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Australia

Bricked iPhones With 'Error 53' Just Cost Apple $6.7 Million in Australia (betanews.com) 10

Apple has been hit with an AUS $9 million ($6.7 million) fine for misleading customers in Australia. More than two years ago Apple started to "brick" iPhones that had been fixed at non-authorized third-party repairers, generating an Error 53. From a report: Apple admitted to intentionally preventing certain repaired iPhones and iPads from working for security reasons, but later apologized and issued a fix. However, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) sued Apple for "misleading or deceptive conduct," and now an Australian court has hit the iPhone-maker with a multi-million dollar fine.
Businesses

BitTorrent is Selling For $140M To Justin Sun and Tron (techcrunch.com) 20

BitTorrent, an early mover (and currently the largest player) in decentralised computing architecture to distribute and store data, is being sold for $140 million in cash to Justin Sun and his blockchain media startup Tron, TechCrunch has learned. From a report: Variety yesterday reported that a sale of the company to Sun closed last week, without naming a price, following rumors that circulated for at least a month that the two were in negotiations. Shareholders have now been sent the paperwork to sign off on the deal, and that has detailed the $140 million price. Some are, we understand, still disputing the terms, as more than one person claims to have made the introduction between Sun and BitTorrent. A source says it's unlikely that the disputes will actually kill the acquisition, given how long BitTorrent has been looking for a buyer. BitTorrent most recently said it has about 170 million users of its products.
Communications

Verizon To End Location Data Sales To Brokers (apnews.com) 17

Verizon is pledging to stop sales through intermediaries of data that pinpoints the location of mobile phones to outside companies, the Associated Press reported Tuesday. From the report: It is the first major U.S. wireless carrier to step back from a business practice that has drawn criticism for endangering privacy. The data has allowed outsiders to track wireless devices without their owners' knowledge or consent. Verizon, the nation's largest mobile carrier measured by subscribers, said that about 75 companies have obtained its customer data from two little-known California-based brokers that it supplies directly -- LocationSmart and Zumigo. The company made its disclosure in a letter to Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who has been probing the phone location-tracking market. Last month, Wyden revealed abuses in the lucrative but loosely regulated field involving Securus Technologies and its affiliate 3C Interactive. Verizon says their contract was approved only for the location tracking of outside mobile phones called by prison inmates. After a thorough review of its program, Verizon notified LocationSmart and Zumigo, both privately held, that it intends to "terminate their ability to access and use our customers' location data as soon as possible," wrote Verizon's chief privacy officer, Karen Zacharia.
United States

McDonald's To Test Plastic-Straw Alternatives in US Later This Year (usatoday.com) 158

Under pressure by environmentalists, McDonald's has announced that it will start testing alternatives to plastic straws at select locations in the U.S. later this year. From a report: The burger giant also announced that it will adopt more eco-friendly paper straws across all its 1,361 restaurants in the United Kingdom and Ireland, a region where the company started testing the alternative to plastic straws earlier this year. The regional rollout begins in September. Single-use straws are the scourge of the packaging-waste world because they don't easily biodegrade and aren't really necessary for most people when it comes to gulping a soft drink. The activist group SumOfUs estimates that every day, McDonald's alone dispenses millions of plastic straws that customers soon discard, leaving them to litter beaches or clog waterways and fill trash dumps.
Businesses

Elon Musk Emails Employees About 'Extensive and Damaging Sabotage' By Employee (cnbc.com) 363

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Tesla CEO Elon Musk sent an email to all employees on Monday morning about a factory fire, and seemed to reference possible sabotage. Now, CNBC has learned that Musk also sent an e-mail to all employees at Tesla late on Sunday night alleging that he has discovered a saboteur in the company's ranks. Musk said this person had conducted "quite extensive and damaging sabotage" to the company's operations, including by changing code to an internal product and exporting data to outsiders. In the email, Musk said "the investigation will continue in depth this week" to "figure out if [the saboteur] was acting alone or with others at Tesla and if he was working with any outside organizations [that want Tesla to disappear]." You can read the full email via CNBC's report.
Government

Senate Votes To Reinstate ZTE Ban That's Nearly Shut Down the Company (theverge.com) 119

The U.S. Senate has voted to reinstate a ban on ZTE that prevents the Chinese telecom company from buying U.S. components and using U.S. software. As The Verge notes, "it's still not clear if the reversal will make it into law: it has to clear a conference with the House, and then avoid a veto from President Trump, who advocated for cutting a deal that would lift the ban." From the report: ZTE was hit with the trade ban by the U.S. Commerce Department in April after failing to following through with a punishment for violating sanctions on Iran and North Korea. That ban essentially shut down ZTE, which relies on U.S. parts like Qualcomm processors. Shortly thereafter, Trump said he would cut a deal to revive the company, and a deal was reached -- with additional penalties that the department said were uniquely stringent -- earlier this month.

But senators on both sides of the aisle immediately threatened to stop the deal and reinstate the ban, citing ZTE as a national security risk. And ultimately, a bipartisan group worked to get legislation introduced. The Senate voted 85 to 10 in support of reinstating the ban. It was included as an amendment on the National Defense Authorization Act, a must-pass piece of legislation that has already moved through the House.

The Almighty Buck

Google To Invest $550 Million In Chinese E-Commerce Giant JD.com (yahoo.com) 28

hackingbear shares a report from Yahoo News: Google will invest $550 million in Chinese e-commerce powerhouse JD.com, part of the U.S. internet giant's efforts to expand its presence in fast-growing Asian markets and battle rivals including Amazon.com. The two companies described the investment announced on Monday as one piece of a broader partnership that will include the promotion of JD.com products on Google's shopping service. This could help JD.com expand beyond its base in China and Southeast Asia and establish a meaningful presence in U.S. and European markets. For JD.com, the Google deal shows its determination to build a set of global alliances as it seeks to counter Alibaba, which has been more focused on forging domestic retail tie-ups.
Security

The 'World's Worst' Smart Padlock Is Even Worse Than Previously Thought (sophos.com) 130

Last week, cybersecurity company PenTest Partners managed to unlock TappLock's smart padlock within two seconds. They "found that the actual code and digital authentication methods for the lock were basically nonexistent," reports The Verge. "All someone would need to unlock the lock is its Bluetooth Low Energy MAC address, which the lock itself broadcasts." The company also managed to snap the lock with a pair of 12-inch bolt cutters.

Today, Naked Security reports that it gets much worse: "Tapplock's cloud-based administration tools were as vulnerable as the lock, as Greek security researcher Vangelis Stykas found out very rapidly." From the report: Stykas found that once you'd logged into one Tapplock account, you were effectively authenticated to access anyone else's Tapplock account, as long as you knew their account ID. You could easily sniff out account IDs because Tapplock was too lazy to use HTTPS (secure web connections) for connections back to home base -- but you didn't really need to bother, because account IDs were apparently just incremental IDs anyway, like house numbers on most streets. As a result, Stykas could not only add himself as an authorized user to anyone else's lock, but also read out personal information from that person's account, including the last location (if known) where the Tapplock was opened.

Incredibly, Tapplock's back-end system would not only let him open other people's locks using the official app, but also tell him where to find the locks he could now open! Of course, this gave him an unlocking speed advantage over Pen Test Partners -- by using the official app Stykas needed just 0.8 seconds to open a lock, instead of the sluggish two seconds needed by the lock-cracking app.

Transportation

Google Maps Removes Uber Integration (arstechnica.com) 37

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Back in January 2017, Google and Uber teamed up to put a cool feature in Google Maps: You could search for, book, and pay for an Uber all directly from Google Maps. You didn't even need the Uber app installed. Now, 18 months later, the feature is dead. Google posted a new support page (first spotted by Android Police) that flatly states, "You can no longer book Uber rides directly in Google Maps."

The feature would have you search for a location in Google Maps and ask for directions like normal, but instead of choosing walking, driving, biking, or mass transit directions, a tab for ride-sharing would allow you to book a ride directly. The ride-sharing tab still exists, but instead of booking an Uber, it just gives you an estimate and offers to kick you out to the Uber app.

Stats

Gaming Companies Remove Analytics App After Massive User Outcry (bleepingcomputer.com) 202

An anonymous reader writes: "Several gaming companies have announced plans to remove support for an analytics app they have bundled with their games," reports Bleeping Computer. "The decision to remove the app came after several Reddit and Steam users noticed that many game publishers have recently embedded a controversial analytics SDK (software development kit) part of recent updates to their games. The program bundled with all these games, and at the heart of all the recent controversy, is RedShell, an analytics package provided by Innervate, Inc., to game publishers."

The app is intended to collect information about the source of new game installs, and details about the gamer. Following a massive user outcry in the past two weeks, several game makers have given in to pressure and are removing this SDK. Game makers and games who announced they were removing RedShell include Bethesda (Elder Scrolls), All Total War games, Warhammer games, Magic the Gathering Arena, and more. [This Google Docs spreadsheet and Reddit thread have a list of games containing RedShell.]

Google

Diversity At Google Hasn't Changed Much Over the Last Year (cnet.com) 423

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: Not much changed at Google over the last year when it came to the diversity of the tech giant's workforce. Google released its annual diversity report on Thursday detailing the composition of its workforce. The percentage of female employees rose by .1 percent to 30.9 percent. The percentage of Asian employees grew by 1.6 percent to 36.3 percent. The number of black and Latino employees grew by .1 percent to 2.5 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively.

"Google's workforce data demonstrates that if we want a better outcome, we need to evolve our approach," said Danielle Brown, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Google, in the report. "That's why from now on ownership for diversity and inclusion will be shared between Google's leadership team, People Operations and Googlers. Our strategy doesn't provide all the answers, but we believe it will help us find them."

PlayStation (Games)

Sony's PlayStation 5 Will Launch In 2020 Powered By An AMD Navi GPU, Says Report (theinquirer.net) 92

According to a new report from WCCFtech, citing "sources familiar with the entire situation," Sony's PlayStation 5 (PS5 for short) will launch in 2020 and be powered by AMD's Navi GPU chip. "While it was previously reported that the much-anticipated console will be using AMD's Ryzen CPU tech, it looks like the chip maker will have some involvement in the PS5's graphics chip, too," reports The Inquirer. From the report: The report also suggests this is the reason behind AMD not announcing a new GPU at Computex this year, because it has found custom-applications for consoles a much more financially attractive space. "Here is a fun fact: Vega was designed primarily for Apple and Navi is being designed for Sony - the PS5 to be precise," the report states, right before going on to explain AMD's roadmap for Navi and how it's dependent on Sony.

"This meant that the graphics department had to be tied directly to the roadmap that these semi-custom applications followed. Since Sony needed the Navi GPU to be ready by the time the PS5 would launch (expectedly around 2020) that is the deadline they needed to work on."
It's anyone's guess as to when the successor to the PlayStation 4 will be launched. While the source for this report is seen as reputable in the games industry, last month the head of PlayStation business said the next console is three years off.
Businesses

Studies Find Evidence That Meditation Is Demotivating (nytimes.com) 160

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report written by behavioral scientists Kathleen D. Vohs and Andrew C. Hafenbrack: The practical payoff of mindfulness [meditation] is backed by dozens of studies linking it to job satisfaction, rational thinking and emotional resilience. But on the face of it, mindfulness might seem counterproductive in a workplace setting. To test this hunch, we recently conducted five studies, involving hundreds of people, to see whether there was a tension between mindfulness and motivation. As we report in a forthcoming article in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, we found strong evidence that meditation is demotivating.

Some of the participants in our studies were trained in a few of the most common mindfulness meditation techniques. They were instructed by a professional meditation coach to focus on their breathing or mentally scan their bodies for physical sensations, being gently reminded throughout that there was no right or wrong way to do the exercise. Other participants were led through a different exercise. Some were encouraged to let their thoughts wander; some were instructed to read the news or write about recent activities they had done. Then we gave everyone a task to do. Among those who had meditated, motivation levels were lower on average. Those people didn't feel as much like working on the assignments, nor did they want to spend as much time or effort to complete them. Meditation was correlated with reduced thoughts about the future and greater feelings of calm and serenity -- states seemingly not conducive to wanting to tackle a work project.
The studies also found that meditation "neither benefited nor detracted from a participant's quality of work." Furthermore, Vohs and Hafenbrack found that a financial bonus for outstanding performance did not overcome the demotivating effect of mindfulness. "While the promise of material rewards will always be a useful tool for motivating employees, it is no substitute for internal motivation," the report reads.
Idle

'The Word Hack is Meaningless and Should Be Retired' (thenextweb.com) 155

An anonymous reader quotes The Next Web: The word 'hack' used to mean something, and hackers were known for their technical brilliance and creativity. Now, literally anything is a hack -- anything -- to the point where the term is meaningless, and should be retired. The most egregious abuse of the term "hack" comes from the BBC's Dougal Shaw. In a recent video of his, called "My lunch hack," Shaw demonstrates that it's cheaper to make your own sandwich each day than it is to buy a pre-packaged sandwich from the supermarket. Shaw calls that a hack. I call it common sense.

And that's not nearly the worst example. I haven't touched on "life hacks" yet. This term is nebulous. It means nothing and anything. It's used to describe arts and crafts... That said, the worst dilution of the term "hack" comes from growth hackers... Anyway, I regret to inform you that the word "hack" is now bad, and should be avoided.

A request for alternative words first went up on Slashdot back in 1999 -- but nothing's been settled. Back in 2014 a Gizmodo reporter wrote an impassioned plea titled "Please stop calling everything a hack" -- while others have argued the opposite.

in 2015 the editorial director of Make magazine cited hack's definition in The New Hacker's Dictionary as "an appropriate application of ingenuity," arguing that "my and other Make contributors' use of the term for clever shop techniques, ingeniously simple projects, and epic 'kluges' (i.e. Rube Goldberg-level hacks and fixes) is entirely appropriate."
Businesses

Samsung Plans To Use 100% Renewable Energy by 2020 (fortune.com) 60

Samsung said this week it plans to transition to entirely renewable energy in its offices, factories, and operational facilities in the United States, China, and Europe by 2020. From a report: The company has also joined the World Wildlife Fund's Renewable Energy Buyers' Principles and the Rocky Mountain Institute's Business Renewables Center. In its home in Korea, Samsung plans to install 42,000 meters of solar panels at its headquarters, and will continue to add approximately 21,000 meters of solar arrays and geothermal power generation facilities beginning in 2019 at its satellite campuses in Pyeongtaek and Hwaseong.
AT&T

Time Warner Deal Aftermath: AT&T Is About To Give Free TV To Its Wireless Customers (cnbc.com) 51

AT&T completed its $85 billion purchase of Time Warner yesterday and we're already starting to see some exclusive deals offered to its customers. CNBC reports that the company "will be launching a 'very, very skinny bundle' of television programming free to its mobile customers." From the report: "We will be launching, and you're going to hear more about this next week, a product called 'AT&T Watch TV,'" Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said on CNBC's "Squawk Box." "It will be the Turner content. It will not have sports. It'll be entertainment-centered." AT&T's unlimited wireless customers will get the service for free, Stephenson said, "or you can buy it for $15 a month on any platform." The service will be ad-supported, and AT&T will be ramping up an advertising platform, he said. He added that the company expects in coming weeks to make smaller acquisitions to enable those ad efforts. CNBC is also reporting that Time Warner is changing its name to WarnerMedia, and Turner Broadcasting CEO John Martin is departing the company.
Businesses

Verizon's New Phone Plan Proves It Has No Idea What 'Unlimited' Actually Means (gizmodo.com) 170

Verizon has unveiled its third "unlimited" smartphone plan that goes to show just how meaningless the term has become in the U.S. wireless industry. "In addition to its Go Unlimited and Beyond Unlimited plans, Verizon is now adding a premium Above Unlimited plan to the mix, which offers 75GB of 'unlimited' data per month (as opposed to the 22GB of 'unlimited' data you get on less expensive plans), along with 20GB of 'unlimited' data when using your phone as a hotspot, 500GB of Verizon cloud storage, and five monthly international Travel Passes, which are daily vouchers that let you use your phone's wireless service abroad the same as if you were in the U.S.," reports Gizmodo. Are you confused yet? From the report: And as if that wasn't bad enough, Verizon has also updated its convoluted sliding pricing scheme that adjusts based on how many phones are on a single bill. For families with four lines of service, the Above Unlimited cost $60 per person, but if you're a single user the same service costs $95, which really seems like bullshit because if everything is supposed to be unlimited, it shouldn't really make a difference how many people are on the same bill. As a small concession to flexibility, Verizon says families with multiple lines can now mix and match plans instead of having to choose a single plan for every line, which should allow families to choose the right service for an individual person's needs and help keep costs down. The new Above Unlimited plan and the company's mix-and-match feature arrives next week on June 18th.
Privacy

Some Prominent Tech Companies Are Paying Big Money To Kill a California Privacy Initiative (theverge.com) 82

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: As data-sharing scandals continue to mount, a new proposal in California offers a potential solution: the California Consumer Privacy Act would require companies to disclose the types of information they collect, like data used to target ads, and allow the public to opt out of having their information sold. Now, some of tech's most prominent companies are pouring millions of dollars into an effort to to kill the proposal.

In recent weeks, Amazon, Microsoft, and Uber have all made substantial contributions to a group campaigning against the initiative, according to state disclosure records. The $195,000 contributions from Amazon and Microsoft, as well as $50,000 from Uber, are only the latest: Facebook, Google, AT&T, and Verizon have each contributed $200,000 to block the measure, while other telecom and advertising groups have also poured money into the opposition group. After Mark Zuckerberg was grilled on privacy during congressional hearings, Facebook said it would no longer support the group. Google did not back down, and the more recent contributions suggest other companies will continue fighting the measure.

Businesses

The Most Remote Island in the World is Home to Seals, Seabirds, and an Internet Top-Level Domain (ieee.org) 90

An anonymous reader shares a report: Bouvet Island has little to offer. The most remote island in the world is fewer than 20 square miles in size, and it's almost entirely covered by a glacier. Long ago, it was an active volcano, but those fiery days have long since passed. Now, it's home to hundreds of thousands of seabirds, a Norwegian research station, and its own top-level internet domain.

Top-level domains serve as part of the Internet's architecture. Aside from generic domains like .com and .edu, every country has a specific two-letter domain assigned to it. The United Kingdom, for example, uses .uk; Japan uses .jp. The United States has .us, though it's not widely used. The original idea was that each country could manage the websites registered by individuals and organizations within its borders by issuing them websites that use their country-specific domain.

But here's the weird thing about Bouvet Island having its own top-level domain: It's uninhabited. It's always been uninhabited. Located in the southern Atlantic, the closest land to Bouvet Island is the coast of Antarctica, 1,100 miles to the south. The closest inhabited land is the island Tristan da Cunha, a British overseas territory located 1,400 miles to the north (Interestingly enough, Tristan da Cunha does not have its own top-level domain).

The Internet

South Africans in Cape Town and Johannesburg Pay Much More For Internet Usage Than New Yorkers (qz.com) 63

South Africa may have some of the world's cheapest cities to live in, but using the internet in Cape Town and Johannesburg is surprisingly expensive by global standards. From a report: South Africans living in the country's two major cities spend more on their monthly internet costs than people living in New York, Tokyo, and even the perennially expensive Zurich, according to a report by Deutsche Bank. When comparing life in the global financial capitals, most other things, from rent to the cost of a cappuccino, were far cheaper in Johannesburg and Cape Town, making the cost of getting online even more of a shock to the pocket. Out of 50 cities surveyed, Joburgers spent the second most on monthly internet, beaten only by oil-rich Dubai. The amount shelled out by Capetonians ranked seventh behind Dublin, San Francisco, and Auckland and Wellington in New Zealand, according to the report, which compared daily prices and living standards of cities around the world.

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