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Robotics

Recent College Grads Aim To Land A Robot On The Moon (thehindu.com) 9

Sunday the Indian Space Research Organization successfully test-launched a scramjet rocket, propelled by "an air-breathing propulsion system which uses hydrogen as fuel and oxygen from the atmosphere air as the oxidizer" rather than carrying a tank of liquid oxygen. "if the need for liquid oxygen is taken away, the space craft can be much lighter, hence cheaper to launch," notes one newspaper, adding that India is only the fourth country to flight-test a scramjet engine after the U.S., Russia and the European Space Agency.

But in addition, 15 former ISRO scientists are now helping Team Indus, one of the 16 teams remaining in Google's $30 million Lunar XPRIZE competition, who will use ISRO's polar satellite launch vehicle to send their spacecraft to the moon. GillBates0 writes: An official designated as "Skywalker", said that such space missions used to be limited to extremely elite people and PhDs in the past. That stereotype is now breaking. "I was just a college student a couple of years ago and now I am working on an actual space mission, how cool is that," said Karan Vaish, 23, who is helping the team to design the lunar rover. Eighty per cent of the team is reported to be less than five years out of college.
EU

EU Copyright Reform Proposes Search Engines Pay For Snippets (thestack.com) 152

An anonymous Slashdot reader reports that the European Commission "is planning reforms that would allow media outlets to request payment from search engines such as Google, for publishing snippets of their content in search results." The Stack reports: The working paper recommends the introduction of an EU law that covers the rights to digital reproduction of news publications. This would essentially make news publishers a new category of rights holders under copyright law, thereby ensuring that "the creative and economic contribution of news publishers is recognized and incentivized in EU law, as it is today the case for other creative sectors."
Social Networks

'Social Media ID, Please?' Proposed US Law Greeted With Anger (computerworld.com) 190

The U.S. government announced plans to require some foreign travelers to provide their social media account names when entering the country -- and in June requested comments. Now the plan is being called "ludicrous," an "all-around bad idea," "blatant overreach," "desperate, paranoid heavy-handedness," "preposterous," "appalling," and "un-American," reports Slashdot reader dcblogs: That's just a sampling of the outrage. Some 800 responded to the U.S. request for comments about a proposed rule affecting people traveling from "visa waiver" countries to the U.S., where a visa is not required. This includes most of Europe, Singapore, Chile, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand... In a little twist of irony, some critics said U.S. President Obama's proposal for foreign travelers is so bad, it must have been hatched by Donald Trump.
"Travelers will be asked to provide their Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, and whatever other social ID you can imagine to U.S. authorities," reports Computer World. "It's technically an 'optional' request, but since it's the government asking, critics believe travelers will fear consequences if they ignore it..."
Power

Alphabet's Nest Wants to Build a 'Citizen-Fueled' Power Plant (bloomberg.com) 152

Mark Chediak, reporting for Bloomberg:Alphabet Inc's Nest Labs is looking to enlist enough customers in California to free up as much power as a small natural gas-fired plant produces, helping alleviate potential energy shortages in the region following a massive gas leak that has restricted supplies. Nest, which supplies digital, wireless thermostats, is partnering with Edison International's Southern California Edison utility to get households enrolled in a state-established energy conservation program. The company wants to attract 50,000 customers through next summer that could shrink their total demand by as much as 50 megawatts when needed, Ben Bixby, Nest's director of energy businesses at Nest, said by phone. "We are building a citizen-fueled clean power plant," he said.
Media

The Slashdot Interview With VideoLAN President and Lead VLC Developer Jean-Baptiste Kempf 39

You asked, he answered!

VideoLan President and Lead Developer of VLC Jean-Baptiste Kempf has responded to questions submitted by Slashdot readers. Read on to find out about the upcoming VideoLAN projects; how they keep VLC sustainable; what are some mistakes they wish they hadn't made; and what security challenges they face, among others!
Google

Google Fiber To Cut Staff In Half After User Totals Disappoint, Says Report (dslreports.com) 203

An anonymous reader quotes a report from DSLReports: Sources claim that Google Fiber has been disappointed with the company's overall number of total subscribers since launching five years ago. A paywalled report over at The Information cites a variety of anonymous current and former Google employees, who say the estimated 200,000 or so broadband subscribers the company had managed to sign up by the end of 2014 was a fary cry from the company's original projection of somewhere closer to 5 million. Google Fiber has never revealed its total number of subscribers. A report last October pegged the company's total broadband subscribers at somewhere around 120,000, though it's unclear how many of those users had signed up for Google Fiber's symmetrical 5 Mbps tier, which was originally free after users paid a $300 installation fee. Disappointed by sluggish subscriber tallies, The Information report states that last month Alphabet CEO Larry Page ordered Google Fiber boss Craig Barratt to cut the total Google Fiber staff in half to roughly 500 people. That's a claim that's sure to only fuel continued speculation that the company is starting to get cold feet about its attempts to bring broadband competition to a broken duopoly market.
Google

You Can Now Play Solitaire and Tic-Tac-Toe in Google's Search Results (venturebeat.com) 54

Paul Sawers, writing for VentureBeat: Google announced a couple of fun little nuggets today: you can now play Solitaire and Tic-Tac-Toe directly in Google's search results. Available through the desktop and Google mobile apps, anyone searching for the keywords "solitaire" or "tic-tac-toe" will see the usual search results, but featured prominently alongside them you'll also now see a "tap to play" option which whisks you off to play the game. Google is no stranger to hiding so-called "easter eggs" in its products, including Search -- for example, last year it had a surprise in store to mark the anniversary of Super Mario. Moreover, Google already lets you play some games within Search, including Pacman.
Social Networks

YouTube Plans To Bring Photos, Polls, and Text To Its Video Service (venturebeat.com) 22

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: YouTube is developing a feature internally called Backstage where users can share photos, polls, links, text posts, and videos with their subscribers. Backstage is expected to launch by the end of the year, possibly this fall, on mobile and desktop, initially with select popular YouTube accounts and with limited features, VentureBeat has learned. Akin to a Facebook Timeline or Twitter profile, Backstage will live alongside the Home and Videos tabs within individual YouTube channels. Posts shared to Backstage will appear in reverse chronological order, and, crucially, will also appear in subscribers' feeds and notifications, making them highly visible to fans. While Backstage is expected to introduce entirely new types of content to YouTube, including tweet-like text posts and topical polls, it also presents new opportunities for video sharing. Backstage will eventually enable users to share both traditional YouTube videos and Backstage-only videos, possibly creating an opportunity for more intimate, or even ephemeral, video sharing between YouTubers and their fans.
Transportation

Self-Driving Cars Aren't Going To Be So Great Until We Make Our Maps Better (theverge.com) 146

Uber is debuting its self-driving cars in Pittsburgh this month, a move that has many taxi drivers upset. The Verge's Nilay Patel argues that this move should change the way we think about maps and addresses. He adds that Uber is currently unable to pinpoint his home, and often ends up at the door of a "widely different address." Citing the CEO of a "large ridesharing company", Patel writes that this issue is known as the "egress problem" -- "the way we locate buildings on a map doesn't really describe how people move in and out of those buildings." Though there are workarounds and inventive ways to pinpoint your exact address, Patel argues that when we grow reliant on self-driving cars, things will get far more complicated and futile if we don't make our maps and navigation services better. He writes: Driverless cars are one of the ultimate signifiers of the future -- the real Jetsons stuff. And we're so close to making them happen: tons of cars have sophisticated adaptive cruise control that can basically keep you going on the highway, prototypes of true self-driving cars from Google and others are already on the road, and the momentum is only increasing. But maybe we shouldn't hand control of how we get somewhere to the machines until we're entirely sure the robots know where we're going.
Google

Google Search Removes 'Mobile-Friendly' Label, Will Tackle Interstitials Next (venturebeat.com) 79

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Google today announced two updates to mobile search results: an aesthetic one rolling out now and an algorithmic one coming next year. The former consists of removing the "mobile-friendly" label in search results and the latter will punish mobile sites that use interstitials. The goal is to "make finding content easier for users," though as always, the company didn't share exactly how much of an impact users and webmasters can expect. The report adds: "If your site is in the 15 percent group, here's a quick recap. A webpage is considered 'mobile friendly' if it meets the following criteria, as detected in real time by Googlebot: Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash; Uses text that is readable without zooming; Sizes content to the screen so users don't have to scroll horizontally or zoom; Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped. The company now wants to tackle 'intrusive interstitials' as they 'provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible.' After January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible when coming from mobile search results 'may not rank as highly.' Interstitials that Google doesn't like include showing a popup that covers the main content (immediately or delayed), displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content, and using a layout where the above-the-fold portion is similar to a standalone interstitial but the original content is inlined underneath. Interstitials that Google deems OK include legal obligations (cookie usage or for age verification), login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable, and banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible."
Android

Hey Google, Want To Fix Android Updates? Hit OEMs Where It Hurts (arstechnica.com) 188

Yesterday we talked about some of Nexus devices, including 2013's Nexus 5 not receiving an update, because it has been more than two years since the launch of the phone. But as you may know, this commitment to keeping the devices up to date is even worse when you look at what other Android OEMs are doing. ArsTechnica's Ron Amadeo has a solution: Google keeps missing the point when it comes to addressing Android's update situation. It keeps coming up with strategies to make updating "easier" for OEMs, but I don't think the problem is "ease of updating" -- it's creating any incentive for OEMs to update at all. Google seems to think that its partners will update phones because it's The Right Thing To Do by their customers and that handing out gold stars will send them scrambling to produce updates for their devices. I don't think that's ever going to happen. Google actually already tried the "shame" tactic and it didn't work. When Google-owned Motorola, Moto's update speed went through the roof. Motorola was achieving near-Nexus-like update speeds on many of its phones and was definitely putting other manufacturers to shame. But the increased update competition never really spurred other OEMs to start competing on update speeds. The bottom line is that Android partners only care about, well, the bottom line -- money. These companies already have your money, so updating a device that's already been sold is a needless expense. There's also a good argument to be made that updating a device hurts future sales. If your phone isn't updated, it will start to feel old, so you're more likely to buy a new phone sooner.
Microsoft

Microsoft Apps Will Be Pre-loaded On Lenovo and Motorola Android Devices (betanews.com) 76

An anonymous reader writes: There was a time when Microsoft was seen as the enemy of Linux and Apple communities. Understandably, at the time, the company only wanted Windows to succeed. Nowadays, however, the operating system is sort of inconsequential. Microsoft seems happy to have its software succeed on 'competitor' platforms such as iOS, Android, macOS, Ubuntu and more. Today, Microsoft announces that it has partnered with Lenovo on a new mobile initiative. The Windows-maker's productivity apps will be pre-loaded on Lenovo and Motorola-branded devices running Google's Linux-based Android operating system.As of earlier this year, Microsoft had over 74 Android OEM partners. As for submitter's take on this, it's pretty simple. Microsoft is going where users are. If they are not going to purchase Windows Phones, Microsoft will go to Android and iOS.
Operating Systems

Linux Turns 25, Is Bigger and More Professional Than Ever (arstechnica.com) 313

The Linux operating system kernel is 25 years old this month, ArsTechnica writes. It was August 25, 1991 when Linus Torvalds posted his famous message announcing the project, claiming that Linux was "just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu." From the article: But now, Linux is far bigger and more professional than Torvalds could have imagined. Linux powers huge portions of the Internet's infrastructure, corporate data centers, websites, stock exchanges, the world's most widely used smartphone operating system, and nearly all of the world's fastest supercomputers. The successes easily outweigh Linux's failure to unseat Microsoft and Apple on PCs, but Linux has still managed to get on tens of millions of desktops and laptops and Linux software even runs on Windows.Do you use any Linux-based operating system? Share your experience with it. What changes would you want to see in it in the next five years?
Android

Google Begins Rolling Out Android 7.0 Nougat (venturebeat.com) 164

An anonymous reader writes: Google today started rolling out Android 7.0 Nougat to existing Nexus devices via an over-the-air software update. This is a gradual rollout: The Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus 9, Nexus Player, Pixel C, and General Mobile 4G (Android One) will all be updated, but " it may take several weeks" before everyone gets the latest and greatest, a Google spokesperson told VentureBeat.The Nexus 5 (2013), which packs in a Snapdragon 800 SoC coupled with 2GB of RAM and 5-inch full-HD display, won't be receiving Android Nougat update -- despite having all the hardware capabilities required for a phone to receive Google's latest OS update. The truth of the matter is if Google wanted to update the Nexus 5 with the latest Android software, it could have. It just chose not to. It's very likely that same will be the case for the Nexus 6, a phone that has 3GB of RAM, and Snapdragon 805 SoC, next year when the company releases Android O update.
Google

Fake Google Salesmen Are Actually SEO Telemarketers (vortex.com) 105

Long-time Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein writes: It seems like almost every day I get junk solicitation phone calls "from Google." They call about my Google business local listings, about my not being on the first page of Google search results, and so on -- and they want me to pay them to "fix" this stuff. When I look up the Caller ID numbers they use, I often finds pages of people claiming they're Google phone numbers. Sometimes the Caller ID display actually says Google!

Is Google really doing this? Negative. NONE of these calls are from Google. Zero. Zilch. Nada. These callers are inevitably "SEO"; (Search Engine Optimization) scammers of one sort or another. They make millions of "cold calls" to businesses using public phone listings (from the Web or other sources) or using phone number lists purchased from brokers. If you ever actually deal with them, you'll find that their services typically range from useless to dangerous.

Crime

Want To Hunt Bank Robbers? There's an App For That, Says The FBI (networkworld.com) 68

Long-time Slashdot reader coondoggie quotes an article from Network World: The FBI today said it released a new application making it easier for the public -- as well as financial institutions, law enforcement agencies, and others -- to view photos and information about bank robberies in different geographic areas of the country.
The FBI's new "Bank Robbers" application runs on both Android and iOS, according to the article, "and lets users sort bank robberies by the date they occurred, the category they fall under (i.e., armed serial bank robber), the FBI field office working the case, or the state where the robbery occurred." The app ties into BankRobbers.fbi.gov, which overlays FBI information about bank robberies onto Google Maps.

The app's users "can also select push notifications to be informed when a bank robbery has taken place near their location," according to the FBI's site, which adds innocently that "If the location services on your device are enabled, you can view a map that shows the relevant bank robberies that took place in your geographic area..."
Oracle

Oracle Is Funding a New Anti-Google Group (fortune.com) 155

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Fortune: Oracle says it is funding a new non-profit called "Campaign for Accountability," which consists of a campaign called "The Google Transparency Project" that claims to expose criminal behavior carried out by Google. "Oracle is absolutely a contributor (one of many) to the Transparency Project. This is important information for the public to know. It is 100 percent public records and accurate," said Ken Glueck, Senior Vice President of Oracle. Fortune reports: "Oracle's hidden hand is not a huge surprise since the company has a history of sneaky PR tactics, and is still embroiled in a bitter intellectual property lawsuit with Google." One would think Microsoft may be another contributor, but the company said it is not. Daniel Stevens, the deputy director of the CfA, declined to name the group's other donors, or to explain why it does not disclose its funders. Why does this matter? "When wealthy companies or individuals pose as a grass-roots group like the so-called 'campaign for accountability' project, [it] can confuse news and public relations, and foster public cynicism," writes Jeff John Roberts via Fortune.
Chrome

Google Will Kill Chrome Apps For Windows, Mac, and Linux In Early 2018 (venturebeat.com) 102

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Google today announced plans to kill off Chrome apps for Windows, Mac, and Linux in early 2018. Chrome extensions and themes will not be affected, while Chrome apps will continue to live on in Chrome OS. Here's the deprecation timeline:

Late 2016: Newly published Chrome apps will not be available to Windows, Mac, and Linux users (when developers submit apps to the Chrome Web Store, they will only show up for Chrome OS). Existing Chrome apps will remain available as they are today and developers can continue to update them.
Second half of 2017: The Chrome Web Store will no longer show Chrome apps on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Early 2018: Chrome apps will not load on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
There appears to be two main reasons why Google is killing Chrome apps off now. First, as Google explains in a blog post: "For a while there were certain experiences the web couldn't provide, such as working offline, sending notifications, and connecting to hardware. We launched Chrome apps three years ago to bridge this gap. Since then, we've worked with the web standards community to enable an increasing number of these use cases on the web. Developers can use powerful new APIs such as service worker and web push to build robust Progressive Web Apps that work across multiple browsers." Secondly, Chrome apps aren't very popular: "Today, approximately 1 percent of users on Windows, Mac and Linux actively use Chrome packaged apps, and most hosted apps are already implemented as regular web apps. Chrome on Windows, Mac, and Linux will therefore be removing support for packaged and hosted apps over the next two years."
Chrome

Google Restores Backspace Functionality To Chrome With an Add-on (betanews.com) 141

In May, Google upset many users when it announced it was going to stop the backspace button from also functioning as the back button. If you're among the ones who felt let down by company's decision, there is something you can do about it now. Alan Buckingham, writing for BetaNews: If you don't want to go to the effort of moving your mouse pointer to the back arrow at the left of the address bar to go back to the previous site, you can now install the new Go Back With Backspace add-on. The official description reads, "Go back with the backspace button! This extension re-enables the backspace key as a back navigation button -- except if you're writing text". The reason given for all of this, according to Google, is "many people lost their progress while working online by accidentally pressing backspace and leaving a page -- so we removed the feature from Chrome, and created this extension for those who prefer the old behavior".
Microsoft

Microsoft Wants To Pay You To Use Its Windows 10 Browser Edge (theguardian.com) 256

An anonymous reader shares a report by The Guardian: Microsoft has a new browser. It launched with Windows 10 and it's called Edge. The company says it's faster, more battery efficient and all-round better than Chrome or Firefox. You can even draw on websites with a stylus. Trouble is, not very many people are using it. So now Microsoft's trying to bribe you to switch. The newly rebranded Microsoft Rewards -- formerly Bing Rewards, which paid people for using Bing as their search engine (another product Microsoft says is better than a Google product but that very few people actually use) -- will now pay you for using Edge, shopping at the Microsoft store, or using Bing. Users of Edge who sign up to Microsoft Rewards, which is currently US-only, are then awarded points simply for using the browser. Microsoft actively monitors whether you're using Edge for up to 30 hours a month. It tracks mouse movements and other signs that you're not trying to game the system, and you must also have Bing set as your default search engine. Points can then be traded in for vouchers or credit for places such as Starbucks, Skype, Amazon and ad-free Outlook.com -- remember, if you're not paying for something, you are the product.

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