with other methods." And one of the platform's white hat hackers has already earned over $600,000 in just two years.
Programming

Flawed Online Tutorials Led To Vulnerabilities In Software (helpnetsecurity.com) 93

An anonymous reader quotes Help Net Security: Researchers from several German universities have checked the PHP codebases of over 64,000 projects on GitHub, and found 117 vulnerabilities that they believe have been introduced through the use of code from popular but insufficiently reviewed tutorials. The researchers identified popular tutorials by inputting search terms such as "mysql tutorial", "php search form", "javascript echo user input", etc. into Google Search. The first five results for each query were then manually reviewed and evaluated for SQLi and XSS vulnerabilities by following the Open Web Application Security Project's Guidelines. This resulted in the discovery of 9 tutorials containing vulnerable code (6 with SQLi, 3 with XSS).
The researchers then checked for the code in GitHub repositories, and concluded that "there is a substantial, if not causal, link between insecure tutorials and web application vulnerabilities." Their paper is titled "Leveraging Flawed Tutorials for Seeding Large-Scale Web Vulnerability Discovery."
Education

Slashdot Asks: What Was Your First Programming Language? (stanforddaily.com) 628

This question was inspired by news that Stanford's computer science professor Eric Roberts will try JavaScript instead of Java in a new version of the college's introductory computer programming course. The Stanford Daily reports: When Roberts came to Stanford in 1990, CS106A was still taught in Pascal, a programming language he described as not "clean." The department adopted the C language in 1992. When Java came out in 1995, the computer science faculty was excited to transition to the new language. Roberts wrote the textbooks, worked with other faculty members to restructure the course and assignments and introduced Java at Stanford in 2002... "Java had stabilized," Roberts said. "It was clear that many universities were going in that direction. It's 2017 now, and Java is showing its age." According to Roberts, Java was intended early on as "the language of the Internet". But now, more than a decade after the transition to Java, Javascript has taken its place as a web language.
In 2014 Python and Java were the two most commonly-taught languages at America's top universities, according to an analysis published by the Communications of the ACM. And Java still remains the most-commonly taught language in a university setting, according to a poll by the Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education. In a spreadsheet compiling the results, "Python appears 60 times, C++ 54 times, Java 84 times, and JavaScript 28 times," writes a computing professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, adding "if Java is dying (or "showing its age"...) it's going out as the reigning champ."

I'm guessing Slashdot's readers have their own opinions about this, so share your educational experiences in the comments. What was your first programming language?
Transportation

Grand Theft Auto V Is Being Used To Help Teach Self-Driving Cars (bloomberg.com) 56

An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg: In the race to the autonomous revolution, developers have realized there aren't enough hours in a day to clock the real-world miles needed to teach cars how to drive themselves. Which is why Grand Theft Auto V is in the mix... Last year, scientists from Darmstadt University of Technology in Germany and Intel Labs developed a way to pull visual information from Grand Theft Auto V. Now some researchers are deriving algorithms from GTAV software that's been tweaked for use in the burgeoning self-driving sector. The latest in the franchise from publisher Rockstar Games Inc. is just about as good as reality, with 262 types of vehicles, more than 1,000 different unpredictable pedestrians and animals, 14 weather conditions and countless bridges, traffic signals, tunnels and intersections...

The idea isn't that the highways and byways of the fictional city of Los Santos would ever be a substitute for bona fide asphalt. But the game "is the richest virtual environment that we could extract data from," said Alain Kornhauser, a Princeton University professor of operations research and financial engineering who advises the Princeton Autonomous Vehicle Engineering team.

Education

EFF Says Google Chromebooks Are Still Spying On Students (softpedia.com) 84

schwit1 quotes a report from Softpedia: In the past two years since a formal complaint was made against Google, not much has changed in the way they handle this. Google still hasn't shed its "bad guy" clothes when it comes to the data it collects on underage students. In fact, the Electronic Frontier Foundation says the company continues to massively collect and store information on children without their consent or their parents'. Not even school administrators fully understand the extent of this operation, the EFF says. According to the latest status report from the EFF, Google is still up to no good, trying to eliminate students privacy without their parents notice or consent and "without a real choice to opt out." This, they say, is done via the Chromebooks Google is selling to schools across the United States.
The Internet

Apple Hires Top Google Satellite Executives For New Hardware Team (theverge.com) 12

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The iPhone maker has recruited a pair of top Google satellite executives for a new hardware team, according to people familiar with the matter. John Fenwick, who led Google's spacecraft operations, and Michael Trela, head of satellite engineering, left Alphabet Inc.'s Google for Apple in recent weeks, the people said. They report to Greg Duffy, co-founder of camera maker Dropcam, who joined Apple earlier this year, the people said. With the recruits, Apple is bringing into its ranks two experts in the demanding, expensive field of satellite design and operation. At the moment, these endeavors typically fall into two fields: satellites for collecting images and those for communications. In a regulatory filing last year, Boeing Co. detailed a plan to provide broadband access through more than 1,000 satellites in low-earth orbit. The aerospace company has talked with Apple about the technology company being an investor-partner in the project, a person familiar with the situation said. It's unclear if those talks will result in a deal. At the annual Satellite 2017 conference in Washington D.C. last month, industry insiders said Boeing's project was being funded by Apple, Tim Farrar, a satellite and telecom consultant at TMF Associates Inc., wrote in a recent blog. A Boeing spokesman declined to comment.
Microsoft

Microsoft Improves Gmail Experience For Windows 10 Insiders, But There Are Privacy Concerns (betanews.com) 70

Reader BrianFagioli writes: Today, Microsoft announced a new Gmail experience for Windows 10. While only available for Windows Insiders as of today, it uses the same concept as the Outlook mobile app, but for the Mail and Calendar apps. Microsoft will provide you with an arguably improved experience as long as you are OK with storing all of your Gmail messages in Microsoft's cloud. What types of features will the new experience offer? Things such as tracking packages, getting updated on your favorite sports teams, and a focused inbox. "To power these new features, we'll ask your permission to sync a copy of your email, calendar and contacts to the Microsoft Cloud. This will allow new features to light up, and changes to update back and forth with Gmail -- such as creation, edit or deletion of emails, calendar events and contacts. But your experience in Gmail.com or apps from Google will not change in any way."
Google

In The First Months of Trump Era, Facebook And Apple Spent More On Lobbying Than They Ever Have (buzzfeed.com) 54

An anonymous reader shares a report: According to federal lobbying disclosures filed Thursday, Facebook and Apple set their all-time record high for spending in a single quarter. Facebook spent $3.2 million lobbying the federal government in the first months of the Trump era. During the same period last year, Facebook spent $2.8 million (about 15% less). The company lobbied both chambers of Congress, the White House, and six federal agencies on issues including high-tech worker visas, network neutrality, internet privacy, encryption, and international taxation. Facebook was the 12th-highest spender out of any company and second-highest in tech. [...] Apple spent $1.4 million, which is just $50,000 more than during the final months of the Obama presidency, when it set its previous record, but the most it has ever spent in a single quarter. Apple lobbied on issues including government requests for data, the regulation of mobile health apps, and self-driving cars. Google, once again, outspent every other technology company. It was 10th overall, tallying $3.5 million.
Security

Ambient Light Sensors Can Be Used To Steal Browser Data (bleepingcomputer.com) 37

An anonymous reader writes: "Over the past decade, ambient light sensors have become quite common in smartphones, tablets, and laptops, where they are used to detect the level of surrounding light and automatically adjust a screen's intensity to optimize battery consumption... and other stuff," reports Bleeping Computer. "The sensors have become so prevalent, that the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has developed a special API that allows websites (through a browser) to interact with a device's ambient light sensors. Browsers such as Chrome and Firefox have already shipped versions of this API with their products." According to two privacy and security experts, Lukasz Olejnik and Artur Janc, malicious web pages can launch attacks using this new API and collect data on users, such as URLs they visited in the past and extract QR codes displayed on the screen. This is possible because the light coming from the screen is picked up by these sensors. Mitigating such attacks is quite easy, as it only requires browser makers and the W3C to adjust the default frequency at which the sensors report their readings. Furthermore, the researcher also recommends that browser makers quantize the result by limiting the precision of the sensor output to only a few values in a preset range. The two researchers filed bug reports with both Chrome and Firefox in the hopes their recommendations will be followed.
Canada

Canada Rules To Uphold Net Neutrality (www.cbc.ca) 65

According to a new ruling by Canada's telecommunications regulator, internet service providers should not be able to exempt certain types of content, such as streaming music or video, from counting toward a person's data cap. The ruling upholds net neutrality, which is the principle that all web services should be treated equally by providers. CBC.ca reports: "Rather than offering its subscribers selected content at different data usage prices, Internet service providers should be offering more data at lower prices," said Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman of the CRTC in a statement. "That way, subscribers can choose for themselves what content they want to consume." The decision stems from a 2015 complaint against the wireless carrier Videotron, which primarily operates in Quebec. Videotron launched a feature in August of that year, enabling customers to stream music from services such as Spotify and Google Play Music without it counting against a monthly data cap as a way to entice people to subscribe to Videotron's internet service. The decision means that Videotron cannot offer its unlimited music streaming plan to subscribers in its current form -- nor can other internet providers offer similar plans that zero-rate other types of internet content, such as video streaming or social media.
Google

Google Home Now Recognizes Specific Users' Voices, Gains Support For Multiple Accounts (phonedog.com) 48

Google has issued a long-awaited feature for Google Home: support for multiple users. In an update rolling out today, up to six people will be able to connect their Google account to a Google Home, and the unit will try to distinguish each person's voice from the other users connected to the device. Therefore, each person will be able to get access to their schedule, playlists, and more. PhoneDog reports: Support for multiple users is rolling out in the U.S. now and will be available in the U.K. in the coming months. To know if the feature is available to you, launch the Google Home app and look for a card that says "Multi-user is available." You can also click the icon in the upper right corner, find your Google Home, and select "Link your account." From there, you'll train the Google Assistant to recognize your voice so that it knows it's you when you're talking and not the other people with connected accounts. You'll say "Ok Google" and "Hey Google" twice each.
China

China To Question Apple About Live-Streaming Apps On App Store That Violate Internet Regulations (theguardian.com) 31

Three Chinese government agencies are planning to tell Apple to "tighten up checks" on live-streaming software offered on its app store, which can be used to violate internet regulation in the country. "Law enforcement officers had already met with Apple representatives over live-streaming services, [state news agency Xinhua reported], but did not provide details of the meetings," reports The Guardian. From the report: The inquiry appears to be focused on third-party apps available for download through Apple's online marketplace. The company did not respond to requests for comment. China operates the world's largest internet censorship regime, blocking a host of foreign websites including Google, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but the authorities have struggled to control an explosion in popularity of live-streaming video apps. As part of the inquiry into live-streaming, three Chinese websites -- toutiao.com, huoshanzhibo.com and huajiao.com -- were already found to have violated internet regulations, and had broadcast content that violated Chinese law, including providing "pornographic content," the Xinhua report said. Pornography is banned in China. The three sites were told to increase oversight of live-broadcasting services, user registration and "the handling of tips-offs." Two of the websites, huoshanzhibo.com and huajiao.com, were under formal investigation and may have their cases transferred to the police for criminal prosecutions, the Xinhua report said. Casting a wide net, the regulations state that apps cannot "engage in activities prohibited by laws and regulations such as endangering national security, disrupting social order and violating the legitimate rights and interests of others."

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