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ZX Spectrum Next, An Advanced Version of the Original 8-Bit Home Computer, Has Been Released

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 6:40pm
hackertourist shares an update on the status of the "ZX Spectrum Next" Kickstarter campaign: In 2017, a Kickstarter campaign was started to design and build "an updated and enhanced version of the ZX Spectrum totally compatible with the original, featuring the major hardware developments of the past many years packed inside a simple (and beautiful) design by the original designer, Rick Dickinson, inspired by his seminal work at Sinclair Research." They didn't quite make their original planned delivery date (2018), but they made good on their promise in the end: the first machine was delivered on February 6 of this year. The Spectrum Next contains a Z80 processor on an FPGA, 1MB of RAM expandable to 2MB, hardware sprites, 256 colors, RGB/VGA/HDMI video output, and three AY-3-8912 audio chips. A Raspberry Pi Zero can be added as an expansion board. The computer can emulate any of the original Spectrum variants, but it also supports add-ons that have been designed by the Spectrum community over the years, such as games loaded onto SD cards, better processors and more memory, and improved graphics.

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Intuit To Buy Credit Karma For $7.1 Billion, Creating Financial Data Giant

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 6:20pm
Intuit -- the accounting, tax filing and financial planning software giant behind QuickBooks, TurboTax and Mint, confirmed that it plans to acquire Credit Karma -- the fintech startup with more than 100 million registered users, which lets people check their credit scores, shop for credit cards and loans, file taxes and more. "By joining forces with Credit Karma, we can create a personalized financial assistant that will help consumers find the right financial products, put more money in their pockets and provide insights and advice," Sasan Goodarzi, Intuit's chief executive, said in a statement announcing the deal. TechCrunch reports: Intuit said it would pay $7.1 billion for Credit Karma, making this Intuit's biggest-ever acquisition to date, and one of the biggest in the category of privately-held fintech companies. Intuit also announced its quarterly earnings today in which it reported revenue growth of 13% on revenues of $1.7 billion, beating analyst estimates of $1.68 billion. However, it missed analysts' average expectations for earnings per share: it reported non-GAAP EPS of $1, while they were forecasting $1.03. Intuit plans to keep Credit Karma -- which makes more than $1 billion in revenues annually -- as a standalone operation, run by CEO Kenneth Lin, who cofounded the startup with Ryan Graciano and Nichole Mustard. The acquisition is an obvious fit for Intuit, where it will serve two purposes. Intuit can tap Credit Karma's customer base and range of services -- it partners with some 100 financial service providers in its marketplace -- to complement those it already offers, to help upsell those users to Intuit's premium, paid services. And Intuit can use it to grow its wider business by tapping a set of consumers -- typically younger users -- that Credit Karma has possibly been more successful in capturing than Intuit has.

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Hydro-Quebec To Commercialize Glass Battery Co-Developed By John Goodenough

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 5:40pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from IEEE Spectrum: A rapid-charging and non-flammable battery developed in part by 2019 Nobel Prize winner John Goodenough has been licensed for development by the Canadian electric utility Hydro-Quebec. The utility says it hopes to have the technology ready for one or more commercial partners in two years. Hydro-Quebec, according to Karim Zaghib, general director of the utility's Center of Excellence in Transportation Electrification and Energy Storage, has been commercializing patents with Goodenough's parent institution, the University of Texas at Austin, for the past 25 years. As Spectrum reported in 2017, Goodenough and Maria Helena Braga, professor of engineering at the University of Porto in Portugal, developed a solid-state lithium rechargeable that used a glass doped with alkali metals as the battery's electrolyte. (The electrolyte is the material between cathode and anode and is often a liquid in today's batteries, which typically means it's also flammable and potentially vulnerable to battery fires.) Braga said her and Goodenough's battery is high capacity, charges in "minutes rather than hours," performs well in both hot and cold weather, and that its solid-state electrolyte is not flammable. Hydro-Quebec's Gen 3 battery "can be glass or ceramic, but it is not a [lithium] polymer," Zaghib said of the Goodenough/Braga battery's electrolyte. "So with Daimler (which is also working with Hydro-Quebec to develop a second-gen lithium solid-state battery), it's an organic compound, and with John Goodenough, it's an inorganic compound. The inorganic compound has higher ionic conductivity compared to the polymer." "That means the ions shuttle back and forth more readily between cathode and anode, which could potentially improve a battery's capacity, charging speed, or other performance metrics," adds IEEE Spectrum. We interviewed John B. Goodenough soon after his solid-state battery was announced. You can read his responses to your questions here.

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Google Cloud CEO Called Oracle Cloud a 'Disgrace'

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 5:01pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: Veteran Silicon Valley executive Thomas Kurian surprised the tech world two years ago when he suddenly left Oracle to become CEO of Google Cloud. The reason may have just gotten a bit clearer. Kurian apparently had an unhappy tenure as head of Oracle's cloud, according to a lawsuit. He felt pressured by top management, including Oracle founder Larry Ellison. And he clashed with his people at Oracle, berating execs who reported to him for work he considered "atrocious" and "awful," the lawsuit alleges. The suit, filed on behalf of a group of investors led by Union Asset Management Holding AG, a Frankfurt-based investment firm, accused Oracle's top executives of painting an upbeat picture of the tech giant's cloud momentum in 2017 to 2018, even though they knew the company was falling behind in the cloud wars. The suit was originally filed in 2018. The amended suit, which was first reported by the Register, was filed last week. Kurian's email was part of a shareholder lawsuit before a federal court in California which claims that Oracle had misled investors on the state of its cloud business. Oracle rejected the suit's claims. "The suit has no merit and Oracle will vigorously defend against these claims," spokesperson Deborah Hellinger told Business Insider in an email. [...] The suit cited Kurian's email in which he also told Miranda that Oracle's cloud software "was considered so atrocious" that it was simply "a disgrace."

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Coronavirus Outbreak Has 'Pandemic Potential' But It's Not There Yet, WHO Says

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 4:22pm
The deadly outbreak of a novel coronavirus has the world on edge, but it has not yet developed into a pandemic, according to the World Health Organization. From a report: Although WHO has declared the outbreak a "public health emergency of international concern," the outbreak has not met the criteria needed to be described as a pandemic when it comes to its geographical spread and impact, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press briefing with reporters on Monday. "Our decision about whether to use the word 'pandemic' to describe an epidemic is based on an ongoing assessment of the geographical spread of the virus, the severity of disease it causes and the impact it has on the whole society," Ghebreyesus said during the briefing. "For the moment, we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus and we are not witnessing large-scale severe disease or deaths," he said. "Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely it has. Are we there yet from our assessment? Not yet. So how should we describe the current situation? What we see are epidemics in different parts of the world, affecting countries in different ways and requiring a tailored response."

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Netflix Adds Top 10 Feature So You Can See What Everyone's Watching

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 3:42pm
Overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content on Netflix? Now you can jump on the bandwagon and check out the streaming service's most popular options. Netflix has added a Top 10 feature, the company said Monday. From a report: "Starting today you'll notice something new when you go on Netflix: The Top 10 row," the company said in a tweet. "The lists update daily to show what's popular in your country and are broken into three categories: Netflix overall, shows & films." The most popular Netflix offerings in your country should show up in their own row once you log in to your Netflix account, the company said. "The list is rolling out globally now and should be on your homepage by the end of the day at the latest."

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Mapping Wikipedia

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 3:03pm
An unprecedented data set shows where the encyclopedia's editors are, where they aren't, and why. From a report: Wikipedia matters. In a time of extreme political polarization, algorithmically enforced filter bubbles, and fact patterns dismissed as fake news, Wikipedia has become one of the few places where we can meet to write a shared reality. We treat it like a utility, and the U.S. and U.K. trust it about as much as the news. But we know very little about who is writing the world's encyclopedia. We do know that just because anyone can edit, doesn't mean that everyone does: The site's editors are disproportionately cis white men from the global North. We also know that, as with most of the internet, a small number of the editors do a large amount of the editing. But that's basically it: In the interest of improving retention, the Wikimedia Foundation's own research focuses on the motivations of people who do edit, not on those who don't. The media, meanwhile, frequently focus on Wikipedia's personality stories, even when covering the bigger questions. And Wikipedia's own culture pushes back against granular data harvesting: The Wikimedia Foundation's strong data-privacy rules guarantee users' anonymity and limit the modes and duration of their own use of editor data. But as part of my research in producing Print Wikipedia, I discovered a data set that can offer an entry point into the geography of Wikipedia's contributors. Every time anyone edits Wikipedia, the software records the text added or removed, the time of the edit, and the username of the editor. (This edit history is part of Wikipedia's ethos of radical transparency: Everyone is anonymous, and you can see what everyone is doing.) When an editor isn't logged in with a username, the software records that user's IP address. I parsed all of the 884 million edits to English Wikipedia to collect and geolocate the 43 million IP addresses that have edited English Wikipedia. I also counted 8.6 million username editors who have made at least one edit to an article. The result is a set of maps that offer, for the first time, insight into where the millions of volunteer editors who build and maintain English Wikipedia's 6 million pages are -- and, maybe more important, where they aren't.

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Labs in the US Will Start Looking For the New Coronavirus This Week

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 2:22pm
Six public health labs in the US plan to start monitoring the general population for the new coronavirus this week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the risk of the virus still remains low for the general population. But activating the disease surveillance network will allow the CDC and other public health officials to find any undetected virus circulating through the country. From a report: "It's important because right now, all the efforts are focused on people who have a direct link to China, or a direct link to lab-confirmed cases. There's no system in place to detect low-level transmission that might be under the radar," says Edward Belongia, the director of the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Population Health at the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute. The six labs -- in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, and New York City -- are already part of the nationwide influenza surveillance network, and they conduct regular monitoring of all types of viruses. At the labs, samples from sick people are tested for various pathogens, creating a big-picture look at how much various diseases are spreading through the community. Surveillance hasn't started yet, in part because of problems with the test for the novel coronavirus developed by the CDC. The test that will be used for surveillance that was designed to diagnose people who have symptoms of the illness caused by the virus called COVID-19. It was distributed to public health labs around the country last week, but the majority of the labs had trouble running it. The CDC says this often happens during the rollout of a new test, but it has not specified what the reasons for the errors are. Vote in our coronavirus poll.

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HackerOne's Bug Bounties Skyrocketed To $40 Million in 2019

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 1:45pm
Bug bounty platform HackerOne paid out $40 million in bounties in 2019, roughly equal to the total for all previous years combined. From a report: Moreover, the company announced that its community almost doubled in the past year to 600,000 registered hackers. The announcement comes as the cybersecurity industry struggles with a workforce shortage, which is in turn compounded by growing cyberattacks that could cost the industry $6 trillion by 2021. As companies invest significant resources in battling external threats, HackerOne aims to pay good actors to find bugs before bad actors enter the fray, reducing the need for costly remediation measures further down the line. Founded in 2012, HackerOne essentially connects companies with security researchers, or "white hat hackers," who receive cash incentives to find and report software vulnerabilities. The San Francisco-based company has raised north of $100 million since its inception, including a $36.4 million tranche a few months back, and has paid out $82 million in bounties since its inception. According to HackerOne, U.S.-based hackers earned 19% of all bounties in 2019, followed by hackers in India (10%), Russia (8%), China (7%), Germany (5%), and Canada (4%). These figures were released as part of HackerOne's annual hacker report, which included a survey of 3,150 hackers.

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Apple To Release First ARM Mac Without Intel Processor in Next 18 Months, Predicts Kuo

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 1:06pm
Ming-Chi Kuo is out with a new analyst note today and the most interesting part of his forecast is that Apple will release its first Mac with an ARM processor in the first half of 2021. From a report: Kuo is predicting that one of Apple's new products to be released within the next 12-18 months will be a Mac with an in-house processor, instead of using an Intel CPU. There have been growing reports over the last couple of years about Apple making the switch to a custom-designed ARM processor for its Macs and today's report gives a concrete timeframe for when to expect that launch, which has actually held true since Kuo's prediction back in 2018. Since the coronavirus outbreak, Kuo highlights that Apple has been "more aggressive" with its funding for research, development, and production of 5nm process chips that are expected to show up in the first Macs with ARM CPUs. That's because 5nm chips will be integral to iPhone, iPad later this year, as well as Macs come 2021.

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Intel Debuts 5G Server and Base Station Chips, Plus a PC Network Card

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 12:21pm
Intel's sale of its consumer 5G modem unit signaled its exit from the smartphone business last year, but the company remains heavily committed to participating in the growing 5G marketplace -- primarily on the carrier and enterprise sides. Today, the company announced three chips built for various types of 5G computers, plus a 5G-optimized network adapter for PCs. From a report: Up first is an updated second-generation Xeon Scalable processor, now at a top speed of 3.9GHz and bolstered by additional AI capabilities to aid with inference applications. The new chip promises up to 36% more performance than the first-generation version, with up to 42% more performance per dollar, though early second-generation chips were introduced in April 2019. Intel says the Xeon Scalable is the "only CPU with AI built in" -- a pitch that's not exactly accurate, given the range of existing laptop and mobile CPUs with AI features, but one Intel further explains means "the only CPU on the market that features integrated deep learning acceleration." Xeon Scalable's Deep Learning Boost feature set promises up to 6 times more AI performance than AMD's Rome processors, though Intel won't quantify the number of TOPS available for AI processing, calling the metric "theoretical." Regardless, Intel says Xeon Scalable will support the cloud AI needs of Alibaba, AWS, Baidu, Microsoft, and Tencent, as well as other major companies. Network-optimized "N-SKUs" of the new Xeon Scalable will also be available, offering up to 58% more performance for network function virtualization workloads compared with the first chip. Customers such as China Mobile, SK Telecom, Sprint, and T-Mobile Poland are all using Xeon Scalable in their 5G networks. The boosted Xeon Scalable chips are officially available starting today. Intel is also introducing the Atom P5900, billed as the first Intel architecture SoC for base stations and designed from the ground up for radio access network (RAN) needs. It's a 10-nanometer chip with hardware-based network acceleration features, including integrated packet processing, ultra low latency, and a switch for inline cryptographic acceleration.

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Some of the World's Biggest Economies Are on the Brink of Recession

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 11:41am
Markets closed out last week on an anxious note. It's not difficult to see why: the coronavirus continues to spread, and there are signs that some of the world's top economies could slide into recession as the outbreak compounds pre-existing weaknesses. From a report: Take Japan: The world's third-largest economy shrank 1.6% in the fourth quarter of 2019 as the country absorbed the effects of a sales tax hike and a powerful typhoon. It was biggest contraction compared to the previous quarter since 2014. Then there's Germany. The biggest economy in Europe ground to a halt right before the coronavirus outbreak set in, dragged down by the country's struggling factories. The closely-watched ZEW Indicator of Economic Sentiment in Germany decreased sharply for February, reflecting fears that the virus could hit world trade. Bank of America economist Ethan Harris points to the number of smaller economies that are hurting, too. Hong Kong is in recession and Singapore could soon suffer a similar fate. Fourth quarter GDP data from Indonesia hit a three-year low, while Malaysia had its worst reading in a decade, he noted to clients on Friday. Meanwhile, engines of growth like China and India slowed in 2019. Fourth quarter GDP data for the latter comes out this week. All of this brings to the fore concerns about the global economy's ability to withstand a shock from the coronavirus. Harris says the weak quarter was likely a result of lingering damage from the trade war between China and the United States. The coronavirus is poised to make matters worse.

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EU Commission To Staff: Switch To Signal Messaging App

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 11:01am
The European Commission has told its staff to start using Signal, an end-to-end-encrypted messaging app, in a push to increase the security of its communications. From a report: The instruction appeared on internal messaging boards in early February, notifying employees that "Signal has been selected as the recommended application for public instant messaging." The app is favored by privacy activists because of its end-to-end encryption and open-source technology. "It's like Facebook's WhatsApp and Apple's iMessage but it's based on an encryption protocol that's very innovative," said Bart Preneel, cryptography expert at the University of Leuven. "Because it's open-source, you can check what's happening under the hood," he added. Signal was developed in 2013 by privacy activists. It is supported by a nonprofit foundation that has the backing of WhatsApp founder Brian Acton, who had left the company in 2017 after clashing with Facebook's leadership.

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Katherine Johnson Dies at 101; Mathematician Broke Barriers at NASA

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 10:20am
The New York Times: They asked Katherine Johnson for the moon, and she gave it to them. Wielding little more than a pencil, a slide rule and one of the finest mathematical minds in the country, Mrs. Johnson, whose death at 101 was announced on Monday by NASA, calculated the precise trajectories that would let Apollo 11 land on the moon in 1969 and, after Neil Armstrong's history-making moonwalk, let it return to Earth. A single error, she well knew, could have dire consequences for craft and crew. Her impeccable calculations had already helped plot the successful flight of Alan B. Shepard Jr., who became the first American in space when his Mercury spacecraft went aloft in 1961. The next year, she likewise helped make it possible for John Glenn, in the Mercury vessel Friendship 7, to become the first American to orbit the Earth. Yet throughout Mrs. Johnson's 33 years in NASA's Flight Research Division -- the office from which the American space program sprang -- and for decades afterward, almost no one knew her name. Mrs. Johnson was one of several hundred rigorously educated, supremely capable yet largely unheralded women who, well before the modern feminist movement, worked as NASA mathematicians. But it was not only her sex that kept her long marginalized and long unsung: Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson, a West Virginia native who began her scientific career in the age of Jim Crow, was also African-American. In old age, Mrs. Johnson became the most celebrated of the small cadre of black women -- perhaps three dozen -- who at midcentury served as mathematicians for the space agency and its predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. Their story was told in the 2016 Hollywood film "Hidden Figures," based on Margot Lee Shetterly's nonfiction book of the same title, published that year. The movie starred Taraji P. Henson as Mrs. Johnson, the film's central figure. It also starred Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae as her real-life colleagues Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson.

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Microsoft Reveals More Xbox Series X Specs

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 9:41am
Microsoft revealed new details on its next-generation console, text, on Monday morning, confirming specifications on what the company calls its "superior balance of power and speed" for its new hardware. From a report: The next-gen Xbox, Microsoft said, will be four times as powerful as the original Xbox One. The Xbox Series X "next-generation custom processor" will employ AMD's Zen 2 and RDNA 2 architecture, head of Xbox Phil Spencer wrote on the Xbox website. "Delivering four times the processing power of an Xbox One and enabling developers to leverage 12 [teraflops] of GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) performance -- twice that of an Xbox One X and more than eight times the original Xbox One," Spencer said. He called the next-generation Xbox's processing and graphics power "a true generational leap," offering higher frame rates -- with support for up to 120 fps -- and more sophisticated game worlds. That 12 teraflops claim is twice that of what Microsoft promised with the Xbox One X (then known as Project Scorpio) when it revealed the mid-generation console update back in 2016. Spencer also outlined the Xbox Series X's variable rate shading, saying, "Rather than spending GPU cycles uniformly to every single pixel on the screen, they can prioritize individual effects on specific game characters or important environmental objects. This technique results in more stable frame rates and higher resolution, with no impact on the final image quality." He also promised hardware-accelerated DirectX ray tracing, with "true-to-life lighting, accurate reflections and realistic acoustics in real time." Microsoft also reconfirmed features like SSD storage, which promise faster loading times, as well as new ones, like Quick Resume, for Xbox Series X.

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Judge Forces America's FCC To Seek New Public Feedback on Its Net Neutrality Repeal

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 3:34am
"Earlier this week, the FCC successfully defeated Mozilla's attempt to undo the commission's repeal of net neutrality," reports Engadget. "But, while siding with the body, judges have asked the FCC to determine if repealing the law to prevent a multi-speed internet has had any negative consequences." That includes checking if net neutrality repeal has harmed public safety, reduced spending in infrastructure or hampered the Lifeline program. Consequently, the FCC will launch a period where the public and interested parties can share their views on the process. This is not an opportunity to re-litigate net neutrality repeal, but it is an opportunity to examine if the FCC acted properly and with regard to its broader obligations. The court, for instance, has directed the body to see if repeal has harmed public safety and reduced investment in critical infrastructure... The Register claims that the FCC is behaving churlishly, burying its request for comment in a wordy title that does not reflect its true intentions. But FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel published a statement asking people to "make some noise" and write in. Rosenworcel says that the FCC's decision to repeal net neutrality was on the "wrong side of history" and that the public should demand an "open internet." Those wishing to make a comment can do so on the FCC's Electronic Filing System, entering 17-108 (Restoring Internet Freedom) in the proceedings box. The deadline for comments is March 30th.

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New California Bill Proposes $1,000-a-Month Universal Basic Income

Sun, 02/23/2020 - 11:34pm
1 out of 8 Americans live in California. Now a proposed California law "would provide most adults in the state with a universal basic income of $1,000 per month, similar to the proposed plan of former presidential candidate Andrew Yang," reports Newsweek: The California Universal Basic Income (UBI) Program was Funding the program with a value-added tax has been blasted by some who believe such a tax would disproportionately burden the poor. Concerns have also been raised over potentially forcing people to choose between UBI and other existing public assistance programs... Proponents of UBI argue that the Yang plan and others could counter the anticipated problem of increasing automation inevitably leading to widespread unemployment. Experts warn that a large percentage of the workforce is likely to be decimated by automation, with some studies estimating as many as 73 million jobs eliminated by 2030.

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Forbes Criticizes Airbnb 'Surveillance Bugs To Make Sure Guests Behave'

Sun, 02/23/2020 - 9:17pm
"So this is creepy," writes a Forbes cybersecurity reporter, saying Airbnb "has put aside the stories of hosts secretly spying on guests" to promote a new line of devices Forbes calls "surveillance bugs to make sure guests behave." Vice reports: As part of its "party prevention" campaign, the home-sharing service is offering discounts on devices designed to alert hosts when there's an irregular level of noise in their homes... An email I received on Thursday from Airbnb (I've occasionally rented out my apartment) told me to "plan ahead to protect your home from unauthorized parties" and offered special discounts on "three of the top party prevention devices." The devices with the discounts range in price from $52 to $265. Websites for the three devices state that they monitor homes 24/7, can alert homeowners if anything unusual appears to be happening, and note that they don't record audio.... "[T]he devices detect issues in real time, keeping your property safe and your relationship with neighbors strong, all while protecting your guests' privacy," the email from Airbnb said. Airbnb stipulates that hosts must make guests aware that their homes are equipped with the noise surveillance devices — a policy that was reiterated to me by an Airbnb spokesman... Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, an U.S. organization that advocates for digital rights, said the party prevention campaign speaks to a broader trend of living under constant surveillance. "Certainly a device that only measures an increase in noise is better than having internet-connected surveillance cameras or listening devices in your home," she said. "But we're hurtling toward a world where almost everything we own is monitoring us in some way, and I'm not sure that's actually going to be a safer world."

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New $300 Kitchen Playset For Children Includes Amazon's Alexa

Sun, 02/23/2020 - 7:17pm
"Kids can play with Alexa in their very own $300 pretend kitchen and grocery store," CNET reports, "with the Amazon voice assistant dishing out cooking advice, shopping help and plenty of goofy toddler humor." The Alexa 2-in-1 Kitchen and Market, from toymaker KidKraft, is making its debut at this weekend's New York Toy Fair... It uses a mix of RFID sensors and Bluetooth to tell Alexa which pretend food items kids are buying and cooking... Alexa speaks only when a sensor on the play set is activated. Put a toy hot dog into the pot on the stove, and Alexa knows you're cooking hot dogs. Kids hear the splash sound effect, and Alexa alerts when the hot dogs are done cooking and to hurry up and get the buns. "If they get cold, they will be chili dogs," she says... The accessories that come with the kitchen and market, which include fake food, cookware and a credit card, are fitted with RFID chips, and sensors can tell which items are at the register, stovetop or cutting board. The play set then relays that info to the smart speaker via Bluetooth. So, if a kid places lettuce on the market scanner, it could prompt Alexa to say, "Lettuce! Are we making a salad?" And if a kid says, "Yes," Alexa will say, "Great! I love salad. Maybe get some avocado, too." Engadget reports that once you install an Echo dot, "it will play games with your children and instruct them on how to make the best fake hot dog ever." And there's inevitably a game where Alexa tells your kids what to do: There's plenty of freeform play to be had, but to take advantage of Alexa's real capabilities a kid has to make use of the included "recipe cards." They're not real recipes with ingredients and instructions. Instead it's just a picture of the food the child wants to make, and they insert the card into a special reader on the counter to start the process of preparing it with Alexa's help. Alexa will instruct the child on whether to grab a pot or a pan, if it needs to be filled with water, and whether any ingredients need to be cut on the tiny chopping board. If the requested food isn't in the pantry, never fear: There's a store on the other side... Unsurprisingly, the KidKraft 2-in-1 Alexa Kitchen and Market will be an Amazon exclusive when it launches some time this year. And the price? A hefty $300. Tom's Guide calls the playset "clever --and also really creepy." "On one hand, it's a screen-free, interactive experience... But there are a few concerns that a toy of this budding breed creates. I can't help but question the social implications of making Alexa a child's on-demand playmate."

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Google Detects Edge Users Visiting Its Sites, Urges Them to Switch to Chrome

Sun, 02/23/2020 - 6:04pm
In Microsoft's Chromium-based Edge browser, Chrome's extensions "work as good as they work on Chrome browsers," argues the MS Power User blog. But guess what happens when you use Edge to visit Chrome's "Web Store" for downloading extensions? According to Google, internet users should use Google Chrome instead of Microsoft Edge if they want to use browser extensions securely. On visiting the Chrome web store on Microsoft Edge, you'll be displayed a banner with a yellow background color saying "Google recommends switching to Chrome to use extensions securely" at the top of the page. A later article points out that Opera visitors don't receive that same warning -- and that's just the beginning: While Google doesn't show anything on Opera or Chrome, when you access Google.com, Drive and Docs on Edge, the websites show a pop-up asking you to switch to Chrome... Google went as far as saying Chrome helps you hide ads and protect from malware... [W]e can't really blame them for doing it. Google and Microsoft have a history of fighting over their own software. Microsoft has pushed users towards Edge on Windows 10 in the past and in a way Google seems to be returning the favour

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