Tech News Feed

Google merges Maps and Waze teams but says apps will remain separate

Engadget - 18 hours 3 min ago

As part of recent cost-cutting measures, Google is planning to merge its Waze and Maps divisions, The Wall Street Journal has reported. The move is aimed at reducing duplicated work across the products, but Google said it will still keep the Waze and Maps apps separate. 

"Google remains deeply committed to Waze’s unique brand, its beloved app and its thriving community of volunteers and users," a spokesperson told the WSJ. Waze CEO Neha Parikh will leave her role after a transition period, but there will reportedly be no layoffs. Starting this Friday, the 500-strong Waze team will join Google's Geo organization in charge of Maps, Earth and Street View.

Waze and Maps have been sharing features ever since Google acquired Waze for $1.1 billion back in 2013. Waze's traffic data started appearing in Maps shortly after the acquisition, with speed limits, radar locations and other features arriving later. In return, Waze has benefited from Google's know-how in search. The FTC launched an antitrust investigation shortly after the acquisition, and at the time, Google said it was keeping Waze as a separate unit "for now." 

It's been nine years since then, but according to former CEO Noam Bardin, Waze hasn't enjoyed complete independence. "All of our growth at Waze post acquisition was from work we did, not support from the mothership. Looking back, we could have probably grown faster and much more efficiently had we stayed independent," he said in a LinkedIn post last year. 

Waze has 151 million monthly active users, compared to one billion for Google Maps services. Still, Waze is a highly popular navigation app (particularly in Europe), thanks to its crowd-sourced nature. Individual users can easily report traffic, police, crashes, map problems, radar cameras and more with the touch of a button. Google Maps added the ability to report driving incidents back in 2019, but is less geared around crowdsourcing.

With ad revenue slowing down at Google, CEO Sundar Pichai said in September that he hoped to make the company 20 percent more efficient. Part of that, he said, could be achieved via layoffs and merging multiple products. 

Pentagon Splits $9 Billion Cloud Contract Between 4 Firms

SlashDot - 18 hours 49 min ago
Google, Oracle, Microsoft and Amazon will share in the Pentagon's $9 billion contract to build its cloud computing network, a year after accusations of politicization over the previously announced contract and a protracted legal battle resulted in the military starting over in its award process. The Associated Press reports: The Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability is envisioned to provide access to unclassified, secret and top-secret data to military personnel all over the globe. It is anticipated to serve as a backbone for the Pentagon's modern war operations, which will rely heavily on unmanned aircraft and space communications satellites, but will still need a way to quickly get the intelligence from those platforms to troops on the ground. The contract will be awarded in parts, with a total estimated completion date of June 2028, the Pentagon said in a statement. Last July, the Pentagon announced it was cancelling its previous cloud computing award, then named JEDI. At the time, the Pentagon said that due to delays in proceeding with the contract, technology had changed to the extent that the old contract, which was awarded to Microsoft, no longer met DOD's needs. It did not mention the legal challenges behind those delays, which had come from Amazon, the losing bidder. Amazon had questioned whether former President Donald Trump's administration had steered the contract toward Microsoft due to Trump's adversarial relationship with Amazon's chief executive officer at the time, Jeff Bezos. A report by the Pentagon's inspector general did not find evidence of improper influence, but it said it could not determine the extent of administration interactions with Pentagon decision-makers because the White House would not allow unfettered access to witnesses. "It's the most important cloud deal to come out of the Beltway," said analyst Daniel Ives, who monitors the cloud industry for Wedbush Securities. "It's about the Pentagon as a reference customer. It says significant accolades about what they think about that vendor, and that's the best reference customer you could have in that world."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Biden signs bill that lets domestic violence survivors remove abusers from phone plans

Engadget - 18 hours 50 min ago

President Joe Biden has signed H.R. 7132 or Safe Connections Act of 2022 into law, and it could help domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and human trafficking survivors ultimately cut ties with abusers. Under the new law, users can ask mobile service providers to separate their line — as well as their dependents' — from their abusers' if they have a shared contract. That would ensure that abusers no longer have access to their phone records and can't get their service cut. Carriers aren't allowed to charge fees to grant these requests, which they must do so within do two days. 

In addition, Safe Connections Act of 2022 will require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to create rules that would make it easier for survivors seeking separate mobile plans to enroll in its Lifeline Program for up to six months. This FCC initiative gives qualifying low-income consumers a discount on phone services, so they can remain connected to job opportunities, friends, family and emergency services while they're working to get back on their feet. The commission also has to establish rules that would prevent calls or texts to hotlines from appearing on call logs, presumably to keep survivors safe

In a blog post, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) celebrated the new law but also said that it would have "preferred a bill that did not require survivors to provide paperwork to 'prove' their abuse." For a request to be valid, a user must submit "appropriate documentation" to verify that the person they're sharing a contract with "committed or allegedly committed an act of domestic violence, trafficking, or a related criminal act against the survivor."

Having to provide paperwork may not be easy, depending on a person's circumstances, and it could retraumatize survivors trying to break free from abusive situations. "However, this new law is a critical step in the right direction," the EFF continued, "and it is encouraging that Congress and the President agreed."

Xiaomi 13 Flagship Phones Set to Launch This Sunday - CNET

CNET News - 20 hours 21 min ago
The Xiaomi 13 and Xiaomi 13 Pro are finally set to make their China debut after the original launch date was pushed back.

Twitter is reportedly raising Blue subscription's pricing on iOS to $11

Engadget - 21 hours 2 min ago

When Twitter's Blue subscription comes back, it may cost a lot more than before if you purchase it straight from the app. According to The Information, the company informed some employees that it's going to charge users $11 for Blue subscription if they pay through its iOS application. But if they pay through the web, it will only cost them $7 a month for the service, which includes getting the website's blue verification badge. As the publication notes, the change in pricing likely takes Apple's 30 percent commission for payments made through its system into account. 

In late November, Twitter owner Elon Musk spoke out against Apple's 30 percent cut on in-app purchases. He also said that the tech giant threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store and won't tell his company why. A few days later, though, Musk met with Apple chief Tim Cook and resolved what the former called a "misunderstanding." Musk said the two had a "good conversation" and that Apple never truly considered dropping Twitter from the App Store.

Apple announced in late 2021 that it was going to allow developers of "reader" apps to link to external payment systems following a barrage of criticisms against its practice of taking a 30 percent commission. It's unclear if the two executives talked about Twitter's plan to offer Blue subscription outside of the App Store and how the social network would implement its idea.

Twitter originally launched Blue verification for iOS devices in early November for $8 a month, but the company decided to pause the service after it led to an influx of impersonators and fake accounts. When the subscription service does come back, it will come with different colored checkmarks: gold for companies, grey for government and blue for individuals, whether or not they're a public figure. 

UK Approves First Coal Mine In 30 Years

SlashDot - 21 hours 49 min ago
A year after Britain hosted a major climate summit, the British government on Wednesday approved its first new coal mine in 30 years, stoking anger among environmental campaigners. The Washington Post reports: The new mine, approved on Wednesday by Michael Gove, Britain's levelling-up secretary, will take two years to build and will produce an estimated 2.8 tonnes of coking coal a year, which is used in the production of steel. Coal is the planet's most polluting fossil fuel, and the greenlighting (PDF) of a new mine -- a decision that has been delayed for years -- is controversial in Britain and beyond, attracting unfavorable attention from people such as Greta Thunberg and U.S. climate envoy John F. Kerry. The British government has stressed that the coal taken from the mine will be used for the production of steel, rather than coal used to generate electricity, which Britain has largely weaned itself off of. [...] The new mine, which will cost an estimated 165 million pounds ($201 million), will see the majority of its coal exported to mainland Europe. The project is expected to create about 500 direct and 1,500 indirect jobs for the region of Cumbria and for Whitehaven, an ex-industrial town in the north of England that will welcome an influx of economic activity. "This coal will be used for the production of steel and would otherwise need to be imported. It will not be used for power generation," the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said in a statement. "The mine seeks to be net zero in its operations and is expected to contribute to local employment and the wider economy."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Funny Lion Cub Fail Wins Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards - CNET

CNET News - 22 hours 49 min ago
A klutzy lion cub takes top honors in a competition that highlights the humorous side of wildlife while promoting conservation awareness.

A New Global Plastics Treaty Is Coming For Your Bags and Bottles

SlashDot - Wed, 2022-12-07 22:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: The world is choking in plastic trash, and the UN wants to do something to fix it. A weeklong meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) on Plastic Pollution in Punta del Este, Uruguay, ended last Friday (Dec. 2). It was a first, formal step towards a legally binding international treaty to deal with the global plastics problem. Such a pact would be the most consequential environmental treaty in years, on par with 2015's Paris Agreement on climate change. The INC will spend the next two years negotiating how binding the regulations will be. While most of the 1,800 attendees in Uruguay ostensibly support ending plastic pollution as a baseline, competing motives have factions pulling in different directions. Hardline countries and campaigners are pushing for outright bans on "problem plastics" and certain chemicals, as well as internationally set regulations and strict production monitoring. Plastics industry coalitions -- which include the world's largest plastic producers, like Nestle and Unilever -- are calling for a focus on recycling and global targets defined by national priorities. Details of the treaty will have to be negotiated over the next couple of years. The High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution, made up of 45 countries, is calling to restrict the single-use plastics found in packaging and consumer goods. They make up half of the plastic waste produced today, so a restriction would hugely reduce pollution, as well as force a transformation for consumers -- and the companies producing their goods -- in the way they drink bottled water, order takeout, or buy cleaning products and cosmetics. An international standard for monitoring production would also try to ensure that plastics are chemically safe, genuinely recyclable, and durable enough to be reusable. Of the roughly 10,000 chemicals used in producing plastics, more than 2,400 have been found to be harmful, causing a range of health problems from asthma to infertility. Recycling is not currently viable for most plastics, but better production monitoring could shift that. Further reading: Is Plastic Recycling a Myth?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

'Wonder Woman 3' as You Know It Is Reportedly Not Going Ahead - CNET

CNET News - Wed, 2022-12-07 22:20
New DC Studios heads James Gunn and Peter Safran have reportedly turned down Patty Jenkins' current version of the Wonder Woman threequel.

You Watched 'Wednesday' on Netflix. Here's Where to Stream More Addams Family - CNET

CNET News - Wed, 2022-12-07 21:04
Put on your best black outfit. It's time for more of the ghoulish clan portrayed in the runaway Netflix hit.

Pentagon Gives $9B in Cloud Contracts to Google, Oracle, Microsoft and Amazon - CNET

CNET News - Wed, 2022-12-07 20:45
The four tech giants are tasked with building out cloud computing networks for the US military.

Supercomputer Re-Creates One of the Most Famous Pictures of Earth

SlashDot - Wed, 2022-12-07 20:40
sciencehabit shares a report from Science Magazine: Fifty years ago today, astronauts aboard Apollo 17, NASA's last crewed mission to the Moon, took an iconic photograph of our planet. The image became known as the Blue Marble -- the first fully illuminated picture of Earth, in color, taken by a person. Now, scientists have re-created that image during a test run of a cutting-edge digital climate model. The model can simulate climatic phenomena, such as storms and ocean eddies, at 1-kilometer resolution, as much as 100 times sharper than typical global simulations. To re-create the swirling winds of the Blue Marble -- including a cyclone over the Indian Ocean -- the researchers fed weather records from 1972 into the supercomputer-powered software. The resulting world captured distinctive features of the region, such as upwelling waters off the coast of Namibia and long, reedlike cloud coverage. Experts say the stunt highlights the growing sophistication of high-resolution climate models. Those are expected to form the core of the European Union's Destination Earth project, which aims to create a 'digital twin' of Earth to better forecast extreme weather and guide preparation plans.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Atari Revives Unreleased Arcade Game That Was Too Damn Hard For 1982 Players

SlashDot - Wed, 2022-12-07 20:00
Atari is reviving Akka Arrh, a 1982 arcade game canceled because test audiences found it too difficult. Engadget reports: For the wave shooter's remake, the publisher is teaming up with developer Jeff Minter, whose psychedelic, synthwave style seems an ideal fit for what Atari describes as "a fever dream in the best way possible." The remake will be released on PC, PS5 and PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch and Atari VCS in early 2023. The original Akka Arrh cabinet used a trackball to target enemies, as the player controls the Sentinel fixed in the center of the screen to fend off waves of incoming attackers. Surrounding the Sentinel is an octagonal field, which you need to keep clear; if enemies slip in, you can zoom in to fend them off before panning back out to fend off the rest of the wave. Given the simplicity of most games in the early 1980s, it's unsurprising this relative complexity led to poor test-group screenings. Since Atari pulled the plug on the arcade version before its release, only three Akka Arrh cabinets are known to exist. But the Minter collaboration isn't the game's first public availability. After an arcade ROM leaked online in 2019, Atari released the original this fall as part of its Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration collection. [...] Atari says the remake has two modes, 50 levels and saves, so you don't have to start from the beginning when enemies inevitably overrun your Sentinel. Additionally, the company says it offers accessibility settings to tone down the trippy visuals for people sensitive to intense light, color and animations.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Democratic lawmakers want Elon Musk to explain China's role in 'platform manipulation' during protests

Engadget - Wed, 2022-12-07 19:53

Three Democratic lawmakers in the House are demanding answers from Elon Musk about a recent “platform manipulation campaign” related to recent protests in China. In a letter to the Twitter CEO, Representatives Raja Krishnamoorthi, Adam Schiff and Jackie Speier write that they have “deep concern” about the recent spam campaign that drowned out tweets about the protests.

The lawmakers want Musk to answer questions about whether Twitter has any evidence the spam campaign was a state-backed effort by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). “To ensure that the United States is prepared to counter, thwart, and deter foreign influence threats online, it is critical that we understand the extent of the PRC’s potential manipulation of Twitter and identify how recent changes at Twitter are affecting the threat of CCP foreign influence operations on social media,” they write.

The lawmakers also address recent changes at Twitter under Musk’s leadership, with questions about what Twitter’s “emphasis on free speech” means for information access on the platform; as well as whether the company has the “capacity” to identify platform manipulation campaigns.

Since Musk took over Twitter, questions have swirled about how he will handle the platform’s dealings with Chinese officials, such as requests to remove “state affiliated” labels from their accounts. Tesla, the other company Musk runs, is highly dependent on China for manufacturing.

So far, Musk hasn’t publicly acknowledged the letter, which provides a December 31st deadline for a response. Twitter no longer has a communications team. However, Musk has shown little regard for other letters from lawmakers. He recently addressed a letter from Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey about Twitter’s failure to stop impersonation attempts with a dismissive tweet.

Renewables Expected to Surpass Coal as Largest Source of Electricity by 2025 - CNET

CNET News - Wed, 2022-12-07 19:52
The latest report from the International Energy Agency says the growth of renewables will almost double in the next five years.

Amazon Joins Open Invention Network

SlashDot - Wed, 2022-12-07 19:20
Amazon and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have joined the Open Invention Network (OIN) -- the world's largest patent non-aggression consortium. ZDNet reports: OIN has long protected Linux and Linux-related software from patent aggression by rival companies. With the recent increase in patent troll attacks, the OIN is also defending companies from these assaults. This is a natural move for Amazon. Besides relying on Linux and open-source software both for its retail and cloud businesses, Amazon has a strict policy against patent infringement, and users who engage in this behavior can have their listings removed or accounts deleted. Nevertheless, like all large companies, Amazon has also been sued for patent violations. Joining the OIN simply makes good business sense. Nithya Ruff, the Amazon Open Source Program Office director, added: "Linux and open source are essential to many of our customers and a key driver of innovation across Amazon. We are proud to support a broad range of open-source projects, foundations, and partners, and we are committed to the long-term success and sustainability of open source as a whole. By joining OIN, we are continuing to strengthen open source communities and helping to ensure technologies like Linux remain thriving and accessible to everyone."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Dyson’s Zone air-purifying headphones start at $949

Engadget - Wed, 2022-12-07 19:01

When Dyson announced its Zone noise-canceling and air-purifying headphones earlier this year, the company kept some details close to its chest. Specifically, Dyson didn’t announce pricing or availability, nor did it say much about battery life. On Wednesday, it shared that information. Let’s begin with the detail everyone wants to know. When the wearable arrives in the US next March, it will start at an eye-watering $949, making it almost twice as expensive as the AirPods Max.

At first, Dyson will begin accepting preorders by appointment only before the headphones become available through its website and Demo stores across the country. In the US, the company will offer the wearable in two colorways: Ultra Blue/Prussian Blue and Prussian Blue/Bright Copper. The latter will only be available directly from the company, but it comes with a few extras, including a second electrostatic carbon filter, a soft pouch and an inflight adaptor kit.

Both the standard and Dyson Direct models come with the Zone’s signature vizor, as well as a dedicated sleeve and cleaning brush. According to Dyson, the electrostatic filters are rated to provide up to 12 months of use before they should be replaced. The filters feature a dual-layer design that incorporates potassium-enriched carbon to capture acidic gasses like nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and ozone. All told, the company claims the filters will block 99 percent of particles, including ones that are as small as 0.1 microns.

On the audio front, the Zone headphones are capable of up to 38 decibels of noise cancellation and feature 40-millimeter neodymium drivers. You can use the MyDyson companion app to choose between three audio equalization modes dubbed Dyson EQ, Bass Boost and Neutral. At launch, the headphones will support SBC, AAC and LHDC audio codecs, as well as Bluetooth 5.0.

Battery life will depend on how extensively you use the Zone’s air filtration feature. If it’s not powering the Visor, the Zone’s 2,600mAh battery can provide up to 50 hours of listening time on a single charge. Using the visor at its slowest setting reduces battery life to a modest four hours. Increasing purification speed to the “Mid” and “High” flow settings further reduces battery life to two-and-a-half hours and one-and-a-half hours, respectively. Using USB-C charging, Dyson says it will take about three hours to take the battery from dead to 100 percent. All of that means you will need to be selective about when you decide to use the visor.

Dyson Zone Air Filtering Headphones on Sale in January for $949 - CNET

CNET News - Wed, 2022-12-07 19:01
The headphones feature active noise canceling and a face mask that's designed to filter out harmful airborne toxins.

Meta's Behavioral Ads Will Finally Face GDPR Privacy Reckoning In January

SlashDot - Wed, 2022-12-07 18:40
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Major privacy complaints targeting the legality of Meta's core advertising business model in Europe have finally been settled via a dispute resolution mechanism baked into the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The complaints, which date back to May 2018, take aim at the tech giant's so-called forced consent to continue tracking and targeting users by processing their personal data to build profiles for behavioral advertising, so the outcome could have major ramifications for how Meta operates if regulators order the company to amend its practices. The GDPR also allows for large fines for major violations -- up to 4% of global annual turnover. The European Data Protection Board (EDPB), a steering body for the GDPR, confirmed today it has stepped in to three binding decisions in the three complaints against Meta platforms Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. The trio of complaints were filed by European privacy campaign group noyb as soon as the GDPR entered into application across the EU. So it's taken some 4.5 years just to get to this point. [...] What exactly has been decided? The EDPB is not disclosing that yet. The protocol it's following means it passes its binding decisions back to the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC), Meta's lead privacy regulator in the EU, which must then apply them in the final decisions it will issue. The DPC now has one month to issue final decisions and confirm any financial penalties. So we should get the full gory details by early next year. The Wall Street Journal may offer a glimpse of what's to come: It's reporting that Meta's ad model will face restrictions in the EU -- citing "people familiar with the situation." It also reports the company will face "significant" fines for breaching the GDPR. "The board's rulings Monday, which haven't yet been disclosed publicly, don't directly order Meta to change practices but rather call for Ireland's Data Protection Commission to issue public orders that reflect its decisions, along with significant fines," the WSJ wrote, citing unnamed sources. [...] The company was recently spotted in a filing setting aside 3 billion euros for data protection fines in 2022 and 2023 -- a large chunk of which has yet to land. "In line with Art. 65 (5) GDPR, we cannot comment on the content of the decisions until after the Irish DPC has notified the controller of its final decisions," said a spokesperson for the EDPB. "As indicated in our press release, the EDPB looked into whether or not the processing of personal data for the performance of a contract is a suitable legal basis for behavioral advertising, but at this point in time we cannot confirm what the EDPB's decision in this matter was." The DPC also declined to comment on the newspaper's report -- but deputy commissioner Graham Doyle confirmed to TechCrunch that it will announce binding decisions on these complaints in early January. A Meta spokesperson issued the following statement to TechCrunch: "This is not the final decision and it is too early to speculate. GDPR allows for a range of legal bases under which data can be processed, beyond consent or performance of a contract. Under the GDPR there is no hierarchy between these legal bases, and none should be considered better than any other. We've engaged fully with the DPC on their inquiries and will continue to engage with them as they finalize their decision."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Former Theranos President Sunny Balwani Sentenced to 13 Years - CNET

CNET News - Wed, 2022-12-07 18:22
Balwani was convicted of 12 counts of fraud for his involvement in the blood testing scandal.