Science

A Stable Plasma Ring Has Been Created In Open Air For the First Time Ever (futurism.com) 17

New submitter mrcoder83 shares a report from Futurism: Engineers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have been able to create a stable plasma ring without a container. According to the Caltech press release, it's "essentially capturing lightning in a bottle, but without the bottle." This remarkable feat was achieved using only a stream of water and a crystal plate, made from either quartz and lithium niobate. The union of these tools induced a type of contact electrification known as the triboelectric effect. The researchers blasted the crystal plate with an 85-micron-diameter jet of water (narrower than a human hair) from a specially designed nozzle. The water hit the crystal plate with a pressure of 632.7 kilograms of force per centimeter (9,000 pounds per square inch), generating an impact velocity of around 305 meters per second (1,000 feet per second) -- as fast as a bullet from a handgun. Plasma was formed as a result of the creation of an electric charge when the water hit the crystal surface. The flow of electrons from the point of contact ionizes the molecules and atoms in the gas area surrounding the water's surface, forming a donut-shaped glowing plasma that's dozens of microns in diameter. Caltech posted a video of the plasma ring on their YouTube channel.
EU

New EU Consumer Protection Law Contains a Vague Website Blocking Clause (bleepingcomputer.com) 45

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: The European Union (EU) has voted on Tuesday, November 14, to pass the new Consumer Protection Cooperation regulation, a new EU-wide applicable law that gives extra power to national consumer protection agencies, but which also contains a vaguely worded clause that also grants them the power to block and take down websites without judicial oversight. The new law "establishes overreaching Internet blocking measures that are neither proportionate nor suitable for the goal of protecting consumers and come without mandatory judicial oversight," Member of the European Parliament Julia Reda said in a speech in the European Parliament Plenary during a last ditch effort to amend the law. "According to the new rules, national consumer protection authorities can order any unspecified third party to block access to websites without requiring judicial authorization," Reda added later in the day on her blog. This new law is an EU regulation and not a directive, meaning its obligatory for all EU states, which do not have to individually adopt it.
The Military

Russia Posts Video Game Screenshot As 'Irrefutable Proof' of US Helping IS (bbc.com) 131

Plus1Entropy shares a report from BBC, adding: "But when I asked Putin, he said they didn't do it": Russia's Ministry of Defense has posted what it called "irrefutable proof" of the U.S. aiding so-called Islamic State -- but one of the images was actually taken from a video game. The ministry claimed the image showed an IS convoy leaving a Syrian town last week aided by U.S. forces. Instead, it came from the smartphone game AC-130 Gunship Simulator: Special Ops Squadron. The ministry said an employee had mistakenly attached the photo. The Conflict Intelligence Team fact-checking group said the other four provided were also errors, taken from a June 2016 video which showed the Iraqi Air Force attacking IS in Iraq. The video game image seems to be taken from a promotional video on the game's website and YouTube channel, closely cropped to omit the game controls and on-screen information. In the corner of the image, however, a few letters of the developer's disclaimer can still be seen: "Development footage. This is a work in progress. All content subject to change."
The Internet

Ads May Soon Stalk You on TV Like They Do on Your Facebook Feed (bloomberg.com) 203

Targeted ads that seem to follow us everywhere online may soon be doing the same on our TV. From a report: The Federal Communications Commission is poised to approve a new broadcast standard that will let broadcasters do something cable TV companies already do: harvest data about what you watch so advertisers can customize pitches. The prospect alarms privacy advocates, who say there are no rules setting boundaries for how broadcasters handle personal information. The FCC doesn't mention privacy in the 109-page proposed rule that is scheduled for a vote by commissioners Thursday. "If the new standard allows broadcasters to collect data in a way they haven't before, I think consumers should know about that," Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, said in an interview. "What privacy protections will apply to that data, and what security protections?" For broadcasters, Next Gen TV represents an advance into the digital world that for decades has been siphoning viewers away to the likes of Facebook, Netflix, Google's YouTube and Amazon's Prime video service.
Youtube

YouTube Says It Will Crack Down On Bizarre Videos Targeting Children (theverge.com) 109

"Earlier this week, a report in The New York Times and a blog post on Medium drew a lot of attention to a world of strange and sometimes disturbing YouTube videos aimed at young children," reports The Verge. "The genre [...] makes use of popular characters from family-friendly entertainment, but it's often created with little care, and can quickly stray from innocent themes to scenes of violence or sexuality." YouTube is cracking down and will now age restrict videos that violate its policy. From the report: The first line of defense for YouTube Kids are algorithmic filters. After that, there is a team of humans that review videos which have been flagged. If a video with recognizable children's characters gets flagged in YouTube's main app, which is much larger than the Kids app, it will be sent to the policy review team. YouTube says it has thousands of people working around the clock in different time zones to review flagged content. If the review finds the video is in violation of the new policy, it will be age restricted, automatically blocking it from traveling to the Kids app. YouTube says it typically takes at least a few days for content to make its way from YouTube proper to YouTube Kids, and the hope is that within that window, users will flag anything potentially disturbing to children. YouTube also has a team of volunteer moderators, which it calls Contributors, looking for inappropriate content. YouTube says it will start training its review team on the new policy and it should be live within a few weeks. Along with filtering content out of the Kids app, the new policy will also tweak who can see these videos on YouTube's main service. Flagged content will be age restricted, and users won't be able to see those videos if they're not logged in on accounts registered to users 18 years or older. All age-gated content is also automatically exempt from advertising. That means this new policy could put a squeeze on the booming business of crafting strange kid's content.
Google

Google Working To Remove MINIX-Based ME From Intel Platforms (tomshardware.com) 180

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Tom's Hardware: Intel's Management Engine (ME) technology is built into almost all modern Intel CPUs. At the Embedded Linux Conference, a Google engineer named Ronald Minnich revealed that the ME is actually running its own entire MINIX OS and that Google is working on removing it. Due to MINIX's presence on every Intel system, the barebones Unix-like OS is the most widely deployed operating system in the world. Intel's ME technology is a hardware-level system within Intel CPUs that consists of closed-source firmware running on a dedicated microprocessor. There isn't much public knowledge of the workings of the ME, especially in its current state. It's not even clear where the hardware is physically located anymore.

What's concerning Google is the complexity of the ME. Public interest in the subject piqued earlier this year when a vulnerability was discovered in Intel's Active Management Technology (AMT), but that's just a software that runs on ME--ME is actually an entire OS. Minnich's presentation touched on his team's discovery that the OS in question is a closed version of the open-source MINIX OS. The real focus, though, is what's in it and the consequences. According the Minnich, that list includes web server capabilities, a file system, drivers for disk and USB access, and, possibly, some hardware DRM-related capabilities. It's not known if all this code is explicitly included for current or future ME capabilities, or if it's because Intel simply saw more potential value in keeping rather than removing it.

Chrome

Chrome Update Kills Annoying Redirects and Trick-To-Click Popups (androidcentral.com) 41

Google is releasing updates to Chrome 64 and Chrome 65 to put a halt to page redirects and trick-to-click popups. The update is coming to both the desktop and Android apps. Android Central reports: With Chrome 64, every redirect from a third-party iframe will show an info bar instead of sending you off to some other page. This way we can decide if we want to navigate away or stay on the page we're looking at. If we're interacting with an iframe, like clicking an embedded YouTube video to open it on YouTube in a new tab, the request goes through as normal -- this only applies to things you didn't click and didn't expect to send you off. We can get more than we asked for when we are interacting with a web page, too. Google has two things planned that should help. With Chrome 65, websites that try to circumvent Chrome's pop-up blocker by opening a new tab for a thing you clicked while navigating the original tab to some other page will be blocked with the same style of info bar. This gives us the choice of taking a look versus being forced. Some abusive experiences are harder to autodetect, but Google plans to use the same type of data as its Safe Browsing feature to kill off deceptive page elements.
Encryption

How Cloudflare Uses Lava Lamps To Encrypt the Internet (zdnet.com) 110

YouTuber Tom Scott was invited to visit Cloudflare's San Francisco headquarters to check out the company's wall of lava lamps. These decorative novelty items -- while neat to look at -- serve a special purpose for the internet security company. Cloudflare takes pictures and video of the lava lamps to turn them into "a stream of random, unpredictable bytes," which is used to help create the keys that encrypt the traffic that flow through Cloudflare's network. ZDNet reports: Cloudflare is a DNS service which also offers distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack protection, security, free SSL, encryption, and domain name services. Cloudflare is known for providing good standards of encryption, but it seems the secret is out -- this reputation is built in part on lava lamps. Roughly 10 percent of the Internet's traffic passes through Cloudflare, and as the firm deals with so much encrypted traffic, many random numbers are required. According to Nick Sullivan, Cloudfare's head of cryptography, this is where the lava lamps shine. Instead of relying on code to generate these numbers for cryptographic purposes, the lava lamps and the random lights, swirling blobs and movements are recorded and photographs are taken. The information is then fed into a data center and Linux kernels which then seed random number generators used to create keys to encrypt traffic. "Every time you take a picture with a camera there's going to be some sort of static, some sort of noise," Sullivan said. "So it's not only just where the bubbles are flowing through the lava lamp; it is the state of the air, the ambient light -- every tiny change impacts the stream of data." Cloudflare also reportedly uses a "chaotic pendulum" in its London office to generate randomness, and in Singapore, they use a radioactive source.
Youtube

'Something Is Wrong On the Internet' (medium.com) 365

"Someone or something or some combination of people and things is using YouTube to systematically frighten, traumatize, and abuse children, automatically and at scale, and it forces me to question my own beliefs about the internet, at every level," writes James Bridle. From the article: To begin: Kid's YouTube is definitely and markedly weird. I've been aware of its weirdness for some time. Last year, there were a number of articles posted about the Surprise Egg craze. Surprise Eggs videos depict, often at excruciating length, the process of unwrapping Kinder and other egg toys. That's it, but kids are captivated by them. There are thousands and thousands of these videos and thousands and thousands, if not millions, of children watching them. [...] What I find somewhat disturbing about the proliferation of even (relatively) normal kids videos is the impossibility of determining the degree of automation which is at work here; how to parse out the gap between human and machine. The New York Times, last week: Parents and children have flocked to Google-owned YouTube Kids since it was introduced in early 2015. The app's more than 11 million weekly viewers are drawn in by its seemingly infinite supply of clips, including those from popular shows by Disney and Nickelodeon, and the knowledge that the app is supposed to contain only child-friendly content that has been automatically filtered from the main YouTube site. But the app contains dark corners, too, as videos that are disturbing for children slip past its filters, either by mistake or because bad actors have found ways to fool the YouTube Kids algorithms. In recent months, parents like Ms. Burns have complained that their children have been shown videos with well-known characters in violent or lewd situations and other clips with disturbing imagery, sometimes set to nursery rhymes.
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Mining Heats Home For Free In Siberia (qz.com) 106

Quartz has published a video on YouTube about two entrepreneurs who have figured out how to heat their homes for free by mining bitcoin. The "miner" -- that is, the machine mining the bitcoins -- warms up liquid that is then transferred to the underfloor heating system. The cottage has two miners, which bring in about $430 per month from processing bitcoin transactions -- all while keeping the 20 square meter space warm.
Iphone

Apple Limits Lengthy iPhone X Testing for Most Reviewers (wsj.com) 140

Tripp Mickle, reporting for the Wall Street Journal: Apple departed from its traditional preview strategy for what it bills as its most important new iPhone in years, prioritizing early access to the iPhone X for YouTube personalities and celebrities over most technology columnists who traditionally review its new products. Apple provided the iPhone X to a small number of traditional testers for about a week, while limiting most others, The Wall Street Journal included, to a single day with the device before reviews could be published (alternative source). About a half-dozen personalities on Alphabet's YouTube video service were granted time with the device before its release. The change in strategy meant the iPhone X, which hits stores Friday, got less testing than most of its predecessors before reviews could be published. Crash reviewers largely echoed those sentiments, adding the caveat that they could discover issues after they spend more time with the device. Most pledged full reviews for later in the week. The review strategy is "unusual," said Jan Dawson, an analyst with Jackdaw Research. "It's possible Apple wanted some reviews out early and those would be the more enthusiastic ones." He said YouTube reviewers tend to be more positive when given early access to devices, and that most reviews aren't overly negative. "Unless Apple felt like there would be some bad elements in the reviews, why would you hold back?" Mr. Dawson asked. "Why would you be selective about who gets it first?"
Entertainment

'Futurama' Stars Working On Kickstarter For Animated Webcomic Goblins (kickstarter.com) 35

Long-time Slashdot reader wonkavader writes: Billy West, Maurice LaMarche, and Phil LaMarr from the Futurama cast are working on a Kickstarter campaign to animate the Goblins web-comic. Also involved are Matt King, Jim Cummings, Matthew Mercer, Steve Blum, and Jennifer Hale from World of Warcraft, Resident Evil, Cowboy Bebop, Mass Effect, Powerpuff Girls, and other stuff. It's surprising to see so many well-known voice people...

The writing for the show will be done by Matt King and Phil LaMarr along with the original Goblins creator, Tarol Hunt. They have an initial teaser trailer (or rather the 'animatic') which is definitely aimed at people who have already been following the comic.

Last week Reddit hosted an AMA with some of the project's stars, including Phil LaMarr (Samurai Jack, Futurama), Matt Yang King (WoW, GI:Joe), Tarol Hunt and Danielle Stephens (Goblins Comic).
Businesses

Apple Fires Engineer After His Daughter's iPhone X Video Goes Viral (engadget.com) 326

"In a brutal reminder of the secrecy tech companies enforce on employees, Apple recently fired an employee after his daughter posted a video of the iPhone X," writes long-time Slashdot reader HockeyPuck. Engadget reports: His daughter took down the video as soon as Apple requested it, but the takedown came too late to prevent the clip from going viral, leading to seemingly endless reposts and commentary... [I]t's important to stress that this wasn't a garden variety iPhone X. As an employee device, it had sensitive information like codenames for unreleased products and staff-specific QR codes. Combine that with Apple's general prohibition of recording video on campus (even at relatively open spaces like Caffe Macs) and this wasn't so much about maintaining the surprise as making sure that corporate secrets didn't get out. Apple certainly didn't want to send the message that recording pre-release devices was acceptable. All the same, it's hard not to sympathize -- the [radiofrequecy] engineer had poured his heart into the iPhone X, only to be let go the week before the handset reaches customers.
In a new follow-up video, the former Apple engineer's daughter says "I had no idea this was a violation," adding that her father "takes full reponsibility for letting me film his iPhone X." Here's some more quotes from her video.
Advertising

YouTube Is Fighting the 'Adpocalypse' With a Less Trigger-Happy Flagging System (theverge.com) 218

YouTube has rolled out a new algorithm that the company says will more accurately reflect YouTube's guidelines for ad-friendly material and result in fewer videos being flagged as advertiser-friendly. "It will supposedly reduce the number of demonetized listings by 30 percent, so 'millions more videos' will be able to make money off the full range of advertisements," reports The Verge. From the report: A YouTube manager writes that the new algorithm was trained by nearly three months' worth of human reviews, starting after YouTube added a manual appeals process for creators in August. Theoretically, this should narrow the range of false positives -- videos that were incorrectly flagged for promoting drug use, using excessive profanity, highlighting gratuitous violence, or otherwise featuring content that advertisers might find objectionable. It's being applied retroactively, so creators who didn't appeal could still get some old videos remonetized. Google also encourages people to keep appealing potentially incorrect flags, because "this updated system is an improvement, but it's not perfect."
Robotics

Walmart Tests Shelf-Scanning Robots In Over 50 Stores (engadget.com) 76

Walmart is expanding a shelf-scanning robot trial to 50 additional stores, including some in its home state of Arkansas. "Machines from Bossa Nova Robotics will roam the aisles to check for stock levels, pricing and misplaced items, saving human staffers the hassle of checking everything themselves," reports Engadget. The robots will be fully autonomous, though technicians will be available in case things go awry. They employ 3D imaging to dodge obstacles and make notes to return later if their path is completely blocked. From the report: Walmart stresses that the robots are there to supplement humans, not replace them -- to eliminate drudgery and the expenses that go with it. This helps workers get to the task of filling empty shelves, and that's a job that the company doesn't see ending any time soon given the difficulty robots still have when grabbing objects. "Store associates will always be better at that," Walmart's Martin Hitch told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. And the chief of Bossa Nova rival Simbe Robotics, Brad Bogolea, added that shelf checks can cost a major retailer hundreds of millions of dollars per year. However expensive the robots may be, they could pay for themselves very quickly. Whether or not the robots see wider use will, unsurprisingly, hinge on the success of this wider trial. Walmart posted a video about the shelf-scanning robots on its YouTube page.
Robotics

See Giant Robots Fight. US vs Japan Match On YouTube (cnbc.com) 50

AmiMoJo writes: Suidobashi Heavy Industries and MegaBots agreed to test their piloted giant robots in combat a few years back, and the content is finally available on YouTube. It ended in a draw, with Japan decisively winning the first bout with a single punch and the US team winning the second thanks to a chainsaw weapon. There have been some complaints that the whole event felt scripted, but it's early days yet. ITMedia has a nice gallery of photos from the event. "The MegaBots team expressed hope for a formal fighting robot league in the future," reports CNBC.
China

YouTube Suspends Account of Popular Chinese Dissident (freebeacon.com) 154

schwit1 brings news about an exiled Chinese billionaire with 500,000 followers on YouTube. The Washington Free Beacon reports:YouTube has suspended the video account of popular Chinese dissident Guo Wengui amid a mounting pressure from the Beijing government to silence one of its critics. According to a person familiar with the action, YouTube issued what the company calls a 'strike' against Guo, who since the beginning of the year has created an online sensation by posting lengthy videos in which he reveals details of corruption by senior Chinese officials. The suspension involves a 90-day block on any new live-stream postings of videos and was the result of a complaint made against a recent Guo video for alleged harassment. The identity of the person or institution who issued the complaint could not be learned... Other videos by Guo posted prior to the suspension remain accessible.
The suspension coincides with this week's once-every-five-years congress of the Chinese Communist party to reveal which top officials will serve President Xi Jinping, according to Financial Times, adding that "China's choreographed politics is not designed for public participation or questioning."
AI

The AI That Has Nothing to Learn From Humans (theatlantic.com) 99

An anonymous reader shares a report: Now that AlphaGo's arguably got nothing left to learn from humans -- now that its continued progress takes the form of endless training games against itself -- what do its tactics look like, in the eyes of experienced human players? We might have some early glimpses into an answer. AlphaGo Zero's latest games haven't been disclosed yet. But several months ago, the company publicly released 55 games that an older version of AlphaGo played against itself. (Note that this is the incarnation of AlphaGo that had already made quick work of the world's champions.) DeepMind called its offering a "special gift to fans of Go around the world." Since May, experts have been painstakingly analyzing the 55 machine-versus-machine games. And their descriptions of AlphaGo's moves often seem to keep circling back to the same several words: Amazing. Strange. Alien. "They're how I imagine games from far in the future," Shi Yue, a top Go player from China, has told the press. A Go enthusiast named Jonathan Hop who's been reviewing the games on YouTube calls the AlphaGo-versus-AlphaGo face-offs "Go from an alternate dimension." From all accounts, one gets the sense that an alien civilization has dropped a cryptic guidebook in our midst: a manual that's brilliant -- or at least, the parts of it we can understand. Will Lockhart, a physics grad student and avid Go player who codirected The Surrounding Game (a documentary about the pastime's history and devotees) tried to describe the difference between watching AlphaGo's games against top human players, on the one hand, and its self-paired games, on the other. According to Will, AlphaGo's moves against Ke Jie made it seem to be "inevitably marching toward victory," while Ke seemed to be "punching a brick wall." Any time the Chinese player had perhaps found a way forward, said Lockhart, "10 moves later AlphaGo had resolved it in such a simple way, and it was like, 'Poof, well that didn't lead anywhere!'" By contrast, AlphaGo's self-paired games might have seemed more frenetic. More complex. Lockhart compares them to "people sword-fighting on a tightrope."
Businesses

First Floating Wind Farm Delivers Electricity (arstechnica.com) 81

The world's first floating offshore wind farm began delivering electricity to the Scottish grid today. "The 30MW installation, situated 25km (15.5mi) from Peterhead in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, will demonstrate that offshore wind energy can be harvested in deep waters, miles away from land, where installing giant turbines was once impractical or impossible," reports Ars Technica. "At peak capacity, the wind farm will produce enough electricity to power 20,000 Scottish homes." From the report: The installation, called Hywind Scotland, is also interesting because it was built by Statoil, a Norwegian mega-corporation known for offshore oil drilling. Statoil has pursued offshore wind projects in recent years, using the companyâ(TM)s experience building and managing infrastructure in difficult open sea conditions to its advantage. Hywind Scotland began producing power in September, and today it starts delivering electricity to the Scottish grid. Now, all that's left is for Statoil and its partner company Masdar to install a 1MWh lithium-ion battery, charmingly called âoeBatwind,â on shore. Batwind will help the offshore system regulate power delivery and optimize output. After a number of small demonstration projects, the five 6MW turbines are the first commercial turbines to lack a firm attachment to the seafloor. They're held in place using three giant suction anchors, which are commonly used in offshore oil drilling. Essentially, an enormous, empty, upside-down âoebucketâ is placed on the seafloor, and air is sucked out of the bucket, which forces the bucket downward, further into the seafloor sediment. The report mentions a 2013 video that shows how offshore wind farms work.
Android

ZTE Launches Axon M, a Foldable, Dual-Screened Smartphone (theverge.com) 61

ZTE's new Axon M is a full-featured smartphone with a hinge that connects two full-size displays, making the Axon M a flip phone of sorts. "Its front screen is a 5.2-inch, 1080p panel, it has last year's Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 20-megapixel camera," reports The Verge. "But flip the phone over and there's an identical 5.2-inch display on the back, making the Axon M anything but run-of-the-mill." From the report: The M's hinge allows the rear screen to flip forward and slot right next to the main display, creating an almost tablet sized canvas. You can stretch the home screen and apps across the two displays for a larger working area, or you can run two different apps at the same time, one on each screen. You can also "tent" the phone, and mirror the displays so two people can see the same content at the same time. ZTE says that it is utilizing Android's default split-screen features to enable many of the dual-screen functions, and it has made sure the "top 100" Android apps work on the phone. In the "extended" mode, which stretches a single app across both screens, the tablet version of the app is presented (provided there is one, which isn't always a guarantee with Android apps). It's even possible to stream video on both screens at the same time and switch the audio between them on the fly, which might be useful if you want to watch a sports game and YouTube at the same time, I guess.

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