Geek

Apple allowing Apple Music subscribers to gift a free month of the service to friends

9to5Mac - 11 hours 6 min ago

Last weekend, Apple sent a wave of Apple Music notifications to previous subscribers offering them an additional 3-month free trial. Now, Apple is continuing its Apple Music focus with push notifications allowing current subscribers to gift a friend a free month of the streaming music service.

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Academics Confirm Major Predictive Policing Algorithm Is Fundamentally Flawed

Slashdot - 11 hours 35 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Last week, Motherboard published an investigation which revealed that law enforcement agencies around the country are using PredPol -- a predictive policing software that once cited the controversial, unproven "broken windows" policing theory as a part of its best practices. Our report showed that local police in Kansas, Washington, South Carolina, California, Georgia, Utah, and Michigan are using or have used the software. In a 2014 presentation to police departments obtained by Motherboard, the company says that the software is "based on nearly seven years of detailed academic research into the causes of crime pattern formation the mathematics looks complicated -- and it is complicated for normal mortal humans -- but the behaviors upon which the math is based are very understandable." The company says those behaviors are "repeat victimization" of an address, "near-repeat victimization" (the proximity of other addresses to previously reported crimes), and "local search" (criminals are likely to commit crimes near their homes or near other crimes they've committed, PredPol says.) But academics Motherboard spoke to say that the mathematical theory that is used to power PredPol is flawed, and that its algorithm -- at least as pitched to police -- is far too simplistic to actually predict crime. Kristian Lum, who co-wrote a 2016 paper that tested the algorithmic mechanisms of PredPol with real crime data, told Motherboard in a phone call that although PredPol is powered by complicated-looking mathematical formulas, its actual function can be summarized as a moving average -- or an average of subsets within a data set. "The academic foundation for PredPol's software takes a statistical modeling method used to predict earthquakes and apply it to crime," reports Motherboard. "Much like how earthquakes are likely to appear in similar places, the papers argue, crimes are also likely to occur in similar places. Suresh Venkatasubramanian, a professor of computing at the University of Utah and a member of the board of directors for ACLU Utah, told Motherboard that earthquake data and crime data are, naturally, collected in different ways." "I would say in our mind, the key difference is that in earthquake models, you have seismographs everywhere -- wherever an earthquake happens, you'll find it," Venkatasubramanian said. "The crux of the issue really is that to what extent are you able to get data about what you're observing that is not also totally on the model itself." "If you build predictive policing, you are essentially sending police to certain neighborhoods based on what what they told you -- but that also means you're not sending police to other neighborhoods because the system didn't tell you to go there," Venkatasubramanian said. "If you assume that the data collection for your system is generated by police whom you sent to certain neighborhoods, then essentially your model is controlling the next round of data you get."

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Chicago Mayor Releases Roadmap For Transitioning To 100 Percent Renewable Energy By 2035

Slashdot - 14 hours 35 min ago
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanual has released a roadmap for transitioning to 100% renewable energy by 2035 and to an electric Chicago Transit Authority bus fleet by 2040. The move is especially noteworthy as there are 11 nuclear reactors in operation in Illinois. From a report: Yesterday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled the Resilient Chicago plan, which with action number 38 commits to "transition to 100% clean, renewable energy in buildings community-wide by 2035." The deadline for all city government buildings to be powered solely by renewables, first established in 2017, has been brought forward to 2025. The policy has been introduced as part of environmental group the Sierra Club's "Ready for 100" campaign, and Chicago is the largest city to join the effort to date. (Editor's note: While Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has announced his city is on a path to 100% renewable energy, it is not clear if the formal goal is 100% renewable or 100% zero-carbon, and LA is not included in the Sierra Club's Ready for 100 list.) The language of the Resilient Chicago text says "clean, renewable energy," and the Sierra Club does not include nuclear as part of its Ready to 100 campaign. The new policy is a particularly interesting move for Emanuel, once considered one of the more pro-nuclear politicians in the Democratic Party, and a man who brokered the deal that created Exelon. Were Chicago to include nuclear in a 2035 target, it would require either buying power from existing plants instead of investing in new generation, or starting new nuclear plants within six years. Given the high cost of nuclear compared to wind and solar, few decision makers are contemplating that option.

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Gravitational Wave Detectors Upgraded To Hunt For 'Extreme Cosmic Events'

Slashdot - 17 hours 35 min ago
The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) facilities, residing in Washington and Louisiana, will be upgraded via grants from the U.S. National Science Foundation, UK Research and Innovation and the Australian Research Council -- providing stronger, more frequent detections and decreasing noise. CNET reports: Over $34 million will be provided for the upgrade which makes LIGO sound like the latest iPhone. When it is complete, LIGO will go from its crusty old 2015 "Advanced LIGO" phase to the "Advanced LIGO Plus" phase. LIGO's twin facilities both contain two 4-kilometer long arms that use lasers to detect minute disturbances caused by extremely energetic cosmic events -- like black holes merging. The incredibly high-powered events are responsible for gravitational waves, rippling out through spacetime the same way water does when you drop a rock in a pond. By the time they reach Earth, the ripples are so small that only incredibly tiny disturbances in LIGO's lasers can detect them. The proposed upgrades will greatly increase the number of events that LIGO will detect. With only 11 under its belt so far, [David Reitze, executive director of LIGO] even expects we might see "black hole mergers on a daily basis" and describes neutron star mergers becoming "much more frequent." All that extra power adds up, hopefully revealing some of the cosmos' deepest, darkest secrets. In September 2015, LIGO provided the first evidence for a black hole merger -- and in turn, the existence of gravitational waves -- just four days after a three-year long upgrade. Since then, LIGO has seen 10 black hole mergers and a single, huge collision between two incredibly dense stars, known as neutron stars.

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Final Cut Friday: 10 transition tips for FCP X [Video]

9to5Mac - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 23:56

Transitions are key building blocks for putting together cohesive videos in your NLE of choice. In Final Cut Pro X, there are many shortcuts, tips, and tricks that can be used while inserting or editing transitions. In this week’s episode of Final Cut Friday, I share 10 transition tips to help you master this vital part of the editing process. more…

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Researchers Are Working With NASA To See If Comedians Help Team Cohesion On Long Space Missions

Slashdot - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 22:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: [R]esearchers have found that the success of a future mission to the red planet may depend on the ship having a class clown. "These are people that have the ability to pull everyone together, bridge gaps when tensions appear and really boost morale," said Jeffrey Johnson, an anthropologist at the University of Florida. "When you're living with others in a confined space for a long period of time, such as on a mission to Mars, tensions are likely to fray. It's vital you have somebody who can help everyone get along, so they can do their jobs and get there and back safely. It's mission critical." Johnson spent four years studying overwintering crews in Antarctica and identified the importance of clowns, leaders, buddies, storytellers, peacemakers and counsellors for bonding teams together and making them work smoothly. He found the same mixes worked in U.S., Russian, Polish, Chinese and Indian bases. "These roles are informal, they emerge within the group. But the interesting thing is that if you have the right combination the group does very well. And if you don't, the group does very badly," he said. Johnson is now working with Nasa to explore whether clowns and other characters are crucial for the success of long space missions. So far he has monitored four groups of astronauts who spent 30 to 60 days in the agency's mock space habitat, the Human Exploration Research Analog, or Hera, in Houston, Texas. Johnson, who also studied isolated salmon fishers in Alaska, found that clowns were often willing to be the butt of jokes and pranks. In Antarctica, one clown he observed endured a mock funeral and burial in the tundra, but was crucial for building bridges between clusters of overwintering scientists and between contractors and researchers, or "beakers" as the contractors called them.

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New Drug Rapidly Repairs Age-Related Memory Loss, Improves Mood

Slashdot - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 21:10
A team of Canadian scientists has developed a fascinating new experimental drug that is purported to result in rapid improvements to both mood and memory following extensive animal testing. It's hoped the drug will move to human trials within the next two years. New Atlas reports: Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a key neurotransmitter, and when altered it can play a role in the development of everything from psychiatric conditions to cognitive degeneration. Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax or Valium, are a class of drugs well known to function by modulating the brain's GABA systems. This new research describes the development of several new molecules that are structurally based on benzodiazepines, but with small tweaks to enhance their ability to specifically target certain brain areas. The goal was to create a new therapeutic agent that can effectively combat age-related mood and memory alterations caused by disruptions in the GABA systems. In animal tests the drug has been found to be remarkably effective, with old mice displaying rapid improvements in memory tests within an hour of administration, resulting in performance similar to that of young mice. Daily administration of the drug over two months was also seen to result in an actual structural regrowth of brain cells, returning their brains to a state that resembles a young animal. The new study was published in the journal Molecular Neuropsychiatry.

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Samsung's New Galaxy Tab S5e Is Its Lightest and Thinnest Tablet Ever

Slashdot - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 20:30
Samsung has unveiled the Galaxy Tab S5e, its lightest and thinnest tablet ever made. "At $399, it's not only far more affordable than the flagship $649 Samsung Galaxy Tab S4, it's arguably surpassed it in some ways," reports The Verge. From the report: For starters, the Tab S5e has the thinnest and lightest metal unibody of any Galaxy Tab, measuring 5.5mm thin and weighing just 400 grams -- even compared to the 11-inch iPad Pro at 5.9mm thick and 468 grams, the Tab S5e is both lighter and thinner. The company also claims they've maximized space with the Tab S5e's massive 81.8 percent screen-to-body ratio, which on paper, is an improvement over the Tab S4's lower 79 percent ratio. It's also right on the heels of the 11-inch iPad Pro's ~82.9 percent screen-to-body ratio. And unlike Samsung's previous attempt to make its 10.5-inch tablet more affordable, this slate doesn't skimp on the screen and not nearly as much on the processor. Samsung's Tab S5e is a 10.5-inch Super AMOLED device with a 16:10 aspect ratio and 2560 x 1600 resolution, while its octa-core Snapdragon 670 processor should provide solid mid-range performance. Samsung's also promising up to 14.5 hours of battery life. The Tab S5e is also the first tablet from the Korean tech giant to ship with Pie, the latest version of Android, along with the new Bixby 2.0 virtual assistant and information tool. Samsung is also carrying features like Dex, a desktop-style Android environment, over from other Galaxy devices, like the Note 9 and Tab S4. It allows users to interact with their device using the screen, a mouse, keyboard, or all three. Other features include AKG-tuned, quad surround sound speakers, 64GB of internal storage (microSD expandable to 512GB), with 4GB RAM (upgradable to 6GB RAM/128GB storage), and 13-megapixel back and 8-megapixel front-facing cameras. Cellular models will follow the Wi-Fi versions later this year.

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18,000 Android Apps Track Users By Violating Advertising ID Policies

Slashdot - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 19:50
18,000 Android apps with tens or hundreds of millions of installs on the Google Play Store have been found to violate Google's Play Store Advertising ID policy guidance by collecting persistent device identifiers such as serial numbers, IMEI, WiFi MAC addresses, SIM card serial numbers, and sending them to mobile advertising related domains alongside ad IDs. Bleeping Computer reports: AppCensus is an organization based in Berkeley, California, and created by researchers from all over the world with expertise in a wide range of fields, ranging from networking and privacy to security and usability. The project is supported by "grants from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Data Transparency Lab." By highlighting this behavior, AppCensus shows that while users are being offered the option to reset the advertising ID, doing so will not immediately translate into getting a new "identity" because app developers can also use a multitude of other identifiers to keep their tracking and targeting going. Google did not yet respond to a report sent by AppCensus in September 2018 containing a list of 17,000 Android apps that send persistent identifiers together with ad IDs to various advertising networks, also attaching a list of 30 recipient mobile advertising related domains where the various IDs were being sent. While looking at the network packets sent between the apps and these 30 domains, AppCensus observed that "they are either being used to place ads in apps, or track user engagement with ads." In a statement to CNET, a Google spokesperson said: "We take these issues very seriously. Combining Ad ID with device identifiers for the purpose of ads personalization is strictly forbidden. We're constantly reviewing apps -- including those listed in the researcher's report -- and will take action when they do not comply with our policies." Some of the most popular applications found to be violating Google's Usage of Android Adverting ID policies include Clean Master, Subway Surfers, Fliboard, My Talking Tom, Temple Run 2, and Angry Birds Classic. The list goes on and on, and the last app in the "Top 20" list still has over 100 million installations.

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Even Years Later, Twitter Doesn't Delete Your Direct Messages

Slashdot - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 19:10
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Twitter retains direct messages for years, including messages you and others have deleted, but also data sent to and from accounts that have been deactivated and suspended, according to security researcher Karan Saini. Saini found years-old messages in a file from an archive of his data obtained through the website from accounts that were no longer on Twitter. He also reported a similar bug, found a year earlier but not disclosed until now, that allowed him to use a since-deprecated API to retrieve direct messages even after a message was deleted from both the sender and the recipient -- though, the bug wasn't able to retrieve messages from suspended accounts. Direct messages once let users "unsend" messages from someone else's inbox, simply by deleting it from their own. Twitter changed this years ago, and now only allows a user to delete messages from their account. "Others in the conversation will still be able to see direct messages or conversations that you have deleted," Twitter says in a help page. Twitter also says in its privacy policy that anyone wanting to leave the service can have their account "deactivated and then deleted." After a 30-day grace period, the account disappears, along with its data. But, in our tests, we could recover direct messages from years ago -- including old messages that had since been lost to suspended or deleted accounts. By downloading your account's data, it's possible to download all of the data Twitter stores on you. A Twitter spokesperson said the company was "looking into this further to ensure we have considered the entire scope of the issue."

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New report says next-gen AirPods coming in the spring

iDownloadBlog - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 18:57

A new report from Taiwanese publication Economic Daily News claims that the oft-rumored, next-gen AirPods will be ready to launch in the spring, with an all-new black colorway and wireless charging.
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Apple acquires voice app startup Pullstring

iDownloadBlog - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 18:36

Apple has agreed to purchase voice app startup Pullstring, according to a report from Axios. The San Francisco-based company was founded by a group of former Pixar executives in 2011 and its technology has been used in everything from interactive voice apps for toys, to Amazon Echo and Google Assistant products.
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Huge Study Finds Professors' Attitudes Affect Students' Grades

Slashdot - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 18:30
A huge study at Indiana University, led by Elizabeth Canning, finds that the attitudes of instructors affect the grades their students earned in classes. The researchers conducted their study by sending out a simple survey to all the instructors of STEM courses at Indiana University, asking whether professors felt that a student's intelligence is fixed and unchanging or whether they thought it could be developed. Then, the researchers were given access to two years' worth of students' grades in those instructors' classes, covering a total of 15,000 students. Ars Technica reports: The results showed a surprising difference between the professors who agreed that intelligence is fixed and those who disagreed (referred to as "fixed mindset" and "growth mindset" professors). In classes taught by fixed mindset instructors, Latino, African-American, and Native American students averaged grades 0.19 grade points (out of four) lower than white and Asian-American students. But in classes taught by "growth mindset" instructors, the gap dropped to just 0.10 grade points. No other factor the researchers analyzed showed a statistically significant difference among classes -- not the instructors' experience, tenure status, gender, specific department, or even ethnicity. Yet their belief about whether a students' intelligence is fixed seems to have had a sizable effect. The students' course evaluations contain possible clues. Students reported less "motivation to do their best work" in the classes taught by fixed mindset professors, and they also gave lower ratings for a question about whether their professor "emphasize[d] learning and development." Students were less likely to say they'd recommend the professor to others, as well. Is it possible that the fixed mindset professors just happen to teach the hardest classes? The student evaluations also include a question about how much time the course required -- the average answer was slightly higher for fixed mindset professors, but the difference was not statistically significant. Instead, the researchers think the data suggests that -- in any number of small ways -- instructors who think their students' intelligence is fixed don't keep their students as motivated, and perhaps don't focus as much on teaching techniques that can encourage growth. And while this affects all students, it seems to have an extra impact on underrepresented minority students.

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Deal of the Month: HyperJuice Wireless Charger Case for Apple AirPods $20 (Reg. $50)

9to5Mac - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 17:51

This month we’ve teamed up with Hyper for our first ever 9to5Mac Deal of the Month. For February only, you can get the HyperJuice AirPods Wireless Charging case for 60% off regular price:

Get the HyperJuice AirPods Wireless Charger Case 60% off for a limited time – $20 (Reg. $50)

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Samsung To Stop Making 4K Blu-Ray Players, Report Says

Slashdot - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 17:50
According to a report from Forbes, Samsung may be exiting the 4K Blu-ray player market. "After launching its first 4K players in 2017, the company didn't add any new players to its lineup in 2018," reports CNET. "A high-end player for 2019 along the lines of its UBD-M9500 was in the works, the report says, but has now been scrapped." From the report: One of the reasons for pulling out could be that the existing players' format support has lagged behind the rest of the industry. For example, instead of supporting Dolby Vision, Samsung created its own version of HDR10, HDR10+, which was designed for use in streaming and physical media. Competitor Oppo was the first company to support both HDR10 and Dolby Vision but announced it was ending production of its 4K Blu-ray players in April 2018. Meanwhile Sony announced the M2 player at CES 2019 with support for Dolby Vision and Panasonic recently released the high-end DP-UB9000 player in Europe and Australia.

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US Labor Organization AFL-CIO Urges Game Developers To Unionize In Open Letter

Slashdot - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 17:10
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gamasutra: In the wake of Activision Blizzard's massive layoff wave, a move that was announced in the same call as the company's record quarter, the union federation AFL-CIO has published an open letter to game developers urging members of the industry to organize. The AFL-CIO itself is the largest labor organization in the United States and counts 55 individual unions (and more than 12.5 million workers) among its affiliates. The letter, readable in full on Kotaku, calls out many of the issues that have prompted conversations about unionization in just recent years like excessive crunch, toxic work conditions, inadequate pay, and job instability. The industry, points out AFL-CIO's secretary-treasurer Liz Shuler, boasted sales 3.6 times greater than those of the film industry in 2018, yet much of that financial success isn't felt by the developers working on the games that generate those billions. "Executives are always quick to brag about your work. It's the talk of every industry corner office and boardroom. They pay tribute to the games that capture our imaginations and seem to defy economic gravity. They talk up the latest innovations in virtual reality and celebrate record-smashing releases, as your creations reach unparalleled new heights," says Shuler. "My question is this: what have you gotten in return? They get rich. They get notoriety. They get to be crowned visionaries and regarded as pioneers. What do you get? Outrageous hours and inadequate paychecks. Stressful, toxic work conditions that push you to your physical and mental limits. The fear that asking for better means risking your dream job. [...] Change will happen when you gain leverage by joining together in a strong union. And, it will happen when you use your collective voice to bargain for a fair share of the wealth you create every day. No matter where you work, bosses will only offer fair treatment when you stand together and demand it."

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Apple reportedly buys PullString, a voice assistant startup behind enterprise Alexa apps

9to5Mac - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 16:57

Apple has today agreed to buy a San Francisco-based startup Pullstring, according to Axios. The company focuses on designing and publishing voice apps. Such an acquisition could play an important role for Apple as it continues to work on improving Siri, which many believe is far behind the acquisition.

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GAO Gives Congress Go-ahead For a GDPR-like Privacy Legislation

Slashdot - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 16:32
An independent report authored by a US government auditing agency has recommended that Congress develop internet data privacy legislation to enhance consumer protections, similar to the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). From a report: The 56-page report [PDF] was put together by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), a bi-partisan government agency that provides auditing, evaluation, and investigative services for Congress. Its reports are used for hearings and drafting legislation. The House Energy and Commerce Committee, which requested the GAO report two years ago, has scheduled a hearing for February 26, during which it plans to discuss GAO's findings and the possibility in drafting the US' first federal-level internet privacy law. If the committee's members would be to follow GAO's conclusions, a GDPR-like legislation should be coming to the US.

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Economic Daily News: Updated AirPods in production with black color option, launching alongside AirPower in spring

9to5Mac - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 16:27

Chinese media outlet Economic Daily News is reporting that Inventec is already producing a new version of AirPods with a different exterior material for the earbuds and charging case, as well as a black color option.

The report indicates that they will go on sale in the spring alongside the AirPower wireless charging mat. EDN says the new AirPods are expected to boost Inventec’s first quarter earnings, as the publication has a supply chain focus.

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US Investigators Probing Years of WikiLeaks Activities, Report Says

Slashdot - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 15:55
WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange are the subject of a long-running criminal investigation in the U.S., Reuters reported on Friday, citing sources familiar with the matter. Investigators have dug into the website's activities going back years, people who have been in contact with witnesses in the case say. From the report: American investigators are gathering information and pursuing witnesses involved in both recent WikiLeaks disclosures and the website's large-scale postings of U.S. military and diplomatic messages over several years from 2010. Officially, U.S. authorities have issued no public comments about the status of Wikileaks-related investigations. But a document which U.S. authorities said was mistakenly filed in open court in an unrelated case last November alluded to a sealed U.S. criminal complaint against Assange, though the document does not provide specifics regarding which laws U.S. prosecutors believe Assange violated.

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