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posted by martyb on Monday January 07 2019, @11:01PM   Printer-friendly
from the Siri-ous-Alexa-competitor dept.

Google Assistant will soon be on a billion devices, and feature phones are next

As CES kicks off, Google has a massive presence: monorails, a booth that's three times larger than last year, and likely a giant pile of news to announce. But ahead of all the actual product news, the company wants to beat its chest a little by announcing some numbers. By the end of the month, it expects that Google Assistant will be on 1 billion devices — up from 500 million this past May.

That's 900 million more than the number Amazon just gave us for Alexa. But just like Amazon, Google's number comes with caveats. In an interview with The Verge, Manuel Bronstein, the company's vice president of Google Assistant, copped to it. "The largest footprint right now is on phones. On Android devices, we have a very very large footprint," he says. He characterizes the ratio of phones as "the vast majority" of that billion number, but he won't specify it more than that. Though he does argue that smart speakers and other connected home devices comprise a notable and growing portion.

[...] For Google, the next billion devices will come in emerging markets, specifically on feature phones.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday January 07 2019, @09:24PM   Printer-friendly
from the competition++ dept.

AMD has launched the second generation of Ryzen Mobile processors, based on the "12nm" node. These mostly represent an incremental upgrade over the previous generation:

These parts are upgraded versions of the first generation of Ryzen Mobile parts, the Ryzen 3 2300U and the Ryzen 5 2500U (codename: Raven Ridge), which found their way into a number of premium designs. These new second generation parts will take advantage of the upgraded microarchitecture going from Zen to Zen+, as well as the additional frequency headroom and lower power offered by GlobalFoundries' 12nm process. The new processors will also expand the range of power envelopes that Ryzen Mobile is available under, from the top of the stack 35W Ryzen 7 3750H processor down to the 15W Athlon 300W for entry-level devices.

AMD's reasoning for expanding its offerings, the company says, is in part due to the shape of the notebook market. Based on data from analysts at IDC, the notebook market sells around 87-90 million units per year, but the sales distribution between the various market segments has changed from 2017 to 2018: there are fewer 'mainstream' products, more Chromebooks, more premium devices, and more gaming devices. By increasing the number of processors on offer, as well as the power/performance at both the high-end and the budget and value segments, AMD hopes to address most of the possible market in order to get a bigger slice of the pie. Usually the discussion here is about TAM, or 'Total Addressable Market', measured in billions of dollars – the more market you can address, the higher the TAM.

AMD is also announcing two Excavator-based APUs, with 6 W TDPs, for fanless devices such as Chromebooks:

One part of the market that AMD hasn't played in yet is the Chromebook market. The processors that typically go into Chromebooks are lower grade Celerons and Pentiums, which AMD doesn't particularly compete against. In 2019, AMD is going to pursue this market, with they feel is 'an underserved but growing market'. AMD quoted that the Chromebook market is currently growing with an 8% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) with increasing average selling prices, so now is the right time to enter for them. To this end, AMD is launching two Excavator-based A-Series processors with a 6W TDP.

While, the next iteration of Ryzen Mobile will be on the "7nm" node, AMD is expected to announce "7nm" Ryzen desktop CPUs this week. Thus, Ryzen Mobile APUs may be lagging a full year (and a half-node) behind AMD's desktop Ryzen CPUs.

See also: HP and Acer unveil world's first Chromebooks with AMD processors

Previously: AMD Launches First Two Ryzen Mobile APUs With Vega Graphics

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday January 07 2019, @07:43PM   Printer-friendly
from the Figured-it-out dept.


Gaming was like breathing. It was the biggest part of my life as a teenager, one of my priorities as a college student, and eventually one of my most expensive “hobbies” as a young professional.

Then all of a sudden, after thousands of hours spent playing across genres and platforms, boredom hit me hard for the very first time in my early thirties. Some of my favorite games soon gave me the impression of being terribly long. I couldn’t help but notice all the repeating tropes and similarities in game design between franchises.

I figured it was just a matter of time before I found the right game to stimulate my interest again, but time continued to go by and nothing changed.

Is it that games have failed to innovate, or that real life is ultimately more engaging?

Original Submission

posted by takyon on Monday January 07 2019, @06:03PM   Printer-friendly
from the leak-or-flood? dept.

Some of the computer security boffins who revealed last year's data-leaking speculative-execution holes have identified yet another side-channel attack that can bypass security protections in modern systems.

While side channel attacks like Spectre and Meltdown exploited chip design flaws to glean privileged information, this one is hardware agnostic, involves the Windows and Linux operating system page cache, and can be exploited remotely, within limits.

In a paper provided to The Register in advance of distribution early next week through ArXiv, researchers from Graz University of Technology, Boston University, NetApp, CrowdStrike, and Intel – Daniel Gruss, Erik Kraft, Trishita Tiwari, Michael Schwarz, Ari Trachtenberg, Jason Hennessey, Alex Ionescu, and Anders Fogh – describe a way to monitor how certain processes access memory through the operating system page cache.

"We present a set of local attacks that work entirely without any timers, utilizing operating system calls (mincore on Linux and QueryWorkingSetEx on Windows) to elicit page cache information," wrote the researchers. "We also show that page cache metadata can leak to a remote attacker over a network channel, producing a stealthy covert channel between a malicious local sender process and an external attacker."

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday January 07 2019, @04:11PM   Printer-friendly
from the too-much-of-a-good-thing dept.

Turns out, 'magic' mushrooms are responsible for the lowest percentage of emergency ward visits, followed by cannabis in second place, and LSD and cocaine in joint third place.

At the other end of the chart, methamphetamine, synthetic cannabis, and alcohol carried the most risk of a trip to the local emergency ward, leaving MDMA (ecstasy) and amphetamines in the middle of the drug safety table.

The survey took in responses from 115,523 people across more than 50 countries. Nearly 10,000 participants said they had tried magic mushrooms in the past year, with 0.2 percent of those needing a trip to the hospital after their drug-induced trip.

That was the lowest percentage figure in the survey by some distance, but researchers are keen to point out that no drug use is entirely harmless - and there are plenty of other risks associated with drugs that don't necessarily land you in hospital.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday January 07 2019, @02:34PM   Printer-friendly
from the keep-your-friends-close-and-your-enemies-closer dept.

The New York Times has an article about China's online censorship factories and how they operate. Censors are specially educated accurately in history and politics so that they have mastery over how to spot and eliminate references, even indirect ones, to forbidden topics. Potential employees for censorship factories have to cram for two weeks for a comprehensive exam which they must pass in order to begin work. This education is followed by ongoing training which includes regularly visiting and reviewing web sites normally blocked by the Great Firewall of China.

Li Chengzhi had a lot to learn when he first got a job as a professional censor.

Like many young people in China, the 24-year-old recent college graduate knew little about the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. He had never heard of China’s most famous dissident, Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who died in custody two years ago.

Now, after training, he knows what to look for — and what to block. He spends his hours scanning online content on behalf of Chinese media companies looking for anything that will provoke the government’s wrath. He knows how to spot code words that obliquely refer to Chinese leaders and scandals, or the memes that touch on subjects the Chinese government doesn’t want people to read about.

Censorship a Trojan Horse (2018)
Unpublished Chinese Censorship Document Reveals Effort to Eradicate Online Political Content (2018)
The "Great Cannon" of China (2015)

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday January 07 2019, @12:57PM   Printer-friendly
from the finally-got-the-bugs-ironed-out dept.

Biomedical engineers have developed a smartphone app with the aim of non-invasive detection of anemia. Instead of a blood test, the app uses photos of someone’s fingernails taken on a smartphone to determine whether the level of hemoglobin in their blood seems low.

The researchers published their results on Tuesday, December 4, 2018, in Nature Communications.

[...] The app could facilitate self-management by patients with chronic anemia, allowing them to monitor their disease and to identify the times when they need to adjust their therapies or receive transfusions, the researchers said. That may reduce side effects or complications of having transfusions too early or too late.

The technology could be used by anyone at any time and could be especially appropriate for pregnant women, women with abnormal menstrual bleeding, or runners/athletes. Its simplicity means it could be useful in developing countries.

Original Submission

posted by takyon on Monday January 07 2019, @11:00AM   Printer-friendly
from the just-a-speck dept.

Submitted via IRC for Bytram

Facebook Knows How to Track You Using the Dust on Your Camera Lens

In 2014, Facebook filed a patent application for a technique that employs smartphone data to figure out if two people might know each other. The author, an engineering manager at Facebook named Ben Chen, wrote that it was not merely possible to detect that two smartphones were in the same place at the same time, but that by comparing the accelerometer and gyroscope readings of each phone, the data could identify when people were facing each other or walking together. That way, Facebook could suggest you friend the person you were talking to at a bar last night, and not all the other people there that you chose not to talk to. Facebook says it hasn't put this technique into practice.

[...] Patents filed by Facebook that mention People You May Know show some ingenious methods that Facebook has devised for figuring out that seeming strangers on the network might know each other. One filed in 2015 describes a technique that would connect two people through the camera metadata associated with the photos they uploaded. It might assume two people knew each other if the images they uploaded looked like they were titled in the same series of photos—IMG_4605739.jpg and IMG_4605742, for example—or if lens scratches or dust were detectable in the same spots on the photos, revealing the photos were taken by the same camera.

[...] The technological analysis in some of the patents is pretty astounding, but it could well be wishful thinking on Facebook's part.

Vera Ranieri, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who focuses on intellectual property, hasn't reviewed these specific patents but said generally that the U.S. Patent Office doesn't ensure that a technology actually works before granting a patent.

Original Submission

posted by takyon on Monday January 07 2019, @09:11AM   Printer-friendly
from the groped-into-it dept.

Hundreds of Transportation Security Administration officers, who are required to work without paychecks through the partial government shutdown, have called out from work this week from at least four major airports, according to two senior agency officials and three TSA employee union officials.

The mass call outs could inevitably mean air travel is less secure, especially as the shutdown enters its second week with no clear end to the political stalemate in sight. "This will definitely affect the flying public who we (are) sworn to protect," Hydrick Thomas, president of the national TSA employee union, told CNN.

Original Submission

posted by takyon on Monday January 07 2019, @06:43AM   Printer-friendly
from the fire-sale dept.

California utility company PG&E Corp is exploring filing some or all of its business for bankruptcy protection as it faces billions of dollars in liabilities related to fatal wildfires in 2018 and 2017, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

The company is considering the move as a contingency, in part because it could soon take a significant financial charge for the fourth quarter of 2018 related to liabilities from the blazes, the sources said.

A bankruptcy filing is not certain, the sources said. The company could receive financial help through legislation that would let it pass on to customers costs associated with fire liabilities, the sources said. But that is just a possibility, they said, so bankruptcy preparations are being made.

Also at NPR and Bloomberg.

Original Submission

posted by takyon on Monday January 07 2019, @04:18AM   Printer-friendly
from the low-res dept.

LG has announced its TV lineup in the lead-up to the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) next week. As in other recent years, the company has split its lineup between LCD and OLED models, and the OLED models are generally the most interesting. This year, LG's OLEDs and certain high-end LCD TVs will support HDMI 2.1, allowing them to display 4K content at 120Hz over HDMI.

HDMI 2.1 is also relevant for the emerging 8K TV category, as the previous version of HDMI only allowed 8K at 30 frames per second (fps). LG will introduce two 8K TVs—the 88-inch Z9 OLED TV and the 75-inch SM99 LCD TV—that can handle 60Hz content at the full 8K resolution over HDMI. Samsung announced its first mass-market 8K TV in late 2018, and it was limited to 30Hz. Granted, there is virtually no 60Hz 8K content available in most markets, and very little 120Hz 4K content. But that could change as TVs like these come to market.

Submitted via IRC for Bytram

Samsung's 2019 TVs to support Apple iTunes, AirPlay 2

Samsung and Apple are making nice -- at least when it comes to video.

Samsung's on Sunday said its 2019 line of smart TVs will offer support for iTunes movie and TV shows beginning this spring. The launch could coincide with the expected unveiling of Apple's long-rumored video streaming service, which is expected to make an appearance early this year.

The iTunes support will allow Samsung TV owners in more than 100 countries to access their iTunes library or buy and rent iTunes video content through their TVs. The support marks the first time iTunes movies and TV shows are being made available on a streaming video device that isn't made by Apple or isn't a PC. The capability will also be made available to 2018 models through a firmware update, Samsung said.

Original Submission #1   Original Submission #2

posted by martyb on Monday January 07 2019, @01:15AM   Printer-friendly
from the Whatever-happened-to-Blockbuster? dept.

If you watch streaming aggregators such as Netflix and Hulu you've likely noticed a decrease in the scope of their catalogs, with items of interest being added less frequently over time, and entire catalogs of content disappearing. New shows come out and don't ever make it to the service, or perhaps are only available through some add on service.

My favorite of all time was the "You need a cable subscription to watch this content, please log in with your cable provider", why even show us those?

This trend has been ramping up as providers try to build and market their own streaming services and restrict competition via content (or via adjustments to bandwidth for their streams)

And it is getting worse - "Netflix and chill no more—streaming is getting complicated" explores the trend.

Disney Plus is set to launch late next year with new Marvel and Star Wars programming, along with its library of animated and live-action movies and shows. It hasn't announced pricing yet, but Disney CEO Bob Iger said in an August call with analysts that it will likely be less than Netflix, which runs $8 to $14 a month, since its library will be smaller.

AT&T plans a three-tier offering from WarnerMedia, with a slate of new and library content centered around the existing HBO streaming app. No word on pricing yet.

Individual channels, such as Fox, ESPN, CBS and Showtime, are also getting into the act. Research group TDG predicts that every major TV network will launch a direct-to-consumer streaming service in the next five years.

Subscribing to service after service will quickly cost more than a cable bill, choice will be limited, finding shows more difficult, and multiple terrible interfaces (instead of one well known crummy interface). Much of the point of cord cutting will be dismantled.

One thing I am sure of, companies that I despise for their past actions (e.g. Disney for copyright terms) are never going to get a direct subscription from me. If their content is not on an aggregator they won't see my money at all. (My little contributions to karma here and there make me happy.)

Families will have to decide between paying more each month or losing access to some of their favorite dramas, comedies, musicals and action flicks.

So fellow cordcutters, will you drop $10/month on half a dozen different subscription services or stick with the aggregators and hope this trend dies out? Maybe add one or two more? Could just dropping them all and picking up shows individually as needed on things like Google and Amazon be the best option soon?

Is the era of binge watch at risk?

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday January 06 2019, @10:54PM   Printer-friendly
from the don't-go-there dept.

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow1984

In July of 1316, a priest with a hankering for fresh apples sneaked into a walled garden in the Cripplegate area of London to help himself to the fruits therein. The gardener caught him in the act, and the priest brutally stabbed him to death with a knife—hardly godly behavior, but this was the Middle Ages. A religious occupation was no guarantee of moral standing.

That's just one of the true-crime gems to be found in a new interactive digital "murder map" of London compiled by University of Cambridge criminologist Manuel Eisner. Drawing on data catalogued in the city Coroners' Rolls, the map shows the approximate location of 142 homicide cases in late medieval London. The map launched to the public in late November on the website for the university's Violence Research Center, and be forewarned—it's extremely addictive. You could easily lose yourself down the rabbit hole of medieval murder for hours, filtering the killings by year, choice of weapon, and location. (It works best with Google Chrome.)

"The events described in the Coroners' Rolls show weapons were never very far away, male honor had to be protected, and conflicts easily got out of hand," said Eisner, who embarked on the project to create an accessible resource for the public to explore the historical records. "They give us a detailed picture of how homicide was embedded in the rhythms of urban medieval life."

[...] The greatest risk of violent death in London was on weekends (especially Sundays), between early evening and the first few hours after curfew.

[...] As Eisner notes, "Sunday was the day when people had the time to engage in social activities—drinking and playing games that would occasionally trigger frictions leading to assault." Mondays were the second most likely day for homicides, perhaps because frictions spilled over from the weekend.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday January 06 2019, @08:33PM   Printer-friendly
from the stopped-clock dept.

Securityweek has a look at the bits of HR1 with digital election security implications running:

The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives has unveiled its first Bill: HR1, dubbed the 'For the People Act'. It has little chance of getting through the Republican-controlled Congress, and even less chance of being signed into law by President Trump.

Nevertheless, HR1 lays down a marker for current Democrat intentions; and it is likely that some of the potentially bi-partisan elements could be spun out into separate bills with a greater chance of progress.

One of these is likely to include the section on election security. This has been a major issue since the meddling by Russian-state hackers in the 2016 presidential election, and the subsequent realization on how easy it would be for interested parties (both foreign hackers and local activists) to influence election outcomes.

I'm all for secure and accountable elections but the feds are going to need to be careful and deliberate in what they mandate vs. what they place conditions for funding on. They do have significant authority as far as election laws go but their power is more deep than broad; most specifics are legally up to the states. Just because something is a good idea doesn't mean they currently have the legal authority necessary to do it.

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Sunday January 06 2019, @06:12PM   Printer-friendly
from the *crickets* dept.

The Sounds That Haunted U.S. Diplomats in Cuba? Lovelorn Crickets, Scientists Say

In November 2016, American diplomats in Cuba complained of persistent, high-pitched sounds followed by a range of symptoms, including headaches, nausea and hearing loss.

Exams of nearly two dozen of them eventually revealed signs of concussions or other brain injuries, and speculation about the cause turned to weapons that blast sound or microwaves. Amid an international uproar, a recording of the sinister droning was widely circulated in the news media.

On Friday, two scientists presented evidence that those sounds were not so mysterious after all. They were made by crickets, the researchers concluded.

That's not to say that the diplomats weren't attacked, the scientists added — only that the recording is not of a sonic weapon, as had been suggested.

Alexander Stubbs of the University of California, Berkeley, and Fernando Montealegre-Z of the University of Lincoln in England studied a recording of the sounds made by diplomats and published by The Associated Press. "There's plenty of debate in the medical community over what, if any, physical damage there is to these individuals," said Mr. Stubbs in a phone interview. "All I can say fairly definitively is that the A.P.-released recording is of a cricket, and we think we know what species it is."

Recording of "sonic attacks" on U.S. diplomats in Cuba spectrally matches the echoing call of a Caribbean cricket (open, DOI: 10.1101/510834) (DX)

Previously: US Embassy Employees in Cuba Possibly Subjected to 'Acoustic Attack'
A 'Sonic Attack' on Diplomats in Cuba? These Scientists Doubt It
Cuban Embassy Victims Experiencing Neurological Symptoms
Computer Scientists May Have Solved the Mystery Behind the 'Sonic Attacks' in Cuban Embassy
Sonic Attack? U.S. Issues Health Alert After Employee Experiences Brain Trauma in Guangzhou, China
Two US Diplomats Evacuated From China Amid 'Sonic Attack' Concerns
Latest Explanation for Cuban Embassy Symptoms: Microwave Weapons

Original Submission