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Facebook Is Tweaking Trending Topics To Counter Charges of Bias
2016-05-24T07:00:00+00:00 - An anonymous reader writes: Facebook has said once again in an open letter to Sen. John Thune, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, that its Trending Topics section is free of any political bias or manipulation. But in response to Gizmodo's report that Facebook employees were suppressing conservative news stories, Facebook is revamping how editors find trending stories. "We could not fully exclude the possibility of isolated improper actions or unintentional bias in the implementation of our guidelines or policies," Facebook general Counsel Colin Stretch wrote. Of course, Facebook is going to train the human editors who work on their trending section; they're also going to abandon several automated tools it used to find and categorize trending news in the past. Recode provides some examples, writing, "[Facebook] will no longer use its "1K list," a group of 1,000 websites it used to help verify headlines." Facebook will also get rid of several top publications, including the New York Times and CNN.

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Hacker Phineas Fisher is Trying To Start a 'Hack Back' Political Movement
2016-05-24T03:30:00+00:00 - An anonymous reader writes: The hacker who breached Hacking Team and FinFisher is trying to get more people to "hack back" and fight "the system." For some, thanks to his targeted attacks and sophisticated political views, Phineas Fisher is quickly becoming the most influential hacktivist of the last few years. In response to his most recent hack where he released a 39-minute how-to video showing how to strip data from targeted websites, specifically a website of the Catalan police union, Phineas Fisher told Motherboard, "Everything doesn't have to be big. I wanted to strike a small blow at the system, teach a bit of hacking with the video, and inspire people to take action." Biella Coleman, professor at McGill University in Montreal, believes Phineas Fisher has a good chance of inspiring a new generation of hacktivists and "setting the stage for other hackers to follow in his footsteps." She says he has been better at choosing targets and justifying his actions with more rounded and sophisticated political and ethical views than Anonymous and LulzSec-inspired hackers. Phineas Fisher told Motherboard, "I don't want to be the lone hacker fighting the system. I want to inspire others to take similar action, and try to provide the information so they can learn how."

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Facebook Acquires VR Audio Company, Launches 'Facebook 360 Spatial Workstation'
2016-05-24T01:50:00+00:00 - An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Verge: Facebook is looking to improve its virtual-reality audio experience with the acquisition of Two Big Ears. Facebook is rereleasing Two Big Ears' "Spatial Workstation" software as the Facebook 360 Spatial Workstation, reports VentureBeat. The software is designed to "make VR audio succeed across all devices and platforms," and Two Big Ears developers will be merged with Facebook's Oculus team of employees. The acquisition of Two Big Ears is being made by Facebook and not Oculus -- the program is branded as a Facebook product, focused on 360-degree video and VR. The Spatial Workstation was first released last fall and was a platform for mixing audio that sounded realistically three-dimensional. Two Big Ears will provide "support in accordance with your current agreement" for the next 12 months to those who purchased a paid license to the old workstation. The company says it "will continue to be platform and device agnostic," not being locked into the Rift or Gear VR. Facebook did not disclose the sum of the acquisition. Two Big Ears was previously partnered with YouTube to help bring 360-degree live streaming and spatial audio to the site.

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Researchers Set World Record Wireless Data Transmission Rate of 6 GB/Sec Over 37 KM
2016-05-24T01:05:00+00:00 - An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Daily: Transmitting the contents of a conventional DVD in under ten seconds by radio transmission is incredibly fast -- and a new world record in wireless data transmission. With a data rate of 6 Gigabit per second over a distance of 37 kilometers, a collaborative project with the participation of researchers from the University of Stuttgart and the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics IAF exceeded the state of the art by a factor of 10. The extremely high data rates of 6 Gbit/s was achieved by the group through efficient transmitters and receivers at a radio frequency of 71-76 GHz in the so-called E band, regulated for terrestrial and satellite broadcasting. The circuits are based on two innovative transistor technologies developed and manufactured by the project partner Fraunhofer IAF. In the transmitter the broadband signals are amplified to a comparatively high transmission power of up to 1 W with the help of power amplifiers on the basis of the novel compound semiconductor gallium-nitride. A highly directive parabolic antenna emits the signals. Built into the receiver are low-noise amplifiers on the basis of high-speed transistors using indium-gallium-arsenide-semiconductor layers with very high electron mobility. They ensure the detection of the weak signals at high distance. The transmission of high quantities of data by radio over large distances serves a high number of important application areas: the next generation of satellite communication requires an ever-increasing data offload from earth observation satellites down to earth. Supplying the rural area and remote regions with fast Internet is possible as shown in the trial. Earlier this year, engineers at the University of Illinois were able to set a record for fiber-optic data transmission, transmitting 57Gbps of error-free data at room temperature.

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Apple Sued Over iPhones Making Calls, Sending Email
2016-05-24T00:20:00+00:00 - An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune: A company that seemingly does nothing but license patents or, if necessary, sue other companies to get royalties, has taken aim at Apple. But here's the kicker: the lawsuit alleges that Apple's last several iPhones and iPads violate a slew of patents related to seemingly standard features, including the ability to place calls as well as sending and receiving emails. A total of six patent infringement claims were brought against Apple by Corydoras Technologies on May 20, according to Apple-tracking site Patently Apple, which obtained a copy of the lawsuit. According to Patently Apple, the counts against Apple cover every iPhone dating back to the iPhone 4 and every iPad dating back to the iPad 2. In addition to taking issue with Apple's devices placing calls, the lawsuits also allege that the tech giant violates patents Corydoras holds related to video calling, which is similar to Apple's FaceTime, as well as displaying a person's geographic location through a feature like Find My iPhone and the ability to block unwanted calls. Last year, Apple was ordered to pay $533 million to Smartflash LLC for allegedly violating three patents related to copy protection.

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FBI Wants Biometric Database Hidden From Privacy Act
2016-05-23T23:35:00+00:00 - Trailrunner7 quotes a report from onthewire.io: The FBI is working to keep information contained in a key biometric database private and unavailable, even to people whose information is contained in the records. The database is known as the Next Generation Identification System (NGIS), and it is an amalgamation of biometric records accumulated from people who have been through one of a number of biometric collection processes. That could include convicted criminals, anyone who has submitted records to employers, and many other people. The NGIS also has information from agencies outside of the FBI, including foreign law enforcement agencies and governments. Because of the nature of the records, the FBI is asking the federal government to exempt the database from the Privacy Act, making the records inaccessible through information requests. From the report: "The bureau says in a proposal to exempt the database from disclosure that the NGIS should be exempt from the Privacy Act for a number of reasons, including the possibility that providing access 'could compromise sensitive law enforcement information, disclose information which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of another's personal privacy; reveal a sensitive investigative technique; could provide information that would allow a subject to avoid detection or apprehension; or constitute a potential danger to the health or safety of law enforcement personnel, confidential sources, and witnesses.'" RT released a similar report on the matter.

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Americans Used Nearly 10 Trillion Megabytes of Mobile Data Last Year
2016-05-23T22:50:00+00:00 - An anonymous reader writes: A report from CTIA released Monday found that consumers have nearly doubled their consumption of mobile data last year. It found that last month, consumers chugged down 804 billion megabytes of data, which adds up to a total of 9.65 billion gigabytes. The numbers are especially significant when compared to previous years. "From December 2013 to December 2014, U.S. data consumption grew by about 26 percent. But over the following year, it grew by 137 percent," writes Washington Post. YouTube and Netflix account for over half of North American internet traffic at peak hours, according to the networking equipment firm Sandvine. That figure spikes to 70 percent when streaming audio is part of the mix. The wireless industry as a result raked in nearly $200 billion last year alone, which is a 70 percent jump compared to a decade ago. The numbers are likely to rise as more and more devices become connected to the internet. With news of films from Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Pixar coming to Netflix this September, we're likely to see mobile data use increase even more this year.

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September: Netflix Will 'Become Exclusive US Pay TV Home of Films From Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Pixar'
2016-05-23T22:05:00+00:00 - An anonymous reader writes: The licensing deal between Netflix and Disney for the rights to all new films that hit movie theaters in 2016 is nothing new. What is new is when exactly the deal will come into effect. "From September onwards, Netflix will become the exclusive U.S. pay TV home of the latest films from Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilms and Pixar," said Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos in a blog post. This will only apply to new theatrical releases because separate licensing deals are in place for other Disney content. The exclusive partnership with Disney does also extend into original programming. Netflix's partnership with Disney is part of a bigger plan to host more unique content that rival services do not offer.

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Google's 'Science Journal' App Turns Your Android Device Into A Laboratory
2016-05-23T21:20:00+00:00 - An anonymous reader writes about Google's latest 'Science Journal' app that was released at the end of Google I/O last week: Google has launched its 'Science Journal' app that can essentially turn your Android device into a tricorder of sorts. The app uses the sensors in your smartphone to gather, graph and visualize data. For example, you can use Google's Science Journal app to measure sound in a particular area over a particular period of time, or the movement of the device's internal accelerometers. The app is fairly basic to start, but Google is working to expand its functionality. It's even partnering with San Francisco's Exploratorium to develop external kits that can be used with the app -- which includes various microcontrollers and other sensors. As part of its Google Field Trip Days initiative, which allows students from underserved communities to attend a local museum for no cost and includes transportation and lunch, Google sent out 120,000 kits to local science museums. They also sent out 350,000 different pairs of safety glasses to schools, makerspaces, and Maker Faires worldwide, to ultimately help young students work on even bigger projects. You can download the app from the Play Store and start experimenting here.

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Amazon Stops Giving Refunds When an Item's Price Drops After You Purchase It
2016-05-23T20:40:00+00:00 - Amazon has for years issued refunds to users when the price of an item drops after they've purchased it. But lately the e-commerce giant hasn't been doing that on a number of products, except for televisions, according to price-tracking companies. Recode reports: The move may have something to do with the rise of startups that track prices for Amazon customers and automatically request refunds when appropriate. One of them, a Santa Monica-based startup called Earny that is backed by the startup incubator Science, first pointed out the change. Earny scours a customer's email inbox for digital receipts, and then continuously checks the price on a retailer's website to see if it drops.

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Pac-Man 256 Coming To PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC With Multiplayer
2016-05-23T20:00:00+00:00 - Pac-Man is coming to gaming consoles. Publisher Bandai Namco announced on Monday that Pac-Mac 256 will be launching on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on June 21. The VentureBeat reports: The console version of Pac-Man 256 will include a four-player local co-op game where you and your friends will have to collaborate to eat as many pellets as possible while collectively avoiding ghosts. This means that you can have up to four people sitting together on a couch and playing the game simultaneously. Each person controls a Pac-Man, and you will work together to avoid the ghosts. Because it is "local" co-op, this isn't an online mode, and you should instead think of it as something to do at a party... if you're cool like me and play video games at parties.

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Windows Phone Market Share Sinks Below 1 Percent
2016-05-23T19:15:00+00:00 - Tom Warren, reporting for The Verge: Worldwide smartphone sales increased by nearly 4 percent in the recent quarter, but Microsoft's Windows Phone OS failed to capitalize on the growth and dropped below 1 percent market share. Gartner's latest smartphone sales report provides the latest proof of the obvious: Windows Phone is dead. Gartner estimates that nearly 2.4 million Windows Phones were sold in the latest quarter, around 0.7 percent market share overall. That's a decrease from the 2.5 percent market share of Windows Phone back in Q1 2015.

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Sorry, There's Nothing Magical About Breakfast
2016-05-23T18:35:00+00:00 - Is breakfast the most important meal of the day? Plenty of people certainly believe that, but according to a new report, that notion is based on "misinterpreted research and biased studies." The New York Times has run a piece authored by Aaron E. Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, who looked into numerous studies -- and found flaws in them -- to conclude that breakfast isn't as important after all. (Could be paywalled; alternate source) He writes: The [reports] improperly used causal language to describe their results. They misleadingly cited others' results. And they also improperly used causal language in citing others' results. People believe, and want you to believe, that skipping breakfast is bad. Carroll also points out a conflict in many of such studies: most of them have been funded by the food industry. He concludes: The bottom line is that the evidence for the importance of breakfast is something of a mess. If you're hungry, eat it. But don't feel bad if you'd rather skip it, and don't listen to those who lecture you. Breakfast has no mystical powers.

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Google Plans To Bring Password-Free Logins To Android Apps By Year-End
2016-05-23T17:55:00+00:00 - An anonymous reader shares a report on TechCrunch: Google's plan to eliminate passwords in favor of systems that take into account a combination of signals -- like your typing patterns, your walking patterns, your current location, and more -- will be available to Android developers by year-end, assuming all goes well in testing this year. In an under-the-radar announcement Friday afternoon at the Google I/O developer conference, the head of Google's research unit ATAP (Advanced Technology and Projects) Daniel Kaufman offered a brief update regarding the status of Project Abacus, the name for a system that opts for biometrics over two-factor authentication. With Project Abacus, users would unlock devices or sign into applications based on a cumulative "Trust Score." This score would be calculated using a variety of factors, including your typing patterns, current location, speed and voice patterns, facial recognition, and other things.The Trust API will be available to developers, who can then implement that into their apps. The company says that developers will have the option to adjust the threshold required for a trust score.

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Robot Ranchers Monitor Animals On Giant Australian Farms
2016-05-23T17:15:00+00:00 - An anonymous reader writes: Sheep and cattle farms in the Australian outback are vast as well as remote. For example, the country's most isolated cattle station, Suplejack Downs in the Northern Territory, extends across 4000 square kilometres and takes 13 hours to reach by car from the nearest major town, Alice Springs. But robots are coming to the rescue. A two-year trial, which starts next month, will train a 'farmbot' to herd livestock, keep an eye on their health, and check they have enough pasture to graze on. Sick and injured animals will be identified using thermal and vision sensors that detect changes in body temperature and walking gait, says Salah Sukkarieh of the University of Sydney, who will carry out the trial on several farms in central New South Wales. The robot, which has not yet been named, is a more sophisticated version of an earlier model, Shrimp, which was designed to herd groups of 20 to 150 dairy cows.

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