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AT&T

Time Warner Deal Aftermath: AT&T Is About To Give Free TV To Its Wireless Customers (cnbc.com) 51

AT&T completed its $85 billion purchase of Time Warner yesterday and we're already starting to see some exclusive deals offered to its customers. CNBC reports that the company "will be launching a 'very, very skinny bundle' of television programming free to its mobile customers." From the report: "We will be launching, and you're going to hear more about this next week, a product called 'AT&T Watch TV,'" Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said on CNBC's "Squawk Box." "It will be the Turner content. It will not have sports. It'll be entertainment-centered." AT&T's unlimited wireless customers will get the service for free, Stephenson said, "or you can buy it for $15 a month on any platform." The service will be ad-supported, and AT&T will be ramping up an advertising platform, he said. He added that the company expects in coming weeks to make smaller acquisitions to enable those ad efforts. CNBC is also reporting that Time Warner is changing its name to WarnerMedia, and Turner Broadcasting CEO John Martin is departing the company.
Businesses

Verizon's New Phone Plan Proves It Has No Idea What 'Unlimited' Actually Means (gizmodo.com) 161

Verizon has unveiled its third "unlimited" smartphone plan that goes to show just how meaningless the term has become in the U.S. wireless industry. "In addition to its Go Unlimited and Beyond Unlimited plans, Verizon is now adding a premium Above Unlimited plan to the mix, which offers 75GB of 'unlimited' data per month (as opposed to the 22GB of 'unlimited' data you get on less expensive plans), along with 20GB of 'unlimited' data when using your phone as a hotspot, 500GB of Verizon cloud storage, and five monthly international Travel Passes, which are daily vouchers that let you use your phone's wireless service abroad the same as if you were in the U.S.," reports Gizmodo. Are you confused yet? From the report: And as if that wasn't bad enough, Verizon has also updated its convoluted sliding pricing scheme that adjusts based on how many phones are on a single bill. For families with four lines of service, the Above Unlimited cost $60 per person, but if you're a single user the same service costs $95, which really seems like bullshit because if everything is supposed to be unlimited, it shouldn't really make a difference how many people are on the same bill. As a small concession to flexibility, Verizon says families with multiple lines can now mix and match plans instead of having to choose a single plan for every line, which should allow families to choose the right service for an individual person's needs and help keep costs down. The new Above Unlimited plan and the company's mix-and-match feature arrives next week on June 18th.
Privacy

Some Prominent Tech Companies Are Paying Big Money To Kill a California Privacy Initiative (theverge.com) 82

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: As data-sharing scandals continue to mount, a new proposal in California offers a potential solution: the California Consumer Privacy Act would require companies to disclose the types of information they collect, like data used to target ads, and allow the public to opt out of having their information sold. Now, some of tech's most prominent companies are pouring millions of dollars into an effort to to kill the proposal.

In recent weeks, Amazon, Microsoft, and Uber have all made substantial contributions to a group campaigning against the initiative, according to state disclosure records. The $195,000 contributions from Amazon and Microsoft, as well as $50,000 from Uber, are only the latest: Facebook, Google, AT&T, and Verizon have each contributed $200,000 to block the measure, while other telecom and advertising groups have also poured money into the opposition group. After Mark Zuckerberg was grilled on privacy during congressional hearings, Facebook said it would no longer support the group. Google did not back down, and the more recent contributions suggest other companies will continue fighting the measure.

Businesses

The Most Remote Island in the World is Home to Seals, Seabirds, and an Internet Top-Level Domain (ieee.org) 90

An anonymous reader shares a report: Bouvet Island has little to offer. The most remote island in the world is fewer than 20 square miles in size, and it's almost entirely covered by a glacier. Long ago, it was an active volcano, but those fiery days have long since passed. Now, it's home to hundreds of thousands of seabirds, a Norwegian research station, and its own top-level internet domain.

Top-level domains serve as part of the Internet's architecture. Aside from generic domains like .com and .edu, every country has a specific two-letter domain assigned to it. The United Kingdom, for example, uses .uk; Japan uses .jp. The United States has .us, though it's not widely used. The original idea was that each country could manage the websites registered by individuals and organizations within its borders by issuing them websites that use their country-specific domain.

But here's the weird thing about Bouvet Island having its own top-level domain: It's uninhabited. It's always been uninhabited. Located in the southern Atlantic, the closest land to Bouvet Island is the coast of Antarctica, 1,100 miles to the south. The closest inhabited land is the island Tristan da Cunha, a British overseas territory located 1,400 miles to the north (Interestingly enough, Tristan da Cunha does not have its own top-level domain).

Apple

Apple Maps Was Down For All Users Earlier Today (engadget.com) 74

An anonymous reader shares a report: Apple Maps is down and has been for a few hours today, 9to5Mac reports. Users are noting on Twitter and Apple Support that the service isn't working on phones, Apple Watch or CarPlay and searches for certain places or points of interest result in a "No Results Found" response. Apple has noted on its system status site that all users are experiencing issues with both Maps search and navigation. Update: It is functional again.
AI

DeepMind Self-training Computer Creates 3D Model From 2D Snapshots (ft.com) 27

DeepMind, Google's artificial intelligence subsidiary in London, has developed a self-training vision computer that generates 'a full 3D model of a scene from just a handful of 2D snapshots," according to its chief executive. From a report: The system, called the Generative Query Network, can then imagine and render the scene from any angle [Editor's note: the link maybe paywalled; alternative source], said Demis Hassabis. GQN is a general-purpose system with a vast range of potential applications, from robotic vision to virtual reality simulation. Details were published on Thursday in the journal Science. "Remarkably, [the DeepMind scientists] developed a system that relies only on inputs from its own image sensors -- and that learns autonomously and without human supervision," said Matthias Zwicker, a computer scientist at the University of Maryland who was not involved in the research. This is the latest in a series of high-profile DeepMind projects, which are demonstrating a previously unanticipated ability by AI systems to learn by themselves, once their human programmers have set the basic parameters.
The Internet

South Africans in Cape Town and Johannesburg Pay Much More For Internet Usage Than New Yorkers (qz.com) 59

South Africa may have some of the world's cheapest cities to live in, but using the internet in Cape Town and Johannesburg is surprisingly expensive by global standards. From a report: South Africans living in the country's two major cities spend more on their monthly internet costs than people living in New York, Tokyo, and even the perennially expensive Zurich, according to a report by Deutsche Bank. When comparing life in the global financial capitals, most other things, from rent to the cost of a cappuccino, were far cheaper in Johannesburg and Cape Town, making the cost of getting online even more of a shock to the pocket. Out of 50 cities surveyed, Joburgers spent the second most on monthly internet, beaten only by oil-rich Dubai. The amount shelled out by Capetonians ranked seventh behind Dublin, San Francisco, and Auckland and Wellington in New Zealand, according to the report, which compared daily prices and living standards of cities around the world.
Australia

Chinese Ride-Sharing Giant Didi Chuxing Picks Its First English-Speaking Nation: To Enter Australia on June 25 (cnet.com) 70

From a report: Ever since outperforming Uber in its home base of China, speculation has mounted that ride-hailer Didi Chuxing would eventually branch out to the rest of the world. Didi's first launch in an English-speaking country comes on June 25, it was announced Thursday, when it'll start operations in Melbourne, Australia. The company has already begun recruiting local drivers. While you might not have heard of it, Didi is China's most popular ride-hailing service, and in 2016 absorbed Uber China in a deal worth around $35 billion.
AT&T

AT&T Completes $85 Billion Time Warner Acquisition (axios.com) 86

AT&T on Thursday evening said that it has completed its $85 billion purchase of Time Warner, just two days after a judge ruled that the deal, originally announced two years ago, could proceed over objections from U.S. antitrust regulators. From a report: The Department of Justice did not file for an emergency stay of the judge's ruling, per the judge's request, but still reserves the right to appeal. In a statement, Randall Stephenson, chairman and chief executive of AT&T said moving forward his company will bring a fresh approach to how the media and entertainment industry works for consumers, content creators, distributors and advertisers. "The content and creative talent at Warner Bros., HBO and Turner are first-rate. Combine all that with AT&T's strengths in direct-to-consumer distribution, and we offer customers a differentiated, high-quality, mobile-first entertainment experience," he said.
Transportation

Self-Driving Cars Likely Won't Steal Your Job (Until 2040) (wired.com) 128

The self-driving robots are coming to transform your job. Kind of. Also, very slowly. From a report: That's the not-quite-exclamatory upshot of a new report from the Washington, DC-based Securing America's Future Energy. The group advocates for a countrywide pivot away from oil dependency, one it hopes will be aided by the speedy adoption of electric, self-driving vehicles. So it commissioned a wide-ranging study by a phalanx of labor economists to discover how that could happen, and whether America might transform into a Mad Max-like desert hell along the way. The news, mostly, is good. For one, self-driving vehicles probably won't wreck the labor market to the point where gig economy workers are hired out as mobile blood bags.

In fact, they'll eventually feed the economy, accruing an estimated $800 billion in annual benefits by 2050, a number mostly in line with previous researchers' projections. Two, robo-cars won't disappear the jobs all at once. "We have a labor market characterized by churning -- continual job creation and destruction," says Erica Groshen, a visiting labor economist at Cornell University and former Commissioner of Labor Statistics, who worked on the report. "The challenge is to make the transition as smooth as possible."

Technology

Adobe is Reviving the Stunning Lost Fonts of the Bauhaus (fastcodesign.com) 83

An anonymous reader shares a report: Even if you're not a designer, you've probably heard the phrase "form follows function." That's how influential the school that espoused it, the Bauhaus, has become since its heyday in 1920s and '30s Germany. Now, some of the movement's most compelling -- but largely unknown -- lettering has been recreated from archival material, like original typography sketches and letter fragments, and transformed into contemporary digital typefaces.

The project is part of an Adobe initiative called Hidden Treasures that resurfaces design gems from the past in Adobe products -- previously, the company recreated the paintbrushes used by painter Edvard Munch for use in Photoshop. For the second iteration of the initiative, Adobe worked with the Bauhaus archives in Berlin, Germany, to bring in five design students to create five distinct typefaces, all under the guidance of expert typeface designer Erik Spiekermann. While each of the typefaces will eventually be available to all users of Adobe Typekit, two are now available online: one inspired by Joost Schmidt, a teacher at the Bauhaus who also created the famed poster for the 1923 Bauhaus Exhibition, and the other inspired by Xanti Schawinsky, who taught classes in set design at the school.

Businesses

Most Organizations Are Not Fully Embracing DevOps (betanews.com) 296

An anonymous reader shares a report: Although many businesses have begun moving to DevOps-style processes, eight out of 10 respondents to a new survey say they still have separate teams for managing infrastructure/operations and development. The study by managed cloud specialist 2nd Watch of more than 1,000 IT professionals indicates that a majority of companies have yet to fully commit to the DevOps process. 78 percent of respondents say that separate teams are still managing infrastructure/operations and application development. Some organizations surveyed are using infrastructure-as-code tools, automation or even CI/CD pipelines, but those techniques alone do not define DevOps.
Communications

Comcast Says It Isn't Throttling Heavy Internet Users Anymore (cnet.com) 175

Comcast, which has been throttling speeds to slow down heavy internet users since 2008, has had a change of heart. From a report: Comcast has deactivated this "congestion management" system, according to an announcement this week. "As reflected in a June 11, 2018 update to our XFINITY Internet Broadband Disclosures, the congestion management system that was initially deployed in 2008 has been deactivated. As our network technologies and usage of the network continue to evolve, we reserve the right to implement a new congestion management system if necessary in the performance of reasonable network management and in order to maintain a good broadband Internet access service experience for our customers, and will provide updates here as well as other locations if a new system is implemented."
Transportation

Elon Musk's Boring Company To Build High-Speed Transit Tunnels in Chicago (chicagotribune.com) 179

Chicago has picked Elon Musk's Boring Company to build a futuristic transportation link to the city's airport, The Boring Company said late Wednesday. "We're really excited to work with the Mayor and the City to bring this new high-speed public transportation system to Chicago!' it said in a statement posted on Twitter. Chicago Tribune: Autonomous 16-passenger vehicles would zip back and forth at speeds exceeding 100 mph in tunnels between the Loop and O'Hare International Airport under a high-speed transit proposal being negotiated between Mayor Rahm Emanuel's City Hall and billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk's The Boring Co., city and company officials have confirmed. Emanuel's administration has selected Musk's company from four competing bids to provide high-speed transportation between downtown and the airport. Negotiations between the two parties will ensue in hopes of reaching a final deal to provide a long-sought-after alternative to Chicago's traffic gridlock and slower "L" trains. In choosing Boring, Emanuel and senior City Hall officials are counting on Musk's highly touted but still unproven tunneling technology over the more traditional high-speed rail option that until recently had been envisioned as the answer to speeding up the commute between the city's central business district and one of the world's busiest airports.
Beer

Uber Seeks Patent For AI That Determines Whether Passengers Are Drunk (cnet.com) 103

In an effort to "reduce undesired consequences," Uber is seeking a patent that would use artificial intelligence to separate sober passengers from drunk ones. The pending application details a technology that would be used to spot "uncharacteristic user activity," including passenger location, number of typos entered into the mobile app, and even the angle the smartphone is being held. CNET reports: Uber said it had no immediate plans to implement the technology described in the proposed patent, pointing out the application was filed in 2016. "We are always exploring ways that our technology can help improve the Uber experience for riders and drivers," a spokesperson said. "We file patent applications on many ideas, but not all of them actually become products or features."
AI

MIT's AI Uses Radio Signals To See People Through Walls (inverse.com) 76

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new piece of software that uses wifi signals to monitor the movements, breathing, and heartbeats of humans on the other side of walls. While the researchers say this new tech could be used in areas like remote healthcare, it could in theory be used in more dystopian applications. Inverse reports: "We actually are tracking 14 different joints on the body [...] the head, the neck, the shoulders, the elbows, the wrists, the hips, the knees, and the feet," Dina Katabi, an electrical engineering and computer science teacher at MIT, said. "So you can get the full stick-figure that is dynamically moving with the individuals that are obstructed from you -- and that's something new that was not possible before." The technology works a little bit like radar, but to teach their neural network how to interpret these granular bits of human activity, the team at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) had to create two separate A.I.s: a student and a teacher.

[T]he team developed one A.I. program that monitored human movements with a camera, on one side of a wall, and fed that information to their wifi X-ray A.I., called RF-Pose, as it struggled to make sense of the radio waves passing through that wall on the other side. The research builds off of a longstanding project at CSAIL lead by Katabi, which hopes to use this wifi tracking to help passively monitor the elderly and automate any emergency alerts to EMTs and medical professionals if they were to fall or suffer some other injury.
For more information, a press release and video about the software are available.
Power

China's Ambitions To Power the World's Electric Cars Took a Huge Leap Forward This Week (reuters.com) 93

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Future Mobility Corporation (FMC), the Chinese parent company behind electric car start-up Byton, has placed an order for a paint shop capable of handling 150,000 cars per year, German supplier Duerr said on Wednesday. China's Byton, a newcomer headed by the former head of BMW's i8 program, has already released plans for a premium electric SUV vehicle, the latest in a series of China-backed electric autonomous prototypes. Byton has financial backing from Chinese state-owned carmaker FAW Group and the country's dominant battery producer Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. (CATL) This is just one of the stories this week relating to China and the electric car industry. MIT Technology Review adds: In a public offering on June 11 in Shenzhen, battery giant Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd. (CATL) raised nearly $1 billion to fund ambitious expansion plans, and its stock has been shooting up every day since. Thanks largely to the company's new plants, China will be making 70 percent of the world's electric-vehicle batteries by 2021, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

Just seven years later, CATL has built up the biggest lithium-ion manufacturing facilities in the world, according to BNEF. The company can crank out around 17 gigawatt-hours of lithium-ion cells annually, placing it just ahead of Korea's LG Chem, the Tesla and Panasonic partnership, and China's electric-vehicle giant BYD. Flush with capital from its offering, CATL plans to build two new plants and expand existing facilities, pushing its capacity to nearly 90 gigawatt-hours by 2020. [...] Notably, it's the only Chinese battery company so far to line up deals to supply foreign automakers, including BMW, Honda, Nissan, Toyota, and Volkswagen.

Technology

78 Indigenous Languages Are Being Saved By Optical Scanning Tech (fastcompany.com) 75

Researchers at UC Berkeley are using futuristic technology to save a piece of the past. From a report: Project IRENE is using cutting-edge optical scan technology to transfer and digitally restore recordings of indigenous languages, many of which no longer have living speakers, Hyperallergic first reported. The recordings were gathered between 1900 and 1938 when UC anthropologists asked native speakers of 78 indigenous languages of California to record their songs, histories, prayers, and vocabulary on wax cylinders. Many of those cylinders are housed at Berkeley's Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, and they are in a state of disrepair, degraded and broken. It's a frustrating state of affairs, as many of the languages recorded on the cylinders have fallen out of use or are no longer spoken at all. The "Documenting Endangered Languages" initiative, which has support from the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, is hoping to save this important history.
Social Networks

Turkey Bans Periscope (stockholmcf.org) 87

stikves writes: According to online reports, a recent court order has banned Periscope across Turkey. The cited reason is the alleged violation of copyrights of a local company named "Periskop." This adds to the list of online services no longer available in Turkey, including Wikipedia, PayPal and WordPress, among others. While access from Turkey to the domain periscope.tv and to the Twitter account "periscopeco" is banned, users can still access Periscope services under the name Scope TR and Twitter account "scopetr." Lawyers from Twitter, Apple and Google requested rejection of the case, "saying it was impossible for a company like Twitter, operating in the U.S., to be aware of the existence of the same brand name in Turkey," reports Stockholm Center for Freedom.
The Internet

'Netflix and Alphabet Will Need To Become ISPs, Fast' (techcrunch.com) 327

Following the recent official repeal of net neutrality and approval of AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner, an anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via TechCrunch, written by Danny Crichton. Crichton discusses the options Alphabet, Netflix and other video streaming services have on how to respond: For Alphabet, that will likely mean a redoubling of its commitment to Google Fiber. That service has been trumpeted since its debut, but has faced cutbacks in recent years in order to scale back its original ambitions. That has meant that cities like Atlanta, which have held out for the promise of cheap and reliable gigabit bandwidth, have been left in something of a lurch. Ultimately, Alphabet's strategic advantage against Comcast, AT&T and other massive ISPs is going to rest on a sort of mutually assured destruction. If Comcast throttles YouTube, then Alphabet can propose launching in a critical (read: lucrative) Comcast market. Further investment in Fiber, Project Fi or perhaps a 5G-centered wireless strategy will be required to give it to the leverage to bring those negotiations to a better outcome.

For Netflix, it is going to have to get into the connectivity game one way or the other. Contracts with carriers like Comcast and AT&T are going to be more challenging to negotiate in light of today's ruling and the additional power they have over throttling. Netflix does have some must-see shows, which gives it a bit of leverage, but so do the ISPs. They are going to have to do an end-run around the distributors to give them similar leverage to what Alphabet has up its sleeve. One interesting dynamic I could see forthcoming would be Alphabet creating strategic partnerships with companies like Netflix, Twitch and others to negotiate as a collective against ISPs. While all these services are at some level competitors, they also face an existential threat from these new, vertically merged ISPs. That might be the best of all worlds given the shit sandwich we have all been handed this week.

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