Patents

Motorola Patents a Display That Can Heal Its Own Cracked Screen With Heat (theverge.com)

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: A patent published today explains how a phone could identify cracks on its touchscreen and then apply heat to the area in an effort to slightly repair the damage. The process relies on something called "shape memory polymer," a material that can apparently become deformed and then recovered through thermal cycling. Thermal cycling involves changing the temperature of the material rapidly. This material could be used over an LCD or LED display with a capacitive touch sensor layered in, as well. Although the phone could heat the polymer in order to restore it, a user's body heat can be used, too.
Facebook

Facebook Downranks Video Clickbait and Fake Play Buttons (techcrunch.com) 4

In a blog post, Facebook announced that it has started downranking the News Feed presence of links that display a fake play button in the preview image, as well as videos that are actually just a static image uploaded as a video file. While Facebook won't completely delete these posts unless they violate its other policies, it will be decreasing the distribution of these stories. TechCrunch reports: Facebook has prohibited the use of fake play buttons in advertisements under its policy against depicting non-existent functionality for a few years, News Feed Product Manager Greg Marra tells me. But the scourage has remained in the News Feed. Facebook says that if publishers want to denote there's a video behind a link, they should indicate that through Open Graph meta tags. They could also use words like "Watch" or "Video" in the headline or description. Meanwhile, Facebook's emphasis on video in News Feed has inspired the new menace of publishers uploading a static image as a video to get more eyeballs. These static image videos will be downranked too. Facebook is using a "motion scoring" system that detects movement inside a video to classify and demote these clips.
Encryption

Hacker Claims To Have Decrypted Apple's Secure Enclave Processor Firmware (iclarified.com) 26

According to iClarified, a hacker by name of "xerub" has posted the decryption key for Apple's Secure Enclave Processor (SEP) firmware. "The security coprocessor was introduced alongside the iPhone 5s and Touch ID," reports iClarified. "It performs secure services for the rest of the SOC and prevents the main processor from getting direct access to sensitive data. It runs its own operating system (SEPOS) which includes a kernel, drivers, services, and applications." From the report: The Secure Enclave is responsible for processing fingerprint data from the Touch ID sensor, determining if there is a match against registered fingerprints, and then enabling access or purchases on behalf of the user. Communication between the processor and the Touch ID sensor takes place over a serial peripheral interface bus. The processor forwards the data to the Secure Enclave but can't read it. It's encrypted and authenticated with a session key that is negotiated using the device's shared key that is provisioned for the Touch ID sensor and the Secure Enclave. The session key exchange uses AES key wrapping with both sides providing a random key that establishes the session key and uses AES-CCM transport encryption. Today, xerub announced the decryption key "is fully grown." You can use img4lib to decrypt the firmware and xerub's SEP firmware split tool to process. Decryption of the SEP Firmware will make it easier for hackers and security researchers to comb through the SEP for vulnerabilities.
AT&T

Judge Dismisses AT&T's Attempt To Stall Google Fiber Construction In Louisville (arstechnica.com) 34

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: AT&T has lost a court case in which it tried to stall construction by Google Fiber in Louisville, Kentucky. AT&T sued the local government in Louisville and Jefferson County in February 2016 to stop a One Touch Make Ready Ordinance designed to give Google Fiber and other new ISPs quicker access to utility poles. But yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge David Hale dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice, saying AT&T's claims that the ordinance is invalid are false. "We are currently reviewing the decision and our next steps," AT&T said when contacted by Ars today. One Touch Make Ready rules let ISPs make all of the necessary wire adjustments on utility poles themselves instead of having to wait for other providers like AT&T to send work crews to move their own wires. Without One Touch Make Ready rules, the pole attachment process can cause delays of months before new ISPs can install service to homes. Google Fiber has continued construction in Louisville despite the lawsuit and staff cuts that affected deployments in other cities.
Science

Dilution of Whisky -- the Molecular Perspective (nature.com) 33

From a new published paper in Scientific Report by Bjorn C. G. Karlsson and Ran Friedman: Despite the growing knowledge of the nature of water-alcohol mixtures on a molecular level, much less is known on the interaction of water, alcohol and small solutes. In particular, the nature of the interaction between the solvent and taste-carrying molecules, such as guaiacol, is not known. To address this gap, we used MD simulations to study the distribution of guaiacol in water-alcohol mixtures of different concentrations. Our simulations revealed that guaiacol is present at the air-liquid interface at ethanol concentrations that correspond to the alcohol content of bottled or diluted whiskies. Because the drink is consumed at the interface first, our findings help to understand why adding water to whisky helps to enhance its taste. A molecular understanding of the nature of taste compounds in water-alcohol mixtures allows for optimizing the taste of alcoholic spirits. [...] Overall, there is a fine balance between diluting the whisky to taste and diluting the whisky to waste.
Patents

We Print 50 Trillion Pages a Year, and Xerox Is Betting That Continues (fortune.com) 38

An anonymous reader shares a report: For most of its 111-year history, Xerox has been known as one of the tech industry's most innovative companies. Now the legendary copier company is reinventing itself. In January, Xerox made the bold decision to split itself into two, spinning off its business services operations into a separate company called Conduent. And Jeffrey Jacobson, a Xerox tech executive, was tapped as Xerox's new CEO. Speaking with Fortune's Susie Gharib, Jacobson says Xerox is still "one of the top patent producing companies in the world" and he's counting on that scientific expertise to pivot the company to be a leader in digital print technology. "If I look at the things we're looking at with the Internet of things, artificial intelligence and bridging the digital and physical," he says, "that's what I think we'll be known for."
Education

Chatbot Helps Students Choose Courses (bbc.com) 15

An anonymous reader shares a report: Leeds Beckett University has launched a chatbot to help prospective students find the right course. It follows the publication of A-level results in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Using Facebook Messenger's chatbot technology, students would be able to "assess their suitability" for different courses, the university said. But if they would prefer to speak to a human, "phone lines will continue to be open throughout the clearing process." The university's head of digital experience and engagement, Dougal Scaife, said: "We know that our prospective students already use lots of messaging software for communicating with their friends, such as Snapchat, WhatsApp, as well as texting, so developing a chatbot was a natural evolution in order to engage with our prospective students in a medium that is ubiquitous, familiar, and comfortable for them."
Transportation

Unpatchable 'Flaw' Affects Most of Today's Modern Cars (bleepingcomputer.com) 133

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: A flaw buried deep in the hearts of all modern cars allows an attacker with local or even remote access to a vehicle to shut down various components, including safety systems such as airbags, brakes, parking sensors, and others. The vulnerability affects the CAN (Controller Area Network) protocol that's deployed in modern cars and used to manage communications between a vehicle's internal components. The flaw was discovered by a collaborative effort of Politecnico di Milano, Linklayer Labs, and Trend Micro's Forward-looking Threat Research (FTR) team. Researchers say this flaw is not a vulnerability in the classic meaning of the word. This is because the flaw is more of a CAN standard design choice that makes it unpatchable.
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Is Forking. Again. (vice.com) 79

Merely weeks after it was announced that Bitcoin was splitting into two separate entities, the initial version of bitcoin and it's new "bitcoin cash," the network is adding a third version, according to a report. From the article: On Wednesday, a group of bitcoiners scheduled yet another split for the network in November, which would create a third version of bitcoin. So, what makes this version different from the others? Right now, the bitcoin network can sometimes take a long time to process transactions due to so many people using it. This is because the "blocks" of transaction data that get added to bitcoin's public ledger, the blockchain, are getting full. In the weeks preceding the fork, bitcoin coalesced around a solution called "segregated witness," which will change how data is stored in blocks to free up some space when it kicks in later in August. But the size of the blocks themselves will stay at one megabyte on the original bitcoin blockchain. Still, some bitcoiners maintained that the only way to speed bitcoin up for the foreseeable future was to increase the size of blocks themselves. So, a group of bitcoin companies and developers got together and launched a fork called bitcoin cash, which does not include segregated witness. It bumped the size of blocks up to a maximum of eight megabytes. That fork was widely anticipated to be a failure before it happened, but at the time of writing, bitcoin cash is trading above $300 USD per coin, which is comparable to cryptocurrencies like ethereum. Sounds like everyone got what they wanted, right? Oh, no. There's a third group of bitcoin developers, companies, and users who advocate for a "best of both worlds approach." This group includes Bitmain, the largest bitcoin infrastructure company in the world, and legendary bitcoin developer Jeff Garzik. They got together back in May and signed what is known as the "New York Agreement," which bound them to implement a two megabyte block size increase alongside segregated witness via a hard fork within six months of the time of signing. They call the fork Segwit2x. Now, that's exactly what's happening. According to an announcement posted to the Segwit2x GitHub repository, a bitcoin block between one and two megabytes will be created at block 494,784.
Desktops (Apple)

In Defense of the Popular Framework Electron (dev.to) 83

Electron, a popular framework that allows developers to write code once and seamlessly deploy it across multiple platforms, has been a topic of conversation lately among developers and users alike. Many have criticised Electron-powered apps to be "too memory intensive." A developer, who admittedly uses a high-end computer, shares his perspective: I can speak for myself when I say Electron runs like a dream. On a typical day, I'll have about three Atom windows open, a multi-team Slack up and running, as well as actively using and debugging my own Electron-based app Standard Notes. [...] So, how does it feel to run this bloat train of death every day? Well, it feels like nothing. I don't notice it. My laptop doesn't get hot. I don't hear the fan. I experience no lags in any application. [...] But aside from how it makes end-users feel, there is an arguably more important perspective to be had: how it makes software companies feel. For context, the project I work in is an open-source cross-platform notes app that's available on most platforms, including web, Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android. All the desktop applications are based off the main web codebase, and are bundled using Electron, while the iOS and Android app use their own native codebases respectively, one in Swift and the other in Kotlin. And as a new company without a lot of resources, this setup has just barely allowed us to enter the marketplace. Three codebases is two too many codebases to maintain. Every time we make a change, we have to make it in three different places, violating the most sacred tenet of computer science of keeping it DRY. As a one-person team deploying on all these platforms, even the most minor change will take at minimum three development days, one for each codebase. This includes debugging, fixing, testing, bundling, deploying, and distributing every single codebase. This is by no means an easy task.
The Almighty Buck

A 2:15 Alarm, 2 Trains and a Bus Get Her To Work by 7 AM (nytimes.com) 430

From a report on The New York Times: Sheila James starts her Monday, and the workweek, at 2:15 a.m. This might be normal for a baker or a morning radio host, but Ms. James is a standard American office worker. She is 62 and makes $81,000 a year as a public health adviser for the United States Department of Health and Human Services in San Francisco. Her early start comes because San Francisco is one of the country's most expensive metropolitan areas. Ms. James lives about 80 miles away in Stockton, which has cheaper homes but requires her to commute on two trains and a bus, leaving at 4 a.m. Plenty of office workers get up at 5 a.m. or a bit before, but 2:15 is highly unusual. "Two-fifteen is early enough that some people are still having their evening," she said on a (very) early morning. But she likes to take her time and have coffee. She keeps the lights low and the house quiet and Zen-like. "I just can't rush like that," she said. When the second alarm goes off at 3:45 -- a reminder to leave for the train in 15 minutes -- her morning shifts from leisure to precision. It is a seven-minute drive to the station, where she catches the Altamont Corridor Express train.
Transportation

New MH370 Analysis Again Suggests Plane Came Down Outside Search Area (theregister.co.uk) 64

An anonymous reader shares a report: New analysis of images thought to depict wreckage from missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH 370 suggest the Boeing 777 came down to the north of the area searched during efforts to find the plane. A new document [PDF] released yesterday by Geoscience Australia (GA) detailed analysis of four images captured by the PLEIADES 1A Earth-imaging satellite on March 23rd, 2014, not long after the March 8th disappearance of the plane. The images were provided to GA by the French Ministry of Defence. The images depict an area to the north and east of the area searched by underwater survey, and in-between areas where search and rescue operations were conducted in the wake of the plane's disappearance. The image displays the areas covered by underwater survey in yellow and the search and rescue zones in red. Extensive manual analysis of the images -- there was not enough data to use machine learning -- yielded a dozen objects that researchers were happy to classify as "probably not natural." Several of those objects were clustered in the northern parts of the areas depicted in the photos. The document is at pains to point out that it is not possible to identify the objects as airplane debris. The new analysis referred back to drift pattern analysis made on debris known to have come from MH370 and released in December 2016. That analysis suggested the search area be extended by 25,000km2. More detailed drift analysis released in April 2017 also called for a new search to the north, as did a July talk by scientists from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.
China

China Cracks Down on VPN Vendors (bbc.com) 34

An anonymous reader shares a BBC report: China's latest crackdown on those attempting to skirt state censorship controls has seen it warn e-commerce platforms over the sale of illegal virtual private networks (VPNs). Five websites, including shopping giant Alibaba, have been asked to remove vendors that sell VPNs. It is the latest in a series of measures from the Chinese government to maintain strict control over content. Apple has previously been asked to remove VPN apps. China's cyber-regulator the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has ordered the websites to carry out immediate "self-examination and correction." "The CAC has ordered these five sites to immediately carry out a comprehensive clean-up of harmful information, close corresponding illegal account.. and submit a rectification report by a deadline," the regulator said in a statement.
Bitcoin

Australia Joins China and Japan in Trying To Regulate Digital Currency Exchanges (cnbc.com) 50

Following moves by China and Japan to regulate digital currencies, Australia is attempting to crackdown on money laundering and terrorism financing with plans to regulate bitcoin exchanges. From a report: "The threat of serious financial crime is constantly evolving, as new technologies emerge and criminals seek to nefariously exploit them. These measures ensure there is nowhere for criminals to hide," said Australia's Minister for Justice Michael Keenan in a press release. The Australian government proposed a set of reforms on Thursday which will close a gap in regulation and bring digital currency exchange providers under the remit of the Australian Transactions and Reporting Analysis Centre. These exchanges serve as marketplaces where traders can buy and sell digital currencies, such as bitcoin, using fiat currencies, such as the dollar. The reform bill is intended to strengthen the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act and increase the powers of AUSTRAC.
Social Networks

Thai Activist Jailed For the Crime of Sharing an Article on Facebook (eff.org) 94

An anonymous reader shares a report: Thai activist Jatuphat "Pai" Boonpattaraksa was sentenced this week to two and a half years in prison -- for the crime of sharing a BBC article on Facebook. The Thai-language article profiled Thailand's new king and, while thousands of users shared it, only Jutaphat was found to violate Thailand's strict lese majeste laws against insulting, defaming, or threatening the monarchy. The sentence comes after Jatuphat has already spent eight months in detention without bail. During this time, Jatuphat has fought additional charges for violating the Thai military junta's ban on political gatherings and for other activism with Dao Din, an anti-coup group. While in trial in military court, Jatuphat also accepted the Gwangzu Prize for Human Rights. When he was arrested last December, Jatuphat was the first person to be charged with lese majeste since the former King Bhumibol passed away and his son Vajiralongkorn took the throne. (He was not, however, the first to receive a sentence -- this past June saw one of the harshest rulings to date, with one man waiting over a year in jail to be sentenced to 35 years for Facebook posts critical of the royal family.) The conviction, which appears to have singled Jatuphat out among thousands of other Facebook users who shared the article, sends a strong message to other activists and netizens: overbroad laws like lese majeste can and will be used to target those who oppose military rule in Thailand.
Businesses

Ericsson Is Planning To Cut 25,000 Jobs in Brutal Response To Crisis, Report Says (businessinsider.com) 92

An anonymous reader shares a report: Multinational telecom operator Ericsson -- which carries 40% of the world's mobile traffic on its networks and is Sweden's second largest company by revenue -- reported another disappointing quarter last month. As response, the troubled company's new CEO Borje Ekholm announced costs cuts of 10 billion SEK ($1,25 bn) per year. He did not say how many jobs were at stake. Now insider sources have provided details to Svenska Dagbladet (SvD), indicating that Ericsson's restructuring will be more brutal than expected. The Swedish newspaper reports that there are advanced plans to cut Ericsson's operations by 80-90 percent in some markets, and centralize several European markets. However, the 14,000 employee-strong Swedish work force is to stay intact -- at least all R&D engineers. "Right now, Ericsson is hiring engineers to repair the damage that earlier saving packages caused. It's crucial that most of all the Swedish R&D department remains somewhat protected. They are the ones who will come up with the new solutions that will drive sales in the long term," said a person with insight into the process. According to internal sources, up to 25,000 people may be affected by the restructuring program. The Swedish company currently employs 109,000 people across 110 offices around the world.
Power

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Batteries Are Being Recalled For Overheating Risk (theverge.com) 67

According to The Verge, over 10,000 batteries for the Galaxy Note 4 are being recalled for risk of overheating that could lead to burns or fires. Given last year's Note 7 fiasco, this recall sure doesn't sound good. It is, however, far more limited than the Note 7 recall and doesn't appear to be Samsung's fault. The Verge reports: Only phones refurbished through AT&T's insurance program and handled by FedEx Supply Chain are impacted by the recall. Some of the refurbished phones apparently ended up with "counterfeit" batteries that include anomalies that could make them overheat. Fortunately, the Note 4 has a replaceable battery, so this recall isn't as big of a deal. Owners can just buy a new battery to use in their phone until the recall is taken care of. FedEx is currently sending out replacement batteries as well as boxes for returning the recalled phones. "FedEx Supply Chain is conducting this recall of non-genuine Samsung batteries as some of them are counterfeit," the spokesperson said. "The refurbishment program was managed by FedEx Supply Chain and operated independently of Samsung. Any affected owners should contact FedEx Supply Chain at 1-800-338-0163 or go online at www.exchangemybattery.com for more information." There's only been one report of a phone overheating and no damage to people or property because of it.
Google

Google Lunar X-Prize Extends Deadline Through March 2018 (space.com) 28

schwit1 writes: The Google Lunar X-Prize has announced that it has extended its contest deadline from the end of 2017 to the end of March 2018 for the finalists to complete their lunar rover mission and win the grand prize of $30 million. They also announced several additional consolation prizes that all of the remaining five contestants can win should they achieve lunar orbit ($1.75 million) or successfully achieve a soft landing ($3 million), even if they are not the first to do it. At least one team, Moon Express, will be helped enormously by the extra three months. This gives Rocket Lab just a little extra time to test its rocket before launching Moon Express's rover to the Moon.
Television

Netflix Plans To Spend $7 Billion On Content In 2018 (streamingobserver.com) 84

According to the Streaming Observer, Netflix plans to increase its budget by $1 billion dollars over the next year and spend over $7 billion on content in 2018. Previously, the company paid $6 billion in 2017 and $5 billion in 2016. From the report: While the internet freaks out about Disney ending its streaming agreement with Netflix, the company continues to forge ahead signing high-profile talent and throwing an enormous budget at its original programming. Just days after the Disney turmoil, Netflix's visionary Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos stated that the streaming leader plans to increase its budget by $1 billion dollars over the next year. As of now, Netflix currently has $15.7 billion in outstanding obligations in deals for new series and films over the next few years. With such an astronomically-large budget, media analysts are already beginning to wonder if Netflix is "rescuing" or "ruining" Hollywood by creating such a singular creator-producer-distributor model. Sarandos counters those claims, however, stating that Netflix is merely on the forefront of what's already a growing trend throughout the media industries: "I would say that the relationship between studios and networks has always been that of a frenemy. Everyone is doing some version of it already. They just have to make a decision for their companies, their brands and their shareholders on how to best optimize the content. We started making original content five years ago, betting this would happen."
United Kingdom

Deadly Drug-Resistant Fungus Sparks Outbreaks In UK (arstechnica.com) 136

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: More than 200 patients in more than 55 UK hospitals were discovered by healthcare workers to be infected or colonized by the multi-drug resistant fungus Candida auris, a globally emerging yeast pathogen that has experts nervous. Three of the hospitals experienced large outbreaks, which as of Monday were all declared officially over by health authorities there. No deaths have been reported since the fungus was first detected in the country in 2013, but 27 affected patients have developed blood infections, which can be life-threatening. And about a quarter of the more than 200 cases were clinical infections. Officials in the UK aimed to assuage fear of the fungus and assure patients that hospitals were safe. "Our enhanced surveillance shows a low risk to patients in healthcare settings. Most cases detected have not shown symptoms or developed an infection as a result of the fungus," Dr Colin Brown, of Public Health England's national infection service, told the BBC.

Yet, public health experts are uneasy about the rapid emergence and level of drug resistance the pathogen is showing. In a surveillance update in July, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that C. auris "presents a serious global health threat." It was first identified in the ear of a patient in Japan in 2009. Since then, it has spread swiftly, showing up in more than a dozen countries, including the U.S., according to the CDC. So far, health officials have reported around 100 infections in nine U.S. states and more than 100 other cases where the fungus was detected but wasn't causing an infection.

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