Internet Use Does Not Appear To Harm Mental Health, Oxford Study Finds

A study of more than 2 million people’s internet use found no “smoking gun” for widespread harm to mental health from online activities such as browsing social media and gaming, despite widely claimed concerns that mobile apps can cause depression and anxiety. From a report: Researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute, who said their study was the largest of its kind, said they found no evidence to support “popular ideas that certain groups are more at risk” from the technology. However, Andrew Przybylski, professor at the institute — part of the University of Oxford — said that the data necessary to establish a causal connection was “absent” without more co-operation from tech companies. If apps do harm mental health, only the companies that build them have the user data that could prove it, he said.

“The best data we have available suggests that there is not a global link between these factors,” said Przybylski, who carried out the study with Matti Vuorre, a professor at Tilburg University. Because the “stakes are so high” if online activity really did lead to mental health problems, any regulation aimed at addressing it should be based on much more “conclusive” evidence, he added. “Global Well-Being and Mental Health in the Internet Age” was published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science on Tuesday. In their paper, Przybylski and Vuorre studied data on psychological wellbeing from 2.4 million people aged 15 to 89 in 168 countries between 2005 and 2022, which they contrasted with industry data about growth in internet subscriptions over that time, as well as tracking associations between mental health and internet adoption in 202 countries from 2000-19.

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Source: Slashdot – Internet Use Does Not Appear To Harm Mental Health, Oxford Study Finds

Evernote Pushes Users To Upgrade

After making steep cuts to personnel earlier this year, Evernote’s Milan-based owner Bending Spoons is now experimenting with a new plan that would push more users to upgrade to paid versions of its service. From a report: The company confirmed to TechCrunch it’s been running a small test that placed limits on the number of notes free users could create, but said the new plan is not yet finalized. TechCrunch was alerted to the test by an Evernote user who logged in to a pop-up message that informed them that unless they upgraded to a paid plan, they would now be limited to only 1 notebook and 50 notes. That change would dramatically limit the service for longtime Evernote users who have accumulated hundreds or thousands of notes over the years.

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Source: Slashdot – Evernote Pushes Users To Upgrade

2024 is the Biggest Election Year in History

Economist, in an interactive post: In 2024, countries with more than half the world’s population — over four billion people — will send their citizens to the polls. But many elections are not fully free and fair. Some of these will have no meaningful influence on governments. In the most democratic countries, such as Britain, elections will decide the next government or cause a substantial change in policy. In Russia, one of the least democratic, the vote is very unlikely to weaken Vladimir Putin’s grip on power.

For countries in between, such as India or the United States, elections still matter, and may even be free and fair. But other aspects of democracy, such as participation or governance, have weaknesses. Some places, such as Brazil and Turkey, will not hold general elections in 2024 but have local or municipal elections in which the whole country will participate. Similarly, the European Union’s 27 member states will elect the bloc’s next parliament. More people will vote in 2024 than in any previous year. But this great march to the ballot box does not necessarily mean an explosion of democracy.

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Source: Slashdot – 2024 is the Biggest Election Year in History

YouTube Is Getting Into Games, Too

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: YouTube is branching out into games — at least for its paid subscribers. The platform is giving Premium users access to a set of online games that can be directly played on either the mobile app or desktop app. Known as “Playables,” the company first debuted the experimental feature to select users in September. As noted by Droid-Life, YouTube sent a notification last week to Premium subscribers informing them of Playables and allowing them to try it out. Those who opt in will be able to play a total of 37 mini-games that effectively live inside YouTube — there’s no need to download or install them.

The selection of games isn’t too challenging or “out there” — they include crowd-pleasers like Angry Birds Showdown, Brain Out, Daily Solitaire, The Daily Crossword, and a number of arcade games. And they may not be here to stay. YouTube Premium’s notification stated that the games would be available until March 28th, 2024. For now, Premium members can find the full library of games under the “Playables” section in the Explore tab.

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Source: Slashdot – YouTube Is Getting Into Games, Too

Tata Consultancy Services Ordered To Cough Up $210 Million In Code Theft Trial

Richard Speed reports via The Register: A jury has sided with Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) against Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) over the theft of source code and documentation. A total of $210 million was this week awarded. According to the verdict [PDF], a Texas jury agreed that TCS had “willfully and maliciously” misappropriated both source and confidential documentation by “improper means,” awarding CSC $140 million in damages, with another $70 million tacked on for TCS’s “unjust enrichment.” The complaint [PDF] was filed in April 2019 regarding CSC’s VANTAGE-ONE and CyberLife software platforms. CSC had licensed these software platforms to Transamerica Corporation, a life insurance holding company, to whom Tata — used here to collectively refer to Tata Consultancy Services Limited and Tata America International Corporation — began providing maintenance services.

In 2014, CSC and Transamerica signed off on a Third-Party Access Addendum that would allow Tata to alter CSC’s software, but only for the benefit of its customer — Transamerica. All was well until 2016, when Transamerica decided it needed to refresh its software. CSC and Tata both put in bids. CSC lost, and Tata won with its own software platform called BaNCS. The circumstances got sticky at this point, not least because Tata hired more than 2,000 Transamerica employees. CSC alleged that these former employees had access to its code and documents, and forwarded them on to the Tata BaNCS development team. The situation escalated in 2019, when a CSC employee was accidentally copied in on an email between Tata and Transamerica showing that Tata was accessing confidential information, according to CSC. The company then began legal proceedings. Documents and motions have been exchanged in the years since as Tata sought to get the case thrown out while CSC’s claims were upheld. Eventually, it went to a jury trial, which found for CSC.

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Source: Slashdot – Tata Consultancy Services Ordered To Cough Up 0 Million In Code Theft Trial

Cheaper Microscope Could Bring Protein Mapping Technique To the Masses

A team of researchers at the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology has developed a prototype cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) microscope that, despite being significantly cheaper than high-end machines, has successfully solved protein structures with near-atomic resolution. The findings have been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Science Magazine reports: [MB physicist Chris Russo] wants a manufacturer to commercialize his team’s design, which he believes could be built and sold for $500,000. That’s within reach of a new hire’s startup package, or one of the regular equipment grants offered by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or National Science Foundation, says Bridget Carragher, founding technical director of the Chan Zuckerberg Imaging Institute. “It would be a marvelous machine,” she says. “Everyone who wants to do structural biology could do it.” […] One of the team’s key insights was that the electron beam does not need the energies typically used in high-end cryo-EM microscopes. Levels of 100 kiloelectronvolts (KeV) — one-third as high — suffice to reveal molecular structure, and they reduce costs by eliminating the need for a regulated gas, sulfur hexafluoride, to snuff out sparks. The team also saw room for improvement in the system of lenses that focuses the electrons and the detector that captures them after they probe the sample.

With the resulting prototype, the LMB group determined the structure of 11 diverse proteins. One was the iron-storing protein apoferritin, which has become a benchmark for cryo-EM resolution records. The LMB researchers mapped it at 2.6 angstroms — 2.6 times the diameter of a hydrogen atom. That’s not as high as the record cryo-EM resolution of 1.2 angstroms, but plenty good enough to make an atomic model, Russo says. And the process was fast. Because the microscope sat in the same lab as the freezing stage, the team could quickly check that its samples were good enough, rather than waiting weeks for results from a high-end machine. “Every single structure was done in less than a day,” Russo says. Thermo Fisher Scientific, which makes a top-end machine, says it is already expanding the cryo-EM market. In 2020, it began to sell a lower cost option, called Tundra, that operates at 100 KeV. “I would say that there are universities that probably never believed they could own cryo-EM that now have the tools,” says Trisha Rice, a vice president who heads the company’s cryo-EM business. Indeed, Rajan’s university just ordered one for $1.5 million.

Russo says Tundra is a step in the right direction, but his team’s innovations could make cryo-EM even cheaper. For example, he says, Tundra dials back the energy on a simplified version of the costly electron source used in top-end microscopes, whereas the electron gun on the LMB prototype was designed for 100 KeV from scratch. But he understands that commercializing his team’s design would require large investments by potential manufacturers. “We’re talking to all of them,” Russo says. “But at the end of the day, it’s up to them.”

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Source: Slashdot – Cheaper Microscope Could Bring Protein Mapping Technique To the Masses

Meta Designed Platforms To Get Children Addicted, Court Documents Allege

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Instagram and Facebook parent company Meta purposefully engineered its platforms to addict children and knowingly allowed underage users to hold accounts, according to a newly unsealed legal complaint. The complaint is a key part of a lawsuit filed against Meta by the attorneys general of 33 states in late October and was originally redacted. It alleges the social media company knew — but never disclosed — it had received millions of complaints about underage users on Instagram but only disabled a fraction of those accounts. The large number of underage users was an “open secret” at the company, the suit alleges, citing internal company documents.

In one example, the lawsuit cites an internal email thread in which employees discuss why a 12-year-old girl’s four accounts were not deleted following complaints from the girl’s mother stating her daughter was 12 years old and requesting the accounts to be taken down. The employees concluded that “the accounts were ignored” in part because representatives of Meta “couldn’t tell for sure the user was underage.” The complaint said that in 2021, Meta received over 402,000 reports of under-13 users on Instagram but that 164,000 — far fewer than half of the reported accounts — were “disabled for potentially being under the age of 13” that year. The complaint noted that at times Meta has a backlog of up to 2.5m accounts of younger children awaiting action. The complaint alleges this and other incidents violate the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act, which requires that social media companies provide notice and get parental consent before collecting data from children. The lawsuit also focuses on longstanding assertions that Meta knowingly created products that were addictive and harmful to children, brought into sharp focus by whistleblower Frances Haugen, who revealed that internal studies showed platforms like Instagram led children to anorexia-related content. Haugen also stated the company intentionally targets children under the age of 18.

Company documents cited in the complaint described several Meta officials acknowledging the company designed its products to exploit shortcomings in youthful psychology, including a May 2020 internal presentation called “teen fundamentals” which highlighted certain vulnerabilities of the young brain that could be exploited by product development. The presentation discussed teen brains’ relative immaturity, and teenagers’ tendency to be driven by “emotion, the intrigue of novelty and reward” and asked how these asked how these characteristics could “manifest … in product usage.” […] One Facebook safety executive alluded to the possibility that cracking down on younger users might hurt the company’s business in a 2019 email. But a year later, the same executive expressed frustration that while Facebook readily studied the usage of underage users for business reasons, it didn’t show the same enthusiasm for ways to identify younger kids and remove them from its platforms.

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Source: Slashdot – Meta Designed Platforms To Get Children Addicted, Court Documents Allege

Tech Conference Collapses After Organizer Admits To Making Fake 'Auto-Generated' Female Speaker

Samantha Cole reports via 404 Media: The founder of a software developer conference has been accused of creating fake female speakers to bolster diversity numbers — and some speakers are dropping out, with the event just nine days away. Devternity is an online conference for developers that’s invite-only for speakers. In the past, it reportedly drew hundreds of attendees both when it was in-person in Latvia and even more after it moved online. Eduard Sizovs founded the event in 2015.

Engineer Gergely Orosz tweeted on Thursday that he’d discovered fake speakers listed on the Devternity site. Two women — Anna Boyko, listed as a staff engineer at Coinbase, and Natalie Stadler, a “software craftswoman” at Coinbase — were included on the site as speakers but appear to not exist in real life. Neither have an online presence beyond the Devternity website itself. Orosz found archived versions of the Devternity site where Boyko and Stadler were listed; Stadler’s listing was up for years, according to archives from 2021.

Sizovs responded to these claims in a 916-word tweet, admitting that he’d made at least one fake speaker, Stadler, in the process of building the Devternity site and then left her up. He said that the profile was “auto-generated, with a random title, random Twitter handle, random picture,” and that while he noticed it was still on the site, he delayed taking it off because it wasn’t a “quick fix” and that “it’s better to have that demo persona while I am searching for the replacement speakers,” he wrote. In his tweet, Sizovs did not elaborate on why he believed this was “better.” Sizovs wrote that after this year’s upcoming conference “achieved a worse-than-expected level of diversity of speakers,” author and programmer Sandi Metz, “Software Craftswoman, Tech Influencer @ Instagram” Julia Kirsina, and head of developer relations at Amazon Web Services Kristine Howard were the only three women he was able to bring on as speakers. But two of the three dropped out, he said […].

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Source: Slashdot – Tech Conference Collapses After Organizer Admits To Making Fake ‘Auto-Generated’ Female Speaker

Several Piracy-Related Arrests Spark Fears of High-Level Crackdown In Nordic Region

A series of arrests that began in late August and continued into last week has sparked concerns that a relatively rare ‘Scene’ crackdown targeting the top of the so-called ‘Piracy Pyramid’ may be underway in the Nordic region. TorrentFreak reports: In a statement last week, Denmark’s National Unit for Special Crime (NSK) announced that as part of a long-running investigation, a man was arrested on November 22 and then charged with copyright infringement offenses. NSK said its officers searched the home of a 47-year-old man in South Zealand (Sydsjaelland) and seized IT equipment in connection with illegal file-sharing and “copyright infringement of a particularly serious nature.” “The case is about an organized network that has illegally shared extremely large quantities of films and TV series via file sharing services,” said NSK Police Commissioner Anders-Emil Nohr Kelbaek. While noting that NSK had no further information to offer at this time, Kelbaek said he was pleased that NSK had arrested another suspect believed to have played a ‘significant role’ in the unnamed network.

Last week’s arrest was only the latest in a series of arrests carried out as part of the same long-running NSK investigation into the illegal distribution of movies and TV shows. In late August, NSK arrested four people on suspicion of sharing “extremely large quantities” of movies and TV shows. NSK raided addresses in South-West Jutland, North Zealand and Bornholmand. A 43-year old was arrested at the last location, but it’s claimed he lives elsewhere. In common with last week’s arrest, all were charged on suspicion of “particularly serious” copyright infringement offenses. In an almost identical statement to that issued last week, Commissioner Anders-Emil Nohr Kelbaek said the case was about “an organized network that shares extremely large amounts of data, presumably in the form of films and series.”

TorrentFreak sources report concerns that last week’s arrest may be linked to Scene groups. Terminology used by NSK doesn’t instantly rule that out and does seem to suggest something potentially more significant than other arrests over the past few years. According to NSK, the August arrests took place on August 28, 2023. Using information in Scene release databases we looked for Danish Scene groups and/or groups that were releasing Denmark-focused content before that date but then made no releases afterward; while that wouldn’t provide conclusive proof that a group had been targeted, the method has proven useful in the past. While activity late August suggests nothing especially out of the ordinary, activity since the arrest last week stands in contrast. TF is informed that some groups may have gone dark simply out of an abundance of caution. It’s also possible that the groups have nothing to release. Furthermore, there are many other global groups with no obvious links to Danish content or Denmark that also stopped releasing on November 21. The reasons for this are unknown but holidays in the United States may play a role.

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Source: Slashdot – Several Piracy-Related Arrests Spark Fears of High-Level Crackdown In Nordic Region

After 151 Years, Popular Science Will No Longer Offer a Magazine

After 151 years, Popular Science will no longer be available to purchase as a magazine. “Cathy Hebert, the communications director for PopSci owner Recurrent Ventures, says the outlet needs to ‘evolve’ beyond its magazine product, which published its first all-digital issue in 2021,” reports The Verge. From the report: PopSci, which covers a whole range of stories related to the fields of science, technology, and nature, published its first issue in 1872. Things have changed a lot over the years, with the magazine switching to a quarterly publication schedule in 2018 and doing away with the physical copies altogether after 2020. In a post on LinkedIn, former PopSci editor Purbita Saha commented on the magazine’s discontinuation, stating she’s “frustrated, incensed, and appalled that the owners shut down a pioneering publication that’s adapted to 151 years worth of changes in the space of a five-minute Zoom call.”

“PopSci is a phenomenal brand, and as consumer trends shift it’s important we prioritize investment in new formats,” Herbert tells The Verge. “We believe that the content strategy has to evolve beyond the digital magazine product. A combination of its news team, along with commerce, video, and other initiatives, will produce content that naturally aligns with PopSci’s mission.” PopSci will continue to offer articles on its website, along with its PopSci Plus subscription, which offers access to exclusive content and the magazine’s archive.

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Source: Slashdot – After 151 Years, Popular Science Will No Longer Offer a Magazine

New 'Stable Video Diffusion' AI Model Can Animate Any Still Image

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: On Tuesday, Stability AI released Stable Video Diffusion, a new free AI research tool that can turn any still image into a short video — with mixed results. It’s an open-weights preview of two AI models that use a technique called image-to-video, and it can run locally on a machine with an Nvidia GPU. […] Right now, Stable Video Diffusion consists of two models: one that can produce image-to-video synthesis at 14 frames of length (called “SVD”), and another that generates 25 frames (called “SVD-XT”). They can operate at varying speeds from 3 to 30 frames per second, and they output short (typically 2-4 second-long) MP4 video clips at 576×1024 resolution.

In our local testing, a 14-frame generation took about 30 minutes to create on an Nvidia RTX 3060 graphics card, but users can experiment with running the models much faster on the cloud through services like Hugging Face and Replicate (some of which you may need to pay for). In our experiments, the generated animation typically keeps a portion of the scene static and adds panning and zooming effects or animates smoke or fire. People depicted in photos often do not move, although we did get one Getty image of Steve Wozniak to slightly come to life.

Given these limitations, Stability emphasizes that the model is still early and is intended for research only. “While we eagerly update our models with the latest advancements and work to incorporate your feedback,” the company writes on its website, “this model is not intended for real-world or commercial applications at this stage. Your insights and feedback on safety and quality are important to refining this model for its eventual release.” Notably, but perhaps unsurprisingly, the Stable Video Diffusion research paper (PDF) does not reveal the source of the models’ training datasets, only saying that the research team used “a large video dataset comprising roughly 600 million samples” that they curated into the Large Video Dataset (LVD), which consists of 580 million annotated video clips that span 212 years of content in duration.

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Source: Slashdot – New ‘Stable Video Diffusion’ AI Model Can Animate Any Still Image

AWS Repurposes Fire TV Cubes Into $195 Thin Clients For Cloud Desktops

Simon Sharwood reports via The Register: Amazon Web Services has announced the WorkSpaces Thin Client — a device dedicated to connecting to its WorkSpaces desktop-as-a service offering and based on Amazon’s own “Fire Cube” smart TV box. The $195 machine has the same hardware as the Fire Cube: the eight-core Arm-powered Amlogic POP1-G SoC, plus 2GB of LPDDR4 RAM, 10/100 ethernet, and a single USB-A 2.0 port. Bluetooth is included to connect other peripherals. A second HDMI output can be added by acquiring an $85 hub that also offers four more USB ports. Like the Fire TV Cube, the Thin Client also runs a modified cut of Android.

But there the similarities end. AWS created custom firmware and ripped out anything remotely related to running a consumer device, replacing it with software designed solely to create a secure connection between the device and desktops running in the Amazonian cloud. Amazon Business — the B2B version of Jeff Bezos’s digital souk — will ship the device to your door, and charge it to your AWS bill. At least if you are in the USA. Europe will get the Thin Client in early 2024, and it’ll eventually migrate elsewhere.

AWS decided to base the box on the Fire Cube because, according to a corporate blog post, AWS customers expressed a desire for cheaper and easier-to-maintain client devices. As AWS execs searched for a well-priced box, they considered the Fire TV Cube, found it fit the bill and noted it was already being made at scale. Keeping things in-house made sense, too. And so we find ourselves with AWS taking on established thin client providers. The cloudy concern is also keen to have a crack at the thick wedge of the enterprise PC market: call centers, payment processing centers, and other environments with lots of users and high staff turnover due to factors like seasonal demand for workers.

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Source: Slashdot – AWS Repurposes Fire TV Cubes Into 5 Thin Clients For Cloud Desktops

Broadcom Lays Off VMware Employees After Closing Its $69 Billion Acquisition

After acquiring VMware for $69 billion, Broadcom is eliminating several positions at the virtualization technology company. Business Insider reports: Employees whose positions were eliminated received an email on Monday, viewed by Business Insider, that read: “Broadcom recently completed its acquisition of VMware. As part of integration planning, and following an organizational needs assessment, we identified go-forward roles that will be required within the combined company. We regret to inform you that your position is being eliminated and your employment will be terminated.”

“We would like to thank you for your dedication and service. We want to make this transition as smooth as possible, including offering you a generous severance package and providing you a non-working paid notice period,” the email continued. Currently, it’s unclear exactly how many employees will be affected by the cuts.

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Source: Slashdot – Broadcom Lays Off VMware Employees After Closing Its Billion Acquisition

Researchers Figure Out How To Bypass Fingerprint Readers In Most Windows PCs

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: [L]ast week, researchers at Blackwing Intelligence published an extensive document showing how they had managed to work around some of the most popular fingerprint sensors used in Windows PCs. Security researchers Jesse D’Aguanno and Timo Teras write that, with varying degrees of reverse-engineering and using some external hardware, they were able to fool the Goodix fingerprint sensor in a Dell Inspiron 15, the Synaptic sensor in a Lenovo ThinkPad T14, and the ELAN sensor in one of Microsoft’s own Surface Pro Type Covers. These are just three laptop models from the wide universe of PCs, but one of these three companies usually does make the fingerprint sensor in every laptop we’ve reviewed in the last few years. It’s likely that most Windows PCs with fingerprint readers will be vulnerable to similar exploits.

Blackwing’s post on the vulnerability is also a good overview of exactly how fingerprint sensors in a modern PC work. Most Windows Hello-compatible fingerprint readers use “match on chip” sensors, meaning that the sensor has its own processors and storage that perform all fingerprint scanning and matching independently without relying on the host PC’s hardware. This ensures that fingerprint data can’t be accessed or extracted if the host PC is compromised. If you’re familiar with Apple’s terminology, this is basically the way its Secure Enclave is set up. Communication between the fingerprint sensor and the rest of the system is supposed to be handled by the Secure Device Connection Protocol (SCDP). This is a Microsoft-developed protocol that is meant to verify that fingerprint sensors are trustworthy and uncompromised, and to encrypt traffic between the fingerprint sensor and the rest of the PC.

Each fingerprint sensor was ultimately defeated by a different weakness. The Dell laptop’s Goodix fingerprint sensor implemented SCDP properly in Windows but used no such protections in Linux. Connecting the fingerprint sensor to a Raspberry Pi 4, the team was able to exploit the Linux support plus “poor code quality” to enroll a new fingerprint that would allow entry into a Windows account. As for the Synaptic and ELAN fingerprint readers used by Lenovo and Microsoft (respectively), the main issue is that both sensors supported SCDP but that it wasn’t actually enabled. Synaptic’s touchpad used a custom TLS implementation for communication that the Blackwing team was able to exploit, while the Surface fingerprint reader used cleartext communication over USB for communication. “In fact, any USB device can claim to be the ELAN sensor (by spoofing its VID/PID) and simply claim that an authorized user is logging in,” wrote D’Aguanno and Teras.”Though all of these exploits ultimately require physical access to a device and an attacker who is determined to break into your specific laptop, the wide variety of possible exploits means that there’s no single fix that can address all of these issues, even if laptop manufacturers are motivated to implement them,” concludes Ars.

Blackwing recommends all Windows Hello fingerprint sensors enable SCDP, the protocol Microsoft developed to try to prevent this exploit. PC makers should also “have a qualified expert third party audit [their] implementation” to improve code quality and security.

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Source: Slashdot – Researchers Figure Out How To Bypass Fingerprint Readers In Most Windows PCs

Charter To Reduce Mobile Video Streaming Resolution for Some Customers

Charter Communications confirmed to Light Reading it will lower the default video streaming resolution for its Unlimited Plus mobile customers to 480p from 720p starting in December. From a report: Charter’s default setting for customers on its other By The Gig and Unlimited mobile plans is already set at 480p. The company said its Unlimited Plus mobile customers can change their default streaming setting back from 480p to 720p using the company’s My Spectrum App for no extra charge. Further, the change will not affect customers who are connected to Wi-Fi. When customers are on Wi-Fi, the video streaming resolution among Charter’s Spectrum Mobile customers is determined by the format of the video content the customer is streaming and the capabilities and settings of their device, according to the company.

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Source: Slashdot – Charter To Reduce Mobile Video Streaming Resolution for Some Customers

Plex Users Fear New Feature Will Leak Porn Habits To Their Friends and Family

Many Plex users were alarmed when they got a “week in review” email last week that showed them what they and their friends had watched on the popular media server software. From a report: Some users are saying that their friends’ softcore porn habits are being revealed to them with the feature, while others are horrified by the potentially invasive nature feature more broadly. Plex is a hybrid streaming service/self-hosted media server. In addition to offering content that Plex itself has licensed, the service allows users to essentially roll their own streaming service by making locally downloaded files available to stream over the internet to devices the server admin owns. You can also “friend” people on Plex and give them access to your own server.

A new feature, called “Discover Together,” expands social aspects of Plex and introduces an “Activity” tab: “See what your friends have watched, rated, added to their Watchlist, or shared with you,” Plex notes. It also shares this activity in a “week in review” email that it sent to Plex users and people who have access to their servers.

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Source: Slashdot – Plex Users Fear New Feature Will Leak Porn Habits To Their Friends and Family

Videoconferencing Fatigue is Real, Study Finds

Feeling especially drained after a day on Zoom is not a figment of your imagination — videoconferencing fatigue (VCF) is real, according to a study penned by a quartet of Austrian investigators. From a report: “Self-report evidence, collected all around the world, indicates that VCF is a serious issue,” wrote the authors of a study appearing in Scientific Reports, a journal published by Nature Reports. However, most available research on VCF relies on personal accounts of the problem, and focuses on the cause rather than the consequences, explained the researchers.

To determine the effects on the brain caused by hours of videoconferences, the team measured electrical activity in the noggins of 35 university students who watched a 50-minute lecture while wired into an electroencephalogram (EEG). The researchers asked another group to watch same content live. The researchers also calculated effects on heart rate for the two groups with electrocardiography (ECG), measured before and after videoconferencing sessions. Subjects were also given cognitive attention tasks and asked for self reports on moods. Those attending the live lecture reported they felt more lively, happy and active, and less tired, drowsy and fed-up than online counterparts.

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Source: Slashdot – Videoconferencing Fatigue is Real, Study Finds

Germany To Compensate Power Users Hit by Grid Bottlenecks

Germany will entice electric vehicle drivers to charge up when there’s plenty of green power on the system by offering them cheap tariffs linked to wholesale prices. From a report: It’s part of a push by the government to better integrate huge swings of renewable power onto the grid when it’s particularly sunny or windy by ramping demand up or down to match. It’s an example of the flexible tariffs that are popping up all over Europe aimed at consumers with electricity-hungry devices like heat pumps or cars that can help balance the network.

Europe’s largest economy aims to produce 80% of its power from renewables by 2030, but is struggling to expand its network infrastructure. To reduce bottlenecks, consumers’ network costs should be reduced by as much as $208 per year, or they can opt for a 60% reduction on their energy price and benefit from other levy exemptions for heat pumps, the regulator Bundesnetzagentur said in a statement Monday.

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Source: Slashdot – Germany To Compensate Power Users Hit by Grid Bottlenecks

Russia Puts Spokesman For Facebook-owner Meta on a Wanted List

Russia has added the spokesman of U.S. technology company Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, to a wanted list, according to an online database maintained by the country’s interior ministry. From a report: Russian state agency Tass and independent news outlet Mediazona first reported that Meta communications director Andy Stone was included on the list Sunday, weeks after Russian authorities in October classified Meta as a “terrorist and extremist” organization, opening the way for possible criminal proceedings against Russian residents using its platforms.

The interior ministry’s database doesn’t give details of the case against Stone, stating only that he is wanted on criminal charges. According to Mediazona, an independent news website that covers Russia’s opposition and prison system, Stone was put on the wanted list in February 2022, but authorities made no related statements at the time and no news media reported on the matter until this week. In March this year, Russia’s federal Investigative Committee opened a criminal investigation into Meta.

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Source: Slashdot – Russia Puts Spokesman For Facebook-owner Meta on a Wanted List

'There is a Scientific Fraud Epidemic'

Rooting out manipulation should not depend on dedicated amateurs who take personal legal risks for the greater good. From a story on Financial Times: As the Oxford university psychologist Dorothy Bishop has written, we only know about the ones who get caught. In her view, our “relaxed attitude” to the scientific fraud epidemic is a “disaster-in-waiting.” The microbiologist Elisabeth Bik, a data sleuth who specialises in spotting suspect images, might argue the disaster is already here: her Patreon-funded work has resulted in over a thousand retractions and almost as many corrections. That work has been mostly done in Bik’s spare time, amid hostility and threats of lawsuits. Instead of this ad hoc vigilantism, Bishop argues, there should be a proper police force, with an army of scientists specifically trained, perhaps through a masters degree, to protect research integrity.

It is a fine idea, if publishers and institutions can be persuaded to employ them (Spandidos, a biomedical publisher, has an in-house anti-fraud team). It could help to scupper the rise of the “paper mill,” an estimated $1bn industry in which unscrupulous researchers can buy authorship on fake papers destined for peer-reviewed journals. China plays an outsize role in this nefarious practice, set up to feed a globally competitive “publish or perish” culture that rates academics according to how often they are published and cited. Peer reviewers, mostly unpaid, don’t always spot the scam. And as the sheer volume of science piles up — an estimated 3.7mn papers from China alone in 2021 — the chances of being rumbled dwindle. Some researchers have been caught on social media asking to opportunistically add their names to existing papers, presumably in return for cash.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot – ‘There is a Scientific Fraud Epidemic’