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Security

Ambient Light Sensors Can Be Used To Steal Browser Data (bleepingcomputer.com) 37

An anonymous reader writes: "Over the past decade, ambient light sensors have become quite common in smartphones, tablets, and laptops, where they are used to detect the level of surrounding light and automatically adjust a screen's intensity to optimize battery consumption... and other stuff," reports Bleeping Computer. "The sensors have become so prevalent, that the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has developed a special API that allows websites (through a browser) to interact with a device's ambient light sensors. Browsers such as Chrome and Firefox have already shipped versions of this API with their products." According to two privacy and security experts, Lukasz Olejnik and Artur Janc, malicious web pages can launch attacks using this new API and collect data on users, such as URLs they visited in the past and extract QR codes displayed on the screen. This is possible because the light coming from the screen is picked up by these sensors. Mitigating such attacks is quite easy, as it only requires browser makers and the W3C to adjust the default frequency at which the sensors report their readings. Furthermore, the researcher also recommends that browser makers quantize the result by limiting the precision of the sensor output to only a few values in a preset range. The two researchers filed bug reports with both Chrome and Firefox in the hopes their recommendations will be followed.
Power

Scientists Invent Ultrasonic Dryer That Uses Sound To Dry Your Clothes (yahoo.com) 435

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Yahoo: Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have developed a dryer that could make doing laundry much quicker. Called the ultrasonic dryer, it's expected to be up to five times more energy efficient than most conventional dryers and able dry a large load of clothes in about half the time. Instead of using heat the way most dryers do, the ultrasonic dryer relies on high-frequency vibrations. Devices called green transducers convert electricity into vibrations, shaking the water from clothes. The scientists say that this method will allow a medium load of laundry to dry in 20 minutes, which is significantly less time than the average 50 minutes it takes in many heat-based machines. The drying technology also leaves less lint behind than normal dryers do, since the majority of lint is created when the hot air stream blows tiny fibers off of clothing. Drying clothes without heat also reduces the chance that their colors will fade. While the ultrasonic dryer has been in development for the past couple of years, the U.S. Department of Energy explains in a published video that it has recently been "developed into a full-scale press dryer and clothes dryer drum -- setting the stage for it to one day go to market through partners like General Electric Appliances."
Google

Google Earth Gets a New Home On the Web (arstechnica.com) 46

To celebrate the Earth Day, Google says it is rolling out what was a two-year in the making major update to Google Earth. From a report: V9 is designed to run in a Web browser (just Chrome for now), but there's now a standalone home for Google Earth. The Android app has been updated, too (iOS is coming soon). Version 9 puts a big focus on guided tours via the "Voyager" section, which serves as a jumping off point for YouTube videos, 360-degree content, Street View, and Google Earth landmarks. The tours are led by scientists and documentarians, with some content produced by well-known groups like the BBC's Planet Earth team. For kids, there's a Sesame Street muppet section.
Software

New Approach To Virtual Reality Shocks You Into Believing Walls Are Real (vice.com) 59

A team of researchers from Germany's Hasso-Plattner Institute is trying to find an effective way to trick the mind into thinking a virtual object or wall is real. They have developed a new device that "sends little electric shocks to sensors on your arms that stimulate your muscles whenever you press against a wall or try to lift a heavy object in virtual reality," reports Motherboard. From the report: The team's main goal was to create this illusion as cheaply as possible. Their contraption, seen in the video above, consists of little more than an electric muscle stimulator stuffed in a backpack, the sensors, and a Samsung GearVR device accompanied by motion trackers. In other words, if you've been turned off by the clunky headsets of the contemporary VR experience, this probably won't do much to win you over.
China

Chinese Warehouse Cut Labor Costs In Half With a Fleet of Tiny Robots (qz.com) 127

Many people around the world fear their job will eventually be replaced by a machine, including many Slashdotters. But workers in China may be the most fearful as Asia produces more robots than the rest of the world combined. Last week, a Chinese shipping company, called Shentong Express, showed off a mildly-dystopian automated warehouse that reportedly cut its labor costs in half using a fleet of tiny robots, according to the South China Morning Post. Quartz reports: In a video, tiny orange robots made by Hikvision ferry packages around an eastern China warehouse, taking each parcel from a human worker, driving under a scanner, and then dumping the package down a specific chute for it to be shipped. The human's main job in the video appears to be picking up packages and placing them label-up on top of the robot, a task modern robotics is only just starting to put into warehouse production. A spokesperson told the Post that Shentong is using the robot in two of its warehouses, and hopes to expand use to the rest of the country.
Movies

Hollywood Is Losing the Battle Against Online Trolls (hollywoodreporter.com) 478

An anonymous reader shares a Hollywood Reporter article: It had taken years -- and the passionate support of Kirk Kerkorian, who financed the film's $100 million budget without expecting to ever make a profit -- for The Promise, a historical romance set against the backdrop of the Armenian genocide and starring Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac, to reach the screen. Producers always knew it would be controversial: Descendants of the 1.5 million Armenians killed by the Ottoman Empire shortly after the onset of World War I have long pressed for the episode to be recognized as a genocide despite the Turkish government's insistence the deaths were not a premeditated extermination. Before the critics in attendance even had the chance to exit Roy Thompson Hall, let alone write their reviews, The Promise's IMDb page was flooded with tens of thousands of one-star ratings. "All I know is that we were in about a 900-seat house with a real ovation at the end, and then you see almost 100,000 people who claim the movie isn't any good," says Medavoy. Panicked calls were placed to IMDb, but there was nothing the site could do. "One thing that they can track is where the votes come from," says Eric Esrailian, who also produced the film, and "the vast majority of people voting were not from Canada. So I know they weren't in Toronto." The online campaign against The Promise appears to have originated on sites like Incisozluk, a Turkish version of 4chan, where there were calls for users to "downvote" the film's ratings on IMDb and YouTube. A rough translation of one post: "Guys, Hollywood is filming a big movie about the so-called Armenian genocide and the trailer has already been watched 700k times. We need to do something urgently." Soon afterward, the user gleefully noted The Promise's average IMDb rating had reached a dismaying 1.8 stars. "They know that the IMDb rating will stay with the film forever," says Esrailian. "It's a kind of censorship, really."
Displays

Religion Meets Virtual Reality: Christianity-Themed VR Demo Scheduled For Easter (nbcnews.com) 90

"Anyone looking to experience God in a brand new way will soon have his or her chance -- virtually," writes NBC News, reporting on "a new immersive faith-based virtual reality experience...part of a larger project created by L. Michelle Media called Mission VR." An anonymous reader writes: The company was founded "to create a signature virtual reality environment -- a faith world of sorts -- where dynamic, never before seen, Christian lifestyle stories and experiences could have a home." Demos have been timed to coincide with this weekend's Easter celebration, while the official launch happens later this spring. Viewers will apparently experience biographical stories combining VR applications and YouTube videos to showcase the power of belief. "Up until now, we've only been able to watch Christianity from a third person perspective -- preached sermons, music videos, interviews, even reality shows..." says the founder of Mission VR. "This is the future of Christian programming."
But one reverend told NBC that VR worlds could be dangerous because they "may take people from community and from the incarnational aspects of Christian life... [W]e always run a very serious risk that the medium overtakes the message... What we must do is guard against the use of technology through market logic where people become brands and all things spiritual become commoditized."
Youtube

YouTube Has a Secret 'Dark Mode' (thenextweb.com) 118

It appears Google has quietly introduced a new "dark mode" for its video portal YouTube, several people are reporting. Here's how to activate it, via The Next Web:
1. Open the Chrome developer tools tab.
2. Windows users can do this by pressing Ctrl + Shift + I.
3. Mac users can do this by pressing Option + Cmd + I.
4. Select the Console tab.
5. Once in Console, paste the following text: document.cookie="VISITOR_INFO1_LIVE=fPQ4jCL6EiE"
6. Hit enter.
7. Close the developer tools tab and refresh the page. Just a little heads-up: YouTube might look slightly different -- though still in white.
8. Click the main settings menu in the top right and find the 'Dark Mode' section.
9. Toggle 'Dark Mode' on and you're settled.

Advertising

Broadcasters Put New Ad-Skipping Restrictions On YouTube TV (dslreports.com) 227

YouTube launched its new "YouTube TV" service last week for select markets. One of the biggest features for the service is its DVR functionality, which would in theory allow users to record shows and fast forward through all the commercials. Unfortunately, that is not the case, notes the Wall Street Journal. Karl Bode writes via DSLReports: If a show is available on-demand, viewers won't be able to skip ads, even if they recorded the episode on DVR. Google has confirmed with the Journal that the restriction is courtesy of the licensing agreements the broadcast industry forced Google to adhere to in order to offer the service. As a result, if YouTube TV has the on-demand version of a specific program you may be interested in, then the service won't let viewers watch a recorded version that allows for ad-skipping. Instead, viewers are forced to watch the on-demand episode and all of the ads, even if consumers thought they saved the show on their DVR for ad-skippable viewing.
Chrome

Microsoft Edge Beats Chrome By Over Three Hours In New Battery Usage Test (bleepingcomputer.com) 236

An anonymous reader writes: With the launch of the Windows 10 Creators Update and Edge 40 (EdgeHTML 15), Microsoft has released a new battery usage test that, naturally, trashes the company's competition. This new test shows that Edge uses less power than both Chrome 57 and Firefox 52, and is bound to draw a response from its competition, especially Google, who doesn't like it when Microsoft takes a jab at Chrome's efficiency. The same thing happened last year, in June, when a similar test showcasing Edge's longer battery life was met with responses from both Google and Opera.

The most recent tests were performed for the launch of Windows 10 Creators Update. Two tests were carried out until a laptop's battery gave out. For each browser, a minimum of 16 iterations were recorded per test. The first test measured normal browsing performance and the second ran a looped Vimeo fullscreen video. In the normal browsing performance test, Microsoft claims Edge used 31% less power than Chrome 57, and 44% less power than Firefox 52. In the second test, Edge played a looped Vimeo video in fullscreen for 751 minutes (12:31:08), while Chrome lasted 557 minutes (9:17:03) and Firefox for only 424 minutes (7:04:19). That's a whopping three hours over Chrome, and five hours above Firefox.

NASA

ARCA Plans 2018 Launch For Revolutionary Single-Stage Rocket (newatlas.com) 44

An aerospace company is building a cheap, simple, lightweight rocket that they hope will redefine the microsatellite industry. Eloking quotes New Atlas: New Mexico-based ARCA Space Corporation has announced that it is developing the world's first Single Stage to Orbit (SSTO) launch vehicle that can deliver both a small payload and itself into low Earth orbit, at a cost of about US$1 million per launch. Dubbed the Haas 2CA after the 16th century rocket pioneer Conrad Haas, the new booster uses a linear aerospike engine instead of conventional bell-shaped rocket engines to do away with multiple stages. [YouTube video]
They're working with six different NASA centers and have scheduled their first launch for 2018. The rocket will be 53 feet tall (16 meters) with a diameter of just 4.95 feet (1.5 meters), and will weigh 1,210 pounds when empty, but 35,887 pounds when fueled, "thanks to ACRA's proprietary composite materials for the propellant tanks and other components."
Encryption

Ransomware Asks For High Score Instead of Money (arstechnica.com) 36

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Rensenware" forces players to get a high score in a difficult PC shoot-em-up to decrypt their files. As Malware Hunter Team noted yesterday, users on systems infected with Rensenware are faced with the usual ransomware-style warning that "your precious data like documents, musics, pictures, and some kinda project files" have been "encrypted with highly strong encryption algorithm." The only way to break the encryption lock, according to the warning, is to "score 0.2 billion in LUNATIC level" on TH12 ~ Undefined Fantastic Object. That's easier said than done, as this gameplay video of the "bullet hell" style Japanese shooter shows. As you may have guessed from the specifics here, the Rensenware bug was created more in the spirit of fun than maliciousness. After Rensenware was publicized on Twitter, its creator, who goes by Tvple Eraser on Twitter and often posts in Korean, released an apology for releasing what he admitted was "a kind of highly-fatal malware." The apology is embedded in a Rensenware "forcer" tool that Tvple Eraser has released to manipulate the game's memory directly, getting around the malware's encryption without the need to play the game (assuming you have a copy installed, that is). While the original Rensenware source code has been taken down from the creator's Github page, a new "cut" version has taken its place, showing off the original joke without any actually malicious forced encryption.
Robotics

RightHand Robotics Automates a New Type of Warehouse Work: Recognizing, Picking Up Items From Boxes (qz.com) 56

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: A startup called RightHand robotics recently began piloting technology that automates a task robots have previously struggled to master: recognizing and picking up items from boxes. RightHand can't say which companies are part of its pilot project and Amazon didn't reply to a request for comment. But the new technology could help the ecommerce giant with a problem that has long vexed it. Like robots elsewhere, Amazon's robots retrieve entire shelves and transport them to humans who pick out items from them. They can find and move a shelf that holds a box of shirts, but they aren't capable of removing the single shirt from that box to be packed into an order. In order to pick items from boxes, robots need to master the more complex task of identifying a wide range of objects and adjusting their grips accordingly. RightHand robotics, which was started by a team of researchers from Harvard Biorobotics Lab, the Yale Grab Lab, and MIT, built a solution called RightPick that, according to co-founder Leif Jentoft, can pick items at a rate of 500 to 600 per hour -- a speed on par with a human worker. It uses a machine learning background and a sensitized robot hand to recognize and handle thousands of items.
Businesses

YouTube Now Requires Channels To Have More Than 10K Views To Make Money Off Ads (cnet.com) 76

YouTube is getting a little pickier about who can make money there. From a report on CNET: Google's massive video site said Thursday that channels must reach 10,000 total views before they qualify to run ads, the most direct way to make money there. The logic, essentially, is to remove one of the main incentives that spur bad actors to set up bogus accounts with somebody else's content -- the easy money. It also comes two weeks after YouTube suffered big advertiser pull-outs after a rash of news reports about brands' commercials running next to objectionable videos, like those with racist language.
Television

YouTube Launches 'YouTube TV' In Select Markets (phonedog.com) 62

In late February, YouTube unveiled its live TV service called YouTube TV, which offers live TV streaming over the internet for $35 per month with no long-term contract required. The company has officially launched the service today in five select markets: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, and Philadelphia. YouTube says that more markets are coming soon, however, details on when/where are scarce. PhoneDog reports: A membership to YouTube TV costs $35 per month and includes live streaming of channels like ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN, and others. Subscribers also get an unlimited cloud DVR for recording shows that'll last up to nine months, and six accounts that each get their own recommendations and cloud DVRs. YouTube is offering a free one-month trial of YouTube TV so that everyone can give it a try. After your first paid month, YouTube will give you a Google Chromecast to thank you for sticking with the service. Source: YouTube Official Blog
Bitcoin

Kim Dotcom Announces New Bitcoin Venture For Content Uploaders To Earn Money (reuters.com) 38

Infamous New Zealand-based internet mogul Kim Dotcom plans to launch a Bitcoin payments system for users to sell files and video streaming as he fights extradition to the United States for criminal copyright charges. From a report on Reuters: The German-born entrepreneur, who is wanted by U.S. law enforcement on copyright and money laundering allegations related to his now-defunct streaming site Megaupload, announced his new venture called 'Bitcontent' in a video posted on YouTube this week. "You can create a payment for any content that you put on the internet... you can share that with your customers, with the interest community and, boom, you are basically in business and can sell your content," Dotcom said in the video. He added that Bitcontent would eventually allow businesses, such as news organizations, to earn money from their entire websites. He did not provide a launch date. Dotcom did not provide details on how Bitcontent would differ from existing Bitcoin operations or how it would help news organizations make money beyond existing subscription payment options.
Google

Teenagers Think Google is Cool, Study By Google Finds (theguardian.com) 70

Today's teenagers think Google and Google brands are cool, research funded by Google has found. From a report: Google published "It's Lit: A guide to what teens think is cool", a "magazine" compiling the results of its research into Generation Z, characterised as those aged from 13 to 17. The Google-funded research found Generation Z relied on brands to "shape their world," and that Google was the third-most cool. Cool was defined by the researchers as "unique, impressive, interesting, amazing, or awesome." YouTube, which Google owns, came out at number one ahead of Netflix. Google's web browser Chrome placed tenth, in front of Nike.
Space

Simulation Suggests 68 Percent of the Universe May Not Actually Exist (newatlas.com) 106

boley1 quotes a report from New Atlas: According to the Lambda Cold Dark Matter (Lambda-CDM) model, which is the current accepted standard for how the universe began and evolved, the ordinary matter we encounter every day only makes up around five percent of the universe's density, with dark matter comprising 27 percent, and the remaining 68 percent made up of dark energy, a so-far theoretical force driving the expansion of the universe. A new study has questioned whether dark energy exists at all, citing computer simulations that found that by accounting for the changing structure of the cosmos, the gap in the theory, which dark energy was proposed to fill, vanishes. According to the new study from Eotvos Lorand University in Hungary and the University of Hawaii, the discrepancy that dark energy was "invented" to fill might have arisen from the parts of the theory that were glossed over for the sake of simplicity. The researchers set up a computer simulation of how the universe formed, based on its large-scale structure. That structure apparently takes the form of "foam," where galaxies are found on the thin walls of each bubble, but large pockets in the middle are mostly devoid of both normal and dark matter. The team simulated how gravity would affect matter in this structure and found that, rather than the universe expanding in a smooth, uniform manner, different parts of it would expand at different rates. Importantly, though, the overall average rate of expansion is still consistent with observations, and points to accelerated expansion. The end result is what the team calls the Avera model. If the research stands up to scrutiny, it could change the direction of the study of physics away from chasing the ghost of dark energy. "The theory of general relativity is fundamental in understanding the way the universe evolves," says Dr Laszlo Dobos, co-author of the new paper. "We do not question its validity; we question the validity of the approximate solutions. Our findings rely on a mathematical conjecture which permits the differential expansion of space, consistent with general relativity, and they show how the formation of complex structures of matter affects the expansion. These issues were previously swept under the rug but taking them into account can explain the acceleration without the need for dark energy." The study has been published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. You can view an animation that compares the different models here.
Music

Safe Harbor Cost the US Music Industry Up To $1B in Lost Royalties Per Year, Study Finds (musicweek.com) 194

An anonymous reader shares a report: For the first time, researchers have quantified the "value gap" and its impact on the US recorded music industry. A study published yesterday (March 29) by Washington, DC-based economy think tank the Phoenix Centre For Advanced Legal And Economic Public Policy Studies attempted to calculate how much revenue the recording industry loses from the distortions caused by the safe harbor provisions. Entitled Safe Harbors And The Evolution of Music Retailing, the study was conducted by T. Randolph Beard, George S. Ford and Michael Stern who applied "accepted economic modelling techniques" to simulate revenue effects from royalty rate changes on YouTube. It showed that if YouTube were to pay the recorded music industry market rates, similar to what other streaming services pay, its economic contributions to the sector would be significantly bigger. The premises used by the Phoenix Centre economists was that, according to the music recording industry, YouTube evades paying market rates for the use of copyrighted content by exploiting the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's "safe harbor" provisions, which allow to post creative content online in good faith and remove it if rights holders so require. Using 2015 data, the Phoenix Centre found that "a plausible royalty rate increase could produce increased royalty revenues in the US of $650 million to over one billion dollars a year."
United Kingdom

Britain Wants Tech Firms to Tackle Extremism (fortune.com) 137

Britain will tell Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft on Thursday to do more to stop extremists posting content on their platforms and using encrypted messaging services to plan attacks. From a report: Home Secretary Amber Rudd said on Sunday tech companies should stop offering a "secret place for terrorists to communicate," after British parliament attacker Khalid Masood was widely reported to have sent encrypted messages moments before he killed four people last week. Rudd has summoned the Internet companies to a meeting to urge them to do more to block extremist content from platforms like Facebook and Google's YouTube, but a government spokesman said encryption was also on the agenda. "The message is the government thinks there is more they can do in relation to taking down extremist and hate material and that is what they are going to be talking about this afternoon," the prime minister's spokesman said on Thursday.

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