Robotics

Robot Worries Could Cause a 50,000-Worker Strike in Las Vegas (technologyreview.com) 25

Thousands of unionized hotel and casino workers in Las Vegas are ready to go on strike for the first time in more than three decades. From a report: Members of the Culinary Union, who work in many of the city's biggest casinos, have voted to approve a strike unless a deal is reached soon. Some background: On June 1, the contracts of 50,000 union workers expire, making them eligible to strike. Employees range from bartenders to guest room attendants. The last casino worker strike, in 1984, lasted 67 days and cost more than $1 million a day. Why? Higher wages, naturally. But the workers are also looking for better job security, especially from robots. "We support innovations that improve jobs, but we oppose automation when it only destroys jobs," says Geoconda Arguello-Kline, secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Union. "Our industry must innovate without losing the human touch."
Earth

As The Planet Warms, We'll Be Having Rice With A Side Of CO2 (npr.org) 70

Grains are the bedrock of civilization. They led humans from hunting and gathering to city-building. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the fruits of three grasses provide the world with 60 percent of its total food: corn, wheat and rice. Aside from energy-rich carbohydrates, grains feed us protein, zinc, iron and essential B vitamins. But rice as we know it is at risk. An anonymous reader shares a report: As humans expel billions of metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere and raze vast swaths of forests, the concentration of carbon dioxide in our air hurries ever higher. That has the potential to severely diminish the nutritional value of rice, according to a new study published this week in Science Advances. For people who depend heavily on rice as a staple in their diets, such a nutritional loss would be devastating, says Kristie Ebi, a professor at the University of Washington and an author on the study.
Security

Microsoft Explains Why Windows Defender Isn't Ranked Higher in New Antivirus Tests (zdnet.com) 47

In its most recent reports, AV-Test had very few flattering things to say about Windows Defender. Microsoft's security suite was rated as the seventh best antivirus product in the independent test. In total, 15 AV products were tested. Microsoft, however, has now disputed AV-Test's methodology and conclusion. For some context, the top AV products rated by AV-Test on Windows 10 were Trend Micro, Vipre, AhnLab, Avira, Bitdefender, Kaspersky, and McAfee.

Windows Defender was able to detect 100 percent of new and old malware, but it lost few points for performance (which, AV-Test measures on the basis of how a security suite slows applications and websites on the test computer); and usability (which counts false-positives or instances where AV wrongly identifies a file as malicious.) From a report: Windows Defender's performance rating was dragged down because it slowed the installation of frequently used applications more than the industry average, and wrongly detected 16 pieces of legitimate software compared with the industry average of four. But Microsoft wants enterprise customers to know that Windows Defender is only half the picture, given the option for customers to also deploy Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection's (ATP) "stack components" including Smartscreen, Application Guard, and Application Control.

In the January and February test Windows Defender also scored 100 percent on protection. However it did miss two samples. Since then it's retrained its machine-learning classifiers to detect them. But Microsoft notes in a new paper that Defender ATP did catch them, which isn't reflected in AV-Test's or other testing firms' result. Microsoft hopes to change this so that testers include so-called stack components available in ATP. "As threats become more sophisticated, Microsoft and other security platform vendors continue evolving their product capabilities to detect threats across different attack stages," Microsoft's Windows Defender Research team writes. "We hope to see independent testers evolve their methodologies as well. Our customers need greater transparency and optics into what an end-to-end solution can accomplish in terms of total preventive protection, including the quality of individual components like antivirus."

Businesses

Apple Blocks Steam's Plan To Extend Its Video Games To iPhones (reuters.com) 98

Citing "business conflicts," Apple has blocked Steam's plans to distribute PC-based video games to iPhones. It's "a sign that Apple is serious about protecting its ability to take a cut of digital purchases made inside games on its mobile devices," reports Reuters. From the report: Steam, the dominant online store for downloaded games played on Windows PCs, had planned to release a free mobile phone app called Steam Link so that gamers could continue playing on their mobile phones while away from their desktop machines. But Apple has rejected the app, blocking its release, according to a statement from Steam's parent company, the Bellevue, Washington-based Valve. Steam did not give a precise reason for the App Store denials, saying only that Apple cited "business conflicts with app guidelines." But the conflict likely centers on what are known as in-app purchases or micro-transactions, in which gamers can spend small sums of money inside games to buy tokens, extra lives or others so-called digital goods. Lombardi said Steam disabled purchasing its iOS app but did not elaborate on how the change was made. Many analysts believe Apple could lose revenue if they allow Steam's app, which is essentially a store-within-a-store. "Apple takes a 30 percent cut of such purchases made within apps distributed through its App Store," Reuters notes. "[T]hose purchases are among the primary drivers of revenue in Apple's services business."
Star Wars Prequels

A Star Wars Boba Fett Movie Is In the Works (variety.com) 225

"Logan" director James Mangold is reportedly directing a "Star Wars" standalone movie centered on the bounty hunter Boba Fett. Variety reports: The untitled movie will be a part of the studio's Star Wars Anthology films, which are being spun off as origin stories. The first anthology film was 2016's "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," followed by "Solo: A Star Wars Story," starring Alden Ehrenreich as a young Han Solo. "Solo" began opening in previews on Thursday night in North America, with forecasts of an debut weekend of $130 million to $150 million. Boba Fett debuted in 1980's "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back" and re-appeared in 1983's "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi" as a mercenary for the Galactic Empire. Jeremy Bulloch played the character in the two movies and Jason Wingreen provided Fett's voice. Here's a video highlighting all the scenes starring Boba Fett in the Star Wars trilogy. Do you think it's wise to produce a movie around a character who's had such few scenes, relative to the others?
Facebook

Facebook Accused of Conducting Mass Surveillance Through Its Apps (theguardian.com) 65

A court case in California alleges that Facebook used its apps to gather information about users and their friends, including some who had not signed up to the social network, reading their text messages, tracking their locations and accessing photos on their phones. The Guardian reports: The claims of what would amount to mass surveillance are part of a lawsuit brought against the company by the former startup Six4Three, listed in legal documents filed at the superior court in San Mateo as part of a court case that has been ongoing for more than two years. The allegations about surveillance appear in a January filing, the fifth amended complaint made by Six4Three. It alleges that Facebook used a range of methods, some adapted to the different phones that users carried, to collect information it could use for commercial purposes.

"Facebook continued to explore and implement ways to track users' location, to track and read their texts, to access and record their microphones on their phones, to track and monitor their usage of competitive apps on their phones, and to track and monitor their calls," one court document says. But all details about the mass surveillance scheme have been redacted on Facebook's request in Six4Three's most recent filings. Facebook claims these are confidential business matters. It has until next Tuesday to submit a claim to the court for the documents to remain sealed from public view.

Bug

Is Cockroach Milk the Ultimate Superfood? (globalnews.ca) 193

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Global News: It may not be everyone's cup of milk, but for years now, some researchers believe insect milk, like cockroach milk, could be the next big dairy alternative. A report in 2016 found Pacific Beetle cockroaches specifically created nutrient-filled milk crystals that could also benefit humans, the Hindustan Times reports. Others report producing cockroach milk isn't easy, either -- it takes 1,000 cockroaches to make 100 grams of milk, Inverse reports, and other options could include a cockroach milk pill. And although it has been two years since the study, some people are still hopeful. Insect milk, or entomilk, is already being used and consumed by Cape Town-based company Gourmet Grubb, IOL reports.

Jarrod Goldin, [president of Entomo Farms which launched in 2014], got interested in the insect market after the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation in 2013 announced people around the world were consuming more than 1,900 insects. As his brothers were already farming insects for fishing and reptile use, Goldin thought it would be a smart business opportunity to focus on food. Goldin adds studies have shown cricket powder can be a high source of protein and B12. The PC version his company produces has 13 grams of protein per every 2 1/2 tbsps. Toronto-based registered dietitian Andy De Santis says for protein alternatives, insects are definitely in the playing field.
According to ScienceAlert, Diploptera punctate is the only known cockroach to give birth to live young and has been shown to pump out a type of "milk" containing protein crystals to feed its babies. "The fact that an insect produces milk is pretty fascinating -- but what fascinated researchers is the fact that a single one of these protein crystals contains more than three times the amount of energy found in an equivalent amount of buffalo milk (which is also higher in calories than regular cow's milk)."

Researchers are now working to replicate the crystals in the lab. They are working with yeast to produce the crystal in much larger quantities -- "making it slightly more efficient than extracting crystals from cockroach's guts," reports ScienceAlert.
The Courts

Samsung Must Pay Apple $539 Million For Infringing iPhone Design Patents, Jury Finds (cnet.com) 120

Samsung must pay Apple $539 million for infringing five patents with Android phones it sold in 2010 and 2011, a jury has found in a legal fight that dates back seven years. "The unanimous decision, in the U.S. District Court in San Jose in the heart of Silicon Valley, is just about halfway between what the two largest mobile phone makers had sought in a high-profile case that reaches back to 2011," reports CNET. From the report: The bulk of the damages payment, $533,316,606, was for infringing three Apple design patents. The remaining $5,325,050 was for infringing two utility patents. Samsung already had been found to infringe the patents, but this trial determined some of the damages. The jury's rationale isn't clear, but the figure is high enough to help cement the importance of design patents in the tech industry. Even though they only describe cosmetic elements of a product, they clearly can have a lot of value.

Samsung showed its displeasure and indicated the fight isn't over. "Today's decision flies in the face of a unanimous Supreme Court ruling in favor of Samsung on the scope of design patent damages. We will consider all options to obtain an outcome that does not hinder creativity and fair competition for all companies and consumers," Samsung said.

Youtube

Vevo To Shut Down Site, Giving In To YouTube Empire (rollingstone.com) 73

Vevo, the video-hosting service founded in 2009 as a joint venture between the big three record companies, is shutting down. The company announced in a blog post Thursday that it is shuttering its mobile apps and website, and that "going forward, Vevo will remain focused on engaging the biggest audiences and pursuing growth opportunities." Vevo is almost entirely succumbing to YouTube. Rolling Stone reports: The major record labels set up Vevo -- an abbreviation for "video evolution" -- in 2009 as a designated streaming service for music videos that would ideally bring in greater revenue from more high-end advertisers. Via a distribution deal with YouTube, it received a cut of revenue from putting its music videos on the Google-owned site. But YouTube's might has grown: The video-streaming service recently took Vevo's branding off its music videos, while also securing permission under a new licensing deal to sell Vevo's clips directly to advertisers, cutting out the smaller company's sales force. Though Vevo has been trying to peel away from its dependence on YouTube by touting its own suite of apps and offerings for years, it seems those efforts haven't been met with much success. "Our catalog of premium music videos and original content will continue to reach a growing audience on YouTube and we are exploring ways to work with additional platforms to further expand access to Vevo's content," the company said in its blog post. Vevo users on its website and Android, iOS and Windows Mobile apps will receive a tool to migrate their playlists to YouTube.
Businesses

Android Creator Puts Essential Up For Sale, Cancels Next Phone (bloomberg.com) 43

Bloomberg reports that Andy Rubin's Essential Products business is considering selling itself and has canceled development of a new smartphone. The news comes several months after numerous reports suggested that the Essential Phone's sales were tepid. From the report: The startup has hired Credit Suisse Group AG to advise on a potential sale and has received interest from at least one suitor, the people said. Essential is now actively shopping itself to potential suitors, one of the people said. The startup, part of Rubin's incubator Playground Global, has raised about $300 million from several investors, including Amazon, Tencent, and Redpoint Ventures. It was valued at $900 million to $1 billion about a year ago, according to an analysis by Equidate, which runs a market for private company stock.

The startup has spent more than $100 million on developing its first products, about a third of the money it raised to build the company, the people said. Current discussions are focused on a sale of the entire company, including its patent portfolio, hardware products like the original smartphone, an upcoming smart home device and a camera attachment for the phone. Essential's engineering talent, which includes those hired from Apple and Alphabet's Google, would likely be part of a deal. The company hasn't yet made a final decision on a sale, the people said.

Communications

Newest NOAA Weather Satellite Suffers Critical Malfunction (arstechnica.com) 47

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released some bad news yesterday: the GOES-17 weather satellite that launched almost two months ago has a cooling problem that could endanger the majority of the satellite's value. GOES-17 is the second of a new generation of weather satellite to join NOAA's orbital fleet. Its predecessor is covering the U.S. East Coast, with GOES-17 meant to become "GOES-West." While providing higher-resolution images of atmospheric conditions, it also tracks fires, lightning strikes, and solar behavior. It's important that NOAA stays ahead of the loss of dying satellites by launching new satellites that ensure no gap in global coverage ever occurs.

Several weeks ago, it became clear that the most important instrument -- the Advanced Baseline Imager -- had a cooling problem. This instrument images the Earth at a number of different wavelengths, including the visible portion of the spectrum as well as infrared wavelengths that help detect clouds and water vapor content. The infrared wavelengths are currently offline. The satellite has to be actively cooled for these precision instruments to function, and the infrared wavelengths only work if the sensor stays below 60K -- that's about a cool -350F. The cooling system is only reaching that temperature 12 hours a day. The satellite can still produce visible spectrum images, as well as the solar and lightning monitoring, but it's not a glorious next-gen weather satellite without that infrared data.

China

First Cuba, Now China? A Worker In US Embassy In China Experienced 'Abnormal' Sounds, Brain Damage (reuters.com) 131

amxcoder writes: An American citizen working at a U.S. consulate located in the Chinese city of Guangzhou has reported experiencing "abnormal" sounds (and pressures) for the past several months, starting in late 2017 until April of 2018. Upon medical evaluation, the worker has been diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury symptoms. The U.S. embassy is conducting an investigation into the issue, and is issuing warnings to all U.S. citizens in China. The symptoms and several other similarities has drawn comparison to a similar event last year in a different U.S. embassy in Cuba. Officials can not link the two events together at this point, but the U.S. State Department is working with Chinese authorities to investigate the issue further. As a result of the Cuba acoustic "attacks," the U.S. government in October expelled 15 Cuban diplomats from the U.S. for what it said was Cuba's failure to protect staff at the U.S. embassy in Havana. Staff there reported symptoms including hearing loss, dizziness, fatigue, and cognitive issues. Canadian personnel also reported similar health symptoms.
Communications

YouTube Is Messing With the Order of Videos In Some User Feeds (gizmodo.com) 85

YouTube is testing non-chronological subscription feeds to try and serve you content that it thinks you'll want to see at the top. The problem with this is that the subscription feed exists because users subscribed to content that they want to see. If they don't, they will unsubscribe, thereby removing unwanted content from the feed. Gizmodo reports: YouTube confirmed the test on Twitter after some users noticed the change and inquired as to why the heck their subscription feed was no longer in chronological order. YouTube must have missed the memo about how users react when platforms mess with the order of the sacred feed.

Here's YouTube's how-to and troubleshooting Twitter account explained the test: "Just to clarify. We are currently experimenting with how to show content in the subs feed. We find that some viewers are able to more easily find the videos they want to watch when we order the subs feed in a personalized order vs always showing most recent video first." Weird, considering YouTube already offers recommended videos based on your viewing habits and subscribed channels in its sidebar.

Transportation

Uber's Self-Driving Car Saw Pedestrian 6 Seconds Before Fatal Strike, Says Report (tucson.com) 227

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Arizona Daily Star: The autonomous Uber SUV that struck and killed an Arizona pedestrian in March spotted the woman about six seconds before hitting her, but did not stop because the system used to automatically apply brakes in potentially dangerous situations had been disabled, according to federal investigators. In a preliminary report on the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday that emergency braking is not enabled while Uber's cars are under computer control, "to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior." Instead, Uber relies on a human backup driver to intervene. The system, however, is not designed to alert the driver. The report comes a day after Uber announced it will be ending it's self-driving vehicle testing in Arizona. The full NTSB report is available here.

Slashdot Top Deals