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Robotics

MIT Creates 3D-Printing Robot That Can Construct a Home Off-Grid In 14 Hours (mit.edu) 30

Kristine Lofgren writes: Home building hasn't changed much over the years, but leave it to MIT to take things to the next level. A new technology built at MIT can construct a simple dome structure in 14 hours and it's powered by solar panels, so you can take it to remote areas. MIT's 3D-printing robot can construct the entire basic structure of a building and can be customized to fit the local terrain in ways that traditional methods can't do. It even has a built-in scoop so it can prepare the building site and gather its own construction materials. You can watch a video of the 3D-printing robot in action here.
Android

Open Ports Create Backdoors In Millions of Smartphones (bleepingcomputer.com) 32

An anonymous reader writes: "Mobile applications that open ports on Android smartphones are opening those devices to remote hacking, claims a team of researchers from the University of Michigan," reports Bleeping Computer. Researchers say they've identified 410 popular mobile apps that open ports on people's smartphones. They claim that an attacker could connect to these ports, which in turn grant access to various phone features, such as photos, contacts, the camera, and more. This access could be leveraged to steal photos, contacts, or execute commands on the target's phone. Researchers recorded various demos to prove their attacks. Of these 410 apps, there were many that had between 10 and 50 million downloads on the official Google Play Store and even an app that came pre-installed on an OEMs smartphones. "Research on the mobile open port problem started after researchers read a Trend Micro report from 2015 about a vulnerability in the Baidu SDK, which opened a port on user devices, providing an attacker with a way to access the phone of a user who installed an app that used the Baidu SDK," reports Bleeping Computer. "That particular vulnerability affected over 100 million smartphones, but Baidu moved quickly to release an update. The paper detailing the team's work is entitled Open Doors for Bob and Mallory: Open Port Usage in Android Apps and Security Implications, and was presented Wednesday, April 26, at the 2nd IEEE European Symposium on Security and Privacy that took place this week in Paris, France."
Government

Airbnb Gives In To Regulator's Demand To Test For Racial Discrimination By Hosts (theguardian.com) 96

As part of an agreement with California regulators, Airbnb will allow the government to test for racial discrimination by hosts. The Guardian reports: The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) announced Thursday that it had resolved a complaint it filed against Airbnb with an agreement that forces the company to permit the state to conduct "fair housing testing" of certain hosts. That means that for the first time the San Francisco-based company is giving a regulatory body permission to conduct the kind of racial discrimination audits that officials have long used to enforce fair housing laws against traditional landlords. The DFEH's original complaint -- which had not previously been disclosed -- was based on research and a growing number of reports suggesting that hosts regularly refuse to rent to guests due to their race, a problem exposed last year under the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack.
Robotics

Washington State Orchard Owners Look To Robots As Labor Shortage Worsens (seattletimes.com) 73

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Seattle Times: Harvesting Washington state's vast fruit orchards each year requires thousands of farmworkers, and many of them work illegally in the United States. That system eventually could change dramatically as at least two companies are rushing to get robotic fruit-picking machines to market. The robotic pickers don't get tired and can work 24 hours a day. FFRobotics and Abundant Robotics, of Hayward, California, are racing to get their mechanical pickers to market within the next couple of years. Members of the $7.5 billion annual Washington agriculture industry have long grappled with labor shortages, and depend on workers coming up from Mexico each year to harvest many crops. While financial details are not available, the builders say the robotic pickers should pay for themselves in two years. That puts the likely cost of the machines in the hundreds of thousands of dollars each. FFRobotics is developing a machine that has three-fingered grips to grab fruit and twist or clip it from a branch. The machine would have between four and 12 robotic arms, and can pick up to 10,000 apples an hour, Gad Kober, a co-founder of Israel-based FFRobotics, said. One machine would be able to harvest a variety of crops, taking 85 to 90 percent of the crop off the trees, Kober said. Humans could pick the rest. Abundant Robotics is working on a picker that uses suction to vacuum apples off trees.
Transportation

Apple, Tesla Ask California To Change Its Proposed Policies On Self-Driving Car Testing (reuters.com) 14

Tesla and Apple have asked the state of California to change its proposed policies on self-driving cars to allow companies to test vehicles without traditional steering wheels and controls or human back-up drivers, among other things. Reuters reports: In a letter made public Friday, Apple made a series of suggested changes to the policy that is under development and said it looks forward to working with California and others "so that rapid technology development may be realized while ensuring the safety of the traveling public." Waymo, the self-driving car unit of Google parent company Alphabet Inc, Ford Motor Co, Uber Technologies Inc, Toyota Motor Corp, Tesla Motors Inc and others also filed comments suggesting changes. Apple said California should revise how companies report self-driving system "disengagements." California currently requires companies to report how many times the self-driving system was deactivated and control handed back to humans because of a system failure or a traffic, weather or road situation that required human intervention. Apple said California's rules for development vehicles used only in testing could "restrict both the design and equipment that can be used in test vehicles." Tesla said California should not bar testing of autonomous vehicles that are 10,000 pounds (4,535 kg) or more. Tesla also said California should not prohibit the sale of non-self-driving vehicles previously used for autonomous vehicle testing.
Privacy

WikiLeaks Reveals the 'Snowden Stopper': CIA Tool To Track Whistleblowers (zerohedge.com) 61

schwit1 quotes a report from Zero Hedge: As the latest installment of it's "Vault 7" series, WikiLeaks has just dropped a user manual describing a CIA project known as "Scribbles" (a.k.a. the "Snowden Stopper"), a piece of software purportedly designed to allow the embedding of "web beacon" tags into documents "likely to be stolen." The web beacon tags are apparently able to collect information about an end user of a document and relay that information back to the beacon's creator without being detected. Per WikiLeaks' press release. But, the "Scribbles" user guide notes there is just one small problem with the program: it only works with Microsoft Office products. So, if end users use other programs such as OpenOffice of LibreOffice then the CIA's watermarks become visible to the end user and their cover is blown.
AI

Amazon's Alexa Can Now Whisper, Bleep Out Swear Words, and Change Its Pitch (theverge.com) 32

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Amazon is trying to make its Alexa voice assistant sound more humanlike. Up until now, the female-sounding voice maintained an even, monotone cadence whenever speaking, but with Amazon's new Speech Synthesis Markup Language that the company introduced this week, Alexa can whisper, vary its speaking speed, and bleep out words. Developers can also add pauses, change the pronunciation of a word, spell a word out, add audio snippets, and insert special words and phrases into their skill. The Verge notes that "the language markups are [only] available to developers in the U.S., U.K. and Germany." Amazon will also be hosting a webinar on May 18th on the new code.
Businesses

IT Leaders Will Struggle To Meet Future Demands, Study Says (betanews.com) 80

When it comes to meeting future demands, IT leaders in the UK are lagging behind those in Germany and the US. From a report: This is according to a new report by Brocade, entitled Global Digital Transformation Skills Study. The report is based on a survey of 630 IT leaders in the US, UK, France, Germany, Australia and Singapore. It says that organizations are "at a tipping point" -- a point in time when technology demands are just about to outstrip the skills supply. Consequently, those that train their staff now and prepare for the future in that respect are the ones that are setting themselves up for a successful future. Almost three quarters (74 percent) of IT leaders in the UK see IT departments as either "very important" or "critical" to both innovation and the growth of their business. But the same woes reman, as almost two thirds (63 percent) think they'll struggle to find the right people in the next year.
Transportation

Elon Musk Outlines His 'Boring' Vision For Traffic-Avoiding Tunnels (axios.com) 133

Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed new details about his futuristic tunnel-boring project during his TED talk on Friday. Ina Fried, writing for Axios: In an appearance at the TED conference in Vancouver, Musk showed off a new video visualization of electric skates transporting cars in a narrow tunnel, then raising them back to street level in a space as small as two parking spaces. Inside the tunnels, Musk said cars could travel as fast as 200 kilometers per hour (roughly 130 MPH). "You should be able to go from say Westwood to LAX in 5-6 minutes," the Tesla and SpaceX founder said, adding he is spending only 2-3 percent on the tunnel effort. The Boring Company is currently building a demo tunnel in SpaceX's parking lot, but will need permits from the city of Los Angeles to extend beyond the property line. Musk added, "I'm not trying to be anyone's savior. I'm just trying to think about the future and not be sad." You can watch the video here.
Network

The Internet-of-Things is Maturing (axios.com) 30

An anonymous reader shares a report: The "Internet of Things" (IoT) category is starting to mature in terms of startup investments, according to a new report from Silicon Valley venture capital firm Wing. Like any other trendy area of tech, IoT is in the midst of its own hype cycle, so it's important to get a more detailed picture of how the money is flowing.
DRM

An Open Letter on DRM To the Inventor of the Web, From the Inventor of Net Neutrality (boingboing.net) 43

Tim Wu, a law professor at the Colombia University, and best known for coining the term "net neutrality," has published an open letter to Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the web and director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). In the letter, Wu has asked Berners-Lee to "seriously consider extending a protective covenant to legitimate circumventers who have cause to bypass EME, should it emerge as a W3C standard." Cory Doctorow, writes for BoingBoing: But Wu goes on to draw a connection between the problems of DRM and the problems of network discrimination: DRM is wrapped up in a layer of legal entanglements (notably section 1201 of America's Digital Millennium Copyright Act), which allow similar kinds of anticompetitive and ugly practices that make net neutrality so important. This is a live issue, too, because the W3C just held the most contentious vote in its decades-long history, on whether to publish a DRM standard for the web without any of the proposed legal protections for companies that create the kinds of competing products and services that the law permits, except when DRM is involved. As Wu points out, this sets up a situation where the incumbents get to create monopolies that produce the same problems for the open web that network neutrality advocates -- like Berners-Lee -- worry about.
The Almighty Buck

Slashdot Asks: Should an Employee Be Fired For Working On Personal Side Projects During Office Hours? (quora.com) 362

An anonymous reader writes: I found this article that talks about whether an engineer should be fired if s/he is working on a side project. Several people who have commented in the thread say that the employer should first talk to the person and understand why they are working on personal projects during the office hours. One reason, as many suggested, could be that the employee might not have been fairly compensated despite being exceptionally good at the job. In which case, the problem resides somewhere in the management who has failed to live up to the expectations. What do you folks think? Let's not just focus on engineers, per se. It could be an IT guy (who might have a lot of free time in hand), or a programmer.
Advertising

Amazon Confirms Advertising Will Become a 'Meaningful' Part of Its Business (thedrum.com) 55

An anonymous reader shares a report: Amazon's advertising business has loomed quietly in the digital media space for some time but the online behemoth has given the clearest indication yet that it will now come to the fore. Advertisers and agencies have been hearing Amazon-sized footsteps for some time but until now the business has erred away from revealing too much. However, on its latest earnings call Amazon was asked by one analyst as to whether advertising could become a more "meaningful part of the business" over the near to mid-term. "It's pretty early in the days with advertising but we're very pleased with the team we have and the results," said Amazon's chief financial officer Brian Olsavsky in response to another analyst query. "Our goal is to be helpful to consumers and enhance their shopping or their viewing experience with targeted recommendations, and we think a lot of the information we have and preferences of customers and recommendations help us do that for customers."
Privacy

Lawsuit: Fox News Group Hacked, Surveilled, and Stalked Ex-Host Andrea Tantaros (arstechnica.com) 97

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Comparing their actions to the plot this season on the Showtime series Homeland, an attorney for former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros has filed a complaint in federal court against Fox News, current and former Fox executives, Peter Snyder and his financial firm Disruptor Inc., and 50 "John Doe" defendants. The suit alleges that collective participated in a hacking and surveillance campaign against her. Tantaros filed a sexual harassment suit against Roger Ailes and Fox News in August of 2016, after filing internal complaints with the company about harassment dating back to February of 2015. She was fired by the network in April of 2016, as Tantaros continued to press complaints against Fox News' then-Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly, and others. Tantaros had informed Fox that she would be filing a lawsuit over the alleged sexual harassment. Tantaros claims that as early as February of 2015, a group run out of a "black room" at Fox News engaged in surveillance and electronic harassment of her, including the use of "sock puppet" social media accounts to electronically stalk her. Tantaros' suit identifies Peter Snyder and Disruptor Inc. as the operators of a social influence operation using "sock puppet" accounts on Twitter and other social media.
Patents

Apple Patent Hints At Wirelessly Charging Your iPhone Via Wi-Fi Routers (appleinsider.com) 136

According to AppleInsider, "Apple is experimenting with medium- to long-distance wireless charging technologies that could one day allow users to charge up their iPhones with nothing more than a Wi-Fi router." From the report: Detailed in Apple's patent application for "Wireless Charging and Communications Systems With Dual-Frequency Patch Antennas" is a method for transferring power to electronic devices over frequencies normally dedicated to data communications. In its various embodiments, the invention notes power transfer capabilities over any suitable wireless communications link, including cellular between 700 MHz and 2700 MHz, and Wi-Fi operating at 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. More specifically, the document's claims apply to millimeter wave 802.11ad spectrum channels currently in use by the WiGig standard, which operates over the 60 GHz frequency band. Theoretically, the proposal opens the door to wire-free charging from in-home Wi-Fi routers to cellular nodes and even satellite signals. Of course, amplitude in a wireless system is normally a function of distance. Like conventional wireless charging techniques, Apple's design requires two devices -- a transmitter and receiver -- to function. Each device contains one or more antennas coupled to wireless circuitry capable of making phase and magnitude adjustments to transmitted and received signals. Such hardware can be employed in dynamic beam steering operations.
Businesses

Kill Net Neutrality and You'll Kill Us, Say 800 US Startups (google.com) 280

A group of more than 800 startups has sent a letter to the FCC chairman Ajit Pai saying they are "deeply concerned" about his decision to kill net neutrality -- reversing the Title II classification of internet service providers. The group, which includes Y Combinator, Etsy, Foursquare, GitHub, Imgur, Nextdoor, and Warby Parker, added that the decision could end up shutting their businesses. They add, via an article on The Verge: "The success of America's startup ecosystem depends on more than improved broadband speeds. We also depend on an open Internet -- including enforceable net neutrality rules that ensure big cable companies can't discriminate against people like us. We're deeply concerned with your intention to undo the existing legal framework. Without net neutrality, the incumbents who provide access to the Internet would be able to pick winners or losers in the market. They could impede traffic from our services in order to favor their own services or established competitors. Or they could impose new tolls on us, inhibiting consumer choice. [...] Our companies should be able to compete with incumbents on the quality of our products and services, not our capacity to pay tolls to Internet access providers."
Medicine

DNA-Based Test Can Spot Cancer Recurrence a Year Before Conventional Scans (theguardian.com) 23

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: A revolutionary blood test has been shown to diagnose the recurrence of cancer up to a year in advance of conventional scans in a major lung cancer trial. The test, known as a liquid biopsy, could buy crucial time for doctors by indicating that cancer is growing in the body when tumors are not yet detectable on CT scans and long before the patient becomes aware of physical symptoms. It works by detecting free-floating mutated DNA, released into the bloodstream by dying cancer cells. In the trial of 100 lung cancer patients, scientists saw precipitous rises in tumor DNA in the blood of patients who would go on to relapse months, or even a year, later. In the latest trial, reported in the journal Nature, 100 patients with non-small cell lung cancer were followed from diagnosis through surgery and chemotherapy, having blood tests every six to eight weeks. By analyzing the patchwork of genetic faults in cells across each tumor, scientists created personalized genomic templates for each patient. This was then compared to the DNA floating in their blood, to assess whether a fraction of it matched that seen in their tumor.
AT&T

AT&T To Roll Out 5G Network That's Not Actually 5G (yahoo.com) 87

AT&T announced plans to deliver what it's calling the "5G Evolution" network to more than 20 markets by the end of the year. While the company is "using some wordsmithing to deliver to you faster internet speeds," it's important to note that this is not actually a real 5G network. Yahoo reports: 5G still has years of development and testing before it will be rolled out across the U.S. So don't let AT&T's use of "5G" make you think that the next-generation wireless standard has arrived. In reality, the 5G AT&T is talking about is a bumped-up version of its 4G LTE to help it bridge the gap until the real 5G, with its ultra-fast speeds and better bandwidth, is rolled out. It's also important to note that AT&T won't offer its 5G Evolution technology to all of its customers initially. In fact, it's currently only available in Austin, TX, and the company plans to extend it to Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and other big markets in the coming months. If you're in a smaller metro market, you'll be out of luck. Perhaps the biggest limitation, and the reason few people will likely have the chance to actually use the 5G Evolution, is that AT&T is restricting it to select devices -- specifically, the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+. While that's great if you have one of those particular phones in one of the specific cities where AT&T's faster service exists, it's not so great if you're using another device.
The Courts

University of California IT Workers Replaced By Offshore Outsourcing Firm To File Discrimination Lawsuit (computerworld.com) 291

The IT workers from the University of California's San Francisco campus who were replaced by an offshore outsourcing firm late last year intend to file a lawsuit challenging their dismissal. "It will allege that the tech workers at the university's San Francisco campus were victims of age and national origin discrimination," reports Computerworld. From the report: The IT employees lost their jobs in February after the university hired India-based IT services firm HCL. Approximately 50 full-time university employees lost their jobs, but another 30 contractor positions were cut as well. "To take a workforce that is overwhelmingly over the age of 40 and replace them with folks who are mainly in their 20s -- early 20s, in fact -- we think is age discrimination," said the IT employees' attorney, Randall Strauss, of Gwilliam Ivary Chiosso Cavalli & Brewer. The national origin discrimination claim is the result of taking a workforce "that reflects the diversity of California" and is summarily let go and is "replaced with people who come from one particular part of the world," said Strauss. The lawsuit will be filed in Alameda County Superior Court.
Books

Ask Slashdot: What Are Your Favorite Books On Entrepreneurship? 85

An anonymous reader writes: There are excellent well-known books like Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson and Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, but I find some of the lesser-known books about tech entrepreneurship very interesting, like A Triumph of Genius about Edwin Land of Polaroid or Riding the Runaway Horse about An Wang of Wang Laboratories. Also, there's Fast Forward by Lardner about VHS/Betamax. What books regarding entrepreneurship would Slashdotters recommend?

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