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Visa Adds New Way To Share Customer Shopping Data With Retailers

Slashdot - Thu, 2024-05-16 17:20
Visa is rolling out new technology that will allow the payments giant to share more information about customers' preferences [non-paywalled source] based on their shopping history with retailers as it seeks to remain a top player in the competitive e-commerce space. From a report: The data will be shared via the payments giant's proprietary "tokens," which provide an added layer of security between a consumer's bank information and a merchant. Shopping inclinations and other information based on past transactions -- such as preferred categories, like movies or golf -- will be shared via token with retailers with the consent of consumers. "It's almost entirely blind to almost all consumers," Visa Chief Executive Officer Ryan McInerney said in an interview of the company's token technology. "They just know their payments work better." The sharing of shopping data via token is one of a handful of innovations Visa unveiled at a conference in San Francisco, where it's based. Visa, one of the largest e-commerce technology companies in the world, is finding itself increasingly fending off competitors seeking larger slices of the fees merchants must pay to carry out consumer transactions.

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Categories: Computer, News

'Microsoft's Quest For Short-Term $$$ is Doing Long-Term Damage To Windows, Surface, Xbox, and Beyond'

Slashdot - Thu, 2024-05-16 16:40
In an op-ed on Windows Central, the site's co-managing editor Jez Corden laments Microsoft's "short-sighted" decision-making and "inconsistent" investment in its products and services, which he argues has led to a loss of trust among customers and missed opportunities in the tech industry. Despite Microsoft's advancements in AI and cloud computing, the company has made "baffling" decisions such as shutting down Windows Phone, under-investing in Xbox, and canceling promising Surface products. The author argues that Microsoft's lack of commitment to security, customer support, and long-term quality has "damaged" its reputation and hindered its potential for growth. Examples include recent hacking scandals, poor customer service experiences, and the aggressive promotion of Microsoft Edge at the expense of user choice. The author also expresses concern over Microsoft's handling of the Xbox brand, particularly the decision to release exclusive games on PlayStation, which could undermine the reasons for customers to choose Xbox. The op-ed concludes that while Microsoft has the potential to be a leader in the tech industry, its pattern of short-sighted decisions and failure to learn from past mistakes has led to a growing sense of doubt among its customers and observers.

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Categories: Computer, News

Microsoft Asks Hundreds of China-Based AI Staff To Consider Relocating Amid US-China Tensions

Slashdot - Thu, 2024-05-16 16:00
Microsoft is asking hundreds of employees in its China-based cloud-computing and AI operations to consider transferring outside the country, as tensions between Washington and Beijing mount around the critical technology. WSJ: Such staff, mostly engineers with Chinese nationality, were recently offered the opportunity to transfer to countries including the U.S., Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, people familiar with the matter said. The company is asking about 700 to 800 people [non-paywalled link], who are involved in machine learning and other work related to cloud computing, one of the people said.ÂThe move by one of America's biggest cloud-computing and AI companies comes as the Biden administration seeks to put tighter curbs around China's capability to develop state-of-the-art AI. The White House is considering new rules that would require Microsoft and other U.S. cloud-computing companies to get licenses before giving Chinese customers access to AI chips.

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Airbus Unveils Half-Plane, Half-Copter In Quest For Speed

Slashdot - Thu, 2024-05-16 15:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Airbus Helicopters showcased an experimental half-plane, half-helicopter on Wednesday in a quest for speed as competition heats up to define the rotorcraft of the future. The $217 million Racer is a one-off demonstrator model combining traditional overhead rotors with two forward-facing propellors in a bid to combine stability and speed, shortening response times for critical missions like search-and-rescue. "There are missions where the quickest possible access to the zone is vital. We often talk about the 'golden hour'," Airbus Helicopters CEO Bruno Even told Reuters, referring to the window considered most critical for providing medical attention. Such designs could also be offered for military developments as NATO conducts a major study into next-generation helicraft, though much depends on how its planners define future needs. [...] Racer's public debut came months after Italy's Leonardo and U.S. manufacturer Bell agreed to co-operate on the next generation of tilt-rotor technology, which replaces a helicopter's trademark overhead blades altogether. Leonardo is also leading a separate project to develop the next generation of tilt-rotors for civil use. Its AW609 is the sole existing civil design, but has yet to be certified. Proponents of the tilt-rotor, which relies on swiveling side-mounted rotors 90 degrees to go up and then forwards, say it permits higher speed and range that are suited to military missions. Critics say the tilt mechanism reaches higher speeds only at the expense of higher complexity and maintenance costs. Airbus said the Racer will fly at 220 knots (400 km/hour) compared with traditional helicopter speeds closer to 140 knots. Bell says its V-280 Valor tilt-rotor design, recently picked by the Pentagon, will reach a cruise speed of 280 knots. Watch: Racer - Inside the high speed demonstrator (YouTube)

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AT&T Goes Up Against T-Mobile, Starlink With AST SpaceMobile Satellite Deal

Slashdot - Thu, 2024-05-16 12:00
Michael Kan reports via PCMag: AT&T has struck a deal to bring satellite internet connectivity to phones through AST SpaceMobile, a potential rival to SpaceX's Starlink. AT&T says the commercial agreement will last until 2030. The goal is "to provide a space-based broadband network to everyday cell phones," a spokesperson tells PCMag, meaning customers can receive a cellular signal in remote areas where traditional cell towers are few and far between. All they'll need to do is ensure their phone has a clear view of the sky. AT&T has been working with Texas-based AST SpaceMobile since 2018 on the technology, which involves using satellites in space as orbiting cell towers. In January, AT&T was one of several companies (including Google) to invest $110 million in AST. In addition, the carrier created a commercial starring actor Ben Stiller to showcase AST's technology. In today's announcement, AT&T notes that "previously, the companies were working together under a Memorandum of Understanding," which is usually nonbinding. Hence, the new commercial deal suggests AT&T is confident AST can deliver fast and reliable satellite internet service to consumer smartphones -- even though it hasn't launched a production satellite. AST has only launched one prototype satellite; in tests last year, it delivered download rates at 14Mbps and powered a 5G voice call. Following a supply chain-related delay, the company is now preparing to launch its first batch of "BlueBird" production satellites later this year, possibly in Q3. In Wednesday's announcement, AT&T adds: "This summer, AST SpaceMobile plans to deliver its first commercial satellites to Cape Canaveral for launch into low Earth orbit. These initial five satellites will help enable commercial service that was previously demonstrated with several key milestones." Still, AST needs to launch 45 to 60 BlueBird satellites before it can offer continuous coverage in the U.S., although in an earnings call, the company said it'll still be able to offer "non-continuous coverage" across 5,600 cells in the country.

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Microsoft's AI Push Imperils Climate Goal As Carbon Emissions Jump 30%

Slashdot - Thu, 2024-05-16 09:00
Microsoft's ambitious goal to be carbon negative by 2030 is threatened by its expanding AI operations, which have increased its carbon footprint by 30% since 2020. To meet its targets, Microsoft must quickly adopt green technologies and improve efficiency in its data centers, which are critical for AI but heavily reliant on carbon-intensive resources. Bloomberg reports: Now to meet its goals, the software giant will have to make serious progress very quickly in gaining access to green steel and concrete and less carbon-intensive chips, said Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, in an exclusive interview with Bloomberg Green. "In 2020, we unveiled what we called our carbon moonshot. That was before the explosion in artificial intelligence," he said. "So in many ways the moon is five times as far away as it was in 2020, if you just think of our own forecast for the expansion of AI and its electrical needs." [...] Despite AI's ravenous energy consumption, this actually contributes little to Microsoft's hike in emissions -- at least on paper. That's because the company says in its sustainability report that it's 100% powered by renewables. Companies use a range of mechanisms to make such claims, which vary widely in terms of credibility. Some firms enter into long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) with renewable developers, where they shoulder some of a new energy plant's risk and help get new solar and wind farms online. In other cases, companies buy renewable energy credits (RECs) to claim they're using green power, but these inexpensive credits do little to spur new demand for green energy, researchers have consistently found. Microsoft uses a mix of both approaches. On one hand, it's one of the biggest corporate participants in power purchase agreements, according to BloombergNEF, which tracks these deals. But it's also a huge purchaser of RECs, using these instruments to claim about half of its energy use is clean, according to its environmental filings in 2022. By using a large quantity of RECs, Microsoft is essentially masking an even larger growth in emissions. "It is Microsoft's plan to phase out the use of unbundled RECs in future years," a spokesperson for the company said. "We are focused on PPAs as a primary strategy." So what else can be done? Smith, along with Microsoft's Chief Sustainability Officer Melanie Nakagawa, has laid out clear steps in the sustainability report. High among them is to increase efficiency, which is to use the same amount of energy or computing to do more work. That could help reduce the need for data centers, which will reduce emissions and electricity use. On most things, "our climate goals require that we spend money," said Smith. "But efficiency gains will actually enable us to save money." Microsoft has also been at the forefront of buying sustainable aviation fuels that has helped reduce some of its emissions from business travel. The company also wants to partner with those who will "accelerate breakthroughs" to make greener steel, concrete and fuels. Those technologies are starting to work at a small scale, but remain far from being available in commercial quantities even if expensive. Cheap renewable power has helped make Microsoft's climate journey easier. But the tech giant's electricity consumption last year rivaled that of a small European country -- beating Slovenia easily. Smith said that one of the biggest bottlenecks for it to keep getting access to green power is the lack of transmission lines from where the power is generated to the data centers. That's why Microsoft says it's going to increase lobbying efforts to get governments to speed up building the grid. If Microsoft's emissions remain high going into 2030, Smith said the company may consider bulk purchases of carbon removal credits, even though it's not "the desired course." "You've got to be willing to invest and pay for it," said Smith. Climate change is "a problem that humanity created and that humanity can solve."

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Categories: Computer, News

CodeSOD: Scoring the Concatenation

The Daily WTF - Thu, 2024-05-16 08:30

Today's a simple one. We've all seen code that relies too heavily on string concatenation and eschews useful methods like Join.

Nick L sends us this VB.Net example, written by a slew of mechanical engineers.

PartSearchDescription = _ dFrameType + _ dFrameSize + _ dSYZD + _ dPoles + _ dBearingType + _ dBearingInsulated + _ dTerminalBoxType + _ dMBBreatherDrain + _ dTerminalBoxSH + _ dMBServitPost + _ dMBNotes + _ dStandoffs + _ dStatorGnd + _ dLA + _ dCT + _ dMeteringCT + _ dSC + _ dIrisPartialDischarge + _ dLocation + _ dWOrientation + _ dStatorRTD + _ dBearingRTD + _ dBearingThermocouples + _ dTypeEE + _ dTypeJJ + _ dTypeKK + _ dTypeTT + _ dMainFrameSH + _ dThermostats + _ dSepAuxBoxes + _ dRotation + _ dAPI + _ dMCI + _ dFlanges + _ dIP55 + _ dCPLG + _ dPumpBrkt + _ dINPRO + _ dOilMist + _ dPipeExtensions + _ dCLO + _ dFloodLube + _ dwFlanges + _ dwSightFlow + _ dSumpHeater + _ dGemsPak + _ dSideDucts + _ dVAD + _ dLNFH + _ dShimPack + _ dAdapter + _ dBreather + _ dServitPost + _ dSolePlate + _ dDimensions + _ dGNDBrush + _ dGNDPads + _ dGNDStrap + _ dProbes + _ dKeyphasor + _ dTransmitter + _ dTachometer + _ dDialTherm + _ dDPS + _ dAccelerometer + _ dVelometer + _ dOptionNotes + _ dAdditionalNotes + _ dNoiseLevel + _ dLeads + _ dShaft + _ dSO + _ dLI + _ dCustomer

That's… a lot. It's basically throwing every field into a single string, separated by "_". Which you know that means the other side, whatever it may be, has to unpack them with a split. If you don't know what serialization is, I suppose it makes sense.

I also see a lot of what looks like Hungarian notation, but every field starts with d or dw, and I doubt that dCustomer, dLocation, and dGNDStrap are all the same type as dNoiseLevel. In fact, this may be the worst use of Hungarian I've ever seen- at best Hungarian symbols are more noise than signal, but this one is just pure static. Even if they're describing the purpose of these fields ("d for data member"?), it's basically repetitive and pointless.

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Categories: Computer

Wallet Recovery Firms Buzz as Locked-out Crypto Investors Panic in Bitcoin Boom

Slashdot - Thu, 2024-05-16 07:30
The recent surge in bitcoin prices has the phones at crypto wallet recovery firms ringing off the hook, as retail investors locked out of their digital vaults make frantic calls to regain access to their accounts. From a report: Cryptocurrencies exist on a decentralized digital ledger known as blockchain and investors may opt to access their holdings either through a locally stored software wallet or a hardware wallet, to avoid risks related to owning crypto with an exchange, as in the case of the former FTX. Losing access to a crypto wallet is a well-known problem. Investors forgetting their intricate passwords is a primary reason, but loss of access to two-factor authentication devices, unexpected shutdowns of cryptocurrency exchanges and cyberattacks are also common. Wallet passwords are usually alphanumeric and the wallet provider also offers a set of randomized words, known as "seed phrases," for additional security - both these are known only to the user. If investors lose the passwords and phrases, access to their wallets is cut off. With bitcoin prices regaining traction since last October and hitting a record high of $73,803.25 in March, investors seem to be suffering from a classic case of FOMO, or the fear of missing out. Reuters spoke to nearly a dozen retail investors who had lost access to their crypto wallets. Six of them contacted a recovery services firm and managed to regain access to their holdings.

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Categories: Computer, News

MIT Students Stole $25 Million In Seconds By Exploiting ETH Blockchain Bug, DOJ Says

Slashdot - Thu, 2024-05-16 05:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Within approximately 12 seconds, two highly educated brothers allegedly stole $25 million by tampering with the ethereum blockchain in a never-before-seen cryptocurrency scheme, according to an indictment that the US Department of Justice unsealed Wednesday. In a DOJ press release, US Attorney Damian Williams said the scheme was so sophisticated that it "calls the very integrity of the blockchain into question." "The brothers, who studied computer science and math at one of the most prestigious universities in the world, allegedly used their specialized skills and education to tamper with and manipulate the protocols relied upon by millions of ethereum users across the globe," Williams said. "And once they put their plan into action, their heist only took 12 seconds to complete." Anton, 24, and James Peraire-Bueno, 28, were arrested Tuesday, charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Each brother faces "a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each count," the DOJ said. The indictment goes into detail explaining that the scheme allegedly worked by exploiting the ethereum blockchain in the moments after a transaction was conducted but before the transaction was added to the blockchain. To uncover the scheme, the special agent in charge, Thomas Fattorusso of the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) New York Field Office, said that investigators "simply followed the money." "Regardless of the complexity of the case, we continue to lead the effort in financial criminal investigations with cutting-edge technology and good-ol'-fashioned investigative work, on and off the blockchain," Fattorusso said.

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Categories: Computer, News

Bay Area City Orders Scientists To Stop Controversial Cloud Brightening Experiment

Slashdot - Thu, 2024-05-16 04:02
Last month, researchers from the University of Washington started conducting an experiment on a decommissioned naval ship in Alameda to test if spraying salt water into the air could brighten clouds and cool the planet. However, their project was forced to stop this month after the city got word of what was going on. SFGate reports: According to a city press release, scientists were ordered to halt the experiment because it violated Alameda's lease with the USS Hornet, the aircraft carrier from which researchers were spraying saltwater into the air using "a machine resembling a snowmaker." The news was first reported by the Alameda Post. "City staff are working with a team of biological and hazardous materials consultants to independently evaluate the health and environmental safety of this particular experiment," the press release states. Specifically, chemicals present in the experiment's aerosol spray are being evaluated to study whether or not they pose any threats to humans, animals or the environment. So far, there isn't any evidence that they do, the city stated. The prospect of a city-conducted review was not unexpected, the University of Washington said in a statement shared with SFGATE. "In fact, the CAARE (Coastal Aerosol Research and Engagement) facility is designed to help regulators, community members and others engage with the research closely, and we consider the current interactions with the city to be an integral part of that process," the statement reads. "We are happy to support their review and it has been a highly constructive process so far." The marine cloud brightening (MCB) technique involves spraying fine particles of sea salt into the atmosphere from ships or specialized machines. These sea salt particles are chosen because they are a natural source of cloud-forming aerosols and can increase the number of cloud droplets, making the clouds more reflective. The particles sprayed are extremely small, about 1/1000th the width of a human hair, ensuring they remain suspended in the air and interact with cloud droplets effectively. By reflecting more sunlight, these brightened clouds can reduce the amount of solar energy reaching the Earth's surface, leading to localized cooling. If implemented on a large scale, this cooling effect could potentially offset some of the warming caused by greenhouse gases. You can learn more about the experiment here.

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Netflix To Take On Google and Amazon By Building Its Own Ad Server

Slashdot - Thu, 2024-05-16 03:25
Lauren Forristal writes via TechCrunch: Netflix announced during its Upfronts presentation on Wednesday that it's launching its own advertising technology platform only a year and a half after entering the ads business. This move pits it against other industry heavyweights with ad servers, like Google, Amazon and Comcast. The announcement signifies a significant shake-up in the streaming giant's advertising approach. The company originally partnered with Microsoft to develop its ad tech, letting Netflix enter the ad space quickly and catch up with rivals like Hulu, which has had its own ad server for over a decade. With the launch of its in-house ad tech, Netflix is poised to take full control of its advertising future. This strategic move will empower the company to create targeted and personalized ad experiences that resonate with its massive user base of 270 million subscribers. [...] Netflix didn't say exactly how its in-house solution will change the way ads are delivered, but it's likely it'll move away from generic advertisements. According to the Financial Times, Netflix wants to experiment with "episodic" campaigns, which involve a series of ads that tell a story rather than delivering repetitive ads. During the presentation, Netflix also noted that it'll expand its buying capabilities this summer, which will now include The Trade Desk, Google's Display & Video 360 and Magnite as partners. Notably, competitor Disney+ also has an advertising agreement with The Trade Desk. Netflix also touted the success of its ad-supported tier, reporting that 40 million global monthly active users opt for the plan. The ad tier had around 5 million users within six months of launching.

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US Regulators Approve Rule That Could Speed Renewables

Slashdot - Thu, 2024-05-16 02:45
Longtime Slashdot reader necro81 writes: The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which controls interstate energy infrastructure, approved a rule Monday that should boost new transmission infrastructure and make it easier to connect renewable energy projects. (More coverage here, here, and here.) Some 11,000 projects totaling 2,600 GW of capacity are in planning, waiting to break ground, or connect to the grid. But they're stymied by the need for costly upgrades, or simply waiting for review. The frustrations are many. Each proposed project undergoes a lengthy grid-impact study and assessed the cost of necessary upgrades. Each project is considered in isolation, regardless of whether similar projects are happening nearby that could share the upgrade costs or auger different improvements. The planning process tends to be reactive -- examining only the applications in front of them -- rather than considering trends over the coming years. It's a first-come, first-served queue: if one project is ready to break ground, it must wait behind another project that's still securing funding or permitting. Two years in development, the dryly-named Improvements to Generator Interconnection Procedures and Agreements directs utility operators to plan infrastructure improvements with a 20-yr forecast of new energy sources and increased demand. Rather than examining each project in isolation, similar projects will be clustered and examined together. Instead of a First-Come, First-Served serial process, operators will instead examine First-Ready, allowing shovel-ready projects to jump the queue. The expectation is that these new rules will speed up and streamline the process of developing and connecting new energy projects through more holistic planning, penalties for delays, sensible cost-sharing for upgrades, and justification for long-term investments.

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UK Police Could Get Ghostbusters-style Backpack Devices To Halt Ebike Getaways

Slashdot - Thu, 2024-05-16 02:01
Police officers in Britain could be armed with Ghostbusters-style devices that fire electromagnetic rays to shut down the engines of ebikes being used in a crime. From a report: Gavin Stephens, chair of the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC), said the weapon was in development and could be months away from being available, though it is expected to be longer than that. He said it would be housed in a backpack, reminiscent of the equipment used in the Ghostbusters series of movies. It could tackle crime linked to newer vehicles such as electric bikes and electric scooters. The device is being developed with the Defence Science and Technology Lab, which is overseen by the Ministry of Defence, alongside other technological innovations that British police are hoping to use. It would fire an electromagnetic pulse at a vehicle that an officer wants to stop because the rider is suspected of involvement in a crime. The electromagnetic weapon works by tricking the engine into thinking it is overheating, which shuts down the engine and brings the vehicle to a stop. It requires a line of sight to work, Stephens said. Stephens told a media briefing: "Basically, it interferes with the electric motor, to trick the electric motor into thinking it is overheating. It sends a signal to confuse the electric motor. All these electric motors apparently have an inbuilt safety system that if it thinks it's overheating, it shuts down. At the minute, it's like a ginormous backpack." The equipment was demonstrated to police leaders at the Farnborough technology show earlier this year. Stephens said: "They were also telling me it has the potential to be useful with normal combustion engine vehicles."

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Arizona Accuses Amazon of Unfair, Deceptive Business Practices

Slashdot - Thu, 2024-05-16 01:20
Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes filed two lawsuits Wednesday against the international online retail giant Amazon.com, accusing it of deceptive and unfair business practices. Courthouse News Service: The two lawsuits, filed in state court, say Amazon's Prime cancellation process and the algorithm that decides whether a product is offered through a "buy now" or "add to cart" option violate the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act and the Arizona Uniform State Antitrust Act. Mayes, a Democrat, accuses Amazon of artificially inflating prices and boxing our third-party retailers that rely on the site for business. "Amazon must be held accountable for these violations of our state laws," Mayes said in a statement. "No matter how big and powerful, all businesses must play by the same rules and follow the same laws as everyone else."

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Quantum Internet Draws Near Thanks To Entangled Memory Breakthroughs

Slashdot - Thu, 2024-05-16 00:40
An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Scientist: Efforts to build a global quantum internet have received a boost from two developments in quantum information storage that could one day make it possible to communicate securely across hundreds or thousands of kilometers. The internet as it exists today involves sending strings of digital bits, or 0s and 1s, in the form of electrical or optical signals, to transmit information. A quantum internet, which could be used to send unhackable communications or link up quantum computers, would use quantum bits instead. These rely on a quantum property called entanglement, a phenomenon in which particles can be linked and measuring one particle instantly influences the state of another, no matter how far apart they are. Sending these entangled quantum bits, or qubits, over very long distances, requires a quantum repeater, a piece of hardware that can store the entangled state in memory and reproduce it to transmit it further down the line. These would have to be placed at various points on a long-distance network to ensure a signal gets from A to B without being degraded. Quantum repeaters don't yet exist, but two groups of researchers have now demonstrated long-lasting entanglement memory in quantum networks over tens of kilometers, which are the key characteristics needed for such a device. Can Knaut at Harvard University and his colleagues set up a quantum network consisting of two nodes separated by a loop of optical fibre that spans 35 kilometers across the city of Boston. Each node contains both a communication qubit, used to transmit information, and a memory qubit, which can store the quantum state for up to a second. "Our experiment really put us in a position where we're really close to working on a quantum repeater demonstration," says Knaut. To set up the link, Knaut and his team entangled their first node, which contains a type of diamond with an atom-sized hole in it, with a photon that they sent to their second node, which contains a similar diamond. When the photon arrives at the second diamond, it becomes entangled with both nodes. The diamonds are able to store this state for a second. A fully functioning quantum repeater using similar technology could be demonstrated in the next couple of years, says Knaut, which would enable quantum networks connecting cities or countries. In separate work, Xiao-Hui Bao at the University of Science and Technology of China and his colleagues entangled three nodes together, each separated by around 10 kilometers in the city of Hefei. Bao and his team's nodes use supercooled clouds of hundreds of millions of rubidium atoms to generate entangled photons, which they then sent across the three nodes. The central of the three nodes is able to coordinate these photons to link the atom clouds, which act as a form of memory. The key advance for Bao and his team's network is to match the frequency of the photons meeting at the central node, which will be crucial for quantum repeaters connecting different nodes. While the storage time was less than Knaut's team, at 100 microseconds, it is still long enough to perform useful operations on the transmitted information.

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Google Opens Up Its Smart Home To Everyone

Slashdot - Thu, 2024-05-16 00:00
Google is opening up API access to its Google Home smart home platform, allowing app developers to access over 600 million connected devices and tap into the Google Home automation engine. In addition, Google announced that it'll be turning Google TVs into Google Home hubs and Matter controllers. The Verge reports: The Home APIs can access any Matter device or Works with Google Home device, and allows developers to build their own experiences using Google Home devices and automations into their apps on both iOS and Android. This is a significant move for Google in opening up its smart home platform, following shutting down its Works with Nest program back in 2019. [...] The Home APIs are already available to Google's early access partners, and Google is opening up a waitlist for any developer to sign up today. "We are opening up access on a rolling basis so they can begin building and testing within their apps," Anish Kattukaran, head of product at Google Home and Nest, told The Verge. "The first apps using the home APIs will be able to publish to the Play and App stores in the fall." The access is not just limited to smart home developers. In the blog post, Matt Van Der Staay, engineering director at Google Home, said the Home APIs could be used to connect smart home devices to fitness or delivery apps. "You can build a complex app to manage any aspect of a smart home, or simply integrate with a smart device to solve pain points -- like turning on the lights automatically before the food delivery driver arrives." The APIs allow access to most devices connected to Google Home and to the Google Home structure, letting apps control and manage devices such as Matter light bulbs or the Nest Learning Thermostat. They also leverage Google Home's automation signals, such as motion from sensors, an appliance's mode changing, or Google's Home and Away mode, which uses various signals to determine if a home is occupied. [...] What's also interesting here is that developers will be able to use the APIs to access and control any device that works with the new smart home standard Matter and even let people set up Matter devices directly in their app. This should make it easier for them to implement Matter into their apps, as it will add devices to the Google Home fabric, so they won't have to develop their own. In addition, Google announced that it's vastly expanding its Matter infrastructure by turning Google TVs into Google Home hubs and Matter controllers. Any app using the APIs would need a Google hub in a customer's home in order to control Matter devices locally. Later this year, Chromecast with Google TV, select panel TVs with Google TV running Android 14 or higher, and some LG TVs will be upgraded to become Google Home hubs. Additionally, Kattukaran said Google will upgrade all of its existing home hubs -- which include Nest Hub (second-gen), Nest Hub Max, and Google Wifi -- with a new ability called Home runtime. "With this update, all hubs for Google Home will be able to directly route commands from any app built with Home APIs (such as the Google Home app) to a customer's Matter device locally, when the phone is on the same Wi-Fi network as the hub," said Kattukaran. This means you should see "significant latency improvements using local control via a hub for Google Home," he added.

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Categories: Computer, News

Apple Brings Eye-Tracking To Recent iPhones and iPads

Slashdot - Wed, 2024-05-15 23:20
This week, in celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Apple is introducing several new accessibility features. Noteworthy additions include eye-tracking support for recent iPhone and iPad models, customizable vocal shortcuts, music haptics, and vehicle motion cues. Engadget reports: The most intriguing feature of the set is the ability to use the front-facing camera on iPhones or iPads (at least those with the A12 chip or later) to navigate the software without additional hardware or accessories. With this enabled, people can look at their screen to move through elements like apps and menus, then linger on an item to select it. That pause to select is something Apple calls Dwell Control, which has already been available elsewhere in the company's ecosystem like in Mac's accessibility settings. The setup and calibration process should only take a few seconds, and on-device AI is at work to understand your gaze. It'll also work with third-party apps from launch, since it's a layer in the OS like Assistive Touch. Since Apple already supported eye-tracking in iOS and iPadOS with eye-detection devices connected, the news today is the ability to do so without extra hardware. [...] There are plenty more features coming to the company's suite of products, including Live Captions in VisionOS, a new Reader mode in Magnifier, support for multi-line braille and a virtual trackpad for those who use Assistive Touch. It's not yet clear when all of these announced updates will roll out, though Apple has historically made these features available in upcoming versions of iOS. With its developer conference WWDC just a few weeks away, it's likely many of today's tools get officially released with the next iOS. Apple detailed all the new features in a press release.

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Android 15 Gets 'Private Space,' Theft Detection, and AV1 Support

Slashdot - Wed, 2024-05-15 22:40
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Google's I/O conference is still happening, and while the big keynote was yesterday, major Android beta releases have apparently been downgraded to Day 2 of the show. Google really seems to want to be primarily an AI company now. Android already had some AI news yesterday, but now that the code-red requirements have been met, we have actual OS news. One of the big features in this release is "Private Space," which Google says is a place where users can "keep sensitive apps away from prying eyes, under an additional layer of authentication." First, there's a new hidden-by-default portion of the app drawer that can hold these sensitive apps, and revealing that part of the app drawer requires a second round of lock-screen authentication, which can be different from the main phone lock screen. Just like "Work" apps, the apps in this section run on a separate profile. To the system, they are run by a separate "user" with separate data, which your non-private apps won't be able to see. Interestingly, Google says, "When private space is locked by the user, the profile is paused, i.e., the apps are no longer active," so apps in a locked Private Space won't be able to show notifications unless you go through the second lock screen. Another new Android 15 feature is "Theft Detection Lock," though it's not in today's beta and will be out "later this year." The feature uses accelerometers and "Google AI" to "sense if someone snatches your phone from your hand and tries to run, bike, or drive away with it." Any of those theft-like shock motions will make the phone auto-lock. Of course, Android's other great theft prevention feature is "being an Android phone." Android 12L added a desktop-like taskbar to the tablet UI, showing recent and favorite apps at the bottom of the screen, but it was only available on the home screen and recent apps. Third-party OEMs immediately realized that this bar should be on all the time and tweaked Android to allow it. In Android 15, an always-on taskbar will be a normal option, allowing for better multitasking on tablets and (presumably) open foldable phones. You can also save split-screen-view shortcuts to the taskbar now. An Android 13 developer feature, predictive back, will finally be turned on by default. When performing the back gesture, this feature shows what screen will show up behind the current screen you're swiping away. This gives a smoother transition and a bit of a preview, allowing you to cancel the back gesture if you don't like where it's going. [...] Because this is a developer release, there are tons of under-the-hood changes. Google is a big fan of its own next-generation AV1 video codec, and AV1 support has arrived on various devices thanks to hardware decoding being embedded in many flagship SoCs. If you can't do hardware AV1 decoding, though, Android 15 has a solution for you: software AV1 decoding.

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Walmart's Reign as America's Biggest Retailer Is Under Threat

Slashdot - Wed, 2024-05-15 22:00
With Amazon on its heels, the nation's biggest company by revenue is hunting for ways to continue growing. From a report: For a decade, Walmart has reigned as the nation's biggest company by revenue. Its sales last year added up to $648 billion -- more than $1.2 million a minute. That status comes with benefits. It gives Walmart power in negotiations with product manufacturers and in dealing with government officials over policy issues. It's also a point of pride: Job postings often tout working at the "Fortune 1" company as a perk. Its reign is looking shaky lately [non-paywalled link]. If current sales trends persist, Amazon is likely to overtake Walmart soon. Amazon reported $575 billion in total revenue last year, up 12% from the previous year, compared with Walmart's revenue growth of 6%. Walmart's behemoth size means that to meet its own sales target of around 4% growth each year, the company has to find an additional $26 billion in sales this year. That's no easy task. About 90% of Americans already shop at the retailer. The pandemic and rising inflation boosted Walmart's revenue by $100 billion since 2019. It faces continued uncertainty in consumer confidence and while it's spending in some areas, it's pulling back in others. Earlier this week, Walmart told workers it would cut hundreds of corporate jobs and ask most remote workers to move to offices. While Amazon's and Walmart's businesses compete head on, there are big differences. Amazon earns much of its profit from non-retail operations such as cloud computing and advertising, while grabbing retail market share with fast shipping. Walmart gets the bulk of its sales and profits from U.S. stores, while growing side businesses like advertising and digital sales. Walmart executives are most wary of Amazon's ability to keep increasing profits through its non-retail business, while eating more of the retail landscape with ever-faster shipping and a bigger product selection, people familiar with the company said. Internally some executives are highlighting Walmart's role as a good corporate citizen and emphasizing that it's important to be the best at serving customers and workers, not just the biggest, say some of those people. Its scale can also have downsides, say some, like outsize attention on every misstep.

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Troubling iOS 17.5 Bug Reportedly Resurfacing Old Deleted Photos

Slashdot - Wed, 2024-05-15 21:20
An anonymous reader shares a report: There are concerning reports on Reddit that Apple's latest iOS 17.5 update has introduced a bug that causes old photos that were deleted -- in some cases years ago -- to reappear in users' photo libraries. After updating their iPhone, one user said they were shocked to find old NSFW photos that they deleted in 2021 suddenly showing up in photos marked as recently uploaded to iCloud. Other users have also chimed in with similar stories. "Same here," said one Redditor. "I have four pics from 2010 that keep reappearing as the latest pics uploaded to iCloud. I have deleted them repeatedly." "Same thing happened to me," replied another user. "Six photos from different times, all I have deleted. Some I had deleted in 2023." More reports have been trickling in overnight. One said: "I had a random photo from a concert taken on my Canon camera reappear in my phone library, and it showed up as if it was added today."

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