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Social Networks

Startup Still Working On 'Immortal Avatars' That Will Live Forever (cnet.com) 39

Startup Eternime, founded by MIT fellow Marius Ursache, is still working on "immortal avatars" that, after your death, will continue interacting with your loves ones from beyond the grave. An anonymous reader quotes CNET: Give Eternime access to your social media profiles and the startup's algorithms will scrape your posts and interactions to build a profile... The algorithms will study your memories and mannerisms. They'll learn how to be "you"... Eternime was announced in 2014 after Ursache developed the idea during the MIT Entrepreneurship Development Program. He wasn't entirely sure if he should develop the project further and wanted to get a sense of public reaction.

In the first four days, 3,000 people signed up at Eterni.me, the company's website, for a private beta. Then, Urasche received an email from a man dying of terminal cancer. "Eternime, he wrote, was the last chance to leave something behind for friends and family," Urasche told me. "That was the moment I decided that this was something worth dedicating my life to"... Since 2014, the Eternime website has largely been silent, although it continues to take names of people who want to test the service. Ursache says the Eternime team has been refining the product over the last two years, testing features, figuring out what will work and what won't.

"The private beta test is ongoing," according to the article, "and Ursache says the feedback has been positive." But unfortunately, the service still isn't operational yet.
Businesses

How Tilt Went From Hot $375 Million Startup To Fire Sale (fastcompany.com) 167

tedlistens writes: Not long ago, social payments company Tilt seemed to have it all -- a hot idea; cool, young founders with Y Combinator pedigrees; and $67 million in funding -- not to mention a $375 million valuation. But Tilt was more successful at cultivating its user growth and fun, frat-tastic office culture than at nailing down a viable business model. When Tilt finally ran out of cash, the party ended with the company's sale at fire-sale prices to fellow Y Combinator alums Airbnb in an aqui-hire deal. Where did it all go wrong? Here's an excerpt from the report: "Tilt was based on the premise that 'something like PayPal and Facebook would collide,' Tilt founder and CEO James Beshara says. The company aspired to be a social network for money -- instead of sharing photos and videos, users exchanged digital cash for birthday ragers and beer runs. During Tilt's early years, the pitch was simple, and carefully calibrated for Silicon Valley boardrooms: 'Let's prove that we can dominate the globe.' [...] By early 2013, millions in venture dollars were pouring into Tilt's coffers. Investors were lured by the same strong social metrics (viral coefficient, for example, a measure of user growth) that had marked Facebook as a winner. But the hopes embedded in Tilt's $375 million valuation came crashing down to earth last year. Beshara hadn't built a business; instead, he had manufactured a classic Silicon Valley mirage. While investors were throwing millions of dollars at the promise of a glittering business involving 'social' and 'money,' their Mark Zuckerberg-in-the-making was basking in the sunny glow of Bay Area praise and enjoying the ride with his bros. Revenue was not a top priority -- a remarkable oversight for any company, and a particularly galling one for a payments company. Eventually, with cash running low, Tilt went looking for a buyer..."
AI

AI Can Predict Heart Attacks More Accurately Than Doctors (digitaltrends.com) 47

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: Scientists from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom have managed to develop an algorithm that outperforms medical doctors when it comes to predicting heart attacks. As it stands, around 20 million people fall victim to cardiovascular disease, which includes heart attacks, strokes, and blocked arteries. Today, doctors depend on guidelines similar to those of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association (ACC/AHA) in order to predict individuals' risks. These guidelines include factors like age, cholesterol level, and blood pressure. In employing computer science, Stephen Weng, an epidemiologist at the University of Nottingham, took the ACC/AHA guidelines and compared them to four machine-learning algorithms: random forest, logistic regression, gradient boosting, and neural networks. The artificially intelligent algorithms began to train themselves using existing data to look for patterns and create their own "rules." Then, they began testing these guidelines against other records. And as it turns out, all four of these methods "performed significantly better than the ACC/AHA guidelines," Science reports. The most successful algorithm, the neural network, actually was correct 7.6 percent more often than the ACC/AHA method, and resulted in 1.6 percent fewer false positives. That means that in a sample size of around 83,000 patient records, 355 additional lives could have been saved.
Cellphones

Children As Young As 13 Attending 'Smartphone Rehab' As Concerns Grow Over Screen Time (independent.co.uk) 152

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Independent: Children refusing to put down their phones is a common flashpoint in many homes, with a third of British children aged 12 to 15 admitting they do not have a good balance between screen time and other activities. But in the U.S., the problem has become so severe for some families that children as young as 13 are being treated for digital technology addiction. One "smartphone rehab" center near Seattle has started offering residential "intensive recovery programs" for teenagers who have trouble controlling their use of electronic devices. The Restart Life Center says parents have been asking it to offer courses of treatment to their children for more than eight years. Hilarie Cash, the Center's founder, told Sky News smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices can be so stimulating and entertaining that they "override all those natural instincts that children actually have for movement and exploration and social interaction."
Advertising

Burger King Won't Take a Hint; Alters TV Ad To Evade Google's Block (washingtonpost.com) 606

ewhac writes: Earlier this week, Burger King released a broadcast television ad that opened with an actor saying, "Ok, Google, what is the Whopper?" thereby triggering any Google Home device in hearing range to respond to the injected request with the first line from the Whopper's Wikipedia page. Google very properly responded to the injection attack by fingerprinting the sound sample and blocking it from triggering responses. However, it seems Burger King and/or its ad agency are either unwilling or congenitally incapable of getting the hint, and has released an altered version of the ad to evade Google's block. According to spokesperson Dara Schopp, BK regards the ad as a success, as it has increased the brand's "social conversation" on Twitter by some 300%. It seems that Burger King thinks that malware-laden advertising infesting webpages is a perfectly wonderful idea (in principle, at least), and has taken it to the next level by reaching through your TV speakers and directly messing with your digital devices. You may wish to consider alternate vendors for your burger needs.
Operating Systems

Roku-Enabled TVs Will Soon 'Listen' To Programs You're Watching To Suggest Streaming Content (variety.com) 52

Roku-enabled TVs will be receiving a new OS update that will listen to what show or movie you're watching via your cable or satellite set-top or over-the-air antenna, in order to suggest internet-streaming content. "Compatible TVs will use automatic content recognition (ACR) technology to identify the content and then suggest additional viewing options available on via streaming services like Netflix, Hulu or Vudu," reports Variety. From the report: It may seem vaguely Big Brother-ish, but Roku is being careful about ensuring consumer privacy: Users will be required to enable the feature via an opt-in prompt. In addition, the "More Ways to Watch" feature can be turned off at any time (although Roku says viewing information collected prior to the feature being turned off will not be deleted). For now, the "More Ways to Watch" feature is available only in the U.S., and only for Roku-enabled television sets available from Best Buy's Insignia, Sharp, Hisense and TCL. It will be coming first to conventional HDTV models first, followed by support for 4K Roku TV models later this summer.
Cellphones

Researchers Develop Master Fingerprints That Can Break Into Smartphones (digitaltrends.com) 29

Researchers at New York University and Michigan State University have recently found that the fingerprint sensor on your phone is not as safe as you think. "The team has developed a set of fake fingerprints that are digital composites of common features found in many people's fingerprints," reports Digital Trends. "Through computer simulations, they were able to achieve matches 65 percent of the time, though they estimate the scheme would be less successful in real life, on an actual phone." From the report: Nasir Memon, a computer science and engineering professor at New York University, explained the value of the study to The New York Times. Modern smartphones, tablets, and other computing devices that utilize biometric authentication typically only take a snapshots of sections of a user's finger, to compose a model of one fingerprint. But the chances of faking your way into someone else's phone are much higher if there are multiple fingerprints recorded on that device. "It's as if you have 30 passwords and the attacker only has to match one," Memon said. The professor, who was one of three authors on the study, theorized that if it were possible to create a glove with five different composite fingerprints, the attacker would likely be successful with about half of their attempts. For the record, Apple reported to the Times that the chance of a false match through the iPhone's TouchID system is 1 in 50,000 with only one fingerprint recorded.
Microsoft

Microsoft To Offer Digital Refunds in Xbox and Windows Stores (polygon.com) 15

Microsoft is finally planning to introduce refunds for digital content purchased from the Xbox Games Store and Windows Store, bringing those storefronts in line with popular digital retailers for PC games. From a report: The refund feature is included in the latest alpha release for the Xbox One Insider program. Refunds apply only for full games and paid apps, not downloadable content or season passes. These "self-service refunds" are designed to "provide a quick, simple way of returning a digital product," according to Microsoft. Microsoft says it has begun testing the feature with select users.
Android

Samsung Is Delaying the 'Voice' Part of Its New Bixby Voice Assistant (washingtonpost.com) 38

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Washington Post: A much-touted feature of Samsung's next smartphones isn't going to work as advertised when the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ launch April 21. Samsung said it's delaying the launch of voice-command capabilities for its Bixby voice assistant in English, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Although some of its features will still work, the report said, Bixby -- Samsung's answer to Apple's Siri -- won't be able to respond to any user voice commands, perhaps until as late as May. The Korean-language version of Bixby will have all of its features at launch, the Journal report said. The reason this is a big deal is because Samsung has touted Bixby as a big new feature for the Galaxy S8. Not only is it baked into the software, but it features a dedicated Bixby button on the lefthand side of the phone. The new assistant is designed to "perform almost every task that the app normally supports using touch," according to PhoneDog. "It'll be able to understand the current context and the state of the app that you're in without interrupting the work that you're doing," and will be able to "understand commands with incomplete commands, meaning you don't have to remember the exact phrase that you have to say to perform a task with an assistant."
Cellphones

Scientists Prove Your Phone's PIN Can Be Stolen Using Its Gyroscope Data (digitaltrends.com) 61

A team of scientists at Newcastle University in the UK managed to reveal a user's phone PIN code using its gyroscope data. "In one test, the team cracked a passcode with 70 percent accuracy," reports Digital Trends. "By the fifth attempt, the accuracy had gone up to 100 percent." From the report: It takes a lot of data, to be sure. The Guardian notes users had to type 50 known PINs five times before the researchers' algorithm learned how they held a phone when typing each particular number. But it highlights the danger of malicious apps that gain access to a device's sensors without requesting permission. The risk extends beyond PIN codes. In total, the team identified 25 different smartphone sensors which could expose compromising user information. Worse still, only a small number -- such as the camera and GPS -- ask the user's permission before granting access to that data. It's precise enough to track behavior. Using an "orientation" and "emotion trace" data, the researchers were able to determine what part of a web page a user was clicking on and what they were typing. The paper has been published in International Journal of Information Security.
Businesses

McDonald's Is Now Accepting Snapchats As Job Applications (thenextweb.com) 155

McDonald's Australian subsidiary is now accepting job applications via Snapchat. Specifically, McDonald's wants potential candidates to send the company a 10-second video using a filter that shows them wearing a McDonald's uniform. Matthew Hughes reports via The Next Web: The job applications, which McDonalds calls "Snaplications" (I vomited a little), will be the first step in the recruitment process. The company will then review the submissions, pick out the favorites, and send digital applications to those selected. Speaking to Australian news website news.com.au, McDonald's Australia COO Shaun Ruming said the company is looking for applicants with a "bubbly personality." He also added that he'd "learned a lot about Snapchat recently from my 14-year-old daughter."
The Courts

DMCA 'Safe Harbor' Up In the Air For Online Sites That Use Moderators (arstechnica.com) 96

"The Digital Millennium Copyright Act's so-called 'safe harbor' defense to infringement is under fire from a paparazzi photo agency," reports Ars Technica. "A new court ruling says the defense may not always be available to websites that host content submitted by third parties." The safe harbor provision "allow[s] websites to be free from legal liability for infringing content posted by their users -- so long as the website timely removes that content at the request of the rights holder," explains Ars. From the report: [A] San Francisco-based federal appeals court is ruling that, if a website uses moderators to review content posted by third parties, the safe harbor privilege may not apply. That's according to a Friday decision in a dispute brought by Mavrix Photographs against LiveJournal, which hosts the popular celebrity fan forum "Oh No they Didn't." The site hosted Mavrix-owned photos of Beyonce Knowles, Katy Perry, and other stars without authorization. LiveJournal claimed it was immune from copyright liability because it removed the photos. Mavrix claimed that the site's use of voluntary moderators removed the safe-harbor provision. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Mavrix to a degree, but the court wants to know how much influence the moderators had on what was and was not published. With that, the court sent the case back to a lower court in Los Angeles to figure that out, perhaps in a trial. The highly nuanced decision overturned a lower court ruling that said LiveJournal was protected by safe harbor. The lower court said LiveJournal does not solicit any specific infringing material from its users or edit the content of its users' posts.
Businesses

Sleep Is the New Status Symbol (nytimes.com) 117

The New York Times has a good story on how sleep is increasingly becoming a big business -- and the tech industry is rushing in to tweak our natural rhythms. From the article: At M.I.T.'s Media Lab, the digital futurist playground, David Rose is investigating swaddling, bedtime stories and hammocks, as well as lavender oil and cocoons. [...] Meanwhile, at the University of California, Berkeley, Matthew P. Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology and the director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory there, is working on direct current stimulation as a cure for sleeplessness in the aging brain. [...] In Paris, Hugo Mercier, a computer science engineer, has invested in sound waves. He has raised over $10 million to create a headband that uses them to induce sleep. [...] Ben Olsen, an Australian entrepreneur, hopes to introduce Thim, a gadget you wear on your finger that uses sound to startle you awake every three minutes for an hour, just before you go to sleep. [...] Sleep entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley and beyond have poured into the sleep space, as branders like to say -- a $32 billion market in 2012 -- formerly inhabited by old-style mattress and pharmaceutical companies.
Programming

Major Banks and Parts of Federal Gov't Still Rely On COBOL, Now Scrambling To Find IT 'Cowboys' To Keep Things Afloat (reuters.com) 300

From a report on Reuters: Bill Hinshaw is not a typical 75-year-old. He divides his time between his family -- he has 32 grandchildren and great-grandchildren -- and helping U.S. companies avert crippling computer meltdowns. Hinshaw, who got into programming in the 1960s when computers took up entire rooms and programmers used punch cards, is a member of a dwindling community of IT veterans who specialize in a vintage programming language called COBOL. The Common Business-Oriented Language was developed nearly 60 years ago and has been gradually replaced by newer, more versatile languages such as Java, C and Python. Although few universities still offer COBOL courses, the language remains crucial to businesses and institutions around the world. In the United States, the financial sector, major corporations and parts of the federal government still largely rely on it because it underpins powerful systems that were built in the 70s or 80s and never fully replaced. And here lies the problem: if something goes wrong, few people know how to fix it. The stakes are especially high for the financial industry, where an estimated $3 trillion in daily commerce flows through COBOL systems. The language underpins deposit accounts, check-clearing services, card networks, ATMs, mortgage servicing, loan ledgers and other services. The industry's aggressive push into digital banking makes it even more important to solve the COBOL dilemma. Mobile apps and other new tools are written in modern languages that need to work seamlessly with old underlying systems. That is where Hinshaw and fellow COBOL specialists come in. A few years ago, the north Texas resident planned to shutter his IT firm and retire after decades of working with financial and public institutions, but calls from former clients just kept coming.
News

Spotify Executive Chris Bevington Dies In Stockholm Attack (variety.com) 366

"On Friday, four people were killed and about 15 more were injured when a truck plowed through a shopping area in the heart of Sweden's capital," reports Variety. One of the four victims was Chris Bevington, an executive at Spotify. An anonymous reader writes: "The British 41-year-old had served as Spotify's director of global partnerships/business development, working from Stockholm," reports Variety. The streaming service's founder, Daniel Ek, confirmed the news with a Facebook post on Sunday. "Chris has been a member of our band for over five years. He has had a great impact on not just the business but on everyone who had the privilege to know and work with him. There are no words for how missed he will be or for how sad we all are to have lost him like this."
Data Storage

New 'Spray-On' Memory Could Turn Everyday Items Into Digital Storage Devices (duke.edu) 38

Researchers at Duke University have developed "spray-on" digital memory using only an aerosol jet printer and nanoparticle inks. An anonymous reader quotes Duke Today: The device, which is analogous to a 4-bit flash drive, is the first fully-printed digital memory that would be suitable for practical use in simple electronics such as environmental sensors or RFID tags. And because it is jet-printed at relatively low temperatures, it could be used to build programmable electronic devices on bendable materials like paper, plastic or fabric...

The new material, made of silica-coated copper nanowires encased in a polymer matrix, encodes information not in states of charge but instead in states of resistance. By applying a small voltage, it can be switched between a state of high resistance, which stops electric current, and a state of low resistance, which allows current to flow. And, unlike silicon, the nanowires and the polymer can be dissolved in methanol, creating a liquid that can be sprayed through the nozzle of a printer.

Amazingly, its write speed is three microseconds, "rivaling the speed of flash drives." The information can be re-written many times, and the stored data can last for up to 10 years.
The Internet

Die-Hard Sysops Are Resurrecting BBS's From The 1980s (arstechnica.com) 245

Ars Technica reports on vintage computing hobbyists "resurrecting digital communities that were once thought lost to time...some still running on original 8-bit hardware." Sometimes using modern technology like Raspberry Pi and TCPser (which emulates a Hayes modem for Telnet connections), they're reviving decades-old dial-up bulletin board systems (or BBSes) as portals "to places that have been long forgotten." An anonymous reader writes: One runs the original software on a decades-old Commodore 128DCR. Another routes telnet connections across a real telephone circuit that connects to a Hayes modem. And after 23 years, the Dura-Europos BBS is back in business, using an Apple IIe running its original GBBS Pro software -- augmented with a modern CFFA3000 compact flash drive, and a Raspberry Pi running TCPser. [It's at dura-bbs.net, using port 6359.] Ars Technica blames "the meteoric rise of the World Wide Web and the demise of protocols that came before it" for the death of BBSes. "Owners of older 8-bit machines had little reason to maintain their hardware as their userbase migrated to the open pastures of the Web, and the number of bulletin board systems plummeted accordingly...

"Despite the threat of extinction, however, it turns out that some sysops never quite gave up on the BBS," and for many modern-day users, "it's simply a matter of 'dialing' the BBS using a domain name and port number instead of a phone number in their preferred terminal software." There they'll find primitive BBS games like STARTREK, Chess, and Blackjack, but also "old conversation threads dating back decades were available verbatim... It's like a buried digital time capsule."

One user says visiting a web site today "has a very public feel to it, whereas a BBS feels very much like being invited into someone's living room." The article also remembers "the dulcet tones of a 1200 baud connection (or 2400, if you were very lucky)," adding that "to see what was accomplished with so little was simply humbling."
Privacy

Hacker Group Leaks 'NSA's Top Secret Arsenal of Digital Weapons' (vice.com) 69

Hacker group 'The Shadow Brokers', which last year allegedly released top-secret tools that the National Security Agency had used to break into the networks of foreign governments and other espionage targets, today said it is disappointed with President Donald Trump, and released more such alleged tools. From a report on Motherboard: On Saturday, The Shadow Brokers, a hacker or group of hackers that has previously dumped NSA hacking tools, released more alleged exploits. The group published a password for an encrypted cache of files they distributed last year. "Be considering this our form of protest," the group wrote in a rambling, politically loaded rant published on Medium. Back in August, The Shadow Brokers released a number of exploits stolen from the NSA. Many of these affected hardware firewalls, from companies such as Cisco and Juniper. At the time, the group also dumped another cache allegedly containing more hacking tools, and said they would release the corresponding password to the winner of a bitcoin auction. That fund-raising effort was ultimately unsuccessful, and The Shadow Brokers claimed they were calling the whole thing off in January. But now, anyone can unlock the auction data dump. (Motherboard confirmed that the password did indeed decrypt the original auction file). In a series of tweets, Edward Snowden said, "NSA just lost control of its Top Secret arsenal of digital weapons; hackers leaked it. 1) https://github.com/x0rz/EQGRP 2) For those who have never heard of the hacker group behind today's leak of NSA's cyberweapons, last year's story."

He adds, "quick review of the ShadowBrokers leak of Top Secret NSA tools reveals it's nowhere near the full library, but there's still so much here that NSA should be able to instantly identify where this set came from and how they lost it. If they can't, it's a scandal."
Government

Senate Confirms Neil Gorsuch To Supreme Court (washingtonpost.com) 450

halfEvilTech quotes a report from Washington Post: The U.S. Senate confirmed Neil M. Gorsuch to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday. On a vote of 54 to 45, senators confirmed Gorsuch, 49, a Denver-based judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. He will become the 113th person to serve on the Supreme Court and is scheduled to be sworn in Monday. Gorsuch's confirmation was the result of a rule change in the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used the power of his position to change the rules of the Senate to lower the threshold on Supreme Court nominations to end debate from 60 to 51 votes. Therefore, "all presidential nominees for executive branch positions and the federal courts need only a simple majority vote to be confirmed by senators," reports Washington Post.

It is unclear as to what exactly Gorsuch's confirmation means for the tech industry. However, it is certain that Gorsuch will "face cases that demand a solid command of the complex issues digital technology raises, from copyright and privacy to intellectual property rights and data storage," writes Issie Lapowsky via Wired.
Microsoft

Xbox Project Scorpio's Full Specs Revealed (eurogamer.net) 135

Microsoft unveiled last year that it will be launching a super-specced Xbox One variant -- codenamed Project Scorpio -- soon. Now the company has shared what those hardware modules look like. According to a report on Eurogamer, which visited Microsoft campus at the company's invitation, the specs of Project Scorpio are:

1. Project Scorpio has 12GB of DDR5 RAM, clocked at 6.8GHz with 326 GB/s bandwidth.
2. Scorpio will be powered by eight CPU cores. It's a custom design sporting 2.3GHz, with a 4MB L2 cache.
3. Project Scorpio will feature an internal PSU (245W) and a compact design, leveraging the advanced cooling techniques pioneered by Microsoft's leading industrial design team.
4. Project Scorpio will achieve six-teraflops of GPU power using a customized design, with 1.172 GHz, 40 compute units, leveraging features from AMD's Polaris architecture.
5. Scorpio will retain the Xbox One S 4K UHD Blu-ray drive.
6. Scorpio will have both HDMI-in and out, 3x USB 3.0, a SPDIF digital audio port, an IR receiver/blaster, and will support Kinect with a USB adapter.

From the report: We saw a Forza Motorsport demo running on the machine at native 4K and Xbox One equivalent settings, and it hit 60 frames per second with a substantial performance overhead -- suggesting Scorpio will hit its native 4K target across a range of content, with power to spare to spend on other visual improvements. And while 4K is the target, Microsoft is paying attention to 1080p users, promising that all modes will be available to them.

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