Television

Cord Cutting Caused By 74 Percent TV Price Hikes Since 2000, Says Report (dslreports.com)

A new study by Kagan, S&P Global Market Intelligence finds that cord cutting is being caused primarily by a 74% increase in customer cable bills since 2000. From a report: That increase is even adjusted for inflation, and it should be noted that individual earnings have seen a modest decline during that same period, making soaring cable rates untenable for many. This affordability gap is "squeezing penetration rates, particularly among the more economically vulnerable households," the research company added. As their chart illustrates, prices for multichannel packages have steadily risen from just below $60 a month in 2000 to close to $100 in 2016. All while incomes remained largely stagnant. As customers grow increasingly angry at cable TV rate hikes and defect to streaming alternatives, most cable operators are simply raising the price of broadband (often via usage caps and overage fees) to try and make up for lost revenue. And because most parts of America still don't really see healthy broadband competition, they can consistently get away with it.
AI

Tesla Autopilot Crisis Deepens With Loss of Third Autopilot Boss In 18 Months (arstechnica.com) 8

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: It is no secret that Tesla's Autopilot project is struggling. Last summer, we covered a report that Tesla was bleeding talent from its Autopilot division. Tesla Autopilot head Sterling Anderson quit Tesla at the end of 2016. His replacement was Chris Lattner, who had previously created the Swift programming language at Apple. But Lattner only lasted six months before departing last June. Now Lattner's replacement, Jim Keller, is leaving Tesla as well.

Keller was a well-known chip designer at AMD before he was recruited to lead Tesla's hardware engineering efforts for Autopilot in 2016. Keller has been working to develop custom silicon for Autopilot, potentially replacing the Nvidia chips being used in today's Tesla vehicles. When Lattner left Tesla last June, Keller was given broader authority over the Autopilot program as a whole. Keller's departure comes just weeks after the death of Walter Huang, a driver whose Model X vehicle slammed into a concrete lane divider in Mountain View, California. Tesla has said Autopilot was engaged at the time of the crash. Tesla has since gotten into public feuds with both Huang's family and the National Transportation Safety Board, the federal agency investigating the crash.
"Today is Jim Keller's last day at Tesla, where he has overseen low-voltage hardware, Autopilot software and infotainment," Tesla said in a statement to Electrek. "Prior to joining Tesla, Jim's core passion was microprocessor engineering, and he's now joining a company where he'll be able to once again focus on this exclusively."
Wireless Networking

Apple Discontinues Its AirPort Router Line (9to5mac.com) 37

9to5Mac reports that Apple is officially exiting the wireless router business and selling off its remaining inventory of AirPort products. This includes the AirPort Express, AirPort Extreme, and both models of the AirPort Time Capsule. "We're discontinuing the Apple AirPort base station products," Apple said in a statement to 9to5Mac. "They will be available through Apple.com, Apple's retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers while supplies last." From the report: While the news is disappointing for fans of Apple's routers, the end of the AirPort line is no surprise either. Bloomberg reported back in November 2016 that Apple had disbanded the team responsible for developing Apple's routers, and in January 9to5Mac was first to report that Apple Stores started selling third-party. At the time, Apple told us that its AirPort line would remain -- with the mesh Wi-Fi routers adding a solution for larger homes: "People love our AirPort products and we continue to sell them. Connectivity is important in the home and we are giving customers yet another option that is well suited for larger homes."
Microsoft

iTunes Now Available From the Microsoft Store For Windows 10 (windowscentral.com) 8

iTunes is now available in the Microsoft Store, almost a year after Microsoft first revealed it was working with Apple to get iTunes listed in the Store. Windows Central reports: For a portion of Windows 10 users, iTunes' appearance on the Microsoft Store may not matter much because they can use the standard desktop app. Where it will have an impact, however, is for anyone using Windows 10 S, which is locked down and only allows installation of apps from the Microsoft Store. For those users, the full desktop iTunes experience should be available here, complete with access to Apple Music streaming and iPhone syncing.
Facebook

Facebook Inches Toward More Transparency and Accountability (eff.org) 21

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation: Facebook took a step toward greater accountability this week, expanding the text of its community standards and announcing the rollout of a new system of appeals. Digital rights advocates have been pushing the company to be more transparent for nearly a decade, and many welcomed the announcements as a positive move for the social media giant. The changes are certainly a step in the right direction. Over the past year, following a series of controversial decisions about user expression, the company has begun to offer more transparency around its content policies and moderation practices, such as the "Hard Questions" series of blog posts offering insight into how the company makes decisions about different types of speech.

The expanded community standards released on Tuesday offer a much greater level of detail of what's verboten and why. Broken down into six overarching categories -- violence and criminal behavior, safety, objectionable content, integrity and authenticity, respecting intellectual property, and content-related requests -- each section comes with a "policy rationale" and bulleted lists of "do not post" items. Facebook's other announcement -- that of expanded appeals -- has received less media attention, but for many users, it's a vital development. In the platform's early days, content moderation decisions were final and could not be appealed. Then, in 2011, Facebook instituted a process through which users whose accounts had been suspended could apply to regain access. That process remained in place until this week.

Security

Ski Lift In Austria Left Control Panel Open On the Internet (bleepingcomputer.com) 33

An anonymous reader writes: Officials from the city of Innsbruck in Austria have shut down a local ski lift after two security researchers found its control panel open wide on the Internet, and allowing anyone to take control of the ski lift's operational settings. There was no authentication in place, and anyone accessing the control panel could have modified the ski lift's speed, the distance between cable cars, and cable tension.

Coincidentally, researchers discovered the ski lift's control panel on the same day that NBC ran a report about a ski lift system suffering a mechanical malfunction, going at crazy speeds, and injuring 10 people. Both ski lifts were from the same vendor, but researchers say they weren't aware of the NBC report when they stumbled upon the one in Austria. Innsbruck officials shut down the ski lift for a security audit, and the ski lift is still nonoperational today.

Facebook

Fake Mark Zuckerbergs Scam Facebook Users Out of Their Cash (nytimes.com) 50

Hundreds of Facebook and Instagram accounts have been parading as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, tricking vulnerable individuals into sending large amounts of money in order to collect bogus lottery winnings, the New York Times reports [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled]. From a report: An examination by The New York Times found 205 accounts impersonating Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg on Facebook and its photo-sharing site Instagram, not including fan pages or satire accounts, which are permitted under the company's rules. At least 51 of the impostor accounts, including 43 on Instagram, were lottery scams like the one that fooled Mr. Bernhardt.

The fake Zuckerbergs and faux Sandbergs have proliferated on Facebook and Instagram, despite the presence of Facebook groups that track the scams and complaints about the trick dating to at least 2010. A day after The Times informed Facebook of its findings, the company removed all 96 impostor Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg accounts on its Facebook site. It had left up all but one of the 109 fakes on Instagram, but removed them after this article was published.

Operating Systems

Ubuntu 18.04 Focuses On Security and AI Improvements (sdtimes.com) 77

Canonical has announced the release of its open-source Linux operating system, Ubuntu 18.04, which features security, multi-cloud, containers, and AI improvements. From a report: "Multi-cloud operations are the new normal," said Mark Shuttleworth, CEO of Canonical and founder of Ubuntu, in a statement. "Boot-time and performance-optimized images of Ubuntu 18.04 LTS on every major public cloud make it the fastest and most efficient OS for cloud computing, especially for storage and compute intensive tasks like machine learning." On-premises and on-cloud AI development within Ubuntu will be improved by the integration of Kubeflow and a range of CI/CD tools into Canonical Kubernetes. Kubeflow is a machine learning library built on Kubernetes.
Google

Google Joins Apple in Condemning the Repeal of the Clean Power Plan (theverge.com) 116

An anonymous reader shares a report: Google filed a public comment today criticizing the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to roll back the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era policy that aims to cut power plant pollution. With its comment, Google joins Apple in arguing that keeping the policy is a good deal for the US. Google's comment, which it shared with The Verge, lays out what it called a strong economic case for the Clean Power Plan.It says that the plan would encourage utilities and companies like Google to keep investing in renewable energy -- which Google says is getting cheaper, is desired by both consumers and investors, and is a good source of jobs.
Education

A Well-Known Expert On Student Loans Is Not Real (chronicle.com) 156

mi shares a report from The Chronicle of Higher Education: Drew Cloud is everywhere. The self-described journalist who specializes in student-loan debt has been quoted in major news outlets, including The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and CNBC, and is a fixture in the smaller, specialized blogosphere of student debt. But he's a fiction, and "his" site -- an invention of a student-loan refinancing company.

"Drew Cloud is a pseudonym that a diverse group of authors at Student Loan Report, LLC use to share experiences and information related to the challenges college students face with funding their education," wrote Nate Matherson, CEO of LendEDU (the company that owns Cloud's website, The Student Loan Report). Before that admission, however, Cloud had corresponded at length with many journalists, pitching them stories and offering email interviews, many of which were published. When The Chronicle attempted to contact him through the address last week, Cloud said he was traveling and had limited access to his account. He didn't respond to additional inquiries. And on Monday, as The Chronicle continued to seek comment, Cloud suddenly evaporated. His once-prominent placement on The Student Loan Report had been removed. His bylines were replaced with "SLR Editor." Matherson confirmed on Tuesday that Cloud was an invention. Pressed on whether he regretted deceiving news organizations with a fake source, Matherson said Cloud "was created as a way to connect with our readers (ex. people struggling to repay student debt) and give us the technical ability to post content to the Wordpress website."

China

Chinese Journalist Banned From Flying, Buying Property Due To 'Social Credit Score' (cbslocal.com) 359

schwit1 shares a report from CBS Local: China is rolling out a high-tech plan to give all of its 1.4 billion citizens a personal score, based on how they behave. But there are consequences if a score gets too low, and for some that's cause for concern. When Liu Hu recently tried to book a flight, he was told he was banned from flying because he was on the list of untrustworthy people. Liu is a journalist who was ordered by a court to apologize for a series of tweets he wrote and was then told his apology was insincere. "I can't buy property. My child can't go to a private school," he said. "You feel you're being controlled by the list all the time." And the list is now getting longer as every Chinese citizen is being assigned a social credit score -- a fluctuating rating based on a range of behaviors. It's believed that community service and buying Chinese-made products can raise your score. Fraud, tax evasion and smoking in non-smoking areas can drop it.
Space

ESA Releases Largest Star Map Ever Online (gizmodo.com) 23

S810 writes: The European Space Agency (ESA) has released a treasure trove of data from its Gaia Spacecraft; totaling around 1.7 billion stars. This star map is the largest of its kind to date. In addition to the star map, the data also contains motion and color data of 1.3 billion stars relative to the Sun. Furthermore, it includes "radial velocities, amount of dust, and surface temperatures of lots of stars, and a catalogue of over 14,000 Solar System objects, including asteroids," reports Gizmodo. You can view the data here, and view a guide for what the data contains and how to use it here.
Education

Kazakhstan Is Changing Its Alphabet From Cyrillic To Latin-Based Style Favored By the West (bbc.com) 230

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: The Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan is changing its alphabet from Cyrillic script to the Latin-based style favored by the West. The change, announced on a blustery Tuesday morning in mid-February, was small but significant -- and it elicited a big response. The government signed off on a new alphabet, based on a Latin script instead of Kazakhstan's current use of Cyrillic, in October. But it has faced vocal criticism from the population -- a rare occurrence in this nominally democratic country ruled by Nazarbayev's iron fist for almost three decades. In this first version of the new alphabet, apostrophes were used to depict sounds specific to the Kazakh tongue, prompting critics to call it "ugly." The second variation, which Kaipiyev liked better, makes use of acute accents above the extra letters. So, for example, the Republic of Kazakhstan, which would in the first version have been Qazaqstan Respy'bli'kasy, is now Qazaqstan Respyblikasy, removing the apostrophes. The BBC article goes on to explain the economics of such a change, citing a restuarant owner that marketed his business using the first version of the alphabet. "All his marketing materials, the labelling on napkin holders and menus, and even the massive sign outside the building will have to be replaced," reports the BBC. "In his attempt to get ahead by launching in the new alphabet, [the owner] had not predicted that the government would revise it. He thinks it will cost about $3,000 to change the spelling of the name on everything to the new version, Sabiz." The full transition to the Latin-based script is expected to be completed by 2025, impacting this owner and many other small business owners.
Crime

Belgium Declares Video Game Loot Boxes Gambling and Therefore Illegal (arstechnica.com) 166

The Belgian Gaming Commission has reviewed several big video games and found that randomized loot boxes in at least three of the titles count as "games of chance," and publishers could therefore be subject to fines and prison sentences under the country's gaming legislation. Ars Technica reports: A statement by Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Geens (machine translation) identifies loot boxes in Overwatch, FIFA 18, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive as meeting the criteria for that "game of chance" definition: i.e., "there is a game element [where] a bet can lead to profit or loss and chance has a role in the game." The Commission also looked at Star Wars: Battlefront II and determined that the recent changes EA made to the game means it "no longer technically forms a game of chance." Beyond that simple definition, the Gaming Commission expressed concern over games that draw in players with an "emotional profit forecast" of randomized goods, where players "buy an advantage with real money without knowing what benefit it would be." The fact that these games don't disclose the odds of receiving specific in-game items is also worrisome, the Commission said. The three games noted above must remove their loot boxes or be in criminal violation of the country's gaming legislation, Geens writes. That law carries penalties of up to 800,000EU (~$973,680) and five years in prison, which can be doubled if "minors are involved." But Geens says he wants to start a "dialogue" with loot box providers to "see who should take responsibility where."
IOS

iOS 11.3.1 Fixes Bug Where Third-Party Screen Repairs Made iPhone 8 Touchscreens Stop Working (gizmodo.com) 91

The latest version of iOS 11.3.1 includes a fix for an issue where people who use third-party repair services to replace their displays had their devices become unresponsive. According to release notes, "iOS 11.3.1 improves the security of your iPhone or iPad and addresses an issue where touch input was unresponsive on some iPhone 8 devices because they were serviced with non-genuine replacement displays." Gizmodo reports: Retailers and customers alike suspected that Apple was deliberately letting the issue and other malfunctions that arose from replacing other components go unresolved in some sort of ploy to pressure customers into paying for officially licensed repair services that are more expensive. It's possible that some users indeed were forced to shell out a fair chunk of change to Apple for official repairs, in which case they might justifiably be angry that this was an issue that could be resolved with an update. iOS 11 was notoriously buggy after its release, and Apple has devoted so much effort to bug-fixing that this year's iOS 12 update will reportedly have fewer new features. Though Apple says the 11.3.1 fix will work, it also warned people to please not use third-party repair shops: "Note: Non-genuine replacement displays may have compromised visual quality and may fail to work correctly. Apple-certified screen repairs are performed by trusted experts who use genuine Apple parts. See support.apple.com for more information."
Transportation

Amazon Will Now Deliver Packages To the Trunk of Your Car (theverge.com) 128

Last year, Amazon unveiled a service called Amazon Key that lets delivery people into your home to drop off packages. Now, the tech giant wants to do the same thing with your car. Amazon announced a new service that gives it couriers access to a person's vehicle for the purpose of leaving package deliveries inside. "Amazon wants to use the connected technologies embedded in many modern vehicles today" to gain entry, reports The Verge. "The company is launching this new service in partnership with two major automakers -- General Motors and Volvo -- and will be rolling out in 37 cities in the U.S. starting today." From the report: Amazon has been beta testing the new service in California and Washington state for the past six months. To start out, the service will only be available to Amazon Prime subscribers. It's also limited to owners of GM and Volvo vehicles, model year 2015 or newer, with active OnStar and Volvo on Call accounts. Amazon says it plans to add other automobile brands over time. Packages that weigh over 50 pounds, are larger than 26 x 21 x 16 inches in size, require a signature, are valued over $1,300, or come from a third-party seller also are not eligible for in-car delivery.

To access the new delivery service, you need to add your car to your Amazon Key app and include a description of the vehicle, so Amazon's couriers will be able to locate it. The car will need to be parked within a certain radius of an address used for Amazon deliveries, so either home or work. Driveways, parking lots, parking garages, and street parking are all eligible locations, just as long as it's not at some random address across town. To find your car, Amazon's couriers will have access to its GPS location and license plate number, as well as an image of the car.

Transportation

Ford To Stop Selling Every Car In North America But the Mustang, Focus Active (techcrunch.com) 338

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Ford today announced it will phase out most cars it sells in North America. According to its latest financial release, the auto giant "will transition to two vehicles" -- the Mustang and an unannounced vehicle, the Focus Active, being the only traditional cars it sells in the region. Ford sees 90 percent of its North America portfolio in trucks, utilities and commercial vehicles. Citing a reduction in consumer demand and product profitability, Ford is in turn not investing in the next generation of sedans. The Taurus is no more. The press release also talks about a new type of vehicle, though it sounds like a crossover. This so-called white space vehicle will "combine the best attributes of cars and utilities, such as higher ride height, space and versatility." Currently, Ford sells six sedans and coupes in North America: the Fiesta, Focus, Fusion, C-Max, Mustang and Taurus. This lineup hits multiple segments, from the compact Fiesta to the mid-size Focus, C-Max and Fusion to the full-size Taurus. The Mustang stands alone as the lone coupe.
Google

Slashdot Asks: How Do You Like the New Gmail UI? (vortex.com) 125

Earlier today, Google pushed out the biggest revamp of Gmail in years. In addition to a new material design look, there are quick links to other Google services, such as Calendar, Tasks, and Keep, as well as a new "confidential mode" designed to protect users against certain attacks by having the email(s) automatically expire at a time of the sender's choosing. Long-time Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein shares their initial impressions of Google's new Gmail UI: Google launched general access to their first significant Gmail user interface (UI) redesign in many years today. It's rolling out gradually -- when it hits your account you'll see a "Try the new Gmail" choice under the settings ("gear") icon on the upper right of the page (you can also revert to the "classic" interface for now, via the same menu). But you probably won't need to revert. Google clearly didn't want to screw up Gmail, and my initial impression is that they've succeeded by avoiding radical changes in the UI. I'll bet that some casual Gmail users might not even immediately notice the differences.

The new Gmail UI is what we could call a "minimally disruptive" redesign of the now "classic" version. The overall design is not altered in major respects. So far I haven't found any notable missing features, options, or settings. My impression is that the back end systems serving Gmail are largely unchanged. Additionally, there are a number of new features (some of which are familiar in design from Google's "Inbox" email interface) that are now surfaced for the new Gmail. Crucially, overall readability and usability (including contrast, font choices, UI selection elements, etc.) seem so close to classic Gmail (at least in my limited testing so far) as to make any differences essentially inconsequential. And it's still possible to select a dark theme from settings if you wish, which results in even higher contrast.
Have you tried the new Gmail? If so, how do you like the new interface?
Businesses

Trump Meets With Apple's Tim Cook To Talk Trade (reuters.com) 32

New submitter genfail shares a report from Reuters: President Donald Trump met with Apple CEO Tim Cook on Wednesday to discuss trade issues as the technology industry grapples with a U.S. spat over import tariffs with China, a manufacturing hub for the iPhone maker and other companies. Apple, the world's largest technology company, and other hardware makers have deep ties with China, where many of their products are built for export around the world. Cook urged an easing of U.S.-China tensions and called for more open trade after the trade dispute flared last month between the world's two largest economies. Trump announced about $50 billion in planned tariffs on certain Chinese imports, China retaliated with proposed tariffs on some American goods and Trump responded that the United States could counter with $100 billion in additional levies. U.S. and Chinese officials have been working to resolve the dispute.
Medicine

Medicare To Require Hospitals To Post Prices Online (pbs.org) 145

An anonymous reader quotes a report from PBS: Medicare will require hospitals to post their standard prices online and make electronic medical records more readily available to patients, officials said Tuesday. The program is also starting a comprehensive review of how it will pay for costly new forms of immunotherapy to battle cancer. Hospitals are required to disclose prices publicly, but the latest change would put that information online in machine-readable format that can be easily processed by computers. It may still prove to be confusing to consumers, since standard rates are like list prices and don't reflect what insurers and government programs pay.

Likewise, many health care providers already make computerized records available to patients, but starting in 2021 Medicare would base part of a hospital's payments on how good a job they do. Using electronic medical records remains a cumbersome task, and the Trump administration has invited technology companies to design secure apps that would let patients access their records from all their providers instead of having to go to different portals.
Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, also announced Medicare is starting a comprehensive review of how it will pay for a costly new form of immunotherapy called CAR-T. It's an expensive gene therapy that turbocharges a patient's own immune system cells to attack cancer. The cost for such a procedure can exceed $370,000 per patient.

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