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Businesses

IBM Buys Promontory Financial Group (zdnet.com) 16

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: IBM said Thursday it plans to acquire compliance consulting firm Promontory Financial Group to bring more financial regulatory expertise to Watson's cognitive computing platform. Promontory is a global consulting operation with an aim of helping banks manage the ever-increasing regulation and risk management requirements in the financial sector. With that in mind, IBM wants to use the industry expertise of Promontory's workforce -- which is made up of ex-regulators and banking executives -- to teach Watson all about regulation, risk and compliance. IBM is also using the deal to create a new subsidiary called Watson Financial Services, which will build cognitive tools for things things like tracking regulatory obligations, financial risk modeling, surveillance, anti-money laundering detection systems. "This is a workload ideally suited for Watson's cognitive capabilities intended to allow financial institutions to absorb the regulatory changes, understand their obligations, and close gaps in systems and practices to address compliance requirements more quickly and efficiently," IBM said in a press release.
Operating Systems

Raspberry Pi Foundation Unveils New LXDE-Based Desktop For Raspbian Called PIXEL (softpedia.com) 37

Raspberry Pi Foundation's Simon Long has unveiled a new desktop environment for the Debian-based Raspbian GNU/Linux operating system for Raspberry Pi devices. From a Softpedia report (submitted by an anonymous reader):Until today, Raspbian shipped with the well-known and lightweight LXDE desktop environment, which looks pretty much the same as on any other Linux-based distribution out there that is built around LXDE (Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment). But Simon Long, a UX engineer working for Raspberry Pi Foundation, was hired to make it better, transform it into something that's more appealing to users. So after two years of work, he managed to create a whole new desktop environment for Raspbian, the flagship operating system for Raspberry Pi single-board computers developed and distributed by Raspberry Pi Foundation. Called PIXEL, the new Raspbian desktop offers a more eye-candy design with the panel on top (not on the bottom like on a default LXDE setup), new icons, new Applications Menu, and new theme. "It's actually surprisingly easy to hack about with the LXDE desktop once you get your head around what all the bits do, and since then I've been slowly chipping away at the bits that I felt would most benefit from tweaking," reveals Simon Long. "Stuff has slowly been becoming more and more like my original concept for the desktop; with the latest changes, I think the desktop has reached the point where it's a complete product in its own right and should have its own name."
Communications

Commodore C64 Survives Over 25 Years Balancing Drive Shafts In Auto Repair Shop (hothardware.com) 270

MojoKid writes: One common gripe in the twenty-first century is that nothing is built to last anymore. Even complex, expensive computers seem to have a relatively short shelf-life nowadays. However, one computer in a small auto repair shop in Gdansk, Poland has survived for the last twenty-five years against all odds. The computer in question here is a Commodore C64 that has been balancing driveshafts non-stop for a quarter of a century. The C64C looks like it would fit right in with a scene from Fallout 4 and has even survived a nasty flood. This Commodore 64 contains a few homemade aspects, however. The old computer uses a sinusoidal waveform generator and piezo vibration sensor in order to measure changes in pressure, acceleration, temperature, strain or force by converting them to an electrical charge. The C64C interprets these signals to help balance the driveshafts in vehicles. The Commodore 64 (also known as the C64, C-64, C= 64) was released in January 1982 and still holds the title for being the best-selling computer of all time.
Businesses

D-Wave's 2,000-Qubit Quantum Annealing Computer Now 1,000x Faster Than Previous Generation (tomshardware.com) 115

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Tom's Hardware: D-Wave, a Canadian company developing the first commercial "quantum computer," announced its next-generation quantum annealing computer with 2,000 qubits, which is twice as many as its previous generation had. One highly exciting aspect of quantum computers of all types is that beyond the seemingly Moore's Law-like increase in number of qubits every two years, their performance increases much more than just 2x, unlike with regular microprocessors. This is because qubits can hold a value of 0, 1, or a superposition of the two, making quantum systems able to deal with much more complex information. If D-Wave's 2,000-qubit computer is now 1,000 faster than the previous 1,000-qubit generation (D-Wave 2X), that would mean that, for the things Google tested last year, it should now be 100 billion times faster than a single-core CPU. The new generation also comes with control features, which allows users to modify how D-Wave's quantum system works to better optimize their solutions. These control features include the following capabilities: The ability to tune the rate of annealing of individual qubits to enhance application performance; The ability to sample the state of the quantum computer during the quantum annealing process to power hybrid quantum-classical machine learning algorithms that were not previously possible; The ability to combine quantum processing with classical processing to improve the quality of both optimization and sampling results returned from the system. D-Wave's CEO, Vern Brownell, also said that D-Wave's quantum computers could also be used for machine learning task in ways that wouldn't be possible on classical computers. The company is also training the first generation of programmers to develop applications for D-Wave quantum systems. Last year, Google said that D-Wave's 1,000 qubit computer proved to be 100 million times faster than a classical computer with a single core: "We found that for problem instances involving nearly 1,000 binary variables, quantum annealing significantly outperforms its classical counterpart, simulated annealing. It is more than 10^8 times faster than simulated annealing running on a single core," said Hartmut Neven, Google's Director of Engineering.
Cellphones

Verizon Technician Is Accused of Selling Customers' Call Records and Location Data To Private Investigator (ap.org) 50

A former Verizon technician who worked in Alabama is being accused of selling customers' private call records and location data to an unnamed private investigator. Authorities said the data was sold for more than four years, from 2009 to 2014. The Associated Press reports: [Daniel Eugene Traeger] logged into one Verizon computer system to gain access to customers' call records, authorities said. He used another company system known as Real Time Tool to "ping" cellphones on Verizon's network to get locations of the devices, according to the plea agreement. He then compiled the data in spreadsheets, which he sent to the private investigator for years, the court records show. "Between April 2009 and January 2014, the defendant was paid more than $10,000 in exchange for his provision of confidential customer information and cellular location data to the PL, an unauthorized third party," court records state. Though Traeger was based in the Birmingham area, the court records do not indicate whether the information that was sold involved Verizon Wireless customers in Alabama or elsewhere. He faces up to five years in prison, but prosecutors are recommending a lesser sentence since he accepted responsibility, according to terms of the plea agreement.
HP

HP To Issue 'Optional Firmware Update' Allowing 3rd-Party Ink (arstechnica.com) 78

Soon after the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) issued a letter to HP, calling for them to apologize to customers for releasing firmware that prevents the use of non-HP ink cartridges and refilled HP cartridges, the company has responded with a temporary solution. HP "will issue an optional firmware update that will remove the dynamic security feature" for certain OfficeJet printers. Ars Technica reports: HP made its announcement in a blog post titled "Dedicated to the best printing experience." "We updated a cartridge authentication procedure in select models of HP office inkjet printers to ensure the best consumer experience and protect them from counterfeit and third-party ink cartridges that do not contain an original HP security chip and that infringe on our IP," the company said. The recent firmware update for HP OfficeJet Pro, and OfficeJet Pro X printers "included a dynamic security feature that prevented some untested third-party cartridges that use cloned security chips from working, even if they had previously functioned," HP said. For customers who don't wish to be protected from the ability to buy less expensive ink cartridges, HP said it "will issue an optional firmware update that will remove the dynamic security feature. We expect the update to be ready within two weeks and will provide details here." This customer-friendly move may just be a one-time thing. HP said it will continue to use security features that "protect our IP including authentication methods that may prevent some third-party supplies from working." Without the optional firmware update, printers will only be able to use third-party ink cartridges that have an "original HP security chip," the company said.
Hardware

US Warns Samsung Washing Machine Owners After Explosion Reports (cnn.com) 162

Samsung may have a new problem on its hands, and it feels too familiar. The U.S. regulators on Wednesday warned users of certain top-loading Samsung washing machines of safety issues following reports that "some have exploded." CNN reports: The warning, from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, covered machines made between March 2011 and April 2016. It did not specify a model. The commission suggested people use only the delicate cycle to wash bedding and water-resistant and bulky items because the lower spin speed "lessens the risk of impact injuries or property damage due to the washing machine becoming dislodged." The agency said it is working with Samsung on a remedy.
Hardware

'Safe' Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Explodes in China (cnet.com) 85

Rahil Bhagat, writing for CNET: The tendency of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 to catch fire has led to the company's global recall of around 2.5 million of the phones, to be replaced with new, safe units. Samsung could have another problem on its hands, though, as a Chinese man says a brand new Note 7 exploded on him, Bloomberg reported. Samsung had previously said Chinese models of the phone were safe as they use a different battery than Note 7 devices sold in the rest of the world. Hu Renjie, 25, claimed his brand new Note 7, bought over the weekend from JD.com, exploded while charging, burning two of his fingers and damaging a MacBook Pro. Hu said that a representative from Samsung paid him a visit concerning this incident and asked for the smouldering corpse of his phone to perform an autopsy, but he refused.
AI

Nissan Debuts 'ProPILOT' Self-Driving Chair (pcmag.com) 48

jasonbrown writes from a report via PC Magazine: The Japanese automaker Nissan this week debuted what it's calling the ProPILOT Chair -- an autonomous chair that automatically queues for you while you sit back and relax. With its built-in cameras, the high-tech chair "detects and automatically follows the chair ahead of it, maintaining a fixed distance and traveling along a set path." Standing (or sitting) in line has never been so much fun. "Nissan drew inspiration for this new chair from its ProPILOT autonomous driving technology, which has been available in the company's Serena minivan in Japan since August," the report adds. "The ProPILOT technology allows the vehicle to maintain a safe distance between the car ahead, and ensures that it stays in the center of its lane." While the product appears to be a marketing stunt, Nissan is actively looking for restaurant partners in Japan who want to offer this technology to their customers. Japanese restaurants can tweet their name and website along with the hashtags #NissanProPilotChair #Wanted in an effort to be outfitted with the technology. You can watch the joyful and jazzy launch video here.
Cellphones

DJI Unveils the Mavic Pro, a Foldable and Ultra-Portable Camera Drone (petapixel.com) 55

It didn't take long for DJI to respond to GoPro's voice-controlled Karma drone. Today, the company has unveiled the Mavic Pro, an ultra-portable drone that can fold up into roughly the "size of a standard water bottle," DJI says. Of course, it also features a high-resolution camera and several autonomous software tricks. PetaPixel reports: Despite its petite form factor, the drone packs a punch: there's a 4K camera on the front, a visual navigation system, a 4.3-mile (7km) range, and a 27-minute flight time. By comparison, the Karma has a range of 0.62 miles (1km) and a flight time of 20 minutes. The Mavic Pro can be operated with a remote controller for long-range uses, or simply with your smartphone if you're not planning to fly it far. For the latter, the drone can go from folded up to in flight in less than a minute. In the Mavic Pro is a new FlightAutonomy system, which uses 5 cameras, GPS and GLONASS navigation, 2 ultrasonic rangefinders, redundant sensors, and 24 computing cores to serve as the drone's "brain and nervous system." Using FlightAutonomy, the Mavic Pro can follow positions and routes while avoiding obstacles at 22mph (36kph), allowing you to create advanced flights with minimal input and flying skills. What's more, the drone can even be controlled with your physical gestures, making it easy to shoot an aerial selfie if you so desire. A new compact remote controller has been designed for the Mavic Pro, and it features an LCD screen with essential data, dedicated buttons (e.g. Return-to-Home, Intelligent Flight pause), and a OcuSync video link system that provides live view at 1080p resolution. DJI is also announcing DJI Goggles to go along with the Mavic Pro. Wearing the goggles allows you to fly the drone with an immersive 85-degree view in full 1080p, viewing the world through the eyes of the drone. The DJI Mavic Pro will be available starting October 15th, 2016, with a price tag of $749 for just the drone and $999 with a remote controller bundled in. The DJI Mavic introduction video can be viewed here.
Network

OVH Hosting Suffers From Record 1Tbps DDoS Attack Driven By 150K Devices (hothardware.com) 114

MojoKid writes: If you thought that the massive DDoS attack earlier this month on Brian Krebs' security blog was record-breaking, take a look at what just happened to France-based hosting provider OVH. OVH was the victim of a wide-scale DDoS attack that was carried via a network of over 152,000 IoT devices. According to OVH founder and CTO Octave Klaba, the DDoS attack reached nearly 1 Tbps at its peak. Of those IoT devices participating in the DDoS attack, they were primarily comprised of CCTV cameras and DVRs. Many of these devices have improperly configured network settings, which leaves them ripe for the picking for hackers that would love to use them to carry out destructive attacks.The DDoS peaked at 990 Gbps on September 20th thanks to two concurrent attacks, and according to Klaba, the original botnet was capable of a 1.5 Tbps DDoS attack if each IP topped out at 30 Mbps. This massive DDoS campaign was directed at Minecraft servers that OHV was hosting. Octave Klaba / Oles tweeted: "Last days, we got lot of huge DDoS. Here, the list of 'bigger that 100Gbps' only. You can the simultaneous DDoS are close to 1Tbps!"
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Calls On HP To Disable Printer Ink Self-Destruct Sequence (arstechnica.com) 249

HP should apologize to customers and restore the ability of printers to use third-party ink cartridges, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said in a letter to the company's CEO yesterday. From an ArsTechnica report:HP has been sabotaging OfficeJet Pro printers with firmware that prevents use of non-HP ink cartridges and even HP cartridges that have been refilled, forcing customers to buy more expensive ink directly from HP. The self-destruct mechanism informs customers that their ink cartridges are "damaged" and must be replaced. "The software update that prevented the use of third-party ink was reportedly distributed in March, but this anti-feature itself wasn't activated until September," EFF Special Advisor Cory Doctorow wrote in a letter to HP Inc. CEO Dion Weisler. "That means that HP knew, for at least six months, that some of its customers were buying your products because they believed they were compatible with any manufacturer's ink, while you had already planted a countdown timer in their property that would take this feature away. Your customers will have replaced their existing printers, or made purchasing recommendations to friends who trusted them on this basis. They are now left with a less useful printer -- and possibly a stockpile of useless third-party ink cartridges."
Bitcoin

Japanese To Pay Utility Bills Using Bitcoin (thestack.com) 36

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Stack: Japanese citizens will soon be able to pay their utility bills using bitcoin. The facility is being provided by Coincheck Denki, a new service offered by the Japanese bitcoin company, which will be available to users in November. Coincheck outlined the new plan on its website. Also called 'Coincheck Electricity,' it will allow users to pay their electricity bills directly from their Coincheck bitcoin wallet. It also offers a discount plan for heavy users of electricity, with 4-6% of the total bill discounted for heavy users of electricity who pay in bitcoin. Coincheck's parent company, Reju Press, initially partnered with Mitsuwa Inc., to create the bitcoin payment system. Coincheck now works with Mitsuwa subsidiary E-Net Inc., and has formed a partnership with Marubeni Power Retail Corporation, which operates power plants in 17 locations in central Japan. Marubeni has offices in 66 countries worldwide, although no plans have been announced to take the bitcoin payment option outside of Japan. While the initial bitcoin payment rollout is for electricity bills, Coincheck plans to expand its offerings to bitcoin payment for 'life infrastructure,' to include payment of gas, water and mobile phone bills. It may even partner with landlords to allow customers of Coincheck to pay rent using bitcoin. The bitcoin payment plan will be rolled out in Chubu, Kanto (including Tokyo) and Kansai regions to start, with additional areas to be added sequentially. The company hopes to offer bitcoin payment options to one million electric customers within the first year.
Entertainment

Plex Cloud Means Saying Goodbye To the Always-On PC (theverge.com) 164

Finally, you don't need an always-on PC or any other network-attached storage device if you want to use Plex's media player. The company has announced that it now allows you to stream TV shows and movies from your own collection via a new online option called Plex Cloud. From a report on The Verge: Plex is giving the world another reason to subscribe to Plex Pass subscriptions today with the launch of Plex Cloud. As the name suggests, Plex Cloud eliminates the need to run the Plex Media Server on a computer or Networked Attached Storage (NAS) in your house. It does, however, require a subscription to Amazon Drive ($59.99 per year for unlimited storage) and the aforementioned Plex Pass ($4.99 per month or $39.99 per year). Plex Cloud functions just like a regular Plex Media Server giving you access to your media -- no matter how you acquire it -- from an incredibly broad range of devices. Most, but not all Plex features are available in today's beta.
Android

Google Is Planning a 'Pixel 3' Laptop Running 'Andromeda' OS For Release in Q3 2017 (androidpolice.com) 56

Google plans to launch a laptop next year with Pixel branding which will run 'Andromeda' operating system, reports AndroidPolice, citing sources. Andromeda is a hybrid of Android and Chrome OS, the report adds. Pixel, Chrome OS and Android teams have been working on this project, dubbed Bison, for years, apparently. From the report: Bison is planned as an ultra-thin laptop with a 12.3" display, but Google also wants it to support a "tablet" mode. It's unclear to us if this means Bison will be a Lenovo Yoga-style convertible device, or a detachable like Microsoft's Surface Book, but I'm personally leaning on the former given how thin it is. Powering it will be either an Intel m3 or i5 Core processor with 32 or 128GB of storage and 8 or 16GB of RAM. This seems to suggest there will be two models. It will also feature a fingerprint scanner, two USB-C ports, a 3.5mm jack (!), a host of sensors, stylus support (a Wacom pen will be sold separately), stereo speakers, quad microphones, and a battery that will last around 10 hours. The keyboard will be backlit, and the glass trackpad will use haptic and force detection similar to the MacBook. Google plans to fit all of this in a form factor under 10mm in thickness, notably thinner than the aforementioned Apple ultraportable.The report, however, adds that it is likely that Google might revise the specifications by the time of its launch, which is slated to happen sometime in Q3 2017.
Power

Amazon Pursues More Renewable Energy, Following Google, Apple, And Facebook (fortune.com) 85

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: Amazon will open a 100-turbine, 253-megawatt wind farm in Texas by the end of next year -- generating enough energy to power almost 90,000 U.S. homes. Amazon already has wind farms in Indiana, North Carolina, and Ohio (plus a solar farm in Virginia), and 40% of the power for AWS already comes from renewable sources, but Amazon's long-term plan is to raise that to 100%.

But several of the world's largest tech companies are already pursuing their own aggressive renewable energy programs, according to Fortune. Google "has said it's the largest non-utility purchaser of renewable energy in the world. Apple claims that in 2015, 93% of its energy came from renewable sources, and its data centers are already 100% run on renewables (though that claim does rely on carbon trading). Facebook, which also uses Texas wind facilities, is aiming for 50% of its data center power to come from renewables by 2018. Even slightly smaller companies like Salesforce have made big commitments to renewable energy."

Last year for the first time utilities actually bought less than half the power produced by wind farms -- because tech companies, universities, and cities had already locked it down with long-term contracts.
Sci-Fi

'Transformer' BMW Turns Into A Giant Robot (vice.com) 45

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes Motherboard: Real-life Transformers are apparently already a thing thanks to a Turkish company called Letvision. They can't do battle with Decepticons, but they can turn their heads from side to side and move their arms and fingers and, erm, shoot smoke from between their legs. Oh, and they can do the whole changing from a 2013 BMW to an upright robot bit [video]. That's pretty cool, too.

But of course there's a catch. Each of the four available Transformers (which Letvision gave the copyright-friendly name of "Letrons") has a functional steering wheel, but you can only "drive" them remotely because Letvision stuffed the seating spaces with the hydraulics and electronics needed for the conversion.

Letvision's demo video has the clever title "Rise of LETRONS", and shows the vehicle spontaneously beginning its transformation after a newscaster announces, "Our country is under invasion by extraterrestrials."
United States

US Panel Extends Nuclear Power Tax Credit (thehill.com) 248

Slashdot reader mdsolar quotes The Hill: The House Ways and Means Committee voted Wednesday to remove a key deadline for a nuclear power plant tax credit... The credit was first enacted in 2005 to spur construction of new nuclear plants, but it has gone completely unused because no new plants have come online since then...

It would likely benefit two reactors under construction at Southern Co.'s Vogtle Electric Generating Plant in Georgia and another two at Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station in South Carolina. Both projects are at risk of missing the 2020 deadline... "When Congress passed the 2005 act, it could not have contemplated the effort it would take to get a nuclear plant designed and licensed," said representative Tom Rice (R-S.C.).

Although one Democrat criticized the extension by arguing that nuclear power "does better in a socialist economy than in a capitalist one, because nuclear energy prefers to have the public do the cleanup, do the insurance, cover all of the losses and it only wants the profits."
Government

From Bicycles To Washing Machines: Sweden To Give Tax Breaks For Repairs (mnn.com) 146

jenningsthecat writes: The Swedish government is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to encouraging the repair of stuff that would otherwise be thrown away, according to both The Guardian and Fast Company. The country's Social Democrat and Green party coalition have submitted proposals to Parliament that would reduce the value-added-tax (VAT) on bicycle, clothing, and shoe repairs from 25% to 12%. Also proposed is an income tax deduction equalling half the labor cost of repairing household appliances. According to The Guardian, "the incentives are part of a shift in government focus from reducing carbon emissions produced domestically to reducing emissions tied to goods produced elsewhere." Per Bolund, Sweden's Minister for Financial Markets and Consumer Affairs, said the policy also tied in with international trends around reduced consumption and crafts, such as the "maker movement" and the sharing economy, both of which have strong followings in Sweden. The VAT cut may create more jobs for immigrants as it could spur the creation of a new home-repairs service industry. Also, from a science standpoint, the incentives could help cut the cost of carbon emissions on the planet as it should in theory reduce emissions linked to consumption. "I believe there is a shift in view in Sweden at the moment. There is an increased knowledge that we need to make our things last longer in order to reduce materials' consumption," Bolund said. The Guardian's report concludes: "The proposals will be presented in parliament as part of the government's budget proposals and if voted through in December will become law from January 1, 2017."

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