Facebook

Facebook Tests Removing Publishers From News Feed -- Unless They Pay (mashable.com) 57

According to a report via Mashable, Facebook is removing posts from Pages in the original News Feed and relegating them to another feed, forcing users to "pay to play" in order to have their content back in the News Feed. The setting is only available in Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Cambodia for now, but it could be rolled out to other countries later. From the report: The social network last week officially launched its secondary news feed called Explore. The feed generally features posts from Facebook Pages users don't follow. News Feed, meanwhile, hosts posts from friends and Pages users do follow. But that's not true for everyone. In six markets, Facebook has removed posts from Pages in the original News Feed and relegated them to another feed, Filip Struharik, editor and social media manager at Dennik N, wrote. That means Facebook's main feed is no longer a free playing field for publishers. Instead, it's a battlefield of "pay to play," where publishers have to pony up the dough to get back into the News Feed. It's a stark change from how media outlets have grown with Facebook. Publishers like BuzzFeed's Tasty and NowThis grew via distributing viral posts and videos on News Feed, as Ziad Ramley, former social lead at Al Jazeera English, wrote. While companies had to employ social media managers, they could generally rely on them sharing content without paying to boost it.
AI

Facebook Runs On AI - But 70% of Its Engineers Who Use AI Aren't Experts (wsj.com) 75

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a WSJ report: AI algorithms are inherently black boxes whose workings can be next to impossible to understand -- even by many Facebook engineers. "If you look at all the engineers at Facebook, more than one in four are users of our AI platform," says Mr. Candela. "But more than 70% [of those] aren't experts." How so many Facebook engineers can use its AI algorithms without necessarily knowing how to build them, Mr. Joaquin Candela, Facebook's head of applied machine learning says, is that the system is "a very modular layered cake where you can plug in at any level you want." He adds, "The power of this is just hard to describe." Pieces of that platform are performing all kinds of "domain-specific" tasks across Facebook's properties, from translation to speech recognition.
Transportation

Singapore To Stop Adding Cars to City From February 2018 (bloomberg.com) 84

An anonymous reader shares a report: Singapore, among the world's most expensive places to own a vehicle, will stop increasing the total number of cars on its roads next year. The government will cut the annual growth rate for cars and motorcycles to zero from 0.25 percent starting in February, the transport regulator said on Monday. "In view of land constraints and competing needs, there is limited scope for further expansion of the road network," the Land Transport Authority said in a statement on its website. Roads already account for 12 percent of the city-state's total land area, it said. Smaller than New York City, land in Singapore is a precious commodity and officials want to ensure the most productive use of the remaining space. Its infrastructure is among the world's most efficient and the government is investing $21 billion more on rail and bus transportation over the next five years, the regulator said.
AI

When an AI Tries Writing Slashdot Headlines (tumblr.com) 157

For Slashdot's 20th anniversary, "What could be geekier than celebrating with the help of an open-source neural network?" Neural network hobbyist Janelle Shane has already used machine learning to generate names for paint colors, guinea pigs, heavy metal bands, and even craft beers, she explains on her blog. "Slashdot sent me a list of all the headlines they've ever run, over 162,000 in all, and asked me to train a neural network to try to generate more." Could she distill 20 years of news -- all of humanity's greatest technological advancements -- down to a few quintessential words?

She trained it separately on the first decade of Slashdot headlines -- 1997 through 2007 -- as well as the second decade from 2008 to the present, and then re-ran the entire experiment using the whole collection of every headline from the last 20 years. Among the remarkable machine-generated headlines?
  • Microsoft To Develop Programming Law
  • More Pong Users for Kernel Project
  • New Company Revises Super-Things For Problems
  • Steve Jobs To Be Good

But that was just the beginning...


Education

Bill Gates Tries A(nother) Billion-Dollar Plan To Reform Education (washingtonpost.com) 265

theodp shared this article from the Washington Post: Bill Gates has a(nother) plan for K-12 public education. The others didn't go so well, but the man, if anything, is persistent. Gates announced Thursday that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation would spend more than $1.7 billion over the next five years to pay for new initiatives in public education, with all but 15 percent of it going to traditional public school districts and the rest to charter schools... He said most of the new money -- about 60 percent -- will be used to develop new curriculums and "networks of schools" that work together to identify local problems and solutions, using data to drive "continuous improvement." He said that over the next several years, about 30 such networks would be supported, though he didn't describe exactly what they are...

Though there wasn't a lot of detail on exactly how the money would be spent, Gates, a believer in using big data to solve problems, repeatedly said foundation grants given to schools as part of this new effort would be driven by data. "Each [school] network will be backed by a team of education experts skilled in continuous improvement, coaching and data collection and analysis," he said, an emphasis that is bound to worry critics already concerned about the amount of student data already collected and the way it is used for high-stakes decisions. In 2014, a $100 million student data collection project funded by the Gates foundation collapsed amid criticism that it couldn't adequately protect information collected on children.

"In his speech, Gates said that education philanthropy was difficult, in part because it is easy to 'fool yourself' about what works and whether it can be easily scaled," according to the article. It also argues that big spending on education by Gates and others "has raised questions about whether American democracy is well-served by wealthy people pouring so much money into pet education projects -- regardless of whether they are grounded in research -- that public policy and funding follow."

By 2011 the Gates' foundation had already spent $5 billion on education projects -- and admitted that "it hasn't led to significant improvements."
Social Networks

Silicon Valley 'Divided Society and Made Everyone Raging Mad', Argues Newsweek (newsweek.com) 288

"Anyone who is pissed off can now automatically find other people that are similarly pissed off," argues author Jamie Bartlett, in a new essay shared by Slashdot reader schwit1 which calls the internet "a bottomless well of available grievance." Here's an excerpt from Newsweek: Silicon Valley's utopians genuinely but mistakenly believe that more information and connection makes us more analytical and informed. But when faced with quinzigabytes of data, the human tendency is to simplify things. Information overload forces us to rely on simple algorithms to make sense of the overwhelming noise. This is why, just like the advertising industry that increasingly drives it, the internet is fundamentally an emotional medium that plays to our base instinct to reduce problems and take sides, whether like or don't like, my guy/not my guy, or simply good versus evil. It is no longer enough to disagree with someone, they must also be evil or stupid...

Nothing holds a tribe together like a dangerous enemy. That is the essence of identity politics gone bad: a universe of unbridgeable opinion between opposing tribes, whose differences are always highlighted, exaggerated, retweeted and shared. In the end, this leads us to ever more distinct and fragmented identities, all of us armed with solid data, righteous anger, a gutful of anger and a digital network of likeminded people. This is not total connectivity; it is total division.

Advertising

For Under $1,000, Mobile Ads Can Track Your Location (mashable.com) 51

"Researchers were able to use GPS data from an ad network to track a user to their actual location, and trace movements through town," writes phantomfive. Mashable reports: The idea is straightforward: Associate a series of ads with a specific individual as well as predetermined GPS coordinates. When those ads are served to a smartphone app, you know where that individual has been... It's a surprisingly simple technique, and the researchers say you can pull it off for "$1,000 or less." The relatively low cost means that digitally tracking a target in this manner isn't just for corporations, governments, or criminal enterprises. Rather, the stalker next door can have a go at it as well... Refusing to click on the popups isn't enough, as the person being surveilled doesn't need to do so for this to work -- simply being served the advertisements is all it takes.
It's "an industry-wide issue," according to the researchers, while Mashable labels it "digital surveillance, made available to any and all with money on hand, brought to the masses by your friendly neighborhood Silicon Valley disrupters."
Botnet

2 Million IoT Devices Enslaved By Fast-Growing BotNet (bleepingcomputer.com) 69

An anonymous reader writes: Since mid-September, a new IoT botnet has grown to massive proportions. Codenamed IoT_reaper, researchers estimate its current size at nearly two million infected devices. According to researchers, the botnet is mainly made up of IP-based security cameras, routers, network-attached storage (NAS) devices, network video recorders (NVRs), and digital video recorders (DVRs), primarily from vendors such as Netgear, D-Link, Linksys, GoAhead, JAWS, Vacron, AVTECH, MicroTik, TP-Link, and Synology.

The botnet reuses some Mirai source code, but it's unique in its own right. Unlike Mirai, which relied on scanning for devices with weak or default passwords, this botnet was put together using exploits for unpatched vulnerabilities. The botnet's author is still struggling to control his botnet, as researchers spotted over two million infected devices sitting in the botnet's C&C servers' queue, waiting to be processed. As of now, the botnet has not been used in live DDoS attacks, but the capability is in there.

Today is the one-year anniversary of the Dyn DDoS attack, the article points out, adding that "This week both the FBI and Europol warned about the dangers of leaving Internet of Things devices exposed online."
Facebook

Facebook Security Chief Says Its Corporate Network Is Run 'Like a College Campus' (zdnet.com) 83

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: Facebook's security chief has told employees that the social media giant needs to improve its internal security practices to be more akin to a defense contractor, according to a leaked recording obtained by ZDNet. Alex Stamos made the comments to employees at a late-July internal meeting where he argued that the company had not done enough to respond to the growing threats that the company faces, citing both technical challenges and cultural issues at the company. "The threats that we are facing have increased significantly and the quality of the adversaries that we are facing," he said. "Both technically and from a cultural perspective I don't feel like we have caught up with our responsibility. The way that I explain to [management] is that we have the threat profile of a Northrop Grumman or a Raytheon or another defense contractor, but we run our corporate network, for example, like a college campus, almost," he said.
China

Apple Watch's LTE Suspended In China Possibly Due To Government Security Concerns (appleinsider.com) 18

The Apple Watch Series 3's best new feature has been mysteriously blocked in China. According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, China has cut off the Apple Watch's LTE connectivity on Sept. 28 after brief availability from China Unicom. Industry analysts claim that the suspension is probably from governmental concerns about not being able to track and confirm users of the device. AppleInsider reports: Apple issued a brief statement confirming the situation, and referring customers to China Unicom. Neither China Unicom, nor Chinese regulators have made any statement on the matter. The issue may stem from the eSIM in the Apple Watch. Devices like the iPhone have state-owned telecom company-issued SIM cards -- and the eSIM is embedded in the device by Apple. "The eSIM (system) isn't mature enough yet in China," one analyst said. "The government still needs to figure out how they can control the eSIM." The LTE version of the Apple Watch had only a trial certificate to operate on the Chinese LTE network. An analyst who asked not to be identified expects that Ministry of Industry and Information Technology may take months to figure out how the government will deal with the eSIM, and issue a formal certificate for operation.
Earth

Turning the Optical Fiber Network Into a Giant Earthquake Sensor (ieee.org) 15

Tekla Perry writes: Researchers at Stanford have demonstrated that they can use ordinary, underground fiber optic cables to monitor for earthquakes, by using innate impurities in the fiber as virtual sensors. "People didn't believe this would work," said one of the researchers. "They always assumed that an uncoupled optical fiber would generate too much signal noise to be useful." They plan a larger test installation in 2018. Their biggest challenge, they say, will not be perfecting the algorithms but rather convincing telcos to allow the technology to piggyback on existing telecommunications lines. Meanwhile, the same data is being used for an art project that visualizes the activity of pedestrians, bicycles, cars, and fountains on the surface above the cables.
The Internet

Mozilla To Document Cross-Browser Web Dev Standards with Google, Microsoft, Samsung, and W3C (venturebeat.com) 44

Mozilla has announced deeper partnerships with Microsoft, Google, Samsung, and web standards body W3C to create cross-browser documentation on MDN Web Docs, a web development documentation portal created by Mozilla. From a report: MDN Web Docs first came to fruition in 2005, and it has since been known under various names, including the Mozilla Developer Network and Mozilla Developer Center. Today, MDN Web Docs serves as a community and library of sorts covering all things related to web technologies and standards, including JavaScript, HTML, CSS, open web app development, Firefox add-on development, and more. The web constitutes multiple players from across the technology spectrum and, of course, multiple browsers, including Microsoft's Edge, Google's Chrome, Mozilla's Firefox, and the Samsung Internet Browser. To avoid fragmentation and ensure end-users have a (fairly) consistent browsing experience, it helps if all the players involved adhere to a similar set of standards.
Chrome

Chrome 62 Released With OpenType Variable Fonts, HTTP Warnings In Incognito Mode (bleepingcomputer.com) 79

An anonymous reader writes: Earlier today, Google released version 62 of its Chrome browser that comes with quite a few new features but also fixes for 35 security issues. The most interesting new features are support for OpenType variable fonts, the Network Quality Estimator API, the ability to capture and stream DOM elements, and HTTP warnings for the browser's Normal and Incognito mode. The most interesting of the new features is variable fonts. Until now, web developers had to load multiple font families whenever they wanted variations on a font family. For example, if a developer was using the Open Sans font family on a site, if he wanted a font variation such as Regular, Bold, Black, Normal, Condensed, Expanded, Highlight, Slab, Heavy, Dashed, or another, he'd have to load a different font file for each. OpenType variable fonts allow font makers to merge all these font family variations in one file that developers can use on their site and control via CSS. This results in fewer files loaded on a website, saving bandwidth and improving page load times. Two other features that will interest mostly developers are the Network Quality Estimator and the Media Capture from DOM Elements APIs. As the name hints, the first grants developers access to network speed and performance metrics, information that some websites may use to adapt video streams, audio quality, or deliver low-fi versions of their sites. Developers can use the second API -- the Media Capture from DOM Elements -- to record videos of how page sections behave during interaction and stream the content over WebRTC. This latter API could be useful for developers debugging a page, but also support teams that want to see what's happening on the user's side.
Android

Android Oreo Helps Google's Pixel 2 Smartphones Outperform Other Android Flagships (hothardware.com) 86

MojoKid highlights Hot Hardware's review of Google's new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones: Google officially launched it's Pixel 2 phones today, taking the wraps off third-party reviews. Designed by Google but manufactured by HTC (Pixel 2) and LG (Pixel 2 XL), the two new handsets also boast Google's latest Android 8.0 operating system, aka Oreo, an exclusive to Google Pixel and certain Nexus devices currently. And in some ways, this is also a big advantage. Though they are based on the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor as many other Android devices, Google's new Pixel 2s manage to outpace similarly configured smartphones in certain benchmarks by significant margins (Basemark, PCMark and 3DMark). They also boot dramatically faster than any other Android handset on the market, in as little as 10 seconds. Camera performance is also excellent, with both the 5-inch Pixel 2 and 6-inch Pixel 2 XL sporting identical electronics, save for their displays and chassis sizes. Another notable feature built into Android Oreo is Google Now Playing, an always-listening, Shazam-like service (if you enable it) that displays song titles on the lock screen if it picks up on music playing in the room you're in. Processing is done right on the Pixel 2 and it doesn't need network connectivity. Another Pixel 2 Oreo-based trick is Google Lens, a machine vision system that Google notes "can recognize places like landmarks and buildings, artwork that you'd find in a museum, media covers such as books, movies, music albums, and video games..." The Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are available now on Verizon or unlocked via the Google Store starting at $649 and $849 respectively for 64GB storage versions, with a $100 up-charge for 128GB variants.
Intel

Intel Aims To Take on Nvidia With a Processor Specially Designed for AI (fastcompany.com) 43

An anonymous reader shares a report: In what looks like a repeat of its loss to Qualcomm on smartphones, Intel has lagged graphics chip (GPU) maker Nvidia in the artificial intelligence revolution. Today Intel announced that its first AI chip, the Nervana Neural Network Processor, will roll out of factories by year's end. Originally called Lake Crest, the chip gets its name from Nervana, a company Intel purchased in August 2016, taking on the CEO, Naveen Rao, as Intel's AI guru. Nervana is designed from the ground up for machine learning, Rao tells me. You can't play Call of Duty with it. Rao claims that ditching the GPU heritage made room for optimizations like super-fast data interconnections allowing a bunch of Nervanas to act together like one giant chip. They also do away with the caches that hold data the processor might need to work on next. "In neural networks... you know ahead of time where the data's coming from, what operation you're going to apply to that data, and where the output is going to," says Rao.
Security

Ask Slashdot: What Are Some Hard Truths IT Must Learn To Accept? (cio.com) 420

snydeq writes: "The rise of shadow IT, shortcomings in the cloud, security breaches -- IT leadership is all about navigating hurdles and deficiencies, and learning to adapt to inevitable setbacks," writes Dan Tynan in an article on six hard truths IT must learn to accept. "It can be hard to admit that you've lost control over how your organization deploys technology, or that your network is porous and your code poorly written. Or no matter how much bandwidth you've budgeted for, it never quite seems to be enough, and that despite its bright promise, the cloud isn't the best solution for everything." What are some hard truths your organization has been dealing with? Tynan writes about how the idea of engineering teams sticking a server in a closet and using it to run their own skunkworks has become more open; how an organization can't do everything in the cloud, contrasting the 40 percent of CIOs surveyed by Gartner six years ago who believed they'd be running most of their IT operations in the cloud by now; and how your organization should assume from the get-go that your environment has already been compromised and design a security plan around that. Can you think of any other hard truths IT must learn to accept?
Businesses

eBay Launches Authentication Service To Combat Counterfeit High-End Goods (venturebeat.com) 70

Ecommerce giant eBay has launched a previously announced service designed to combat the scourge of fake goods on the platform. From a report: eBay has proven popular with fake goods' sellers for some time, with fashion accessories and jewelry featuring highly on counterfeiters' agenda. The company announced eBay Authenticate way back in January with a broad focus on giving "high-end" goods an official stamp of approval prior to sale. Ultimately designed to encourage buyers to part with cash on expensive items, it uses a network of professional authenticators who take physical receipt of a seller's products, validates them, and then photographs, lists, and ships the goods to the successful buyer. For today's launch of eBay Authenticate, the service is only available for luxury handbags from 12 brands, including Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Valentino, though the program will be expanded to cover other luxury goods and brands from next year. "With tens-of-thousands of high-end handbags currently available, eBay is primed to boost customer confidence in selling and shopping for an amazing selection of designer merchandise," noted Laura Chambers, vice president of consumer selling at eBay. "We also believe our sellers will love this service, as it provides them with a white-glove service when selling luxury handbags."
Security

WPA2 Security Flaw Puts Almost Every Wi-Fi Device at Risk of Hijack, Eavesdropping (zdnet.com) 257

A security protocol at the heart of most modern Wi-Fi devices, including computers, phones, and routers, has been broken, putting almost every wireless-enabled device at risk of attack. From a report: The bug, known as "KRACK" for Key Reinstallation Attack, exposes a fundamental flaw in WPA2, a common protocol used in securing most modern wireless networks. Mathy Vanhoef, a computer security academic, who found the flaw, said the weakness lies in the protocol's four-way handshake, which securely allows new devices with a pre-shared password to join the network. That weakness can, at its worst, allow an attacker to decrypt network traffic from a WPA2-enabled device, hijack connections, and inject content into the traffic stream. In other words: hackers can eavesdrop on your network traffic. The bug represents a complete breakdown of the WPA2 protocol, for both personal and enterprise devices -- putting every supported device at risk. "If your device supports Wi-Fi, it is most likely affected," said Vanhoef, on his website. News of the vulnerability was later confirmed on Monday by US Homeland Security's cyber-emergency unit US-CERT, which about two months ago had confidentially warned vendors and experts of the bug, ZDNet has learned.
Bitcoin

Ransomware Sales On the Dark Web Spike 2,502% In 2017 (carbonblack.com) 23

Slashdot reader rmurph04 writes: Ransomware is a $6.2 million industry, based on sales generated from a network of more than 6,300 Dark Web marketplaces that sell over 45,000 products, according to a report released Wednesday by cybersecurity firm Carbon Black.
While the authors of the software are earning six-figure incomes, ransom payments totalled $1 billion in 2016, according to FBI estimates -- up from just $24 million in 2015. Carbon Black, which was founded by former U.S. government "offensive security hackers," argues that ransomware's growth has been aided by "the emergence of Bitcoin for ransom payment, and the anonymity network, Tor, to mask illicit activities.. Bitcoin allows money to be transferred in a way that makes it nearly impossible for law enforcement to 'follow the money.'"

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