Of Course Facebook Is Putting a Snapchat Clone Inside WhatsApp

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Karissa Bell, writing for Mashable: Facebook is about to start pushing its next Snapchat clone on a new set of 1 billion+ users. WhatsApp is now starting to roll out its own version of Stories with an update to its Status feature. Launching now in the Netherlands and France, the feature will eventually be live in all the countries where the messaging app is available. […] The update, which coincides with the chat app’s eighth birthday, makes WhatsApp the last of the major Facebook services to get the Snapchat treatment. (The company started with Instagram last year before adding Snapchat-like features to Messenger and the main Facebook app.) Journalist Casey Newton sums up the situation with this sarcastic tweet, “Honestly whatever you think of Evan Spiegel, it’s impressive that he’s taking Snap public while serving as Facebook’s chief product officer.”

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NASA Scientist Revive 10,000-Year-Old Microorganisms

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“Scientists have extracted long-dormant microbes from inside the famous giant crystals of the Naica mountain caves in Mexico — and revived them,” reports the BBC. An anonymous reader writes:
“The organisms were likely to have been encased in the striking shafts of gypsum at least 10,000 years ago, and possibly up to 50,000 years ago,” according to the BBC, which calls the strange lifeforms “another demonstration of the ability of life to adapt and cope in the most hostile of environments.” With no light, extremophile species must “chemosynthesise,” deriving all their energy by extracting minerals from rocks. These ancient microbes “are not very closely related to anything in the known genetic databases,” according to the new director of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute, who helped conduct the research, and believes that the microbes could help suggest what life might look like on other planets. The BBC adds that many other scientists “suspect that if life does exist elsewhere in the Solar System, it is most likely to be underground, chemosynthesising like the microbes of Naica.”

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ZDNet: Linux ‘Takes The World’ While Windows Dominates The Desktop

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ZDNet editor-in-chief Steve Ranger writes that desktop dominance is less important with today’s cloud-based apps running independent of operating system, arguing that the desktop is now “just one computing platform among many.” An anonymous reader quotes his report:
Linux on the desktop has about a 2% market share today and is viewed by many as complicated and obscure. Meanwhile, Windows sails on serenely, currently running on 90% of PCs in use… That’s probably OK because Linux won the smartphone war and is doing pretty well on the cloud and Internet of Things battlefields too.
There’s a four-in-five chance that there’s a Linux-powered smartphone in your pocket (Android is based on the Linux kernel) and plenty of IoT devices are Linux-powered too, even if you don’t necessarily notice it. Devices like the Raspberry Pi, running a vast array of different flavours of Linux, are creating an enthusiastic community of makers and giving startups a low-cost way to power new types of devices. Much of the public cloud is running on Linux in one form or another, too; even Microsoft has warmed up to open-source software.

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Linux Kernel 4.10 Officially Released With Virtual GPU Support

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“Linus Torvalds announced today the general availability of the Linux 4.10 kernel series, which add a great number of improvements, new security features, and support for the newest hardware components,” writes Softpedia. prisoninmate quotes their report:
Linux kernel 4.10 has been in development for the past seven weeks, during which it received a total of seven Release Candidate snapshots that implemented all the changes that you’ll soon be able to enjoy on your favorite Linux-based operating system… Prominent new features include virtual GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) support, new “perf c2c” tool that can be used for analysis of cacheline contention on NUMA systems, support for the L2/L3 caches of Intel processors (Intel Cache Allocation Technology), eBPF hooks for cgroups, hybrid block polling, and better writeback management. A new “perf sched timehist” feature has been added in Linux kernel 4.10 to provide detailed history of task scheduling, and there’s experimental writeback cache and FAILFAST support for MD RAID5… Ubuntu 17.04 (Zesty Zapus) could be the first stable OS to ship with Linux 4.10.
It required 13,000 commits, plus over 1,200 merges, Linus wrote in the announcement, adding “On the whole, 4.10 didn’t end up as small as it initially looked.”

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MAME Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary

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After years of work, a fan has finally completed a MAME version of Atari’s unreleased game Primal Rage II this week, one more example of the emulator preserving digital history.
Long-time Slashdot reader AmiMoJo quotes MAME.net:
Way back in 1997, Nicola Salmoria merged a few stand-alone arcade machine emulators into the first Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator. Could he have possibly imagined the significance of what he’d built? Over the past two decades, MAME has brought together over a thousand contributors to build a system that emulates more machines than any other program. But MAME is more than that: MAME represents the idea that our digital heritage is important and should be preserved for future generations. MAME strives to accurately represent original systems, allowing unmodified software to run as intended. Today, MAME documents over thirty thousand systems, and usably emulates over ten thousand. MAME meets the definitions of Open Source and Free Software, and works with Windows, macOS, Linux and BSD running on any CPU from x86-64 to ARM to IBM zSeries.
A 20th-anniversary blog post thanked MAME’s 1,600 contributors — more than triple the number after its 10th anniversary — and also thanks MAME’s uncredited contributors. “if you’ve filed a bug report, distributed binaries, run a community site, or just put in a good word for MAME, we appreciate it.”
I’ve seen MAME resurrect everything from a rare East German arcade game to a Sonic the Hedgehog popcorn machine. Anybody else have a favorite MAME experience to share?

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Genetically-Modified ‘Surrogate Hens’ Could Lay Eggs of Rare Chicken Breeds, Scientists Say

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In an effort to preserve rare varieties of chicken breeds and diversify the chicken gene pool, scientists at the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute have come up with a plan to breed genetically-modified chickens designed to act as surrogates that would be capable of laying eggs from any rare breed. Such rare breeds include the Nankin, Scots Dumpy and Sicilian Buttercup. The Guardian reports: The surrogacy technique, which places a new, mind-bending twist on the classic chicken or egg question, involves first genetically engineering hens to be sterile. This is done by deleting a gene, called DDX4, that is required for the development of primordial follicles (the precursors to eggs) meaning that the surrogate hens will never lay eggs that are biologically their own. The next step will be to transplant follicles from rare birds into the surrogate (this is done before the surrogate chick is hatched from its own egg), meaning it would go on to lay eggs belonging to entirely different breeds of chicken. Given that the hens would also need to be artificially inseminated with sperm from the same rare variety, the approach may appear unnecessarily convoluted. Why not just breed the rare birds the normal way? The scientists’ ultimate goal is to create a gene bank of chicken breeds preserved for posterity, and since primordial follicles can be frozen efficiently, while eggs cannot, the surrogacy technique serves an essential work-around. Mike McGrew, who is leading the project and is the first author on a paper on the work published this week in the journal Development, predicts that the surrogates will be able to lay eggs from any breed, including chicken’s wild predecessor, the red junglefowl, but he is doubtful about whether it will work efficiently across species — it is not likely that the surrogate hens will be giving birth to eagle chicks, for instance. Richard Broad, a field officer for the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, agreed that rare chickens could be a source of valuable genetic variation, potentially carrying variants that would provide resistance against new forms of avian flu. At present, the team is focused on chicken breeds, but expects the technique to work to preserve rare varieties of ducks, geese and quail.

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Juno Jupiter Probe Won’t Move Into Shorter Orbit After All

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NASA announced today that their Juno spacecraft will not move into a closer orbit around Jupiter as originally planned. “Juno slipped into a highly elliptical, 53-Earth-day-long orbit around Jupiter when it arrived at the giant planet on July 4, 2016,” reports Space.com. From their report: The probe was supposed to perform an engine burn in October to reduce its orbital period to 14 days, but an issue with two helium valves postponed that maneuver. The engine burn has now been canceled, meaning Juno will stay where it is through the end of its mission. “During a thorough review, we looked at multiple scenarios that would place Juno in a shorter-period orbit, but there was concern that another main engine burn could result in a less-than-desirable orbit,” Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. “The bottom line is, a burn represented a risk to completion of Juno’s science objectives.” But Juno should still be able to accomplish its mission goals in the longer orbit, NASA officials said. In fact, the 53-day path will allow the probe to perform some “bonus science” in the outer regions of Jupiter’s magnetosphere, they added.

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Bill Gates: The Robot That Takes Your Job Should Pay Taxes

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In a recent interview with Quartz, Bill Gates said he believes that governments should tax companies that use robots who are taking human jobs, as a way to at least temporarily slow the spread of automation and to fund other types of employment. The money gained from taxing robots could then be used to finance jobs taking care of elderly people or working with kids in schools — jobs which humans are particularly well suited for. Quartz reports: [Gates] argues that governments must oversee such programs rather than relying on businesses, in order to redirect the jobs to help people with lower incomes. The idea is not totally theoretical: EU lawmakers considered a proposal to tax robot owners to pay for training for workers who lose their jobs, though on Feb. 16 the legislators ultimately rejected it. “You ought to be willing to raise the tax level and even slow down the speed” of automation, Gates argues. That’s because the technology and business cases for replacing humans in a wide range of jobs are arriving simultaneously, and it’s important to be able to manage that displacement. “You cross the threshold of job replacement of certain activities all sort of at once,” Gates says, citing warehouse work and driving as some of the job categories that in the next 20 years will have robots doing them. You can watch Gates’ remarks in a video here, or read the transcript embedded in Quartz’ report.

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GM Plans To Build, Test Thousands of Self-Driving Bolts In 2018

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: General Motors Co plans to deploy thousands of self-driving electric cars in test fleets in partnership with ride-sharing affiliate Lyft Inc, beginning in 2018, two sources familiar with the automaker’s plans said this week. It is expected to be the largest such test of fully autonomous vehicles by any major automaker before 2020, when several companies have said they plan to begin building and deploying such vehicles in higher volumes. Most of the specially equipped versions of the Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle will be used by San Francisco-based Lyft, which will test them in its ride-sharing fleet in several states, one of the sources said. GM has no immediate plans to sell the Bolt AV to individual customers, according to the source. In a statement on Friday, GM said: “We do not provide specific details on potential future products or technology rollout plans. We have said that our AV technology will appear in an on-demand ride sharing network application sooner than you might think.”

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Mozilla Thunderbird Finally Makes Its Way Back Into Debian’s Repos

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prisoninmate quotes a report from Softpedia: A year ago, we told you that, after ten long years, the Debian Project finally found a way to switch their rebranded Iceweasel web browser back to Mozilla Firefox, both the ESR (Extended Support Release) and normal versions, but one question remained: what about the Mozilla Thunderbird email, news, and calendar client? Well, that question has an official answer today, as the Mozilla Thunderbird packages appear to have landed in the Debian repositories as a replacement for Icedove, the rebranded version that Debian Project was forced to use for more than ten years due to trademark issues. “Thunderbird is back in Debian! We also renamed other related packages to use official names, e.g. iceowl-extension -> lightning. For now, we need testers to catch existing issues and things we haven’t seen until now,” said Christoph Goehre in the mailing list announcement. You can find out how to migrate your Icedove profiles to Thunderbird via Softpedia’s report.

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Japan Unveils Next-Generation, Pascal-Based AI Supercomputer

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The Tokyo Institute of Technology has announced plans to launch Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer” this summer. The supercomputer is called Tsubame 3.0 and will use Nvidia’s latest Pascal-based Tesla P100 GPU accelerators to double its performance over its predecessor, the Tsubame 2.5. Slashdot reader kipperstem77 shares an excerpt from a report via The Next Platform: With all of those CPUs and GPUs, Tsubame 3.0 will have 12.15 petaflops of peak double precision performance, and is rated at 24.3 petaflops single precision and, importantly, is rated at 47.2 petaflops at the half precision that is important for neural networks employed in deep learning applications. When added to the existing Tsubame 2.5 machine and the experimental immersion-cooled Tsubame-KFC system, TiTech will have a total of 6,720 GPUs to bring to bear on workloads, adding up to a total of 64.3 aggregate petaflops at half precision. (This is interesting to us because that means Nvidia has worked with TiTech to get half precision working on Kepler GPUs, which did not formally support half precision.)

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System76 Refreshes Ubuntu Linux Laptops With Intel Kaby Lake, NVIDIA GTX 10 Series, and 4K

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Brian Fagioli, writing for BetaNews: System76 is refreshing three of its laptops with some high-end parts. The Oryx Pro, Serval WS, and Bonobo WS are now all equipped with 7th generation Intel Kaby Lake processors. In addition, all three can be had with 4K displays and NVIDIA GTX 10 series graphics too. While the Oryx Pro already had the option of 4K and GTX 10, it is the 7th gen Intel chips that are new to it. In fact, all of the company’s laptops now come with Kaby Lake standard. The computer seller throws some shade at Apple by saying, “The HiDPI displays that ship on the laptops have 3.1 million more pixels than Apple’s ‘Retina’ displays, enabling sharper text, 4K video, and higher res gaming. Beyond that, the displays give video and photo professionals the ability to work more easily with higher resolution multimedia.”

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Breakthrough in Alphabet’s Balloon-Based Internet Project Means It Might Actually Wor

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Loon, the balloon project that aims to deliver internet to parts of the world that lack reliable connectivity, announced this week that due to advancements in the machine learning software, it can now deploy fewer balloons to provide greater connectivity. From a report on Recode: The Loon balloon project is part of X, the experimental division of Alphabet, Google’s parent company. Now in its fourth year, the engineers at Loon say their new machine learning techniques significantly shorten their timeline for launching the project. Initially, engineers proposed that the Loon balloons would float around the globe and that they would have to find a way to keep the balloons a safe traveling distance apart and replace a balloon that drifted from an area that needed connectivity. Now, the team says they’ve found a way to keep the balloons in a much more concentrated location, thanks to their improved altitude control and navigation system. Loon says that balloons will now make small loops over a land mass, instead of circumnavigating the whole planet.

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99.6 Percent of New Smartphones Run Android or iOS

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The latest smartphone figures from Gartner show how much iOS and Android are dominating the smartphone market. According to the report, Android and iOS accounted for 99.6 percent of all smartphone sales in the fourth quarter of 2016. For comparison, this figure was 96.8 percent in the second quarter of 2015. The Verge reports: Of the 432 million smartphones sold in the last quarter, 352 million ran Android (81.7 percent) and 77 million ran iOS (17.9 percent), but what happened to the other players? Well, in the same quarter, Windows Phone managed to round up 0.3 percent of the market, while BlackBerry was reduced to a rounding error. The once-great firm sold just over 200,000 units, amounting to 0.0 percent market share. It’s worth noting that although, in retrospect, this state of affairs seems inescapable, for years analysts were predicting otherwise. Three years ago, Gartner said that Microsoft’s mobile OS would overtake iOS for market share in 2017, while BlackBerry would still be hanging around as sizable (if small) player.

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McDonald’s Hires Project Ara Design Team To Reinvent the Drinking Straw

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An anonymous reader writes: McDonald’s has hired the creators of Google’s Project Ara to reinvent the drinking straw. Their new invention, the “Suction Tube for Reverse Axial Withdrawal” (STRAW for short), is a J-shaped device that allows the user to drink both layers of the company’s dual-layer Chocolate Shamrock shake simultaneously, receiving an optimal mixture of chocolate and, um, shamrock. McDonald’s announced the new product at a Facebook live event yesterday, which included a keynote by McDonald’s Senior Director of Menu Innovation Darci Forrest, a Silicon-Valley-style panel moderated by Austin Evans, and interviews with engineers from NK Labs and JACE. Computational fluid dynamics simulations, 3D printing, and extensive real-world testing (drinking shakes) were required to get the design ready for its eventual unveiling. McDonald’s is producing a limited first run of 2000 of the straws for distribution at restaurants across the U.S. “My first reaction was, that doesn’t seem too hard. We could have a double straw — one longer, one shorter. No problem,” says Seth Newburg, principal engineer and managing partner at NK Labs, which teamed up with JACE Design on the STRAW. “Then we immediately thought, once you get halfway down, one straw is going to start sucking air… It’s one of those things that seems so simple, but as we got into it there were a lot more issues exposed. It turned out to present quite a few engineering and scientific challenges.” NK Labs and JACE Design were the two companies who also worked on Project Ara together, the Google initiative to build a phone with interchangeable modules for various components like cameras and batteries. Unfortunately, the plans for Project Ara were scrapped late last year.

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AT&T Is the Latest Carrier To Offer Unlimited Data For All Its Customers

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Earlier this week, Verizon announced it is bringing back unlimited data plans after years of selling capped data packages. Now, ATT will be doing the same. ATT will let any current or potential customer buy an unlimited data plan. Until now, only DirecTV customers were able to purchase unlimited data from the carrier. PhoneDog reports: ATT says that starting tomorrow, February 17, its Unlimited Plan will be available to all customers. The plan will include unlimited data, talk, and text, and customers with the plan will also be able to travel to Canada or Mexico and use their plan just as they would at home, with zero roaming charges. ATT’s Unlimited Plan also includes Stream Saver, which will optimize video streams to 480p. However, Stream Saver can be disabled if you’d like. One feature that’s missing from ATT’s Unlimited Plan is mobile hotspot usage, which is notable because the unlimited plans from the other three major U.S. carriers do include some mobile hotspot. Finally, it’s worth noting that after 22GB of usage, ATT Unlimited Plan customers may have their speeds slowed during times of network congestion. This policy is also in place at the other three major U.S. carriers, with Verizon’s threshold being 22GB, Sprint’s 23GB, and T-Mobile’s 26GB. A single line on the ATT Unlimited Plan will cost $100 per month. Each additional line will cost $40, but ATT will offer the fourth line free, making the cost for a family of four $180 per month.

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Google Fiber Sheds Workers As It Looks to a Wireless Future

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Mariella Moon, writing for Engadget: Alphabet is making some huge changes to steer Google Fiber in a new, more wireless direction. According to Wired, the corporation has reassigned hundreds of Fiber employees to other parts of the company and those who remained will mostly work in the field. It has also hired broadband veteran Greg McCray as the new CEO for Access, the division that runs Google Fiber. These changes don’t exactly come out of left field: back in October, Google announced that it’s pausing the high-speed internet’s expansion to new markets and that it’s firing nine percent of the service’s staff. Wired says running fiber optic cables into people’s homes has become too expensive for the company. A Recode report last year says it costs Mountain View $1 billion to bring Fiber to a new market.

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YouTube Has 1 Billion Videos With Closed-Captioning (But Not All of Them Are Accurate)

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Over a billion videos on YouTube are accessible to viewers with difficulties in hearing, thanks to the video giant’s automated captions, it said Thursday. From a report on Variety: That certainly sounds impressive — except when you realize that many of the site’s automatically generated captions aren’t completely right. The Google-owned video giant first launched captions back in 2006, and three years later introduced automatic speech recognition to add closed-captioning to YouTube content. Today, YouTube users watch video with auto-generated captions more than 15 million times per day. But the system is prone to errors. For example, the trailer for Amazon Studio’s Oscar-nominated “Manchester by the Sea” (at this link) includes numerous inaccuracies in the auto-transcribed captions, sometimes to hilarious — not to mention frustrating — effect.

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Valve ‘Comfortable’ If Virtual Reality Headsets Fail

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VR headset developer Valve is “comfortable” with the idea that the technology could turn out to be a complete failure. Gabe Newell, head of the game studio, made the statement in an interview with news site Polygon. From a report: Valve is co-developer of the Vive VR headset with phone firm HTC. Mr Newell said, so far, interest in the technology was in line with its expectations and that some VR games had already sold well. In the rare and wide-ranging interview, Mr Newell said the advent of VR had much in common with the development of PCs in the 1980s. In both cases, he said, people bought technology without knowing why and discovered afterwards what they were good for. For the PC, he said, it was spreadsheets and businesses that drove the initial success. With VR, people were only starting to discover compelling uses as they experimented and took risks with the technology.Mr Newell said there were now about 1,300 VR-based applications on its Steam gaming service and about 30 of those had made more than $250,000 in revenue.

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Apple Announces WWDC 2017, To Be Held in San Jose On June 5-9

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Apple said today it will kick off this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference on June 5. Much like every year, the developer conference is the place where we can expect to see what’s coming to iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS later this year. This year, the event is being held in a different venue: the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, the original home of WWDC. John Gruber, writing for DaringFireball: First, announcing early really helps people who have to travel long distances to attend, particularly those from outside the U.S. The San Jose Convention Center is the original home of WWDC — that’s where it was held from 1988 through 2002. (WWDC 2002 was the year Steve Jobs held a funeral for Mac OS 9 during the keynote.) San Jose is way closer to Apple headquarters. San Francisco is about an hour drive from 1 Infinite Loop. The San Jose Convention Center is only five minutes away from Apple’s new campus. Schiller emphasized to me that this is a big deal: more Apple employees from more teams will be present, simply because they won’t have to devote an entire day to being there. (This could be a particular boon to WWDC’s developer labs, where attendees can get precious face time with Apple’s engineers.)

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