Google

Google Slapped With $2.7 Billion By EU For Skewing Searches (bloomberg.com) 52

Google suffered a major regulatory blow on Tuesday after European antitrust officials fined the search giant 2.4 billion euros, or $2.7 billion, for unfairly favoring some of its own search services over those of rivals. The European Commission concluded that the search giant abused its near-monopoly in online search to "give illegal advantage" to its own Shopping service. Margrethe Vestager, the EU's competition commissioner, said Google "denied other companies the chance to compete" and left consumers without "genuine choice." The hefty fine marks the latest chapter in a lengthy standoff between Europe and Google, which also faces two separate charges under the region's competition rules related to Android, its popular mobile software, and to some of its advertising products. From a report: Google has 90 days to "stop its illegal conduct" and give equal treatment to rival price-comparison services, according to a binding order from the European Commission on Tuesday. It's up to Google to choose how it does this and it must tell the EU within 60 days of its plans. Failure to comply brings a risk of fines of up to 5 percent of its daily revenue. [...] "I expect the Commission now to swiftly conclude the other two ongoing investigations against Google," Markus Ferber, a member of the European Parliament from Germany. "Unfortunately, the Google case also illustrates that competition cases tend to drag on for far too long before they are eventually resolved. In a fast-moving digital economy this means often enough that market abuse actually pays off and the abuser succeeds in eliminating the competition." Google has been pushing its own comparison shopping service since 2008, systematically giving it prominent placement when people search for an item, the EU said. Rival comparison sites usually only appear on page four of search results, effectively denying them a massive audience as the first page attracts 95 percent of all clicks. In a blog post, Google said the EU has "underestimated" the value Google's services brings to the table. "We believe the European Commission's online shopping decision underestimates the value of those kinds of fast and easy connections. While some comparison shopping sites naturally want Google to show them more prominently, our data show that people usually prefer links that take them directly to the products they want, not to websites where they have to repeat their searches. We think our current shopping results are useful and are a much-improved version of the text-only ads we showed a decade ago. Showing ads that include pictures, ratings, and prices benefits us, our advertisers, and most of all, our users. And we show them only when your feedback tells us they are relevant. Thousands of European merchants use these ads to compete with larger companies like Amazon and eBay. [...] Given the evidence, we respectfully disagree with the conclusions announced today. We will review the Commission's decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case," wrote Kent Walker, SVP and General Counsel at Google.
Science

Physicists Have Created the Brightest Light Ever Recorded (vice.com) 43

Jason Koebler writes: A group of physicists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Extreme Light Laboratory announced Monday that they have created the brightest light ever produced on Earth using Diocles, one of the most powerful lasers in the United States. When this high intensity laser pulse, which is one billion times brighter than the surface of the sun, strikes the electron, it causes it to behave differently. By firing this laser at individual electrons, the researchers found that past a certain threshold, the brightness of light will actually change an object's appearance rather than simply making it brighter. The x-rays that are produced in this fashion have an extremely high amount of energy, and Umstadter and his colleagues think this could end up being applied in a number of ways. For starters, it could allow doctors to produce x-ray medical images on the nanoscale, which would allow them to detect tumors and other anomalies that regular x-rays might have missed. Moreover, it could also be used for more sophisticated x-ray scanning at airports and other security checkpoints.
The Internet

Social Media Giants Step Up Joint Fight Against Extremist Content (reuters.com) 115

Social media giants Facebook, Google's YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft said on Monday they were forming a global working group to combine their efforts to remove terrorist content from their platforms. From a report: Responding to pressure from governments in Europe and the United States after a spate of militant attacks, the companies said they would share technical solutions for removing terrorist content, commission research to inform their counter-speech efforts and work more with counter-terrorism experts. The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism "will formalize and structure existing and future areas of collaboration between our companies and foster cooperation with smaller tech companies, civil society groups and academics, governments and supra-national bodies such as the EU and the UN," the companies said in a statement.
Twitter

New Study Explains Why Trump's 'Sad' Tweets Are So Effective (theverge.com) 136

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: During his campaign and presidency, Donald Trump has used Twitter to circumvent traditional media broadcasters and speak directly to the masses. He is particularly known for one specific tweet construction: he sets up a situation that he feels should inspire anger or outrage, then punctuates it with "Sad!" New research from New York University suggests a reason why this style is so effective: a tweet containing moral and emotional language spreads farther among people with similar political persuasion. The study offered up "duty" as an example of a purely moral word, "fear" as a purely emotional one, and "hate" as word that combined the two categories. The research found that the use of purely moral or purely emotional language had a limited impact on the spread of a tweet, but the "presence of moral-emotional words in messages increased their diffusion by a factor of 20% for each additional word." The impact of this language cut both ways. Tweets with moral-emotional words spread further among those with a similar political outlook, and they spread less with those who held opposing views, according to the research published in the journal PNAS. The study looked at 563,312 tweets on the topics of gun control, same-sex marriage, and climate change, and rated their impact by the number of retweets each one received.
Businesses

Zillow Threatens To Sue Blogger For Using Its Photos For Parody (theverge.com) 89

Kate Wagner is facing potential legal charges by real estate Zillow for allegedly violating the site's terms of service by reproducing images from their site on her blog. Wagner's blog is called McMansion Hell -- a Tumblr blog that "highlights the absurdity of giant real estate properties and the ridiculous staging and photography that are omnipresent in their sales listings," writes Natt Garun via The Verge. From the report: A typical McMansion Hell blog post will have a professional photo of a home and / or its interior, along with captions scattered throughout by Wagner. She also adds information about the history and characteristics of various architecture styles, and uses photos from the likes of Zillow and Redfin to illustrate how so many real estate listings inaccurately use the terms. Under each post, Wagner adds a disclaimer that credits the original source of the images and cites Fair Use for the parody, which allows for use of copyrighted material for "criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research." In a cease and desist letter to Wagner, Zillow claims Wagner's reproduction of these images do not apply under the Copyright Act. Additionally, the company claims McMansion Hell may "[interfere] with Zillow's business expectations and interests." As a result of the potential lawsuit, Wagner has temporarily taken McMansionHell.com down. In a statement to The Verge, Zillow said: "Zillow has a legal obligation to honor the agreements we make with our listing providers about how photos can be used. We are asking this blogger to take down the photos that are protected by copyright rules, but we did not demand she shut down her blog and hope she can find a way to continue her work."
Earth

'Infarm' Startup Wants To Put a Farm In Every Grocery Store (techcrunch.com) 62

Infarm, a 40-plus person startup based in Berlin, imagines a future where every grocery store has its own farm packed with herbs, vegetables and fruit. "The plants themselves are being monitored by multiple sensors and fed by an internet-controlled irrigation and nutrition system," reports TechCrunch. "Growing out from the center, the basil is at ascending stages of its life, with the most outer positioned ready for you, the customer, to harvest." From the report: The concept might not be entirely new -- Japan has been an early pioneer in vertical farming, where the lack of space for farming and very high demand from a large population has encouraged innovation -- but what potentially sets Infarm apart, including from other startups, is the modular approach and go-to-market strategy it is taking. This means that the company can do vertical farming on a small but infinitely expandable scale, and is seeing Infarm place farms not in offsite warehouses but in customer-facing city locations, such as grocery stores, restaurants, shopping malls, and schools, enabling the end-customer to actually pick the produce themselves. In contrast, the Infarm system is chemical pesticide-free and can prioritize food grown for taste, color and nutritional value rather than shelf life or its ability to sustain mass production. Its indoor nature means it isn't restricted to seasonality either and by completely eliminating the distance between farmer and consumer, food doesn't get much fresher. When a new type of herb or plant is introduced, Infarm's plant experts and engineers create a recipe or algorithm for the produce type, factoring in nutrition, humidity, temperature, light intensity and spectrum, which is different from system to system depending on what is grown. The resulting combination of IoT, Big Data and cloud analytics is akin to "Farming-as-a-Service," whilst , space permitting, Infarm's modular approach affords the ability to keep adding more farming capacity in a not entirely dissimilar way to how cloud computing can be ramped up at the push of a button.
Google

Google Home Is 6 Times More Likely To Answer Your Question Than Amazon Alexa (adweek.com) 40

According to software developed by New York-based 360i, Google Home is six times more likely to answer your question than Amazon Alexa -- its biggest competitor. Adweek reports: It's relatively surprising, considering that RBC Capital Markets projects Alexa will drive $10 billion of revenue to Amazon by 2020 -- not to mention the artificial intelligence-based system currently owns 70 percent of the voice market. 360i's proprietary software asked both devices 3,000 questions to come to the figure. While Amazon Alexa has shown considerable strength in retail search during the agency's research, Google won the day thanks to its unmatched search abilities.
The Internet

'I'm Suing New York City To Loosen Verizon's Iron Grip' (wired.com) 45

New submitter mirandakatz writes: New York City is lagging far behind when it comes to ensuring ubiquitous, reasonably priced fiber optic internet access for every resident. There's a jaw-dropping digital divide in the city, and more than a quarter of households are still using dial-up. The city could be doing more to fix that -- but it's not. That's why Susan Crawford, a professor at Harvard Law School and fierce advocate for nationwide fiber, is suing the city. At Backchannel, Crawford writes that "the city's intransigence should be embarrassing to it. Instead of a plan, instead of exercising power and acting coherently, all we've got is shuffling and nay-saying. Getting information regarding access is the key to transforming telecommunications policy in the U.S. -- as well as in New York City. We must do better." "New York City is the regulator of all the underground conduit in those two boroughs -- meaning the pipes running under the streets through which fiber optic lines are threaded," Crawford writes. "At any moment, it could require that additional conduit be built where it doesn't now exist. It could require that choked-up conduit that is now decades old be cleaned and repaired. And it could require that that conduit run to every building in the city, and require that all new buildings have neutral connection points in their basements allowing many competitors to hawk their services to tenants. If the city took these steps [...] it would foster a vibrantly competitive marketplace for retail fiber-based services for everyone. Dozens of competitors. Low prices for data transmission. But the problem is that, as far as I can tell, the city that never sleeps is, in fact, asleep: It is not taking advantage of its powers. That is why I sued the city five years ago seeking information about its regulatory efforts."
The Almighty Buck

Fake Online Stores Reveal Gamblers' Shadow Banking System (reuters.com) 45

randomErr shares an exclusive report from Reuters: A network of dummy online stores offering household goods has been used as a front for internet gambling payments. The seven sites in Europe to sell items including fabric, DVD cases, and maps are fake outlets. The faux store fronts are a multinational system to disguise payments for the $40 billion global online gambling industry. Online gambling is illegal in many countries and some U.S. states. The dummy sites underline a strategy which regulators, card issuers and banks have yet to tackle head-on. The scheme found by Reuters involved websites which accepted payments for household items from a reporter but did not deliver any products. Instead, staff who answered helpdesk numbers on the sites said the outlets did not sell the product advertised, but that they were used to help process gambling payments, mostly for Americans.
Communications

Google Replaces Gchat With Hangouts Today (axios.com) 149

An anonymous reader shares a report: The day dreaded by stubborn office workers around the country has finally arrived. At some point today, Google will replace its Google Talk feature in Gmail -- known colloquially to most of the world as Gchat -- with Google Hangouts. The reasoning: Google's announcement of the switch back in March touts Hangouts' better features and integration with other Google products over the barebones Gchat, which launched way back in 2005.
Facebook

'Why I Decided To Disable AMP On My Site' (alexkras.com) 134

Web developer Alex Kras on Monday listed a number of reasons why he dislikes Google's AMP project, and why he pulled support for it on his website. From his post: Back in the day we used to have WAP pages -- specific web pages that were presented only to mobile devices. Opting into AMP, for publishers, is kind of like going back to those days. Instead of using responsive design (making sure that one version of the site works well on all devices) publishers are forced to maintain two versions of each page -- their regular version for larger devices and mobile phones that don't use Google and the AMP version. The benefit of AMP is that it imposes tough restrictions on content, making it load fast. The issue with this approach is that AMP becomes a subset of the original content. For example, user comments are often removed. I also find the way images load in AMP to be buggy. AMP tries to load an image only when it becomes visible to the user, rendering a white square instead of the image. In my experience I've seen it fail fairly regularly, leaving the article with an empty white square instead of the image. [...] It's up to publishers to decide if they want to add AMP support on their site. Users, however, don't have an option to turn AMP off. It would be nice if Google provided a user level setting to turn results rendered as AMP off. Unfortunately, even if they were to add this option, it wouldn't help much when Twitter of Facebook would decide to server AMP. Further reading: Kill Google AMP before it KILLS the web - The Register, The Problem With Google AMP, 2 Billion Pages On Web Now Use Google's AMP, Pages Now Load Twice As Fast. John Gruber on open web: Fuck Facebook.
Microsoft

Google Chrome Bests Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, Opera In Independent Battery Life Tests (betanews.com) 111

An anonymous reader shares a report: YouTuber Linus Tech Tips has pitted Microsoft Edge against Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Opera and discovered that it does not deliver as strong a performance as Microsoft claims. Linus Tech Tips took four Dell Inspiron laptops, with the same specs, and found that Microsoft Edge trails Chrome and Opera in battery life tests. It would seem that it still beats Firefox, after all. However, the results are much, much closer than what Microsoft's own tests indicate. On average, the difference between Chrome, which offers the best battery life, and Microsoft Edge is under 40 minutes. Opera comes closer to Microsoft Edge than Chrome in this test. Even Creators Update, which based on Microsoft's test should help Microsoft Edge obliterate the competition, didn't help make it faster than Chrome. Linus says he used the same methodology that Microsoft used in its set of battery tests earlier this year, in which it declared Edge as the winner.
Transportation

New Maglev Elevator Can Travel Horizontally, Vertically, and Diagonally (wired.co.uk) 208

An elevator that can move in any direction has been successfully tested by a German company named ThyssenKrupp. An anonymous reader quotes Wired UK: The Multi is the first ropeless lift, built using the same magnetic levitation technology used in Japan's bullet train and proposed for the Hyperloop. In the same way the train slides along a track horizontally, the lift travels both vertically, horizontally and diagonally around a building riding an electromagnetic field, a system known as a linear drive. "If you can run a 500-tonne train on magnets at 500km/h you should be able to elevate a cabin of 500 kilograms or 1,000 kilograms at a speed of five metres per second," [ThyssenKrupp CEO Andreas] Schierenbeck said.
The elevator can cost 3 to 5 times more than a regular elevator -- but can handle higher buildings than a conventional elevator.
Australia

Roadside Cameras Infected with WannaCry Virus Invalidate 8,000 Traffic Tickets (yahoo.com) 165

Long-time Slashdot reader nri tipped us off to a developing story in Victoria, Australia. Yahoo News reports: Victoria Police officials announced on Saturday, June 24, they were withdrawing all speed camera infringement notices issued statewide from June 6 after a virus in the cameras turned out to be more widespread than first thought. "That does not mean they [the infringement notices] won't not be re-issued," Assistant Commissioner Doug Fryer told reporters, explaining that he wants to be sure the red light and speed cameras were working correctly. Acting Deputy Commissioner Ross Guenther told reporters on Friday that 55 cameras had been exposed to the ransomware virus, but they've now determined 280 cameras had been exposed. The cameras are not connected to the internet, but a maintenance worker unwittingly connected a USB stick with the virus on it to the camera system on June 6.

Fryer said that about 1643 tickets would be withdrawn -- up from the 590 that police had announced on Friday -- and another five and a half thousand tickets pending in the system would be embargoed. Fryer said he was optimistic the 7500 to 8000 tickets affected could be re-issued, but for now police would not issue new tickets until police had reviewed the cameras to ensure they were functioning properly... The "WannaCry" malware caused the cameras to continually reboot, Fryer said. Fryer said there was no indication the malware had caused inaccurate radar readings, but police were being "over cautious" to maintain public faith in the system.

Last week Victoria's Police Minister was "openly furious" with the private camera operator, saying the group hadn't notified the relevant authorities about the infection.
The Almighty Buck

Ethereum Exchange Reimburses Customer Losses After 'Flash Crash' (gdax.com) 73

An anonymous reader writes: "The price of ethereum crashed as low as 10 cents from around $319 in about a second on the GDAX cryptocurrency exchange on Wednesday," reports CNBC, calling it "a move that is being blamed on a 'multimillion dollar market sell' order... As the price continued to fall, another 800 stop loss orders and margin funding liquidations caused ethereum to trade as low as 10 cents." An executive for the exchange said "Our matching engine operated as intended throughout this event and trading with advanced features like margin always carries inherent risk."

Though some users complained they lost money, the price rebounded to $325 -- and according to a report on one trading site, "one person had an order in for just over 3,800 ethereum if the price fell to 10 cents on the GDAX exchange," reports CNBC. "Theoretically this person would have spent $380 to buy these coins, and when the price shot up above $300 again, the trader would be sitting on over $1 million." Yet the currency exchange announced Friday that they're honoring everyone's gains, while also reimbursing customers who suffered losses. "We view this as an opportunity to demonstrate our long-term commitment to our customers and belief in the future of this industry."

Transportation

Self-Driving Cars Are Safer When They Talk To Each Other (engadget.com) 135

An anonymous reader quotes Engadget: A University of Michigan public-private partnership called Mcity is testing V2V, or vehicle to vehicle communication, and has found that it makes their autonomous prototypes even safer. V2V works by wirelessly sharing data such as location, speed and direction. Using DSRC, or Dedicated Short Range Communication, V2V can send up to 10 messages per second. This communication allows cars to see beyond what is immediately in front of them -- sensing a red light around a blind curve, or automatically braking for a car that runs a stop sign... The catch of V2V? It has to be installed in the majority of cars and infrastructure (such as traffic lights) to function adequately.
Cellphones

Software Developer Explains Why The Ubuntu Phone Failed (itwire.com) 132

troublemaker_23 quotes ITWire: A developer who worked with the Ubuntu Phone project has outlined the reasons for its failure, painting a picture of confusion, poor communication and lack of technical and marketing foresight. Simon Raffeiner stopped working with the project in mid-2016, about 10 months before Canonical owner Mark Shuttleworth announced that development of the phone and the tablet were being stopped.
Raffeiner says, for example, that "despite so many bugs being present, developers were not concentrating on fixing them, but rather on adding support for more devices." But he says he doesn't regret the time he spent on the project -- though now he spends his free time "traveling the world, taking photographs and creating bad card games, bad comics and bad games."

"Please note that this post does not apply to the UBPorts project, which continues to work on the phone operating system, Unity 8 and other components."
Wireless Networking

How A Contractor Exploited A Vulnerability In The FCC Website (wirelessestimator.com) 69

RendonWI writes: A Wisconsin wireless contractor discovered a flaw in the FCC's Antenna Structure Registration (ASR) database, and changed the ownership of more than 40 towers from multiple carriers and tower owners into his company's name during the past five months without the rightful owners being notified by the agency, according to FCC documents and sources knowledgeable of the illegal transfers. Sprint, AT&T and key tower companies were targeted in the wide-ranging thefts... Changing ASR ownership is an easy process by applying online for an FCC Registration Number (FRN) which is instantly granted whether the factual or inaccurate information is provided. Then, once logged in, an FRN holder can submit a form stating that they are the new owner of any or multiple structures in the database. As soon as it is submitted, the change is immediately reflected in the ASR.
EU

Germany Cracks Down On Illegal Speech On Social Media. (smh.com.au) 521

ArmoredDragon writes: German police have raided 36 homes of people accused of using illegal speech on Facebook and Twitter. Much of it was aimed at political speech. According to the article, "Most of the raids concerned politically motivated right-wing incitement, according to the Federal Criminal Police Office, whose officers conducted home searches and interrogations. But the raids also targeted two people accused of left-wing extremist content, as well as one person accused of making threats or harassment based on someone's sexual orientation."

This comes just as a new law is being debated that can fine social media platforms $53 million for not removing 70% of illegal speech (including political, defamatory, and hateful speech) within 24 hours of it being posted, which Facebook argues will make it obligatory for them to delete posts and ban users for speech that isn't clearly illegal.

Open Source

Linus Explains What Surprises Him After 25 Years Of Linux (linux.com) 177

Linus Torvalds appeared in a new "fireside chat" with VMware Head of Open Source Dirk Hohndel. An anonymous reader writes: Linus explained what still surprises him about Linux development. "Code that I thought was stable continually gets improved. There are things we haven't touched for many years, then someone comes along and improves them or makes bug reports in something I thought no one used. We have new hardware, new features that are developed, but after 25 years, we still have old, very basic things that people care about and still improve... Our processes have not only worked for 25 years, we still have a very strong maintainer group... And as these maintainers get older and fatter, we have new people coming in."

Linus also says he's surprised by the widespread popularity of Git. "I expected it to be limited mostly to the kernel -- as it's tailored to what we do... In certain circles, Git is more well known than Linux." And he also shares advice if you want to get started as an open source developer. "I'm not sure my example is the right thing for people to follow. There are a ton of open source projects and, if you are a beginning programmer, find something you're interested in that you can follow for more than just a few weeks... If you can be part of a community and set up patches, it's not just about the coding, but about the social aspect of open source. You make connections and improve yourself as a programmer."

Linus also says that "I really like what I'm doing. I like waking up and having a job that is technically interesting and challenging without being too stressful so I can do it for long stretches; something where I feel I am making a real difference and doing something meaningful not just for me."

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