Transportation

Is the World Ready For Flying Cars? (engadget.com) 62

An anonymous reader shares a report from TechCrunch, adding: "Is the world ready for flying cars? Sebastian Thrun, the supposed godfather of autonomous driving, and several other tech investors seem to think so." From the report: At TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017, Thrun talked a lot about flying cars and how that was the future of transportation. So did GGV's Jenny Lee, a prolific investor in China. And so did Steve Jurvetson, one of the original investors in SpaceX. The technical backbone for flying cars seems to be there already -- with drones becoming ever-present and advancements in AI and self-driving cars -- but the time is coming soon that flying cars will be the primary mode of transportation. "I can't envision a future of highways [and being] stuck in cars," Thrun said. "I envision a [future] where you hop in a thing, go in the air, and fly in a straight line. I envision a future where Amazon delivers my food in the air in five minutes. The air is so free of stuff and is so unused compared to the ground, it has to happen in my opinion."

Cars today are forced to move on a two-dimensional plane (ramps, clover intersections and tunnels set aside), and while self-driving cars would make it easier for cars to talk to each other and move more efficiently, adding a third dimension to travel would make a lot of sense coming next. Thrun pointed to airplane transit, which is already a "fundamentally great mass transit system." Jurvetson said he was actually about to ride in a flying car before he "watched it flip over" before arriving to talk about some of the next steps in technology onstage. So, there's work to be done there, but it does certainly seem that all eyes are on flying cars. And that'll be enabled by autonomous driving, which will probably allow flying cars to figure out the most efficient paths from one point to the next without crashing into each other.
Lee said that China is closely analyzing changes in transportation, which might end up leading to flying cars. "I do want to highlight that there's going to be huge disruption within the transportation ecosystem in China," Lee said. "Cars going from diesel to electric. China has about 200 million install base of car ownership. In 2016, only 1 million cars are electric. The Chinese government hopes to install 5 million parking lots that are electric... Even the Chinese OEMs are buying into flying taxis."
Power

Electric Bus Sets Record With 1,101-Mile Trip On a Single Charge (engadget.com) 35

A startup called Proterra has set the world record for the furthest distance any electric vehicle has managed before recharging. The Catalyst E2 Max electric bus drove 1,101.2 miles on a single charge, beating the previous record-holder, a one-seat experimental car nicknamed "Boozer." Engadget reports: Not surprisingly, a bus can hold a much larger battery than just about any regular car. The Catalyst E2 Max carries 660kWh, or nearly nine times the capacity of a 75kWh Tesla Model S. Also, Proterra was driving in optimal conditions, with no passengers, no stops and a gentle test track. It'd be another story with a fully-laden bus wending its way through a city. Even so, that kind of range is very promising. In many cases, it could likely handle a long bus route for several hours -- it might only need to recharge at the end of a driver's shift. While it could take an hour or more to top up even with Proterra's fast charging system, bus drivers are no strangers to changing vehicles. The first E2 series buses are due to reach Los Angeles streets later in 2017, so it might not be long before you can witness this longevity first-hand. The company released a video of the record-setting feat on YouTube.
Twitter

Twitter Suspends 300,000 Accounts Tied To Terrorism In 2017 (bloomberg.com) 26

According to a new transparency report, Twitter said it suspended nearly 300,000 accounts globally linked to terrorism in the first half of the year. The company is improving automation tools used to help block accounts that promote terrorism and violence. Bloomberg reports: Of [the nearly 300,000 accounts that were suspended], roughly 95 percent were identified by the company's spam-fighting automation tools. Meanwhile, the social network said government data requests continued to increase, and that it provided authorities with data on roughly 3,900 accounts from January to June. Twitter said about 75 percent of the blocked accounts this year were spotted before a single tweet was sent, and that 935,897 accounts had been suspended since August 2015, with two-thirds of those coming in the past year. American authorities made 2,111 requests from Twitter from January to June, the most of the 83 countries tracked by the company. Twitter supplied information on users in 77 percent of the inquiries. Japan made 1,384 requests and the U.K. issued 606 requests. Turkish authorities continued a trend of aggressively policing Twitter, making 554 requests for account data and issuing court orders to remove 715 pieces of content. Other governments made only 38 total content-removal requests.
Data Storage

Google, Bing, Yahoo Data Retention Doesn't Improve Search Quality, Study Claims (theregister.co.uk) 17

A new paper released on Monday via the National Bureau of Economic Research claims that retaining search log data doesn't do much for search quality. "Data retention has implications in the debate over Europe's right to be forgotten, the authors suggest, because retained data undermines that right," reports The Register. "It's also relevant to U.S. policy discussions about privacy regulations." From the report: To determine whether retention policies affected the accuracy of search results, Chiou and Tucker used data from metrics biz Hitwise to assess web traffic being driven by search sites. They looked at Microsoft Bing and Yahoo! Search during a period when Bing changed its search data retention period from 18 months to 6 months and when Yahoo! changed its retention period from 13 months to 3 months, as well as when Yahoo! had second thoughts and shifted to an 18-month retention period. According to Chiou and Tucker, data retention periods didn't affect the flow of traffic from search engines to downstream websites. "Our findings suggest that long periods of data storage do not confer advantages in search quality, which is an often-cited benefit of data retention by companies," their paper states. Chiou and Tucker observe that the supposed cost of privacy laws to consumers and to companies may be lower than perceived. They also contend that their findings weaken the claim that data retention affects search market dominance, which could make data retention less relevant in antitrust discussions of Google.
The Courts

Pepe the Frog's Creator Is Sending Takedown Notices To Far-Right Sites (vice.com) 161

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Pepe the Frog creator Matt Furie has made good on his threat to "aggressively enforce his intellectual property." The artist's lawyers have taken legal action against the alt-right. They have served cease and desist orders to several alt-right personalities and websites including Richard Spencer, Mike Cernovich, and the r/the_Donald subreddit. In addition, they have issued Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown requests to Reddit and Amazon, notifying them that use of Pepe by the alt-right on their platforms is copyright infringement. The message is to the alt-right is clear -- stop using Pepe the Frog or prepare for legal consequences. Furie originally created Pepe as a non-political character for his Boy's Club comic, but Pepe later became an internet meme and during the 2016 U.S. presidential election the alt-right movement appropriated the frog in various grotesque and hateful memes.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Resigns From Web Consortium In Wake of EME DRM Standardization (eff.org) 106

New submitter Frobnicator writes: Four years ago, the W3C began standardizing Encrypted Media Extensions, or EME. Several organizations, including the EFF, have argued against DRM within web browsers. Earlier this year, after the W3C leadership officially recommended EME despite failing to reach consensus, the EFF filed the first-ever official appeal that the decision be formally polled for consensus. That appeal has been denied, and for the first time the W3C is endorsing a standard against the consensus of its members.

In response, the EFF published their resignation from the body: "The W3C is a body that ostensibly operates on consensus. Nevertheless, as the coalition in support of a DRM compromise grew and grew -- and the large corporate members continued to reject any meaningful compromise -- the W3C leadership persisted in treating EME as topic that could be decided by one side of the debate. [...] Today, the W3C bequeaths an legally unauditable attack-surface to browsers used by billions of people. Effective today, EFF is resigning from the W3C."
Jeff Jaffe, CEO of W3C said: "I know from my conversations that many people are not satisfied with the result. EME proponents wanted a faster decision with less drama. EME critics want a protective covenant. And there is reason to respect those who want a better result. But my personal reflection is that we took the appropriate time to have a respectful debate about a complex set of issues and provide a result that will improve the web for its users. My main hope, though, is that whatever point-of-view people have on the EME covenant issue, that they recognize the value of the W3C community and process in arriving at a decision for an inherently contentious issue. We are in our best light when we are facilitating the debate on important issues that face the web."
IOS

iOS 11 Released (theverge.com) 68

Today, Apple released the final version of iOS 11, its latest mobile operating system. If you have an iPhone or iPad that was released within the last few years, you should be able to download the new update if you navigate to the Settings panel and check for a software update under the General tab. The Verge reports: OS 11, first unveiled in detail back at Apple's WWDC in June, is the same incremental annual refresh we've come to expect from the company, but it hides some impressive complexity under the surface. Not only does it add some neat features to iOS for the first time, like ARKit capabilities for augmented reality and a new Files app, but it also comes with much-needed improvements to Siri; screenshot capture and editing; and the Control Center, which is now more fully featured and customizable. For iPads, iOS 11 is more of an overhaul. The software now better supports multitasking so you can more easily bring two apps into split-screen mode, or even add a third now. The new drag-and-drop features are also much more powerful on iPad, letting you manage stuff in the Files app more intuitively and even letting you drag and drop photos and text from one app to another.
China

China Orders Bitcoin Exchanges In Capital City To Close (bbc.com) 60

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: China is moving forward with plans to shut down Bitcoin exchanges in the country, starting with trading platforms in key cities. All Bitcoin exchanges in Beijing and Shanghai have been ordered to submit plans for winding down their operations by 20 September. The move follows the Chinese central bank's decision to ban initial coin offerings in early September. Top exchange BTCC said it would stop trading at the end of the month. Chinese authorities decided to ban digital currencies as part of a plan for reducing the country's financial risks. All exchanges are required to send regulators a detailed "risk-free" plan of how they intend to exit the market before 18:30 local time on Wednesday 20 September. The regulator also ordered the exchanges to submit DVDs containing all user trading and holding data to the local authorities. Shareholders, controllers, executives, and core financial and technical staff of exchanges are also required to remain in Beijing during the shutdown and to co-operate fully with authorities.
AI

You Might Use AI, But That Doesn't Mean You're an AI Company, Says a Founder of Google Brain (venturebeat.com) 54

As AI space gets crowded, there are a slew of businesses -- new and old -- looking to market themselves as "AI companies." But according to Andrew Ng, a founder of the Google Brain team and a luminary in the space, there's more to being an AI company than just using a neural net. From a report: In his view, while it's possible to create a website for a shopping mall, that doesn't make it an internet company. In the same way, just implementing basic machine learning does not make a standard technology company (or any other business) an AI company. "You're not an AI company because there are a few people using a few neural networks somewhere," Ng said. "It's much deeper than that." First and foremost, AI companies are strategic about their acquisition of data, which is used as the fuel for machine learning systems. Once an AI company has acquired the data, Ng said that they tend to store it in centralized warehouses for processing. Most enterprises have their information spread across multiple different warehouses, and collating that data for machine learning can prove difficult. AI companies also implement modern development practices, like frequent deployments. That means it's possible to change the product and learn from the changes.
Technology

What Comes After User-Friendly Design? (fastcodesign.com) 126

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan, writing for FastCoDesign: "User-friendly" was coined in the late 1970s, when software developers were first designing interfaces that amateurs could use. In those early days, a friendly machine might mean one you could use without having to code. Forty years later, technology is hyper-optimized to increase the amount of time you spend with it, to collect data about how you use it, and to adapt to engage you even more. [...] The discussion around privacy, security, and transparency underscores a broader transformation in the typical role of the designer, as Khoi Vinh, principal designer at Adobe and frequent design writer on his own site, Subtraction, points out. So what does it mean to be friendly to users-er, people-today? Do we need a new way to talk about design that isn't necessarily friendly, but respectful? I talked to a range of designers about how we got here, and what comes next.
AI

Google's AI Boss Blasts Musk's Scare Tactics on Machine Takeover (bloomberg.com) 103

Mark Bergen, writing for Bloomberg: Elon Musk is the most-famous Cassandra of artificial intelligence. The Tesla chief routinely drums up the technology's risks in public and on Twitter, where he recently called the global race to develop AI the "most likely cause" of a third world war. Researchers at Google, Facebook and other AI-focused companies find this irritating. John Giannandrea, the head of search and AI at Alphabet's Google, took one of the clearest shots at Musk on Tuesday -- all while carefully leaving him unnamed. "There's a huge amount of unwarranted hype around AI right now," Giannandrea said at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco. "This leap into, 'Somebody is going to produce a superhuman intelligence and then there's going to be all these ethical issues' is unwarranted and borderline irresponsible."
The Internet

Internet Is Having a Midlife Crisis (bbc.com) 124

An anonymous reader shares a report: The rise of cyber-bullying and monopolistic business practices has damaged trust in the internet, pioneering entrepreneur Baroness Lane-Fox has told the BBC. The Lastminute.com founder also called for a "shared set of principles" to make the web happier and safer. She said the internet had done much good over the last 30 years. But she said too many people had missed out on the benefits and it was time to "take a step back". "The web has become embedded in our lives over the last three decades but I think it's reached an inflexion point, or a sort of midlife crisis," she told Radio 4's Today programme. Baroness Lane-Fox co-founded travel booking site Lastminute.com in 1998 before going on to sell the firm for 577m pound seven years later. She described the early days of the internet as being "full of energy and excitement," and akin to the "wild West". "There was this feeling that suddenly, with this access to this new technology, you could start a business from anywhere," she said. However, she said that while technology had become a hugely important sector of the UK economy, it had not fulfilled its early potential.
The Almighty Buck

Cities Are Competing to Give Amazon the 'Mother of All Civic Giveaways' (vice.com) 226

Louise Matsakis, reporting for Motherboard: Amazon announced earlier this month that it was looking to build a second headquarters outside Seattle, where more than 40,000 of the company's more than 380,000 employees currently work. The tech giant is searching for a locale with at least a million people, a diverse population, and excellent schools, among other qualifications. It gave municipalities six weeks -- until October 19 -- to submit a proposal to be chosen. Local governments in more than 100 American and Canadian cities, including places like San Diego, Chicago, Dallas, and Detroit, quickly scrambled to outline why they should be home to Amazon's new corporate office, which is expected to employ up to 50,000 workers. The mayor of Washington D.C., Muriel Bowser, even made a scripted video for Amazon explaining why the capital should be picked. It featured an Echo, Amazon's smart speaker. But experts who have studied Amazon's business practices say having one of the most tax-allergic corporations in the world come to your hometown might not actually be a good thing.
Chrome

Google Chrome Most Resilient Against Attacks, Researchers Find (helpnetsecurity.com) 98

Between Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Internet Explorer, Chrome has been found to be the most resilient against attacks, an analysis by security researchers has found. Firefox, Safari, and Opera were not included in the test. From a report: "Modern web browsers such as Chrome or Edge improved security in recent years. Exploitation of vulnerabilities is certainly more complex today and requires a higher skill than in the past. However, the attack surface of modern web browsers is increasing due to new technologies and the increasing complexity of web browsers themselves," noted Markus Vervier, Managing Director of German IT security outfit X41 D-Sec (and one of the researchers involved in the analysis). The researchers' aim was to determine which browser provides the highest level of security in common enterprise usage scenarios.
Encryption

Why You Shouldn't Use Texts For Two-Factor Authentication (theverge.com) 98

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: A demonstration video posted by Positive Technologies (and first reported by Forbes) shows how easy it is to hack into a bitcoin wallet by intercepting text messages in transit. The group targeted a Coinbase account protected by two-factor authentication, which was registered to a Gmail account also protected by two-factor. By exploiting known flaws in the cell network, the group was able to intercept all text messages sent to the number for a set period of time. That was enough to reset the password to the Gmail account and then take control of the Coinbase wallet. All the group needed was the name, surname and phone number of the targeted Bitcoin user. These were security researchers rather than criminals, so they didn't actually steal anyone's bitcoin, although that would have been an easy step to take. At a glance, this looks like a Coinbase vulnerability, but the real weakness is in the cellular system itself. Positive Technologies was able to hijack the text messages using its own research tool, which exploits weaknesses in the cellular network to intercept text messages in transit. Known as the SS7 network, that network is shared by every telecom to manage calls and texts between phone numbers. There are a number of known SS7 vulnerabilities, and while access to the SS7 network is theoretically restricted to telecom companies, hijacking services are frequently available on criminal marketplaces. The report notes of several ways you can protect yourself from this sort of attack: "On some services, you can revoke the option for SMS two-factor and account recovery entirely, which you should do as soon as you've got a more secure app-based method established. Google, for instance, will let you manage two-factor and account recovery here and here; just set up Authenticator or a recovery code, then go to the SMS option for each and click 'Remove Phone.'"
Bitcoin

Ethereum Will Match Visa In Scale In a 'Couple of Years,' Says Founder (techcrunch.com) 109

Ethereum's founder, Vitalik Buterin, believes that his cryptocurrency has the potential to replace things like credit card networks and gaming servers. He even goes as far to say that Ethereum will replace Visa in "a couple of years," though he later clarified that "ethereum *will have Visa-scale tx capacity*, not that it will 'replace Visa.'" TechCrunch reports: "There's the average person who's already heard of bitcoin and the average person who hasn't," he said. His project itself builds upon that notion by adding more utility to the blockchain, thereby creating something everyone will want to hear about. "Where Ethereum comes from is basically you take the idea of crypto economics and the kinds of economic incentives that keeps things like bitcoin going to create decentralized networks with memory for a whole bunch of applications," he said. "A good blockchain application is something that needs decentralization and some kind of shared memory." That's what he's building and hopes others will build on the Ethereum network.

Right now the network is a bit too slow for most mainstream applications. "Bitcoin is processing a bit less than 3 transactions per second," he said. "Ethereum is doing five a second. Uber gives 12 rides a second. It will take a couple of years for the blockchain to replace Visa." Buterin doesn't think everything should run on the blockchain but many things can. As the technology expands it can grow to replace many services that require parallelization -- that is programs that should run at the same time.

Communications

T-Mobile To Increase Deprioritization Threshold To 50GB This Week (tmonews.com) 66

After raising its deprioritization threshold to 32GB in May, it looks like T-Mobile will bump it up to 50GB on September 20th, according to a TmoNews source. The move will widen the gap between T-Mobile and its competition. For comparison, Sprint's deprioritization threshold is currently 23GB, while AT&T and Verizon's are both 22GB. TmoNews reports: It's said that this 50GB threshold won't change every quarter and no longer involves a specific percentage of data users. As with the current 32GB threshold, customers that exceed this new 50GB deprioritization threshold in a single month may experience reduced speeds in areas where the network is congested. T-Mobile hasn't issued an announcement regarding this news, but the official @TMobileHelp account recently tweeted "Starting 9/20, the limit will be increased!" in response to a question about this news.
United Kingdom

Diesel Cars Contribute To 5,000 Premature Deaths a Year In Europe, Says Study (phys.org) 204

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: Emissions from diesel cars rigged to appear eco-friendly may be responsible for 5,000 air pollution deaths per year in Europe alone, according to a study published on Monday. The numbers are in line with previous assessments of deaths due to the so-called "Dieselgate" scandal, which erupted when carmaker Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to cheating on vehicle emissions tests. Many other carmakers have since fallen under suspicion. The researchers from Norway, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands calculated that about 10,000 deaths in Europe per year can be attributed to small particle pollution from light duty diesel vehicles (LDDVs). Almost half of these would have been avoided if emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from diesel cars on the road had matched levels measured in the lab. If diesel cars emitted as little NOx as petrol ones, almost 4,000 of the 5,000 premature deaths would have been avoided, said the authors. The countries with the heaviest burden are Italy, Germany, and France, the team added, "resulting from their large populations and high share of diesel cars in their national fleets." Touted as less polluting, the share of diesel cars in Europe rose fast compared to petrol since the 1990s, and now comprise about half the fleet. There are more than 100 million diesel cars in Europe today, twice as many as in the rest of the world together, said the study authors. Diesel engines emit less planet-warming carbon dioxide than petrol ones, but significantly more NOx. The study has been published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
AI

AI Just Made Guessing Your Password a Whole Lot Easier (sciencemag.org) 129

sciencehabit shares a report from Science Magazine: The Equifax breach is reason for concern, of course, but if a hacker wants to access your online data by simply guessing your password, you're probably toast in less than an hour. Now, there's more bad news: Scientists have harnessed the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to create a program that, combined with existing tools, figured more than a quarter of the passwords from a set of more than 43 million LinkedIn profiles.

Researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, started with a so-called generative adversarial network, or GAN, which comprises two artificial neural networks. A "generator" attempts to produce artificial outputs (like images) that resemble real examples (actual photos), while a "discriminator" tries to detect real from fake. They help refine each other until the generator becomes a skilled counterfeiter. The Stevens team created a GAN it called PassGAN and compared it with two versions of hashCat and one version of John the Ripper. The scientists fed each tool tens of millions of leaked passwords from a gaming site called RockYou, and asked them to generate hundreds of millions of new passwords on their own. Then they counted how many of these new passwords matched a set of leaked passwords from LinkedIn, as a measure of how successful they'd be at cracking them. On its own, PassGAN generated 12% of the passwords in the LinkedIn set, whereas its three competitors generated between 6% and 23%. But the best performance came from combining PassGAN and hashCat. Together, they were able to crack 27% of passwords in the LinkedIn set, the researchers reported this month in a draft paper posted on arXiv. Even failed passwords from PassGAN seemed pretty realistic: saddracula, santazone, coolarse18.

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