Warehouses Are Tracking Workers' Every Muscle Movement

Unions and researchers who study workplace surveillance worry that employers who begin gathering data on workers for whatever reason will be unable to resist using it against them. From a report: Productivity tracking is already widespread throughout the industry — and workers can be fired or punished if their performance dips. The opacity of data-analysis tools can make it difficult for workers to fully understand how much employers can see. StrongArm, a company that makes such devices, says it has about 30 clients, including Heineken NV and Toyota Motor, and is also establishing relationships with insurance companies interested in ways to reduce workers compensation costs. Walmart says it’s testing StrongArm in eight distribution centers and adds it has no plans to use them in stores.

StrongArm says about 15,000 workers have worn its devices, and most of them use it daily. The Brooklyn, New York-based startup expects to have 35,000 daily active users by the end of next year. StrongArm acknowledges that concerns about workplace surveillance surround its work, but the company says its products are designed solely to improve safety and cites a recent study it commissioned that found users wearing them suffered 20% to 50% fewer injuries. It says it’s not tracking individual productivity and that its products aren’t used to punish individual workers or to contest workers compensation claims. But ergonomic tracking isn’t happening in isolation.

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Martin Scorsese: I Said Marvel Movies Aren't Cinema. Let Me Explain.

Martin Scorsese, writing at The New York Times: […] In a way, certain Hitchcock films were also like theme parks. I’m thinking of “Strangers on a Train,” in which the climax takes place on a merry-go-round at a real amusement park, and “Psycho,” which I saw at a midnight show on its opening day, an experience I will never forget. People went to be surprised and thrilled, and they weren’t disappointed. Sixty or 70 years later, we’re still watching those pictures and marveling at them. But is it the thrills and the shocks that we keep going back to? I don’t think so. The set pieces in “North by Northwest” are stunning, but they would be nothing more than a succession of dynamic and elegant compositions and cuts without the painful emotions at the center of the story or the absolute lostness of Cary Grant’s character. The climax of “Strangers on a Train” is a feat, but it’s the interplay between the two principal characters and Robert Walker’s profoundly unsettling performance that resonate now.

Some say that Hitchcock’s pictures had a sameness to them, and perhaps that’s true — Hitchcock himself wondered about it. But the sameness of today’s franchise pictures is something else again. Many of the elements that define cinema as I know it are there in Marvel pictures. What’s not there is revelation, mystery or genuine emotional danger. Nothing is at risk. The pictures are made to satisfy a specific set of demands, and they are designed as variations on a finite number of themes. They are sequels in name but they are remakes in spirit, and everything in them is officially sanctioned because it can’t really be any other way. That’s the nature of modern film franchises: market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted and remodified until they’re ready for consumption.

[…] In the past 20 years, as we all know, the movie business has changed on all fronts. But the most ominous change has happened stealthily and under cover of night: the gradual but steady elimination of risk. Many films today are perfect products manufactured for immediate consumption. Many of them are well made by teams of talented individuals. All the same, they lack something essential to cinema: the unifying vision of an individual artist. Because, of course, the individual artist is the riskiest factor of all. […] Today, that tension is gone, and there are some in the business with absolute indifference to the very question of art and an attitude toward the history of cinema that is both dismissive and proprietary — a lethal combination. The situation, sadly, is that we now have two separate fields: There’s worldwide audiovisual entertainment, and there’s cinema. They still overlap from time to time, but that’s becoming increasingly rare. And I fear that the financial dominance of one is being used to marginalize and even belittle the existence of the other. For anyone who dreams of making movies or who is just starting out, the situation at this moment is brutal and inhospitable to art. And the act of simply writing those words fills me with terrible sadness.

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Source: Slashdot – Martin Scorsese: I Said Marvel Movies Aren’t Cinema. Let Me Explain.

Digital Authoritarianism Is On the Rise Around the World, Report Warns

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: Internet freedom declined for a ninth consecutive year as governments around the world used social media to monitor citizens and manipulate elections, according to a new study that warned of creeping “digital authoritarianism.” Thirty-three of the 65 countries surveyed were found to have experienced worsening internet freedom since June 2018, compared with 16 that were found to have improving conditions. The study, conducted by Freedom House, a nonprofit human rights advocacy, said domestic disinformation had grown as a threat to democracy with populist leaders and their online supporters using the internet to distort political discussions. The organization found domestic interference in 26 of the 30 countries that held elections over the past year.

The report said internet freedom in the U.S. had declined, in large part because law enforcement and immigration agencies used social media to monitor people, though the country was still deemed “free.” China was dubbed the “worst abuser of internet freedom” for a fourth consecutive year as the government tightened information controls because of the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre and protests in Hong Kong. Noting that the biggest platforms were American, Freedom House called on the U.S. to lead in the effort to fix social media transparency and accountability. “This is the only way to stop the internet from becoming a Trojan horse for tyranny and oppression,” wrote Adrian Shahbaz, one of the authors of the report.

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Source: Slashdot – Digital Authoritarianism Is On the Rise Around the World, Report Warns

Adobe and Twitter Are Designing a System For Permanently Attaching Artists' Names To Pictures

Adobe, Twitter, and The New York Times Company have announced a new system for adding attribution to photos and other content. A tool will record who created a piece of content and whether it’s been modified by someone else, then let other people and platforms check that data. The Verge reports: The overall project is called the Content Authenticity Initiative, and its participants will hold a summit on the system in the next few months. Based on what Adobe has announced, the attribution tool is a piece of metadata that can be attached to a file. Adobe doesn’t describe precisely how it will keep the tag secure or prevent someone from copying the content in a way that strips it out. Adobe chief product officer Scott Belsky said that some technical details will be worked out at the summit. Adobe described this system as a way to verify “authenticity” online. And The New York Times Company’s research and development head, Marc Lavallee, suggested it could fight misinformation by helping people discern “trusted news” on digital media platforms.

But the most obvious uses include identifying a photo’s source and making sure artists get credit for their work. Many photos and webcomics circulate anonymously on platforms like Twitter, and an attribution tag would help trace those images back to their creator. This depends entirely on how well the CAI system works, however. Tags wouldn’t be very useful if they could be easily altered or removed, but if the system preserves security by tightly controlling how people can interact with the image, it could have the same downsides as other digital rights management or DRM systems.

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Source: Slashdot – Adobe and Twitter Are Designing a System For Permanently Attaching Artists’ Names To Pictures

Interstellar Space Even Weirder Than Expected, NASA Probe Reveals

New submitter paralumina01 shares a report from National Geographic: In the blackness of space billions of miles from home, NASA’s Voyager 2 marked a milestone of exploration, becoming just the second spacecraft ever to enter interstellar space in November 2018. Now, a day before the anniversary of that celestial exit, scientists have revealed what Voyager 2 saw as it crossed the threshold — and it’s giving humans new insight into some of the big mysteries of our solar system. The findings, spread across five studies published today in Nature Astronomy, mark the first time that a spacecraft has directly sampled the electrically charged hazes, or plasmas, that fill both interstellar space and the solar system’s farthest outskirts. It’s another first for the spacecraft, which was launched in 1977 and performed the first — and only — flybys of the ice giant planets Uranus and Neptune.
For the first time, researchers could see that as an object gets within 140 million miles of the heliopause, the plasma surrounding it slows, heats up, and gets more dense. And on the other side of the boundary, the interstellar medium is at least 54,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hotter than expected. In addition, Voyager 2 confirmed that the heliopause is one leaky border — and the leaks go both ways. Before Voyager 1 passed through the heliopause, it zoomed through tendrils of interstellar particles that had punched into the heliopause like tree roots through rock. Voyager 2, however, saw a trickle of low-energy particles that extended more than a hundred million miles beyond the heliopause. Another mystery appeared as Voyager 1 came within 800 million miles of the heliopause, where it entered a limbo-like area in which the outbound solar wind slowed to a crawl. Before it crossed the heliopause, Voyager 2 saw the solar wind form an altogether different kind of layer that, oddly, was nearly the same width as the stagnant one seen by Voyager 1.

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Source: Slashdot – Interstellar Space Even Weirder Than Expected, NASA Probe Reveals

Undercover Reporter Reveals Life In a Polish Troll Farm

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: It is as common an occurrence on Polish Twitter as you are likely to get: a pair of conservative activists pouring scorn on the country’s divided liberal opposition. “I burst out laughing!” writes Girl from oliborz, a self-described “traditionalist” commenting on a newspaper story about a former campaign adviser to Barack Obama and Emmanuel Macron coming to Warsaw to address a group of liberal activists. “The opposition has nothing to offer. That’s why they use nonsense to pull the wool over people’s eyes,” replies Magda Rostocka, whose profile tells her almost 4,400 followers she is “left-handed with her heart on the right.”

In reality, neither woman existed. Both accounts were run by the paid employees of a small marketing company based in the city of Wrocaw in southwest Poland. But what the employee pretending to be Magda Rostocka did not know is that the colleague pretending to be Girl from oliborz was an undercover reporter who had infiltrated the company, giving rare insight into the means by which fake social media accounts are being used by private firms to influence unsuspecting voters and consumers. The undercover reporter, Katarzyna Pruszkiewicz, spent six months this year working at Cat@Net, which describes itself as an “ePR agency comprising specialists who build a positive image of companies, private individuals and public institutions — mostly in social media.” “One of Pruszkiewicz’s responsibilities was to operate anonymous accounts with instructions to promote content produced by TVP, Poland’s state broadcaster, which is widely reviled by critics for its extreme partisanship and hate speech directed against minority groups,” the report says. “‘It would be great if you posted positive comments about the government’s subsidy for TVP and the television license fee,’ read an email from her manager.”

A London-based thinktank found that Cat@Net accounts created up to 10,000 posts in defense of TVP, with a potential reach of 15 million views. The agency also helped a recently elected member of the Polish parliament for the leftwing Democratic Left Alliance party. “Cat@Net’s leftwing accounts promoted the politician’s candidacy to the European Parliament in elections held in May this year, with at least 90 different accounts circulating and responding to his social media posts,” reports The Guardian. “The company’s rightwing accounts would then oppose the leftwing accounts, generating conflict and traffic, thereby drawing attention to the candidate.”

In response to the article, Cat@Net strongly denied it was a “troll farm”: “The company’s field of activity is the outsourcing of marketing operations to social media. We communicate accurate information, speak for our clients, and promote their products and services like any other agency of its kind.”

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Source: Slashdot – Undercover Reporter Reveals Life In a Polish Troll Farm

US Begins Formal Withdrawal From Paris Climate Accord

The Trump administration is formally withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, “the first step in a year-long process to leave the landmark agreement to reduce emissions of planet-warming gases,” reports CNN. President Trump first announced the intent to officially withdraw from the agreement in June 2017. From the report: “Today the United States began the process to withdraw from the Paris Agreement,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. “Per the terms of the Agreement, the United States submitted formal notification of its withdrawal to the United Nations. The withdrawal will take effect one year from delivery of the notification.”

Under the framework of the agreement, Monday is the earliest date that the administration can notify the United Nations that the U.S. plans to leave. But the process cannot be completed until exactly one year later on November 4, 2020, which happens to be one day after the 2020 presidential election. Should Trump lose the 2020 election, a new president could rejoin the agreement, but would have to put forth new climate commitments to the UN.

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Source: Slashdot – US Begins Formal Withdrawal From Paris Climate Accord

GitLab Considers Ban On New Hires In China and Russia Due To Espionage Fears

GitLab is considering blocking new hires from countries such as China and Russia over espionage fears. “There is a general train of thought that both Russian and Chinese intelligence agencies might use the same blueprint and plant agents or coerce GitLab staff into handing over data belonging to western companies,” reports ZDNet. An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from the report: Eric Johnson, VP of Engineering at GitLab, said discussions on banning new hires from the two countries began after enterprise customers expressed concerns about the geopolitical climate of the two countries. If approved, the hiring ban will apply to two positions; namely Site Reliability Engineer and Support Engineer, the two positions that handle providing tech support to GitLab’s enterprise customers. Johnson said these two support staff positions have full access to customers’ data, something that companies had an issue with, especially if tech support staff was to be located in countries like China and Russia, where they could be compromised or coerced by local intelligence services. Johnson said GitLab does not have “a technical way” to support data access permission systems for employees based on their country of origin. “Doing so would also force us to confront the possibility of creating a ‘second class of citizens’ on certain teams who cannot take part in 100% of their responsibilities,” Johnson said.

The new “hiring ban” is not yet final. Open conversations on the topic started last month, and are scheduled to end November 6.

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Source: Slashdot – GitLab Considers Ban On New Hires In China and Russia Due To Espionage Fears

Now Googlers Are Protesting Company's Cloud Deals With Big Oil

Activists inside Google are calling on management to ditch deals with oil and gas companies, the latest flare-up inside the technology giant. Bloomberg reports: In a letter published on Monday, more than 1,100 workers asked Google Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat to release a “company-wide climate plan” that commits to cutting carbon emissions entirely. The letter also asks Google to drop contracts that “enable or accelerate the extraction of fossil fuels.” Since 2017, Google’s cloud-computing unit has disclosed contracts with oil-services giant Schlumberger Ltd., Chevron Corp. and French energy company Total SA. Saudi Arabia’s Aramco, the world’s largest oil company, announced a tentative cloud deal with Google last year, although the internet giant has never confirmed the partnership.

“If Google is going to confront its share of responsibility for the climate crisis, that means not helping oil and gas companies extract fossil fuels,” Ike McCreery, an engineer in Google’s cloud division, said in an email. “This is a moment in history that requires urgent and decisive action.” Alphabet Inc.’s Google has touted its green credentials for years. The company announced the largest ever corporate purchase of renewable energy in September. Starting in 2017, the company has matched the electricity bill from its massive data centers with equal purchases from renewable energy sources. The Google employee letter also asks the company not to do business with U.S. immigration authorities, “arguing that more people are being forced to move across borders due to climate change,” reports Bloomberg. Business Insider reports that U.S. Customs and Border Protection is testing a Google cloud service called Anthos, which lets organizations use multiple cloud providers at once.

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Source: Slashdot – Now Googlers Are Protesting Company’s Cloud Deals With Big Oil

Android Bug Lets Hackers Plant Malware Via NFC Beaming

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: Google patched last month an Android bug that can let hackers spread malware to a nearby phone via a little-known Android OS feature called NFC beaming. NFC beaming works via an internal Android OS service known as Android Beam. This service allows an Android device to send data such as images, files, videos, or even apps, to another nearby device using NFC (Near-Field Communication) radio waves, as an alternative to WiFi or Bluetooth. Typically, apps (APK files) sent via NFC beaming are stored on disk and a notification is shown on screen. The notification asks the device owner if he wants to allow the NFC service to install an app from an unknown source. But, in January this year, a security researcher named Y. Shafranovich discovered that apps sent via NFC beaming on Android 8 (Oreo) or later versions would not show this prompt. Instead, the notification would allow the user to install the app with one tap, without any security warning.

The CVE-2019-2114 bug resided in the fact that the Android Beam app was also whitelisted, receiving the same level of trust as the official Play Store app. Google said this wasn’t meant to happen, as the Android Beam service was never meant as a way to install applications, but merely as a way to transfer data from device to device. The October 2019 Android patches removed the Android Beam service from the OS whitelist of trusted sources. However, many millions of users remain at risk. If users have the NFC service and the Android Beam service enabled, a nearby attacker could plant malware (malicious apps) on their phones. Since most newly-sold devices have the NFC feature enabled by default, you’ll have to disable Android Beam and NFC or update your phone to receive the October 2019 security updates if you want to protect yourself from this bug.

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Source: Slashdot – Android Bug Lets Hackers Plant Malware Via NFC Beaming

With a Laser, Researchers Say They Can Hack Alexa, Google Home or Siri

Researchers in Japan and at the University of Michigan said Monday that they have found a way to take over Google Home, Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri devices from hundreds of feet away by shining laser pointers, and even flashlights, at the devices’ microphones. The New York Times reports: In one case, they said, they opened a garage door by shining a laser beam at a voice assistant that was connected to it. They also climbed 140 feet to the top of a bell tower at the University of Michigan and successfully controlled a Google Home device on the fourth floor of an office building 230 feet away. And by focusing their lasers using a telephoto lens, they said, they were able to hijack a voice assistant more than 350 feet away. Opening the garage door was easy, the researchers said. With the light commands, the researchers could have hijacked any digital smart systems attached to the voice-controlled assistants.

They said they could have easily switched light switches on and off, made online purchases or opened a front door protected by a smart lock. They even could have remotely unlocked or started a car that was connected to the device. The researchers, who studied the light flaw for seven months, said they had discovered that the microphones in the devices would respond to light as if it were sound. Inside each microphone is a small plate called a diaphragm that moves when sound hits it. That movement can be replicated by focusing a laser or a flashlight at the diaphragm, which converts it into electric signals, they said. The rest of the system then responds the way it would to sound. While the researchers said they had notified several companies to the light vulnerability, most microphones would need to be redesigned to remedy the problem. And simply covering the microphone with a piece of tape wouldn’t solve it.

The findings of the vulnerability can be found here.

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Source: Slashdot – With a Laser, Researchers Say They Can Hack Alexa, Google Home or Siri

Facebook Rebrands To 'FACEBOOK' As Calls For Government-Led Breakup Continue

Facebook introduced a new brand Monday as the company faces calls from politicians and consumer advocates for the government to break it up into various pieces. NBC News reports: The company announced in a blog post that the new brand, which retains the name of the social network, would have a new logo to better indicate all the various products and services it now offers, including Instagram and WhatsApp. “Today, we’re updating our company branding to be clearer about the products that come from Facebook,” Antonio Lucio, the company’s chief marketing officer, wrote in the blog post. “We’re introducing a new company logo and further distinguishing the Facebook company from the Facebook app, which will keep its own branding.”

“This brand change is a way to better communicate our ownership structure to the people and businesses who use our services to connect, share, build community and grow their audiences,” Lucio wrote. The new logo features Facebook in capitalized letters with “custom typography.” The company said the new brand would appear on Instagram, WhatsApp and its other offerings.

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Source: Slashdot – Facebook Rebrands To ‘FACEBOOK’ As Calls For Government-Led Breakup Continue

ISPs Lied To Congress To Spread Confusion About Encrypted DNS, Mozilla Says

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Mozilla is urging Congress to reject the broadband industry’s lobbying campaign against encrypted DNS in Firefox and Chrome. The Internet providers’ fight against this privacy feature raises questions about how they use broadband customers’ Web-browsing data, Mozilla wrote in a letter sent today to the chairs and ranking members of three House of Representatives committees. Mozilla also said that Internet providers have been giving inaccurate information to lawmakers and urged Congress to “publicly probe current ISP data collection and use policies.” DNS over HTTPS helps keep eavesdroppers from seeing what DNS lookups your browser is making. This can make it more difficult for ISPs or other third parties to monitor what websites you visit.

“Unsurprisingly, our work on DoH [DNS over HTTPS] has prompted a campaign to forestall these privacy and security protections, as demonstrated by the recent letter to Congress from major telecommunications associations. That letter contained a number of factual inaccuracies,” Mozilla Senior Director of Trust and Security Marshall Erwin wrote. This part of Erwin’s letter referred to an Ars article in which we examined the ISPs’ claims, which center largely around Google’s plans for Chrome. The broadband industry claimed that Google plans to automatically switch Chrome users to its own DNS service, but that’s not what Google says it is doing. Google’s publicly announced plan is to “check if the user’s current DNS provider is among a list of DoH-compatible providers, and upgrade to the equivalent DoH service from the same provider.” If the user-selected DNS service is not on that list, Chrome would make no changes for that user.

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Source: Slashdot – ISPs Lied To Congress To Spread Confusion About Encrypted DNS, Mozilla Says

Enjoy Netflix While It Lasts. It Can't Keep Going Like This Forever.

An anonymous reader shares a column: Derek Thompson, writing in the Atlantic last month, highlighted the ways in which contemporary millennial lifestyles are in many ways subsidized by venture capital. Unprofitable businesses are currently offering up great deals to urbanites who otherwise would be unable to afford their fancy city-living in large part because of losses incurred as the cost of buying up market share. “If you wake up on a Casper mattress, work out with a Peloton before breakfast, Uber to your desk at a WeWork, order DoorDash for lunch, take a Lyft home, and get dinner through Postmates, you’ve interacted with seven companies that will collectively lose nearly $14 billion this year,” Thompson wrote of the “Millennial Lifestyle Sponsorship.” He doesn’t mention it, but there’s another key player in the MLS field: Netflix. As Richard Rushfield has noted in his excellent newsletter on Hollywood business, The Ankler, Netflix is in a tricky position. The vast majority of Netflix’s viewers (upwards of 80 percent, according to him) watch licensed content (“Friends” and the like) and in order to create a library of programming audiences will pay for, they’ve gone massively in debt: “Netflix is currently in the hole for about $20 billion in debt and obligations and still operating at a loss.”

Those benefiting from the “Netflix and Chill” branch of the Millennial Lifestyle Subsidy tree don’t care. And it’s all well and good for a Silicon Valley unicorn, one of those rare tech beasts whose valuations do not match profit-loss statements because there’s no real competition yet and everyone believes first-mover status is an insurmountable advantage. But with the rapid rise of vicious streaming competition — the ascendancy of Hulu and niche programmers such as Criterion; the creation of streaming services by Disney, Warner Brothers and Apple, to name a (very) few — Netflix’s advantage seems to be fading. One can already sense a sort of nostalgia for the golden age of bingeing while reading the Hollywood Reporter’s roundtable with seven studio heads. “Doesn’t it bum you out that you can’t make ‘The Irishman?'” asked THR’s Matthew Belloni. And while one might expect studio heads to go the diplomatic route and say no — everyone in Hollywood believes in their own product, after all, and there are no regrets ahead of time — you believe the execs when they answer in the negative. “You know, it actually doesn’t. It would bum me out if no one made the movie,” Universal’s Donna Langley said. “It’s never been a better time for filmmakers and storytelling and for things to find their way into the world that were getting squeezed over the last five or six years or even longer.”

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Source: Slashdot – Enjoy Netflix While It Lasts. It Can’t Keep Going Like This Forever.

Buying Fitbit Won't Save Google's Failing Wear OS

David Ruddock of AndroidPolice technology blog tries to make sense of last week’s $2.1 billion acquisition of Fitbit by Google. He argues that Fitbit’s offerings — hardware, software, engineering talent, or even patent wall — can’t save Google’s wearable operating system Wear OS. From his column: Hardware is what Google is after, with a blog post cleatly stating its acquisition of Fitbit is about future Wear OS devices, meaning you can probably kiss Fitbit’s unloved smartwatch OS goodbye. So, that means we can count on Google leveraging Fitbit’s renowned hardware to finally give Wear OS the horsepower and capabilities it needs to compete with Apple, right? Well, no. Fitbit’s smartwatches have been most lauded for their long battery life, which has historically been enabled by extremely slow but highly power-efficient processors. The Versa 2 allegedly comes with significant performance improvements, but as a smartwatch, it just isn’t very… smart. Michael Fisher points out in his review that the Versa 2’s near week-long life on a single charge is only impressive when looked at in a very generous light. The Versa 2 doesn’t have GPS, the battery only lasts that long when not using the always-on display (with AoD, it’s closer to 3 days), the watch itself doesn’t work for almost anything but fitness tracking on its own, and most of your interactions with it end up happening on your smartphone anyway. I can also tell you from experience that the Apple Watch Series 5 lasts about two days on a charge with the always-on display enabled (and Samsung’s watches last even longer), so Fitbit managing a day more which a much less useful watch isn’t exactly game-changing technology.

In short, Fitbit’s products are not ones Google should be excited about buying. The hardware is nothing special, and the software is clearly going in the dumpster. What has Google bought, then? The sad, very practical truth is probably patents and engineers. Fitbit does develop at least some of its hardware in-house, and likely has a decent number of patents related to fitness tracking and basic wearable technology, including those stemming from its acquisition of Pebble. Its product engineers would receive resources and tools at Google that Fitbit may not have afforded them. In short: Google’s purchase is almost certainly a speculative one. Google is hoping that Fitbit’s technology portfolio and its engineering talent can create a better, faster, stronger Wear OS watch. That isn’t the kind of acquisition that screams “our product is successful,” it’s one that looks far more like a Hail Mary from a company that is rapidly losing any hope of remaining relevant in the wearables space. A more cynical view of Google’s acquisition might argue that this is more about Fitbit’s brand and users than anything else. If Google simply markets its in-house smartwatches as Fitbits running Wear OS, it would be more able to tap into Fitbit’s existing customer base and retail relationships. Customer base is something Wear OS is sorely missing at the moment, and Fitbit is a brand that many consumers recognize, albeit mostly for the company’s “dumb” fitness trackers, not its smartwatches. Speaking of, given Google’s focus on Wear OS as part of this acquisition, my guess is that those more popular but very basic trackers will be discontinued.

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Source: Slashdot – Buying Fitbit Won’t Save Google’s Failing Wear OS

Oracle Revives Charges That Pentagon Bid Was Tainted by Amazon Conflicts

Oracle opened its appeal in a legal challenge of a Pentagon cloud-computing contract valued at as much as $10 billion with a familiar argument: the procurement was unfairly tailored for Amazon.com. From a report: In in its opening brief, which was filed on Friday, Oracle said the cloud project violated federal procurement law and was tainted by relationships between former Pentagon officials and Amazon. Oracle is appealing a July ruling from the U.S. Court of Federal Claims that dismissed its legal challenge of the cloud contract based on similar claims. At the same time, Amazon is mulling its own potential legal challenge of the project after losing the deal to Microsoft Corp. late last month, Bloomberg has reported. The legal challenges could revive fresh criticism from industry, lawmakers and analysts of the Pentagon’s handling of the controversial cloud project, known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI. The project is designed to consolidate the Pentagon’s cloud computing infrastructure and modernize its technology systems. The Defense Department is facing accusations that former employees with ties to Amazon may have structured the deal to favor Amazon and that President Donald Trump may have unfairly intervened in the process against Amazon. Trump has long been at odds with Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post.

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Source: Slashdot – Oracle Revives Charges That Pentagon Bid Was Tainted by Amazon Conflicts

L.A. Suspends Uber's Permit To Rent Out Electric Scooters and Bikes

Following months of conflict over a controversial data-sharing policy, Los Angeles has temporarily suspended Uber’s permit to rent electric scooters and bicycles on city streets and sidewalks. From a report: The company’s subsidiary, Jump, must appeal the decision by Friday or leave the city, the Transportation Department told the company in a letter last week. For now, customers can still rent the vivid red scooters and electric bikes through the Jump app. In response, Uber threatened in a letter to sue the city over the “patently unfair and improper” suspension. The letter also questioned the validity of the “eleventh-hour administrative review process” that the city created last month. “Every other company that is permitted in Los Angeles is following the rules,” said Transportation Department spokeswoman Connie Llanos. “We look forward to being able to work with Uber on getting them into compliance.” The suspension follows months of tension and failed attempts at compromise between Uber and the city over a data-sharing rule in L.A.’s one-year pilot permit program. Companies are required to transmit real-time data on all trips made within the city, including the start point, end point and travel time.

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Source: Slashdot – L.A. Suspends Uber’s Permit To Rent Out Electric Scooters and Bikes

Microsoft Launches Public Previews of Visual Studio Online and Power Virtual Agents

An anonymous reader writes: At Ignite 2019 today, Microsoft launched Visual Studio Online public preview. Visual Studio Online meshes Visual Studio, cloud-hosted developer environments, and a web-based editor. AI, big data, and cloud computing are shifting development beyond the “standard issue development laptop,” and Visual Studio Online is clearly a reflection of this trend. “Visual Studio Online philosophically (and technically) extends Visual Studio Code Remote Development to provide managed development environments that can be created on-demand and accessed from anywhere,” Microsoft explained today. “These environments can be used for long-term projects, to quickly prototype a new feature, or for short-term tasks, like reviewing pull requests.” The company also announced the public preview of its Power Virtual Agents tool, a new no-code tool for building chatbots that’s part of the company’s Power Platform, which also includes Microsoft Flow automation tool, which is being renamed to Power Automate today, and Power BI. From a report: Built on top of Azure’s existing AI smarts and tools for building bots, Power Virtual Agents promises to make building a chatbot almost as easy as writing a Word document. With this, anybody within an organization could build a bot that walks a new employee through the onboarding experience for example. “Power virtual agent is the newest addition to the Power Platform family,” said Microsoft’s Charles Lamanna. “Power Virtual Agent is very much focused on the same type of low code, accessible to anybody, no matter whether they’re a business user or business analyst or professional developer, to go build a conversational agent that’s AI-driven and can actually solve problems for your employees, for your customers, for your partners, in a very natural way.” Further reading: Microsoft rebrands Flow as Power Automate, adds RPA features and virtual agents; and Visual Studio IntelliCode gets whole-line code completions, dynamic refactoring detection.

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Source: Slashdot – Microsoft Launches Public Previews of Visual Studio Online and Power Virtual Agents

Adobe Photoshop Finally Arrives on the iPad

Adobe Photoshop is now available for iPads. From a report: The release follows an official announcement at Adobe’s MAX event last year. The app is free to download and use for 30 days, but you’ll need a Creative Cloud subscription to continue using it after that. If you already have a subscription for Adobe’s desktop apps that covers Photoshop, you should be good to go — you just need to log in with your paid account credentials. The app has full support for Apple Pencil, and lets you work on full PSD files — layers and all. The company has also modified oft-used Photoshop functions for touchscreen interfaces, such as quick selection and paintbrush.

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Source: Slashdot – Adobe Photoshop Finally Arrives on the iPad

'I Worked on Political Ads at Facebook. They Profit By Manipulating Us.'

Yael Eisenstat, a visiting fellow at Cornell Tech in the Digital Life Initiative and a former elections integrity head at Facebook, CIA officer, and White House adviser, writes for the Washington Post: As the company continues to struggle with how to handle political content and as another presidential election approaches, it’s clear that tinkering around the margins of advertising policies won’t fix the most serious issues. The real problem is that Facebook profits partly by amplifying lies and selling dangerous targeting tools that allow political operatives to engage in a new level of information warfare. Its business model exploits our data to let advertisers custom-target people, show us each a different version of the truth and manipulate us with hyper-customized ads — ads that, as of two weeks ago, can contain blatantly false and debunked information if they’re run by a political campaign. As long as Facebook prioritizes profit over healthy discourse, they can’t avoid damaging democracies.

Early in my time there, I dug into the question of misinformation in political advertising. Posting in a “tribe” (Facebook’s internal collaboration platform), I asked our teams working on political advertising whether we should incorporate the same tools for political ads that other integrity teams at Facebook were developing to address misinformation in pages and organic posts. It was unclear to me why the company was applying different, siloed policies and tools across the platform. Most users do not differentiate organic content from ads — as I clearly saw on a trip to India, where we were testing our ads-integrity products — so why were we expecting users to understand that we applied different standards to different forms of content that all just appear in their news feeds?

The fact that we were taking money for political ads and allowing campaigns and other political organizations to target users based on the vast amounts of data we had gathered meant political ads should have an even higher bar for integrity than what people were posting in organic content. We verified advertisers to run political ads, giving them a check mark and a “paid for by” label, and I questioned if that gave the false impression that we were vouching for the validity of the content, boosting its perceived credibility even though we weren’t checking any facts or ensuring that ads weren’t spreading false information. Most of my colleagues agreed. People wanted to get this right. But above me, there was no appetite for my pushing, and I was accused of “creating confusion.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot – ‘I Worked on Political Ads at Facebook. They Profit By Manipulating Us.’