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Updated: 6 hours 56 min ago

Facial Recognition Database With 3 Billion Scraped Images 'Might End Privacy as We Know It'

7 hours 4 min ago
One police detective bragged that photos "could be covertly taken with a telephoto lens" then input into Clearview AI's database of more than three billion scraped images to immediately identify suspects. Long-time Slashdot reader v3rgEz writes: For the past year, government transparency non-profits and Open the Government have been digging into how local police departments around the country use facial recognition. The New York Times reports on their latest discovery: That a Peter Thiel-backed startup Clearview has scraped Facebook, Venmo, and dozens of other social media sites to create a massive, unregulated tool for law enforcement to track where you were, who you were with, and more, all with just a photo. Read the Clearview docs yourself and file a request in your town to see if your police department is using it. The Times describes Clearview as "the secretive company that might end privacy as we know it," with one of the company's early investors telling the newspaper that because information technology keeps getting more powerful, he's concluded that "there's never going to be privacy." He also expresses his belief that technology can't be banned, then acknowledges "Sure, that might lead to a dystopian future or something, but you can't ban it."

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Major Breakthrough In Quantum Computing Shows That MIP* = RE

8 hours 7 min ago
Slashdot reader JoshuaZ writes: In a major breakthrough in quantum computing it was shown that MIP* equals RE. MIP* is the set of problems that can be efficiently demonstrated to a classical computer interacting with multiple quantum computers with any amount of shared entanglement between the quantum computers. RE is the set of problems which are recursive; this is essentially all problems which can be computed. This result comes through years of deep development of understanding interactive protocols, where one entity, a verifier, has much less computing power than another set of entities, provers, who wish to convince the verifier of the truth of a claim. In 1990, a major result was that a classical computer with a polynomial amount of time could be convince of any claim in PSPACE by interacting with an arbitrarily powerful classical computer. Here PSPACE is the set of problems solvable by a classical computer with a polynomial amount of space. Subsequent results showed that if one allowed a verifier able to interact with multiple provers, the verifier could be convinced of a solution of any problem in NEXPTIME, a class conjectured to be much larger than PSPACE. For a while, it was believed that in the quantum case, the set of problems might actually be smaller, since multiple quantum computers might be able to use their shared entangled qubits to "cheat" the verifier. However, this has turned out not just to not be the case, but the exact opposite: MIP* is not only large, it is about as large as a computable class can naturally be. This result while a very big deal from a theoretical standpoint is unlikely to have any immediate applications since it supposes quantum computers with arbitrarily large amounts of computational power and infinite amounts of entanglement. The paper in question is a 165 tour de force which includes incidentally showing that the The Connes embedding conjecture, a 50 year old major conjecture from the theory of operator algebras, is false.

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Tuxedo's New Manjaro Linux Laptops Will Include Massive Customization

9 hours 7 min ago
Tuxedo Computers "has teamed up with Manjaro to tease not one, not two, but several" Linux laptops, Forbes reports: The Tuxedo Computers InfinityBook Pro 15...can be loaded with up to 64GB of RAM, a 10th-generation Intel Core i7 CPU, and as high as a 2TB Samsung EVO Plus NVMe drive. You can also purchase up to a 5-year warranty, and user-installed upgrades will not void the warranty... Manjaro Lead Project Developer Philip Müller also teased a forthcoming AMD Ryzen laptop [on Forbes' "Linux For Everyone" podcast]. "Yes, we are currently evaluating which models we want to use because the industry is screaming for that," Müller says. "In the upcoming weeks we might get some of those for internal testing. Once they're certified and the drivers are ready, we'll see when we can launch those." Müller also tells me they're prepping what he describes as a "Dell XPS 13 killer." "It's 10th-generation Intel based, we will have it in 14-inch with a 180-degree lid, so you can lay it flat on your desk if you like," he says. The Manjaro/Tuxedo Computers partnership will also offer some intense customization options, Forbes adds. "Want your company logo laser-etched on the lid? OK. Want to swap out the Manjaro logo with your logo on the Super key? Sure, no problem. Want to show off your knowledge of fictional alien races? Why not get a 100% Klingon keyboard?"

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Why Did Red Hat Drop Its Support for Docker's Runtime Engine?

10 hours 7 min ago
"I've grown quite fond of the docker container runtime. It's easy to install and use, and many of the technologies I write about depend upon this software," writes TechRepublic/Linux.com contributor Jack Wallen. "But Red Hat has other plans." The company decided -- seemingly out of the blue -- to drop support for the docker runtime engine. In place of docker came Podman. When trying to ascertain why Red Hat split with Docker, nothing came clear. Sure, I could easily draw the conclusion that Red Hat had grown tired of the security issues surrounding Docker and wanted to take matters in their own hands. There was also Red Hat's issue with "no big fat daemons." If that's the case, how do they justify their stance on systemd? Here's where my tinfoil hat comes into play. Understand this is pure conjecture here and I have zero facts to back these claims up... Red Hat is now owned by IBM. IBM was desperate to gain serious traction within the cloud. To do that, IBM needed Red Hat, so they purchased the company. Next, IBM had to score a bit of vendor lock-in. Using a tool like docker wouldn't give them that lock-in. However, if Red Hat developed and depended on their own container runtime, vendor lock-in was attainable.... Red Hat has jettisoned a mature, known commodity for a less-mature, relatively unknown piece of software -- without offering justification for the migration.... Until Red Hat offers up a sound justification for migrating from the docker container engine to Podman, there's going to be a lot of people sporting tinfoil hats. It comes with the territory of an always-connected world. And if it does turn out to be an IBM grab for vendor lock-in, there'll be a lot of admins migrating away from RHEL/CentOS to the likes of Ubuntu Server, SUSE/openSUSE, Debian, and more. Red Hat's product manager of containers later touted Podman's ability to deploy containers without root access privileges in an interview with eWeek. "We felt the sum total of its features, as well as the project's performance, security and stability, made it reasonable to move to 1.0. Since Podman is set to be the default container engine for the single-node use case in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8, we wanted to make some pledges about its supportability." And a Red Hat spokesperson also shared their position with The New Stack. "We saw our customer base wanting the container runtime lifecycle baked-in to the OS or in delivered tandem with OpenShift."

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A Broken Computer System Is Costing F-35 Maintainers 45,000 Hours a Year

11 hours 7 min ago
schwit1 shared this report from the defense news site Task & Purpose: The computer-based logistics system of the F-35 stealth fighter jet made by Lockheed Martin, which has been plagued by delays, will be replaced by another network made by the same company, a Pentagon official said on Tuesday. The Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) was designed to underpin the F-35 fleet's daily operations, ranging from mission planning and flight scheduling to repairs and scheduled maintenance, as well as the tracking and ordering of parts... ALIS was blamed for delaying aircraft maintenance, one of the very things it was meant to facilitate. "One Air Force unit estimated that it spent the equivalent of more than 45,000 hours per year performing additional tasks and manual workarounds because ALIS was not functioning as needed," the GAO said in a November report.

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Microsoft Is Also Launching a New $1 Billion 'Climate Innovation Fund'

12 hours 7 min ago
As part of Microsoft's effort to reduce more atmospheric carbon than it emits, the company has announced a $1 billion "Climate Innovation Fund," reports GeekWire: Microsoft said the new fund will leverage its balance sheet to loan money and take equity stakes in ventures to encourage the development of new environmental innovations. The money will be invested over the next four years. The company cited four criteria for investments, including sustainability initiatives, market impact, technological advances, and climate equity, addressing the tendency of climate change to disproportionately hurt people in developing countries. "We deeply understand this is just a fraction of what is needed to solve this problem," said Amy Hood, the company's chief financial officer, outlining the plan at the event Thursday morning.... Microsoft said it is signing the United Nations' 1.5-degree Business Ambition Pledge, and said it will publicly track its progress in an annual Environmental Sustainability Report. The article notes that Bill Gates "reviewed Microsoft's new initiative but wasn't involved in its creation." Gates has his own $1 billion Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund and has meanwhile also invested in mini nuclear reactors to address climate change. And this spring he'll release a book titled "How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need."

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Boeing Discovers Issue With 737 Max Flight Computers

13 hours 37 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: Boeing's troubled 737 Max has run into a new glitch. During a recent technical review involving the Max, Boeing observed an issue with the plane's flight computers, according to a source familiar with the matter. The source said the issue is not related to the software revisions Boeing made to address the cause of two fatal crashes that killed 346 people, and would not occur during flight. The Max has been grounded since March following the second of those crashes. The computer issue was observed when booting up the computers on a Max and involves the so-called software power up monitoring function, which checks for anomalies when turning on the computers. It's similar to the steps any computer might make when first turned on. The source said the process of turning on the computers is performed when the plane is on the ground, rather than in flight. The source said the test was intended to find any issues like this one and that Boeing would fix the problem.

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'Watch SpaceX Blow Up a Falcon 9 Rocket in a Safety Test Sunday'

15 hours 41 min ago
"SpaceX is setting out to prove a critical safety system will be able to save astronaut lives in the event of a launch emergency during ascent," reports CNET: The Crew Dragon in-flight abort test...is a required step before NASA will allow astronauts to fly to the International Space Station in the SpaceX capsule as part of the Commercial Crew Program. [UPDATE: Though they'd originally planned to launch Saturday, SpaceX tweeted early Saturday morning that "due to sustained winds and rough seas in the recovery area" they're now targeting Sunday, January 19, "with a six-hour test window opening at 8:00 a.m. EST, 13:00 UTC." Watch SpaceX's livestream here.] NASA will also livestream the event... Backup test opportunities are set for Sunday or Monday if Saturday doesn't work out. Crew Dragon will take a ride on a Falcon 9 rocket, which won't survive the test. The launch will take place at Florida's Kennedy Space Center, which will allow the rocket to break up over the Atlantic Ocean. It could be quite an eye-opening experience. SpaceX shared an animated video showing how the test is expected to go. If all goes well, the Crew Dragon capsule will separate from the rocket, deploy parachutes and float gently down to the water.... SpaceX successfully sent an uncrewed Crew Dragon to the International Space Station in early 2019. The ultimate goal is to make a return trip with NASA astronauts on board. If the in-flight abort test works out, then the first launch of humans from U.S. soil since the end of the space shuttle era should finally happen in 2020.

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98.6 Degrees Fahrenheit Isn't the Average Anymore

18 hours 41 min ago
schwit1 shares a report from The Wall Street Journal: Nearly 150 years ago, [German physician Carl Reinhold August Wunderlich] analyzed a million temperatures from 25,000 patients and concluded that normal human-body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. In a new study, researchers from Stanford University argue that Wunderlich's number was correct at the time but is no longer accurate because the human body has changed. Today, they say, the average normal human-body temperature is closer to 97.5 degrees Fahrenheit (Warning: source paywalled; alternative source). To test their hypothesis that today's normal body temperature is lower than in the past, Dr. Parsonnet and her research partners analyzed 677,423 temperatures collected from 189,338 individuals over a span of 157 years. The readings were recorded in the pension records of Civil War veterans from the start of the war through 1940; in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey I conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1971 through 1974; and in the Stanford Translational Research Integrated Database Environment from 2007 through 2017. Overall, temperatures of the Civil War veterans were higher than measurements taken in the 1970s, and, in turn, those measurements were higher than those collected in the 2000s. The study has been published in the journal eLife.

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NBC's New Peacock Streaming Service Is Just One Big Ad-Injection Machine

21 hours 41 min ago
Comcast's NBCUniversal is launching a new streaming service in April called Peacock. With three pricing tiers from free to $10 per month, Comcast wants Peacock "to be an ad delivery system to destroy all others in its path," writes Ryan Waniata via Digital Trends. From the report: In a shockingly long investor call, NBC revealed its big new strategy for delivering its many intellectual property spoils online, which will be offered in a multi-tiered plan (with both ad-based and ad-free versions) rolling up a content hodge-podge, including NBCUniversal TV classics and films on-demand, a handful of new exclusive shows, and live content, from NBC News to the Tokyo Olympics. Peacock's ad-based service -- which rolls out first to the company's Xfinity and Flex cable customers from within their cable box -- will arrive in at least some form for zero dollars per month. A $5 monthly charge will get you more content (but still carry ads), while a $10 fee will get you ad-free viewing and the whole kit-and-caboodle. But here's the thing: The execs at Comcast don't even want you to buy that service. It's an also-ran. A red herring. NBCUniversal Chairman of Advertising & Partnerships Linda Yaccarino spoke vociferously to the crowd of investors, saying, "Peacock will define the future of advertising. The future of free." To hook viewers into their ad-loaded trap, NBC execs have leveraged Peacock to offer "the lightest ad load in the industry," with just 5 minutes of ads per hour. To be fair, that ad-to-content ratio would be quite light these days in TV talk. But, Yaccarino continued, these would be revolutionary new ad innovations for Peacock, including ads that won't be as repeated over and over. Ads that will look "as good as the content" they accompany (whatever that means). Solo ads where "brands become the hero" and offer a TV show brought to you by a single advertiser. Ads. Ads. And more ads.

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An Algorithm That Learns Through Rewards May Show How Our Brain Does Too

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 10:30pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: In a paper published in Nature today, DeepMind, Alphabet's AI subsidiary, has once again used lessons from reinforcement learning to propose a new theory about the reward mechanisms within our brains. The hypothesis, supported by initial experimental findings, could not only improve our understanding of mental health and motivation. It could also validate the current direction of AI research toward building more human-like general intelligence. At a high level, reinforcement learning follows the insight derived from Pavlov's dogs: it's possible to teach an agent to master complex, novel tasks through only positive and negative feedback. An algorithm begins learning an assigned task by randomly predicting which action might earn it a reward. It then takes the action, observes the real reward, and adjusts its prediction based on the margin of error. Over millions or even billions of trials, the algorithm's prediction errors converge to zero, at which point it knows precisely which actions to take to maximize its reward and so complete its task. It turns out the brain's reward system works in much the same way -- a discovery made in the 1990s, inspired by reinforcement-learning algorithms. When a human or animal is about to perform an action, its dopamine neurons make a prediction about the expected reward. Once the actual reward is received, they then fire off an amount of dopamine that corresponds to the prediction error. A better reward than expected triggers a strong dopamine release, while a worse reward than expected suppresses the chemical's production. The dopamine, in other words, serves as a correction signal, telling the neurons to adjust their predictions until they converge to reality. The phenomenon, known as reward prediction error, works much like a reinforcement-learning algorithm. The improved algorithm changes the way it predicts rewards. "Whereas the old approach estimated rewards as a single number -- meant to equal the average expected outcome -- the new approach represents them more accurately as a distribution," the report says. This lends itself to a new hypothesis: Do dopamine neurons also predict rewards in the same distributional way? After testing this theory, DeepMind found "compelling evidence that the brain indeed uses distributional reward predictions to strengthen its learning algorithm," reports MIT Technology Review.

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PopSockets CEO Calls Out Amazon's 'Bullying With a Smile' Tactics

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 9:02pm
At a House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee on competition in the digital economy, PopSockets CEO and inventor David Barnett described how Amazon used shady tactics to pressure their smartphone accessory company. Mashable reports: "Multiple times we discovered that Amazon itself had sourced counterfeit product and was selling it alongside our own product," he noted. Barnett, under oath, told the gathered members of the House that Amazon initially played nice only to drop the hammer when it believed no one was watching. After agreeing to a written contract stipulating a price at which PopSockets would be sold on Amazon, the e-commerce giant would then allegedly unilaterally lower the price and demand that PopSockets make up the difference. Colorado Congressman Ed Perlmutter asked Barnett how Amazon could "ignore the contract that [PopSockets] entered into and just say, 'Sorry, that was our contract, but you got to lower your price.'" Barnett didn't mince words. "With coercive tactics, basically," he replied. "And these are tactics that are mainly executed by phone. It's one of the strangest relationships I've ever had with a retailer." Barnett emphasized that, on paper, the contract "appears to be negotiated in good faith." However, he claimed, this is followed by "... frequent phone calls. And on the phone calls we get what I might call bullying with a smile. Very friendly people that we deal with who say, 'By the way, we dropped the price of X product last week. We need you to pay for it.'" Barnett said he would push back and that's when "the threats come." He asserted that Amazon representatives would tell him over the phone: "If we don't get it, then we're going to source product from the gray market."

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Google Parent Company Alphabet Hits $1 Trillion Market Cap

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 8:25pm
Google parent-company Alphabet has hit $1 trillion in market capitalization, making it the fourth U.S. company to hit the milestone. CNBC reports: Apple was the first to hit the market cap milestone in 2018. Then, Microsoft and Amazon followed. Apple and Microsoft are still valued at more than a trillion dollars while Amazon has since fallen below the mark. Analysts are bullish on the company's newly appointed CEO, Sundar Pichai. In a surprise announcement in December 2019, Alphabet founder Larry Page announced plans to step down as CEO, along with co-founder and president Sergey Brin. Pichai had already been the CEO of Google, which includes all the company's core businesses -- including search, advertising, YouTube and Android -- and generates substantially all its revenue and profits. But he reported to Page, who also oversaw other businesses making long-term bets on experimental technology like self-driving cars and package delivery drones. Now, he's in charge of the whole conglomerate, although Page and Brin still have control over most of the company's voting shares, giving them significant influence in major decisions. "Optimism also comes from the company's growth in its Cloud business, which -- while still far behind the leader Amazon and runner-up Microsoft -- doubled its revenue run rate from $1 billion to $2 billion per quarter between Feb. 2018 and July 2019," adds CNBC.

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Researchers Find Serious Flaws In WordPress Plugins Used On 400K Sites

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 7:45pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Serious vulnerabilities have recently come to light in three WordPress plugins that have been installed on a combined 400,000 websites, researchers said. InfiniteWP, WP Time Capsule, and WP Database Reset are all affected. The highest-impact flaw is an authentication bypass vulnerability in the InfiniteWP Client, a plugin installed on more than 300,000 websites. It allows administrators to manage multiple websites from a single server. The flaw lets anyone log in to an administrative account with no credentials at all. From there, attackers can delete contents, add new accounts, and carry out a wide range of other malicious tasks. The critical flaw in WP Time Capsule also leads to an authentication bypass that allows unauthenticated attackers to log in as an administrator. WP Time Capsule, which runs on about 20,000 sites, is designed to make backing up website data easier. By including a string in a POST request, attackers can obtain a list of all administrative accounts and automatically log in to the first one. The bug has been fixed in version 1.21.16. Sites running earlier versions should update right away. Web security firm WebARX has more details. The last vulnerable plugin is WP Database Reset, which is installed on about 80,000 sites. One flaw allows any unauthenticated person to reset any table in the database to its original WordPress state. The bug is caused by reset functions that aren't secured by the standard capability checks or security nonces. Exploits can result in the complete loss of data or a site reset to the default WordPress settings. A second security flaw in WP Database Reset causes a privilege-escalation vulnerability that allows any authenticated user -- even those with minimal system rights -- to gain administrative rights and lock out all other users. All site administrators using this plugin should update to version 3.15, which patches both vulnerabilities. Wordfence has more details about both flaws here.

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It's Not Just You: Google Added Annoying Icons To Search On Desktop

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 7:03pm
Kim Lyons, writing for The Verge: Google added tiny favicon icons to its search results this week for some reason, creating more clutter in what used to be a clean interface, and seemingly without actually improving the results or the user experience. The company says it's part of a plan to make clearer where information is coming from, but how? In my Chrome desktop browser, it feels like an aggravating, unnecessary change that doesn't actually help the user determine how good, bad, or reputable an actual search result might be. Yes, ads are still clearly marked with the word "ad," which is a good thing. But do I need to see Best Buy's logo or AT&T's blue circle when I search for "Samsung Fold" to know they're trying to sell me something? Google says the favicon icons are "helping searchers better understand where information is coming from, more easily scan results & decide what to explore." If you don't care for the new look, Google has instructions on how to change or add a favicon to search results. Lifehacker also has instructions on how to apply filters to undo the favicon nonsense.

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Best Buy Opens Probe Into CEO's Personal Conduct

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 6:20pm
The board of Best Buy is investigating allegations that CEO Corie Barry had an inappropriate romantic relationship with a fellow executive (Warning: source paywalled; alternative source), who has since left the electronics retailer. The Wall Street Journal reports: The allegations were sent to the board in an anonymous letter dated Dec. 7. The letter claims Ms. Barry had a romantic relationship for years with former Best Buy Senior Vice President Karl Sanft before she took over as CEO last June. "Best Buy takes allegations of misconduct very seriously," a spokesman told The Wall Street Journal. The Minneapolis company said its board has hired the law firm Sidley Austin LLP to conduct an independent review that is ongoing. "We encourage the letter's author to come forward and be part of that confidential process," the Best Buy spokesman said. "We will not comment further until the review is concluded." Ms. Barry didn't address the allegations and said she is cooperating with the probe. "The Board has my full cooperation and support as it undertakes this review, and I look forward to its resolution in the near term," she said in a statement.

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DigitalOcean Is Laying Off Staff

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 6:03pm
Cloud infrastructure provider DigitalOcean announced a round of layoffs, with potentially between 30 and 50 people affected. TechCrunch reports: DigitalOcean has confirmed the news with the following statement: "DigitalOcean recently announced a restructuring to better align its teams to its go-forward growth strategy. As part of this restructuring, some roles were, unfortunately, eliminated. DigitalOcean continues to be a high-growth business with $275M in [annual recurring revenues] and more than 500,000 customers globally. Under this new organizational structure, we are positioned to accelerate profitable growth by continuing to serve developers and entrepreneurs around the world." Before the confirmation was sent to us this morning, a number of footprints began to emerge last night, when the layoffs first hit, with people on Twitter talking about it, some announcing that they are looking for new opportunities and some offering help to those impacted. Inbound tips that we received estimate the cuts at between 30 and 50 people. With around 500 employees (an estimate on PitchBook), that would work out to up to 10% of staff affected.

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Disney Drops 'Fox' Name, Will Rebrand As 20th Century Studios

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 5:45pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Variety: In a move at once unsurprising and highly symbolic, the Walt Disney Company is dropping the "Fox" brand from the 21st Century Fox assets it acquired last March, Variety has learned. The 20th Century Fox film studio will become 20th Century Studios, and Fox Searchlight Pictures will become simply Searchlight Pictures. On the TV side, however, no final decisions have been made about adjusting the monikers of production units 20th Century Fox Television and Fox 21 Television Studios. Discussions about a possible name change are underway, but no consensus has emerged, according to a source close to the situation. Disney has already started the process to phase out the Fox name: Email addresses have changed for Searchlight staffers, with the fox.com address replaced with a searchlightpictures.com address. On the poster for Searchlight's next film "Downhill," with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell, the credits begin with "Searchlight Pictures Presents." The film will be the first Searchlight release to debut with the new logo. "Call of the Wild," an upcoming family film, will be released under the 20th Century banner, sans Fox. Those logos won't be dramatically altered, just updated. The most notable change is that the word "Fox" has been removed from the logo marks. Otherwise, the signature elements -- swirling klieg lights, monolith, triumphal fanfare -- will remain the same.

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Xiaomi Spins Off POCO as an Independent Company

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 5:05pm
Xiaomi said today it is spinning off POCO, a sub-smartphone brand it created in 2018, as a standalone company that will now run independently of the Chinese electronics giant and make its own market strategy. From a report: The move comes months after a top POCO executive -- Jai Mani, a former Googler -- and some other founding and core members left the sub-brand. The company today insisted that POCO F1, the only smartphone to be launched under the POCO brand, remains a "successful" handset. The POCO F1, a $300 smartphone, was launched in 50 markets. Xiaomi created the POCO brand to launch high-end, premium smartphones that would compete directly with flagship smartphones of OnePlus and Samsung. In an interview in 2018, Alvin Tse, the head of POCO, and Mani, said that they were working on a number of smartphones and were also thinking about other gadget categories. At the time, the company had 300 people working on POCO, and they "shared resources" with the parent firm.

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How Just Four Satellites Could Provide Worldwide Internet

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 4:25pm
We've known since the 1980s that you don't need mega-constellations comprising thousands of satellites to provide global internet coverage to the world. Continuous worldwide coverage is possible with a constellation of just four satellites placed at much higher altitudes. So why don't we have that? The big obstacle is cost. Several factors work to degrade a satellite's orbit, and to combat them, you need a huge amount of propellant on the satellite to consistently stabilize its orbit. Manufacturing, launch, and operational costs are just too high for the four-satellite trick. An anonymous reader writes: A new study proposes a counterintuitive approach that turns these degrading forces into ones that actually help keep these satellites in orbit. Instead of elliptical, the satellites' orbits would be circular, letting them get by with less fuel while still providing nearly global coverage (at slower speeds). The team ran simulations and found two that would work -- but there are still too many other issues for it to ever happen.

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