Sony

Sony Blocks Yet Another Game From Cross-Console Play With Xbox One (arstechnica.com)

"Back in June, Sony told Eurogamer that the company did not have 'a profound philosophical stance' against letting PS4 users play games with those on other platforms," reports Ars Technica. "That said, the company's continued refusal to allow for cross-console play between PS4 and Xbox One players has become an absolute and unmistakable trend in recent months." The latest game to be denied by Sony for cross-console play is Ark: Survival Evolved, which comes out of a two-year early access period next week on Windows, Mac, PS4, and Xbox One. From the report: In a Twitter response posted over the weekend, Ark lead designer and programmer Jeremy Stieglitz said that cross-platform play between PS4 and Xbox One is "working internally, but currently Sony won't allow it." This isn't a huge surprise, considering that the developers of Rocket League, Minecraft, and Gwent have made similar statements in recent months. Since Microsoft very publicly opened Xbox Live to easy cross-platform play back in March, Sony has said that it's "happy to have a conversation" about the issue, but it has failed to follow through by allowing any linkage between the two competing consoles (cross-platform play between the PS4 and PC has been available in certain games since the PS4's launch, though).

The question continues to be why, exactly, Sony seems so reluctant to allow any games to work between its own PlayStation Network and Microsoft's Xbox Live. Speaking with Eurogamer in June, Sony's Jim Ryan suggested that, in the case of Minecraft, Sony was wary to expose that game's young players to "external influences we have no ability to manage or look after." Ryan also told Eurogamer that cross-platform decisions were "a commercial discussion between ourselves and other stakeholders." That suggests there may be some financial issues between the parties involved that are preventing cross-console play from moving forward. Perhaps Sony wants someone else to pay for the work required to get its network talking to Microsoft's? The bottom line, though, might be that Sony just doesn't want to partially give away its sizable advantage in console sales by letting Microsoft hook into that vast network of players.

Businesses

German Company Building An Electric 'Air Taxi' Makes Key Hires From Gett, Airbus and Tesla (techcrunch.com) 18

Lilium, the Germany company known for building an electric "air taxi," is announcing a number of key hires from notable companies in the transportation space. While the company is still in its early days, it is ambitiously striving to make flying cars a reality. Back in April, the company launched its first public (and successful) test flight in Germany. TechCrunch reports: [The key hires] are Dr Remo Gerber, former MD for Western Europe at Gett, who joins Lilium as Chief Commercial Officer; Dirk Gebser, who takes up the position of VP of Production and previously held manufacturing executive roles at Airbus and Rolls Royce; and Meggy Sailer, who joined Lilium as Head of Recruitment in February and was formerly Tesla's Head of Talent EMEA. In a call with Gerber, he told me he was "super happy" to be joining the German startup, noting that there are very few companies in Europe with the same level of ambition. "It is definitely the most fascinating job I could have ever imagined," he says, audibly excited. "I've done quite a few things in my time and I've seen quite a few companies but never anything even remotely like that." To add a little color, Gerber pointed out that his training is in physics ("a long time ago") and that his grandfather was a pilot in World War II, and his uncle also a pilot. This, and the first time he saw the Lilium jet fly, made the opportunity to join a startup building a new kind of air travel "irresistible."
Software

Slashdot Asks: What Are Your Favorite Android Oreo Features? (thehackernews.com) 112

Yesterday, Android O officially became Android Oreo and started rolling out to Pixel and Nexus devices. While there are many new features available in the new OS, we thought we'd ask you: what are your favorite Android Oreo features? The Hacker News highlights eleven of the new features "that make Android even better" in their report: 1. No More 'Install From Unknown Sources' Setting: Prior to Android Oreo, third-party app installation requires users to enable just one setting by turning on "Install from unknown sources" -- doesn't matter from where the user has downloaded an APK file, i.e. from a browser, Bluetooth, transferred from a computer via USB or downloaded using another app. Android 8.0 Oreo has completely changed the way this feature works, bringing a much smarter and safer system called "Install other apps," in which a user has to manually permit 3rd-party app installation from different sources.
2. Autofill API Framework: Android 8.0 Oreo brings a built-in secure AutoFill API that allows users-chosen password manager to store different types of sensitive data, such as passwords, credit card numbers, phone numbers, and addresses -- and works throughout the entire system.
3. Picture-in-Picture: With Android Oreo, you can view a YouTube video while reading through a report in Word or be chatting on WhatsApp on your Android device -- thanks to Picture-in-Picture (PIP) feature.
4. Google Play Protect: Play Protect helps in detecting and removing harmful applications with more than 50 billion apps scanned every day.
5. Wi-Fi Aware (Neighborhood Aware Networking -- NAN): Android Oreo has added support for a new connectivity feature called Wi-Fi Aware, also known as Neighborhood Aware Networking (NAN), which allows apps and devices to automatically find, connect to, and share data with each other directly without any internet access point or cellular data.
6. Android Instant Apps: With Android 8.0 Oreo, you can now access a range of Instant Apps without downloading them.
7. Battery-Saving Background Limits: Google has blocked apps from reacting to "implicit broadcasts" and carrying out certain tasks when they are running in the background in an effort to enhance the battery life of Android device. Besides this, Android Oreo will also limit some background services and location updates when an app is not in use.
8. AI-based Smart Text Selection: Android Oreo brings the 'Smart Text Selection' feature, which uses Google's machine learning to detect when something like physical addresses, email addresses, names or phone numbers is selected, then automatically suggests the relevant information on other apps.
9. Notification Dots (Limit notifications): Oreo introduces Notification Dots that offers you to manage each app individually with "fine-grained control," allowing you to control how many notifications you see and how they come through.
10. Find my Device: Google has introduced a new feature, called Find my Device, which is a similar feature to Apple's Find my iPhone and allows people to locate, lock and wipe their Android devices in the event when they go missing or get stolen.
11. New Emoji and Downloadable Fonts: Android Oreo introduces 60 new emoji and a redesign of the current "blob" characters. The update also offers new color support to app developers and the ability to change or animate the shape of icons in their apps.

Robotics

Autonomous Forklift May Eat Up Warehouse Jobs (technologyreview.com) 73

Jamie Condliffe reports via MIT Technology Review: Seegrid, a provider of material-handling equipment, takes the kinds of forklifts that move 8,000-pound loads around warehouses and makes them autonomous. It does that by popping five stereo cameras on top of the vehicles, having a human drive them around to map a space, and then using image recognition systems similar to those in autonomous cars to navigate the facilities. (Unlike autonomous cars that use sensors like radar and lidar, Seegrid can use just cameras, because lighting conditions in warehouses are more consistent than those on the open road.) But while it's easy enough to have a forklift move objects from one side of a factory to another, reliably loading and unloading them poses a bigger challenge. Other robots designed to haul loads like this tend to pick things up from below, rather than spearing pallets with forks. So autonomous forklifts usually require humans to be present during pickup and dropoff to make sure nothing goes wrong. Seegrid's new GP8 Series 6 forklift has been engineered to reverse its forks into pallets, pick them up, and set them down without a human in the loop.
The Almighty Buck

Medium Will Now Pay Writers Based On How Many 'Claps' They Get (theverge.com) 67

Medium is getting creative with how they're paying its writers. The San Francisco-based online publishing platform will determine how much an author is paid by how many claps a story receives. Claps are basically Medium's equivalent of a Like, and they recently replaced the "recommend" feature -- a little heart button at the end of each article. The Verge reports: The site wants people to send authors claps to show how much they enjoy reading each article. Now, those claps are actually going to mean something. Medium pays authors by dividing up every individual subscriber's fee between the different articles they've read that month. But rather than doing an even division between articles, Medium will weight payments toward whichever articles a subscriber gives the most claps to. It's not clear exactly how much each individual clap tips the scale, but you can be sure that writers will be asking readers to click that button. It's a pretty strange way to implement payments, since it relies on a really arbitrary metric that individual subscribers might use in really different and inconsistent ways. Time spent on page and whether someone shared an article probably would have been useful metrics by which to tell how much a reader enjoyed a piece, but maybe that makes too much sense for a startup in the middle of its second business model pivot. On the positive side, claps can help Medium surface content that people are enjoying and get it in front of more readers.
Android

Sony Loses Class Action Lawsuit In Waterproof Claims For Original Xperia Z Line (xda-developers.com) 15

Sony has lost a class action lawsuit for claiming its Xperia phones were "waterproof," when in reality they were only "water resistant." If you happen to own one of the original Xperia Z smartphones, you may be owed up to $300. XDA Developers reports: Arguably, one of the pioneers in the consumer sector for more "rugged" devices (or at the very least IP certification) has to be Sony. Back in 2012, they introduced the Xperia Z line of the devices, which marked a turning point for Sony in most of its philosophy as well as its design language. They completely overhauled the look and feel of the devices they had in favor of the glass slab that they offer even in today's phones and tablets. Despite its fragile appearance, most of their offerings were drop-tested and were able to withstand a substantial amount of mistreatment. On top of all that, the Sony Xperia Z was the first commercially available phone from Sony to me, marketed as "water resistant" with an IP56 rating for water and dust ingress (which isn't really much, but at least it would keep your phone going in spite of an accidental drop in the beach or in the pool). However, the phone was advertised in such a way that it it looked as if the device was waterproof and not water resistant (there is a big difference). This led to a lot of water-damaged devices, which Sony did nothing about and eventually, a class action lawsuit was filed (and won) against Sony.

According to the settlement, there were 24 models affected (ironically, the original Z is not listed as being one of them) starting from the ZR, which was a close cousin of the original Z and going all the way to the Xperia Z5, along with a few tablets as well. The settlement goes on to state that there are a few things that, if you were affected, you can opt for: Warranty extension for up to a year if the device is within warranty period; Warranty extension for up to 6 months if the device is no longer under warranty; Up to 50% of MSRP as refund for compensation if the device is listed among the ones on the Sony lawsuit. If you are going for the cash alternative, you do have a deadline to meet, which is January 30, 2018. Whichever course of action you do decide to take, please make sure that you understand the entire lawsuit document before doing anything!

Crime

Iowa Computer Programmer Gets 25 Years For Lottery Scam (desmoinesregister.com) 57

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Des Moines Register: Eddie Tipton, the Iowa brainpower behind a case of multi-state lottery fraud, will spend up to 25 years in prison for rigging "random" drawing jackpots. It's unknown how many years Tipton will actually spend in prison. He could be paroled within three or four years, his attorneys noted. Tipton, 54, was a longtime computer programmer in the Iowa offices of the Multi-State Lottery Association who installed software that allowed him to pick winning numbers in some of the nation's most popular lottery drawings. His scam began to unravel following unsuccessful attempts to anonymously collect a $16.5 million Hot Lotto ticket that was purchased at a Des Moines convenience store in 2010. "I certainly regret," Tipton said. "It's difficult even saying that. With all the people I know behind me that I hurt and I regret it. I'm sorry."
The Courts

Justice Department Walks Back Demand For Information On Anti-Trump Website (theverge.com) 73

After issuing a warrant to DreamHost for "all files" related to an anti-trump website, the Justice Department says it's scaling back a demand for information from hosting service DreamHost. The Verge reports: In a legal filing today, the Justice Department argues that the warrant was proper, but also says DreamHost has since brought up information that was previously "unknown." In light of that, it has offered to carve out information demanded in the warrant, specifically pledging to not request information like HTTP logs tied to IP addresses. The department says it is only looking for information related to criminal activity on the site, and says that "the government is focused on the use of the Website to organize, to plan, and to effect a criminal act -- that is, a riot." Peaceful protestors, the government argues, are not the targets of the warrant. The filing asks the court to proceed with the new, less burdensome request, which, apart from the carved-out sections, still requests "all records or other information, pertaining to the Account, including all files, databases, and database records stored by DreamHost in relation to that Account." It's unclear if DreamHost will continue to fight the new demand.
IBM

IBM To Trace Food Contamination With Blockchain (cnbc.com) 38

Thelasko shares a report from CNBC: IBM has been joined by a group of global food giants including the likes of Nestle, Unilever and Walmart in an effort to reduce food contamination by using blockchain. The corporation announced Tuesday that it would enable global food businesses to use its blockchain network to trace the source of contaminated produce. IBM said that the problem of consumer health suffering at the hands of toxic food could be solved using its distributed ledger technology, which maintains a digital record of transactions rather than a physical one. It would enable food suppliers to source information about the origin, condition and movement of food, and to trace contaminated produce in mere seconds.
Security

Fourth US Navy Collision This Year Raises Suspicion of Cyber-Attacks (thenextweb.com) 255

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Next Web: Early Monday morning a U.S. Navy Destroyer collided with a merchant vessel off the coast of Singapore. The U.S. Navy initially reported that 10 sailors were missing, and today found "some of the remains" in flooded compartments. While Americans mourn the loss of our brave warriors, top brass is looking for answers. Monday's crash involving the USS John McCain is the fourth in the area, and possibly the most difficult to understand. So far this year 17 U.S. sailors have died in the Pacific southeast due to seemingly accidental collisions with civilian vessels.

Should four collisions in the same geographical area be chalked up to coincidence? Could a military vessel be hacked? In essence, what if GPS spoofing or administrative lockout caused personnel to be unaware of any imminent danger or unable to respond? The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) says there's no reason to think it was a cyber-attack, but they're looking into it: "2 clarify Re: possibility of cyber intrusion or sabotage, no indications right now...but review will consider all possibilities," tweeted Adm. John Richardson. The obvious suspects -- if a sovereign nation is behind any alleged attacks -- would be Russia, China, and North Korea, all of whom have reasonable access to the location of all four incidents. It may be chilling to imagine such a bold risk, but it's not outlandish to think a government might be testing cyber-attack capabilities in the field.

Transportation

Austria, Carmakers Agree To Update Software of 600,000 Diesel Cars (reuters.com) 10

An anonymous reader shares a report: Austria's Transport Minister Joerg Leichtfried said on Tuesday he had agreed with carmakers to update the software of 600,000 diesel cars to reduce pollution following a similar deal struck in Germany after a large-scale emissions scandal. Leichtfried said the deal also included extra payments to buyers of more environmentally friendly cars. He said that for potential buyers of electric cars all available financial help could add up to around 10,000 euros ($11,750) per vehicle. The exact amount of incentives, which will come in addition to existing government sweeteners for e-car buyers, will be decided and paid by the carmakers depending on the model of the vehicle exchanged for an old car, the spokesman of Austrian car importers association Guenther Kerle said.
IOS

Popular Weather App AccuWeather Caught Sending User Location Data, Even When Location Sharing is Off (zdnet.com) 110

Zack Whittaker, reporting for ZDNet: Popular weather app AccuWeather has been caught sending geolocation data to a third-party data monetization firm, even when the user has switched off location sharing. AccuWeather is one of the most popular weather apps in Apple's app store, with a near perfect four-star rating and millions of downloads to its name. But what the app doesn't say is that it sends sensitive data to a firm designed to monetize user locations without users' explicit permission. Security researcher Will Strafach intercepted the traffic from an iPhone running the latest version of AccuWeather and its servers and found that even when the app didn't have permission to access the device's precise location, the app would send the Wi-Fi router name and its unique MAC address to the servers of data monetization firm Reveal Mobile every few hours. That data can be correlated with public data to reveal an approximate location of a user's device. We independently verified the findings, and were able to geolocate an AccuWeather-running iPhone in our New York office within just a few meters, using nothing more than the Wi-Fi router's MAC address and public data.
Data Storage

Ask Slashdot: What Are Some Cloud Backup Solutions That You Recommend? 198

New submitter OneHundredAndTen writes: After having used the services of CrashPlan for my backups for a few years now, I have just learned that CrashPlan is exiting the home backup business. Although this won't be happening for another 14 months, they have the chutzpah of recommending a provider (Carbonite) that does not support Linux. Looking in the net, there are not so many alternatives available -- unless you go with somebody that charges you $5/mo and up for a measly 100GB, or (occasionally) 1TB. Fine for a little phone, but not for the several TB worth of video I have shot over the years.

Anybody aware of decent cloud backup solutions that support Linux, and that offer a maximum backup capacity that is not ridiculously small?
Reader cornjones asks a similar question: My use case:
Backups for several computers, both at my house and scattered family machines
Encrypted locally by a key I set, only encrypted bits are stored offsite
I have a copy of my data onsite. I primarily want to protect against lost drives or fire (or ransomware attack)
Ideally, I would be able to point it at a NAS, which I don't have now.
The plan I was on was 10 computers, unlimited data, for 4 years @ $429. Lower is better, but I am willing to pay in that range.
Across my machines, I probably have about 1TB of bulk storage and 10 or so machines w/, say, 60GB backups each.
The Internet

Code42 Says Crashplan Backup Service Will Discontinue All Personal Backup Plans (crashplan.com) 115

Reader amxcoder writes: Code42, the company behind the popular Crashplan online backup service has announced that will be discontinuing all of its personal and family backup plan offerings to focus on business backup service plans only. In the letter sent to existing personal plan customers, it says that next year will be the cutoff date for personal plans and all existing personal plan holders will have to upgrade their subscriptions to more expensive business plans or leave for another provider after current subscription runs out. Crashplan personal and family services were one of the best (and most affordable) options available for online backup, providing features that other rivals do not, including backup options for cloud, external local drives, and to other friends/family member's drives (trusted offsite). Looking at Carbonite services (who Code42 is recommending existing personal subscribers switch to), does not offer many of the options and features in their backup software, including multiple backup sets, unlimited deleted file retention, the trusted offsite options and any type of 'family subscription' offerings. Here is a statement from the Code42 CEO Joe Payne.
Power

People Are Using Recycled Laptop Batteries To Power Their Homes (vice.com) 144

New submitter gooddogsgotoheaven writes: DIY Powerwall builders from around the world are harvesting old laptop batteries and turning them into powerful batteries capable of supplying energy to their entire homes. "It's the future. It's clean, simple, efficient and powerful," Jehu Garcia, one of the most popular powerwall builders, told me. He and people like him are deciding for themselves what the future of alternative energy will look like, instead of waiting for technology companies to shape it for them. "The end result is being able to rely on something I not only built myself but understand the ins and outs of to power some or all of my electricity in my home. That is inspiring," Joe Williams, another powerwall builder, told me.
Privacy

Sonos Says Users Must Accept New Privacy Policy Or Devices May Cease To Function (zdnet.com) 283

An anonymous reader writes: Sonos has confirmed that existing customers will not be given an option to opt out of its new privacy policy, leaving customers with sound systems that may eventually "cease to function". It comes as the home sound system maker prepares to begin collecting audio settings, error data, and other account data before the launch of its smart speaker integration in the near future. A spokesperson for the home sound system maker told ZDNet that, "if a customer chooses not to acknowledge the privacy statement, the customer will not be able to update the software on their Sonos system, and over time the functionality of the product will decrease. The customer can choose to acknowledge the policy, or can accept that over time their product may cease to function."
Bitcoin

Two-Factor Authentication Fail: Identity Thieves Hijack Cellphone Accounts to Go After Virtual Currency (nytimes.com) 72

Reader Cludge shares an NYT report: Hackers have discovered that one of the most central elements of online security -- the mobile phone number -- is also one of the easiest to steal. In a growing number of online attacks, hackers have been calling up Verizon, T-Mobile U.S., Sprint and AT&T and asking them to transfer control of a victim's phone number to a device under the control of the hackers. Once they get control of the phone number, they can reset the passwords on every account that uses the phone number as a security backup -- as services like Google, Twitter and Facebook suggest. "My iPad restarted, my phone restarted and my computer restarted, and that's when I got the cold sweat and was like, 'O.K., this is really serious,'" said Chris Burniske, a virtual currency investor who lost control of his phone number late last year. A wide array of people have complained about being successfully targeted by this sort of attack, including a Black Lives Matter activist and the chief technologist of the Federal Trade Commission. The commission's own data shows that the number of so-called phone hijackings has been rising. In January 2013, there were 1,038 such incidents reported; by January 2016, that number had increased to 2,658. But a particularly concentrated wave of attacks has hit those with the most obviously valuable online accounts: virtual currency fanatics like Mr. Burniske. Within minutes of getting control of Mr. Burniske's phone, his attackers had changed the password on his virtual currency wallet and drained the contents -- some $150,000 at today's values. Most victims of these attacks in the virtual currency community have not wanted to acknowledge it publicly for fear of provoking their adversaries. But in interviews, dozens of prominent people in the industry acknowledged that they had been victimized in recent months.
Verizon

Verizon To Start Throttling All Smartphone Videos To 480p or 720p (arstechnica.com) 181

Verizon Wireless will start throttling video streams to resolutions as low as 480p on smartphones this week. Most data plans will get 720p video on smartphones, but customers won't have any option to completely un-throttle video. From a report: 1080p will be the highest resolution provided on tablets, effectively ruling out 4K video on Verizon's mobile network. Anything identified as a video will not be given more than 10Mbps worth of bandwidth. This limit will affect mobile hotspot usage as well. Verizon started selling unlimited smartphone data plans in February of this year, and the carrier said at the time that it would deliver video to customers at the same resolution used by streaming video companies. "We deliver whatever the content provider gives us. We don't manipulate the data," Verizon told Ars in February. That changes beginning on Wednesday, both for existing customers and new ones. The changes were detailed today in an announcement of new unlimited data plans. Starting August 23, Verizon's cheapest single-line unlimited smartphone data plan will cost $75 a month, which is $5 less than it cost before. The plan will include only "DVD-quality streaming" of 480p on phones and 720p on tablets.The new Verizon cell phone plans can be compare side by side here, along with all of Verizon's existing plans.
Robotics

Bricklaying Robots and Exoskeletons Are the Future of the Construction Industry (vice.com) 212

David Silverberg reports via Motherboard: One of the most staid and digitally conservative industries is on the verge of a robotic makeover. The global construction space isn't known for ushering new tech into their workforce, but a painful labour shortage, calls for increased worker safety and more low-cost housing, and the need to catch up to other tech-savvy sectors is giving upstarts in robotics and exoskeletons their big moment. The construction industry isn't immune to this phenomenon, but robots and humans may increasingly work hand-in-hand in industrial sectors, according to Brian Turmail, senior executive director of public affairs at the Associated General Contractors of America. This is especially true when the construction industry en masse uses exoskeleton vests, which aim to assist workers with heavy loads and thus reduce their risk of injury.

The Hadrian X is a bricklaying robot courtesy Australia's Fastbrick Robotics, which uses its 30-meter metal arm to lay bricks at a rate of 1,000 bricks per hour, compared to a human worker's average of 1,000 a day. Due for release in late 2017, Hadrian X can read a 3D CAD model of the house and then it follows those instructions precisely, working day and night. New York-based Construction Robotics has also developed its take on a bricklaying robot. SAM can lay 3,000 bricks a day, and the company said it's about time this industry got a whiff of the change almost every other market has been seeing.

Facebook

Facebook Makes Safety Check a Permanent Feature (techcrunch.com) 104

Facebook announced today that its "Safety Check" feature will be permanent in its app and on the desktop. The feature lets you check to see whether friends and family are safe following a crisis. TechCrunch reports: The change comes following new terrorist attacks, including one in Barcelona, where a vehicle was driven into a crowd, as well as the attack in Charlottesville, here in the U.S. According to Facebook, the dedicated button is gradually rolling out to users starting today, and will complete over the upcoming weeks. That means you may not see the option right away, but likely will soon. When Safety Check is accessed by way of the new button, you'll be able to view a feed of disasters, updates from friends who marked themselves as safe and offers of help. An "around the world" section will display where Safety Check has been recently enabled, too.

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