Businesses

Exhausted Amazon Drivers Are Working 11-Hour Shifts For Less Than Minimum Wage (mirror.co.uk) 279

schwit1 quotes the Daily Mirror: Drivers are being asked to deliver up to 200 parcels a day for Amazon while earning less than the minimum wage, a Sunday Mirror investigation reveals today... Many routinely exceed the legal maximum shift of 11 hours and finish their days dead on their feet. Yet they have so little time for food or toilet stops they snatch hurried meals on the run and urinate into plastic bottles they keep in their vans. They say they often break speed limits to meet targets that take no account of delays such as ice, traffic jams or road closures.

Many claim they are employed in a way that means they have no rights to holiday or sickness pay. And some say they take home as little as £160 for a five-day week amid conditions described by one lawyer as "almost Dickensian"... The Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency has vowed to investigate after drivers contacted them to complain about conditions.

Bug

Microsoft's 'Malware Protection Engine' Had A Remote Code Execution Flaw (theregister.co.uk) 51

Slashdot reader Trax3001BBS shares an article from The Register: Microsoft posted an out-of-band security update Thursday to address a remote code execution flaw in its Malware Protection Engine. Redmond says the flaw, dubbed CVE-2017-11937, has not yet been exploited in the wild. Because it is an out-of-band critical fix, however, it should be installed as soon as possible. For most users, this will happen automatically.

The security hole is present in Windows Defender and Microsoft Security Essentials, as well as Endpoint Protection, Forefront Endpoint Protection, and Exchange Server 2013 and 2016... According to Microsoft, the vulnerability can be triggered when the Malware Protection Engine scans a downloaded file to check for threats. In many systems this is set to happen automatically for all new files. By exploiting a memory corruption error in the malware scanning tool, the attack file would be able to execute code on the target machine with LocalSystem privileges.

The Almighty Buck

Insurers Are Rewarding Tesla Owners For Using Autopilot (reuters.com) 138

Britain's largest auto insurance company Direct Line is testing out an idea to let Tesla owners receive a 5% discount for switching on the car's autopilot system, seeking to encourage use of a system it hopes will cut down on accidents. Reuters reports: The move - confirmed by company representatives in response to Reuters' questions - is Tesla's only tie-up in the UK and comes at a time when the company is trying to convince insurers that its internet-connected vehicles are statistically safer. Direct Line said it was too early to say whether the use of the autopilot system produced a safety record that justified lower premiums. It said it was charging less to encourage use of the system and aid research.

"Crash rates across all Tesla models have fallen by 40 percent since the introduction of the autopilot system ... However, when owners seek to insure their Tesla vehicles, this is not reflected in the pricing of premiums," Daniel Pearce, Financial Analyst at GlobalData, said. Direct Line, which is enjoying soaring motor insurance prices in Britain, said it sets premiums for Tesla drivers based on the risk they present, including who is driving, their age, driving experience and claim history.

AI

Elon Musk Says Tesla Is Building Dedicated Chips For Autopilot (theregister.co.uk) 32

Elon Musk says Tesla is developing its own chip to run the Autopilot system in future vehicles from the firm. The news was revealed at a Tesla party that took place at the intelligence conference NIPS. Attendees at the party told The Register that Musk said, "I wanted to make it clear that Tesla is serious about AI, both on the software and hardware fronts. We are developing custom AI hardware chips." From the report: Musk offered no details of his company's plans, but did tell the party that "Jim is developing specialized AI hardware that we think will be the best in the world." "Jim" is Jim Keller, a well-known chip engineer who was lead architect on a range of silicon at AMD and Apple and joined Tesla in 2016. Keller later joined Musk on a panel discussing AI at the Tesla Party alongside Andrej Karpathy, Tesla's Director of AI and chaired by Shivon Zilis, a partner and founding member at Bloomberg Beta, a VC firm. Musk is well known for his optimism about driverless cars and pessimism about whether AI can operate safely. At the party he voiced a belief that "about half of new cars built ten years from now will be autonomous." He added his opinion that artificial general intelligence (AGI) will arrive in about seven or eight years.
Businesses

Amazon Bringing Echo and Alexa To 80 Additional Countries in Major Global Expansion (geekwire.com) 36

Amazon is launching three of its Echo devices with Alexa in 80 additional countries starting today -- a major international expansion for the company's smart speakers and voice-based assistant. From a report: New markets for the Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Plus include Mexico, China, Russia and other countries in regions and continents including Europe, Africa, South America, the Middle East and Asia. Other Echo devices, such as the touch-screen Echo Show, are not included as part of the international expansion. Echo devices were previously only available in the US, UK, Germany, India, Japan, and Canada. Amazon earlier announced plans to bring Echo and Alexa to Australia and New Zealand next year. In addition, Amazon says its Music Unlimited subscription streaming service is available in 28 additional countries, including many of those where the Echo is now expanding, as well. Recommended reading: Don't buy anyone an Amazon Echo speaker.
Earth

Air Pollution Harm To Unborn Babies May Be Global Health Catastrophe, Warn Doctors (theguardian.com) 132

Air pollution significantly increases the risk of low birth weight in babies, leading to lifelong damage to health, according to a large new study. From a report: The research was conducted in London, UK, but its implications for many millions of women in cities around the world with far worse air pollution are "something approaching a public health catastrophe," the doctors involved said. Globally, two billion children -- 90% of all children -- are exposed to air pollution above World Health Organization guidelines. A Unicef study also published on Wednesday found that 17 million babies suffer air six times more toxic than the guidelines. The team said that there are no reliable ways for women in cities to avoid chronic exposure to air pollution during pregnancy and called for urgent action from governments to cut pollution from vehicles and other sources.
Medicine

'Watershed' Medical Trial Proves Type 2 Diabetes Can Be Reversed (bbc.com) 219

dryriver writes: For those suffering from type 2 diabetes, there is good news. Nearly half of the participants in a watershed trial of a new diabetes treatment were able to reverse their affliction. The method is quite simple -- an all liquid diet that causes participants to lose a lot of weight, followed by a carefully controlled diet of real solid foods. Four times a day, a sachet of powder is stirred in water to make a soup or shake. They contain about 200 calories, but also the right balance of nutrients. If the patient can keep away from other foods long enough, there is a chance of reversing type 2 diabetes completely. Prof Roy Taylor, from Newcastle University, told the BBC: "It's a real watershed moment. Before we started this line of work, doctors and specialists regarded type 2 as irreversible. But if we grasp the nettle and get people out of their dangerous state (being overweight), they can get remission of diabetes." However, doctors are not calling this a cure. If the weight goes back on, then the diabetes will return. The trial only looked at people diagnosed with diabetes in the last six years. Doctors believe -- but do not know with absolute certainty yet -- that in people who have had the affliction much longer than that, there may be too much permanent damage to make remission possible. The trial results have been published in the Lancet medical journal.
Programming

'24 Pull Requests' Suggests Contributing Code For Christmas (24pullrequests.com) 30

An anonymous reader writes: "On December 1st, 24 Pull Requests will be opening its virtual doors once again, asking you to give the gift of a pull request to an open source project in need," writes UK-based software developer Andrew Nesbitt -- noting that last year the site registered more than 16,000 pull requests. "And they're not all by programmers. Often the contribution with the most impact might be an improvement to technical documentation, some tests, or even better -- guidance for other contributors."

This year they're even touting "24 Pull Requests hack events," happening around the world from Lexington, Kentucky to Torino, Italy. (Last year 80 people showed up for an event in London.) "You don't have to hack alone this Christmas!" suggests the site, also inviting local communities and geek meetups (as well as open source-loving companies) to host their own events.

Contributing to open source projects can also beef up your CV (for when you're applying for your next job), the site points out, and "Even small contributions can be really valuable to a project."

"You've been benefiting from the use of open source projects all year. Now is the time to say thanks to the maintainers of those projects, and a little birdy tells me that they love receiving pull requests!"
Power

Electric Cars Are Already Cheaper To Own and Run Than Petrol Or Diesel, Says Study (theguardian.com) 474

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Electric cars are already cheaper to own and run than petrol or diesel cars in the UK, US and Japan, new research shows. The lower cost is a key factor driving the rapid rise in electric car sales now underway, say the researchers. At the moment the cost is partly because of government support, but electric cars are expected to become the cheapest option without subsidies in a few years. The researchers analyzed the total cost of ownership of cars over four years, including the purchase price and depreciation, fuel, insurance, taxation and maintenance. They were surprised to find that pure electric cars came out cheapest in all the markets they examined: UK, Japan, Texas and California.

Pure electric cars have much lower fuel costs -- electricity is cheaper than petrol or diesel -- and maintenance costs, as the engines are simpler and help brake the car, saving on brake pads. In the UK, the annual cost was about 10% lower than for petrol or diesel cars in 2015, the latest year analyzed. Hybrid cars which cannot be plugged in and attract lower subsidies, were usually a little more expensive than petrol or diesel cars. Plug-in hybrids were found to be significantly more expensive -- buyers are effectively paying for two engines in one car, the researchers said. The exception in this case was Japan, where plug-in hybrids receive higher subsidies.
The study has been published in the journal Applied Energy.
AI

Stephen Hawking: 'I Fear AI May Replace Humans Altogether' (wired.co.uk) 281

dryriver writes: Wired magazine recently asked physicist Stephen Hawking what he thinks of everything from AI to the Anti Science Movement. One of the subjects touched on was the control large corporations have over information in the 21st Century. In Hawking's own words: "I worry about the control that big corporations have over information. The danger is we get into the situation that existed in the Soviet Union with their papers, Pravda, which means "truth" and Izvestia, which means "news". The joke was, there was no truth in Pravda and no news in Izvestia. Corporations will always promote stories that reflect well on them and suppress those that don't." And since this is Slashdot, here's what Stephen Hawking said about Artificial Intelligence: "The genie is out of the bottle. We need to move forward on artificial intelligence development but we also need to be mindful of its very real dangers. I fear that AI may replace humans altogether. If people design computer viruses, someone will design AI that replicates itself. This will be a new form of life that will outperform humans."
Chrome

Wondering Why Your Internal .dev Web App Has Stopped Working? (theregister.co.uk) 311

Kieren McCarthy, writing for The Register: Network admins, code wranglers and other techies have hit an unusual problem this week: their test and development environments have vanished. Rather than connecting to private stuff on an internal .dev domain to pick up where they left off, a number of engineers and sysadmins are facing an error message in their web browser complaining it is "unable to provide a secure connection." How come? It's thanks to a recent commit to Chromium that has been included in the latest version of Google Chrome. As developers update their browsers, they may find themselves booted out their own systems. Under the commit, Chrome forces connections to all domains ending in .dev (as well as .foo) to use HTTPS via a HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) header. This is part of Google's larger and welcome push for HTTPS to be used everywhere for greater security.
Google

Google Faces Lawsuit For Gathering Personal Data From Millions of iPhone Users (betanews.com) 35

Mark Wilson writes: A group going by the name Google You Owe Us is taking Google to court in the UK, complaining that the company harvested personal data from 5.4 million iPhone users. The group is led by Richard Lloyd, director of consumer group Which?, and it alleges that Google bypassed privacy settings on iPhones between June 2011 and February 2012. The lawsuit seeks compensation for those affected by what is described as a "violation of trust." Google is accused of breaching UK data protection laws, and Lloyd says that this is "one of the biggest fights of my life." Even if the case is successful, the people represented by Google You Owe Us are not expected to receive more than a few hundred pounds each, and this is not an amount that would make much of an impact on Google's coffers.
Bitcoin

Nasdaq Plans To Offer Bitcoin Futures In Early 2018 (engadget.com) 100

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: Nasdaq is planning to launch contracts for bitcoin futures in the first half of 2018, according to The Wall Street Journal, which will enable investors to predict and put money on the future price of the currency. The Wall Street Journal also reports that broker Cantor Fitzgerald will be launching bitcoin derivatives on its own exchange in the first half of next year as well, making for yet another brokerage to help make bitcoin a more mainstream financial instrument. The relative youth and volatility of the currency still keeps many investors away, of course, but bitcoin is probably here to stay, even if this is just a bubble. New uses for regular folks to spend with the currency continue to rise, like the UK Visa card based on bitcoin and Square's testing of the currency in its payment app.
ISS

Bacteria Found On ISS May Be Alien In Origin, Says Cosmonaut (independent.co.uk) 238

Kekke writes: Lots of buzz around this. Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov took routine samples from the outside of the International Space Station during a spacewalk. These samples were analyzed and found to contain bacteria that must have come from somewhere other than Earth or the ISS itself. "Bacteria that had not been there during the launch of the ISS module were found on the swabs," Mr. Shkaplerov told TASS Russian News Agency. "So they have flown from somewhere in space and settled on the outside hull." He made it clear that "it seems, there is no danger," and that scientists are doing more work to find out what they are. The Independent writes, "Finding bacteria that came from somewhere other than Earth would be one of the biggest breakthroughs in the history of science -- but much more must be done before such a claim is made."
Earth

Scientists Call For Ban On Glitter, Say It's a Global Hazard That Pollutes Oceans (cnet.com) 121

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: Whether you love to add a little sparkle to your skin, or you think glitter truly is the herpes of the craft world (once it's on you, it never comes off), some scientists are now claiming that glitter is a hazard to the environment. Glitter, along with microbeads, are considered to fall under the category of microplastics, which are defined as plastics which are less than five millimeters in length. Microbeads are often found in facial scrubs, toothpaste, soaps, cosmetics and more. These microbeads pass through water filtration systems after usage but don't disintegrate, and often end up being consumed by marine life, causing concern among scientists keeping a close eye on how pollution effects fish.

"I think all glitter should be banned, because it's microplastic," Dr. Trisia Farrelly of New Zealand's Massey University told the Independent. Historically, glitter was made from mica rock particles, glass and even crushed beetles. Modern-day crafting glitter is made primarily from metals, while fine-milled cosmetic glitter is made from polyester, foil and plastics.

Facebook

'Break Up Google and Facebook If You Ever Want Innovation Again' (theregister.co.uk) 268

Hal_Porter shares a report from The Register: If the tech industry wants another wave of innovation to match the PC or the internet, Google and Facebook must be broken up, journalist and film producer Jonathan Taplin told an audience at University College London's Faculty of Law this week. He was speaking at an event titled Crisis in Copyright Policy: How the digital monopolies have cornered culture and what it means for all of us, where he credited the clampers put on Bell then IBM for helping to create the PC industry and the internet. Taplin told his audience that he'd been moved by the fate of his friend Levon Helm, The Band's drummer, who was forced to go back on the road in his sixties, after radiation therapy for cancer. Helm died broke. Today, Taplin points out, YouTube accounts for 57 per cent of all songs streamed over the internet, but thanks to a loophole returns just 13.5 per cent of revenue. "That's not a willing buyer-seller relationship," he said, referring to the UGC loophole that Google enjoys, one not available to Spotify or Apple Music. But it isn't just songwriters and musicians who are poorly paid. The average person "works for two hours a day for Mark Zuckerberg" generating a data profile. Taplin pointed out that Bell held patents on many technologies including the transistor, the laser and the solar cell, that it agreed to license, royalty free, as part of a 1956 consent decree.

Taplin saw history repeated with IBM. Under the 1956 (again) consent decree IBM was obliged to unbundle software from hardware in the 1960s. But competition authorities again opened up an investigation in 1969 which ran for 13 years. Caution made IBM ensure its first microcomputer, the IBM PC, launched in 1981, was an open platform. IBM chose three operating systems to run on the first PC but clearly favoured an outsider, from a tiny Seattle outfit originally called "Micro-Soft." Then Microsoft got the treatment. "Every 20 years we have this fight -- and we're about to have it again," Taplin told the audience. Antitrust was necessary "not because they're too big, but because there's no market solution" to Google and Facebook. The barriers to entry are now so high nobody is going bust open the ad duopoly. Taplin cited Snapchat an example of a company that tried to innovate, but refused to take Facebook's buyout offer. Facebook has simply copied its features.

Bug

MacOS High Sierra Bug Allows Login As Root With No Password (theregister.co.uk) 237

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Register: A trivial-to-exploit flaw in macOS High Sierra, aka macOS 10.13, allows users to gain admin rights, or log in as root, without a password. The security bug is triggered via the authentication dialog box in Apple's operating system, which prompts you for an administrator's username and password when you need to do stuff like configure privacy and network settings. If you type in "root" as the username, leave the password box blank, hit "enter" and then click on unlock a few times, the prompt disappears and, congrats, you now have admin rights. You can do this from the user login screen. The vulnerability effectively allows someone with physical access to the machine to log in, cause extra mischief, install malware, and so on. You should not leave your vulnerable Mac unattended until you can fix the problem. And while obviously this situation is not the end of the world -- it's certainly far from a remote hole or a disk decryption technique -- it's just really, really sad to see megabucks Apple drop the ball like this. Developer Lemi Orhan Ergan was the first to alert the world to the flaw. The Register notes: "If you have a root account enabled and a password for it set, the black password trick will not work. So, keep the account enabled and set a root password right now..."
Books

Tom Baker Returns To Finish Shelved Doctor Who Episodes Penned By Douglas Adams (theregister.co.uk) 83

Zorro shares a report from The Register: The fourth and finest Doctor, Tom Baker, has reprised the role to finish a Who serial scuppered in 1979 by strike action at the BBC. Shada, penned by Hitchhiker's Guide author Douglas Adams, was supposed to close Doctor Who's 17th season. Location filming in Cambridge and a studio session were completed but the strike nixed further work and the project was later shelved entirely for fear it might affect the Beeb's Christmas-time productions. The remaining parts have been filled in with animation and the voice of 83-year-old Baker, although he also filmed a scene. BBC Worldwide has now released the episodes, which interweave the 1979 footage with the new material to complete the story. "I loved doing Doctor Who, it was life to me," Baker told the BBC of his tenure as the much-loved Time Lord. "I used to dread the end of rehearsal because then real life would impinge on me. Doctor Who... when I was in full flight, then I was happy."
Education

Computer Science GCSE in Disarray After Tasks Leaked Online (bbc.com) 53

An anonymous reader shares a report: The new computer science GCSE has been thrown into disarray after programming tasks worth a fifth of the total marks were leaked repeatedly online. Exams regulator Ofqual plans to pull this chunk of the qualification from the overall marks as it has been seen by thousands of people. Ofqual said the non-exam assessment may have been leaked by teachers as well as students who had completed the task. The breach affects two year groups. The first will sit the exam in summer 2018. Last year 70,000 students were entered for computer science GCSE. A quick internet search reveals numerous posts about the the non-exam assessment, with questions and potential answers.
Data Storage

Computer Pioneer Geoff Tootill Passed Away (theguardian.com) 36

"Computer pioneer Geoff Tootill passed away in October," writes long-time Slashdot reader tigersha. Born in 1922, Tootill began his career troubleshooting airborne radar systems during World War II, leading him to some pioneering research in the late 1940s. "He worked on the first computer that stored a program in main memory, as opposed to a paper tape, and actually had the opportunity to teach Alan Turing and debug one of Turing's programs." The Guardian remembers: The computer could store just 32 instructions or numbers using a single cathode ray tube. The machine first worked in June 1948, taking 52 minutes to find the highest factor of 262,144, involving about 3.5 million arithmetic operations. The following year, Tootill transferred to Ferranti, the Manchester-based electrical engineering company, to specify a full-scale computer...the world's first commercially available computer.
That was the Ferranti Mark I, first released in 1951.

Tootill passed away at the age of 95.

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