Graphics

Can A New Open Photo File Format Replace JPEGs? (cnet.com) 30

Got lossless compression? An anonymous reader quotes CNET: Google, Mozilla and others in a group called the Alliance for Open Media are working on a rival photo technology. In testing so far, the images are 15 percent smaller than Apple's HEIC photo format, said Tim Terriberry, a Mozilla principal research engineer working on the project. But smaller sizes are just the beginning... it's got a strong list of allies, an affinity for web publishing and modern features that could make it the best contender yet for overcoming JPEG's 1990s-era shortcomings... JPEG isn't just limited by needlessly large file sizes. It's also weak when it comes to supporting a wider range of bright and dark tones, a broader spectrum of colors, and graphic elements like text and logos...

The HEIC's new rival is from the Alliance for Open Media, a group whose top priority is a video compression technology called AV1 that's free of patent licensing requirements. It's got heavy hitters on board, including top browser makers Google, Microsoft, Mozilla and the most recent new member, Apple -- though Apple's plans haven't been made public. And it's got major streaming-video companies, too: Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Facebook, videoconferencing powerhouse Intel and Google's YouTube. And with the support of chip designers Intel, Nvidia and Arm, AV1 should get the hardware acceleration that's crucial to making video easy on our laptop and phone batteries.

To use Apple's HEIC, "makers of software, processors and phones must jump through a lot of hoops to license patents," which CNET predicts "means HEIC will have trouble succeeding on the web: patent barriers are antithetical to the web's open nature."
Crime

Church Elder/'Jeopardy' Champion Charged With Computer Crimes (mlive.com) 33

Stephanie Jass, a record-setting, seven-time winner on Jeopardy, has been charged with two felonies for accessing the email accounts of two executives at the college where she worked as an assistant professor. An anonymous reader quotes MLive: Jass was able to access the accounts because of an April 24 issue with the college email system, hosted by Google. Frank Hribar, vice president for enrollment and student affairs, said there was network outage caused by loss of power. On April 25, users received a text message with a generic, standard passcode: "Please attempt to login to Gmail using this password. You should be prompted to change password after login..." Not everyone, however, was prompted to do so. Some did make the change using a tutorial. Some received an error and were unable to create a new password, the timeline states. Others did not alter the password at all. The method "worked just fine, had there not been manipulation of the system," said Hribar...

Jass, 47, of Tecumseh was charged in December with unauthorized access to a computer, program or network, and using a computer to commit a crime, both felonies... On May 5, the college deactivated Jass' email account and access to all other college software. The locks to her office door were changed and her desktop computer was confiscated, according to the timeline.

The police report "indicates Jass accessed emails while using an internet network at First Presbyterian Church of Tecumseh, where she served as an elder."
Microsoft

Microsoft Fights Search Warrants for Overseas Emails in the Supreme Court (microsoft.com) 32

Microsoft's Chief Legal Officer writes about "the landmark Microsoft case that will decide whether the U.S. government can use a search warrant to force a company to seize a customer's private emails stored in Ireland and import them to the United States." On Thursday, 289 different groups and individuals from 37 countries signed 23 different legal briefs supporting Microsoft's position that Congress never gave law enforcement the power to ignore treaties and breach Ireland's sovereignty in this way. How could it? The government relies on a law that was enacted in 1986, before anyone conceived of cloud computing... When the U.S. government requires a tech company to execute a warrant for emails stored overseas, the provider must search a foreign datacenter and make a copy abroad, and then import that copy to the United States. This creates a complex issue with huge international consequences. It shouldn't be resolved by taking the law to a place it was never intended to go...

The U.S. Department of Justice's attempt to seize foreign customers' emails from other countries ignores borders, treaties and international law, as well as the laws those countries have in place to protect the privacy of their own citizens... It's also a path that will lead to the doorsteps of American homes by putting the privacy of U.S. citizens' emails at risk. If the U.S. government obtains the power to search and seize foreign citizens' private communications physically stored in other countries, it will invite other governments to do the same thing. If we ignore other countries' laws, how can we demand that they respect our laws?

Amicus briefs supporting Microsoft have been filed in the U.S. Supreme Court by Ireland, France, and the European Commission and European privacy regulators. Microsoft even notes that on this issue, "Fox News agreed with the American Civil Liberties Union."
Businesses

Amazon Opens 'Surveillance-Powered, No-Checkout Convenience Store' (geekwire.com) 133

An anonymous reader quotes GeekWire: The first Amazon Go grocery and convenience store will open to the public Monday in Seattle -- letting any person with an Amazon account, the Amazon Go app and a willingness to give up more of their personal privacy than usual simply grab anything they want and walk out, without going through a checkout line... After shoppers check in by scanning their unique QR code, overhead cameras work with weight sensors in the shelves to precisely track which items they pick up and take with them. When they leave, they just leave. Amazon Go's systems automatically debit their accounts for the items they take, sending the receipt to the app. In my first test of Amazon Go this past week, my elapsed time in the store was exactly 23 seconds -- from scanning the QR code at the entrance to exiting with my chosen item...

The company says the tracking is precise enough to distinguish between multiple people standing side-by-side at a shelf, detecting which one picked up a yogurt or cupcake, for example, and which one was merely browsing. The system also knows when people pick up items and put them back, ensuring that Amazon doesn't dock anyone's account for milk or chips when they simply wanted to read the label. The idea is to "push the boundaries of computer vision and machine learning" to create an "effortless experience for customers," said Dilip Kumar, Amazon Go vice president of technology, after taking GeekWire through the store this past week... Apart from the kitchen staff preparing fresh food at the back, we saw only two workers in the 1,800-square-foot Amazon Go store during our visit: one at the beer and wine section to check IDs, and another just inside the entrance to greet customers.

TechCrunch calls it "Amazon's surveillance-powered no-checkout convenience store," adding "the system is made up of dozens and dozens of camera units mounted to the ceiling, covering and recovering every square inch of the store from multiple angles."

The Seattle Times reports that the store "was also criticized by grocery-store workers' unions, which feared an effort to automate the work done by cashiers, the second-most-common job in the U.S."
Programming

Donald Knuth Turns 80, Seeks Problem-Solvers For TAOCP (stanford.edu) 36

An anonymous reader writes: When 24-year-old Donald Knuth began writing The Art of Computer Programming, he had no idea that he'd still be working on it 56 years later. This month he also celebrated his 80th birthday in Sweden with the world premier of Knuth's Fantasia Apocalyptica, a multimedia work for pipe organ and video based on the bible's Book of Revelations, which Knuth describes as "50 years in the making."

But Knuth also points to the recent publication of "one of the most important sections of The Art of Computer Programming" in preliminary paperback form: Volume 4, Fascicle 6: Satisfiability. ("Given a Boolean function, can its variables be set to at least one pattern of 0s and 1 that will make the function true?")

Here's an excerpt from its back cover: Revolutionary methods for solving such problems emerged at the beginning of the twenty-first century, and they've led to game-changing applications in industry. These so-called "SAT solvers" can now routinely find solutions to practical problems that involve millions of variables and were thought until very recently to be hopelessly difficult.
"in several noteworthy cases, nobody has yet pointed out any errors..." Knuth writes on his site, adding "I fear that the most probable hypothesis is that nobody has been sufficiently motivated to check these things out carefully as yet." He's uncomfortable printing a hardcover edition that hasn't been fully vetted, and "I would like to enter here a plea for some readers to tell me explicitly, 'Dear Don, I have read exercise N and its answer very carefully, and I believe that it is 100% correct,'" where N is one of the exercises listed on his web site.

Elsewhere he writes that two "pre-fascicles" -- 5a and 5B -- are also available for alpha-testing. "I've put them online primarily so that experts in the field can check the contents before I inflict them on a wider audience. But if you want to help debug them, please go right ahead."
Iphone

iPhone X Purchase Leads To Police, Battering Ram, and Handcuffs (cbslocal.com) 244

An anonymous reader quotes CBS SFBayArea: On one recent morning, Rick Garcia and his wife Shannon Knuth woke up to a posse of San Francisco police officers at their front door. "I peered through the peephole and I saw a police officer and a battering ram," Garcia said. "We heard 'SFPD' and 'warrant,' and I was like 'what's going on?'" Knuth remembers. It felt like a nightmare yet it was real. Garcia says that within seconds he was dragged into the hallway of his apartment complex, handcuffed, then whisked away to the Taraval Station.... Meanwhile Knuth, who had just got out of the shower, was ordered to sit on the couch... After rifling through the apartment Knuth says the officers finally told her what they were looking for: Her husband's iPhone X.

According to the warrant, it was stolen but Knuth showed them the receipt which proved her husband bought it. Once the officers realized their mistake they called the police station and a squad car brought Garcia home. "They gathered their pry bar and their battering ram and they left," he said. So how could a mistake like that happen? It's still unclear but it turns out Garcia and Knuth bought the iPhone at an Apple store at Stonestown Galleria just a few weeks after 300 iPhone Xs were stolen from a UPS truck in the mall parking lot.

One former police chief says the way it was handled "kind of boggles the mind...

"This was clearly an incident that should have just been a knock and talk, a couple detectives come to the door, knock on the door and they would have gathered the same info that they gathered after they put him in handcuffs and hauled him off to jail."
AI

Can Machine Learning Guess True Emotions From Facial Microexpressions? (cmu.edu) 43

jbmartin6 writes: Microexpressions are fast, involuntary facial expressions which other people may not consciously recognize, but arise from our real emotions instead of the face we wish to present to the world. Carnegie Mellon University released an interesting blog entry about new approaches to using computers to recognize these microexpressions with a focus on the security and military applications. If you haven't taped over the cameras on your devices, it might be time to start thinking about it. Just imagine how advertisers would (mis)use this sort of technology.
"Our approach uses machine learning features that treat the whole face as a canvas," writes the lead researcher, adding "One challenge we faced for this project was finding a dataset with accurately labeled data to establish ground truth.

"Few existing databases capture subjects' suppressed reactions...."
Math

Has the Decades-Old Floating Point Error Problem Been Solved? (insidehpc.com) 118

overheardinpdx quotes HPCwire: Wednesday a company called Bounded Floating Point announced a "breakthrough patent in processor design, which allows representation of real numbers accurate to the last digit for the first time in computer history. This bounded floating point system is a game changer for the computing industry, particularly for computationally intensive functions such as weather prediction, GPS, and autonomous vehicles," said the inventor, Alan Jorgensen, PhD. "By using this system, it is possible to guarantee that the display of floating point values is accurate to plus or minus one in the last digit..."

The innovative bounded floating point system computes two limits (or bounds) that contain the represented real number. These bounds are carried through successive calculations. When the calculated result is no longer sufficiently accurate the result is so marked, as are all further calculations made using that value. It is fail-safe and performs in real time.

Jorgensen is described as a cyber bounty hunter and part time instructor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas teaching computer science to non-computer science students. In November he received US Patent number 9,817,662 -- "Apparatus for calculating and retaining a bound on error during floating point operations and methods thereof." But in a followup, HPCwire reports: After this article was published, a number of readers raised concerns about the originality of Jorgensen's techniques, noting the existence of prior art going back years. Specifically, there is precedent in John Gustafson's work on unums and interval arithmetic both at Sun and in his 2015 book, The End of Error, which was published 19 months before Jorgensen's patent application was filed. We regret the omission of this information from the original article.
Transportation

Challenging Tesla, Ferrari Will Build An Electric Sportscar -- and an SUV (theverge.com) 78

Long-time Slashdot reader Kant shared an article from The Verge: Ferrari will build a battery-electric supercar in a bid to challenge Tesla for a piece of the high-end, eco-conscious luxury market. CEO Sergio Marchionne, who also heads Fiat Chrysler, said that the Italian racecar company would also make a Ferrari SUV -- after previously dismissing the idea as ridiculous. Speaking at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Marchionne didn't offer any specifics on the electric Ferrari, but indicated the company would release it before the Tesla Roadster hits the road in 2020.

"If there is an electric supercar to be built, then Ferrari will be the first," Marchionne said, according to Bloomberg. "People are amazed at what Tesla did with a supercar: I'm not trying to minimize what Elon did but I think it's doable by all of us."

BMW and Porsche also have plans to introduce all-electric supercars, and Marchionne says "I don't know of a [business] that is making money selling electric vehicles unless you are selling them at the very, very high end of the spectrum."

His remarks were also "a significant departure" from comments made in 2016 about the Ferrari SUV: 'You have to shoot me first.'"
The Military

Pentagon Document Confirms Existence of Russian Doomsday Torpedo (popularmechanics.com) 242

Popular Mechanics reports that "a key U.S. nuclear weapons document confirms that the Russian government is developing the most powerful nuclear weapon in more than a half century...a 'new intercontinental, nuclear-armed undersea autonomous torpedo'" with a range of 6,200 miles. But what really makes "Kanyon" nightmare fuel is the drone torpedo's payload: a 100-megaton thermonuclear weapon. By way of comparison, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima was 16 kilotons, or the equivalent of 16,000 tons of TNT. Kanyon's nuke would be the equivalent of 100,000,000 tons of TNT. That's twice as powerful as Tsar Bomba, the most powerful thermonuclear weapon ever tested. Dropped on New York City, a 100-megaton bomb would kill 8 million people outright and injure 6 million more.

Kanyon is designed to attack coastal areas, destroying cities, naval bases, and ports. The mega-bomb would also generate an artificial tsunami that would surge inland, spreading radioactive contamination with the advancing water. To make matters worse there are reports the warhead is "salted" with the radioactive isotope Cobalt-60. Contaminated areas would be off-limits to humanity for up to 100 years.

Slashdot reader schwit1 adds that "being sea-based makes it immune to ballistic missile defense."
Desktops (Apple)

Ask Slashdot: What's the Fastest Linux Distro for an Old Macbook 7,1? 181

Long-time Slashdot reader gr8gatzby writes: I have an old beautiful mint condition white Macbook 7,1 with a 2.4Ghz Core 2 Duo and 5GB RAM. Apple cut off the upgrade path of this model at 10.6.8, while a modern-day version of any browser requires at least 10.9 these days, and as a result my browsing is limited to Chrome version 49.0.2623.112.

So this leaves me with Linux. What is the fastest, most efficient and powerful distro for a Mac of this vintage?

It's been nearly eight years since its release, so leave your best thoughts in the comments. What's the best Linux distro for an old Macbook 7,1?
United States

Apple and Google Are Rerouting Their Employee Buses as Attacks Resume (mashable.com) 234

Slashdot reader sqorbit writes: Apple runs shuttle buses for it's employees in San Francisco. It seems someone who is not happy with Apple has decided to take out their anger on these buses. In an email obtained by Mashable, Apple states "Due to recent incidents of broken windows along the commute route, specifically on highway 280, we're re-routing coaches for the time being. This change in routes could mean an additional 30-45 minutes of commute time in each direction for some riders." It has been reported that at least four buses have had windows broken, some speculating that it might caused by rubber bullets.
"Around four years ago, people started attacking the shuttle buses that took Google employees to and from work, as a way of protesting the tech-company-driven gentrification taking place around San Francisco," remembers Fortune, adding "it seems to be happening again."

At least one Google bus was also attacked, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, which adds that the buses "were not marked with company logos, and the perpetrators are suspected of broadly targeting technology shuttle buses rather than a specific company."
Space

Rocket Lab Successfully Reaches Orbit and Deploys Its First Satellites (geekwire.com) 59

Long-time Slashdot reader ClarkMills writes: Rocket Lab has successfully launched its second Electron rocket from New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula, with the rocket reaching orbit for the first time... This follows the company's first launch last May, in which the rocket got to space but did not make it to orbit after range safety officials had to kill the flight.
Just 60 seconds before lift-off yesterday, a "rogue ship" entered their launch-range area, prompting them to postpone the launch until today. GeekWire reports: This mission was nicknamed "Still Testing," but unlike the first mission, the objective was not merely to test Rocket Lab's hardware. The rocket had the additional task of putting three nanosatellites in orbit: an Earth-imaging Dove satellite for Planet, and two Lemur-2 satellites that the Spire space venture would use for tracking ships and monitoring weather... The price tag for a mission is as low as $5 million, thanks to streamlined hardware production techniques. The Electron makes use of carbon composite materials for its rocket core, and 3-D printing techniques for its Rutherford rocket engines.
90 minutes ago Spire tweeted that they'd experienced a "good clean deployment" of their satellites, adding that they were already receiving images and calling it "a huge win" for commercial space, small satellites, the Electron rocket, and New Zealand.

UPDATE: Long-time Slashdot reader Hairy1 shares Rocket Lab's video of their launch.
Open Source

'Is It Time For Open Processors?' (lwn.net) 154

Linux kernel developer (and LWN.net co-founder) Jonathan Corbet recently posted an essay with a tantalizing title: "Is it time for open processors?" He cited several "serious initiatives", including the OpenPOWER effort, OpenSPARC, and OpenRISC, adding that "much of the momentum" appears to be with the RISC-V architecture. An anonymous reader quotes LWN.net: The [RISC-V] project is primarily focused on the instruction-set architecture, rather than on specific implementations, but free hardware designs do exist. Western Digital recently announced that it will be using RISC-V processors in its storage products, a decision that could lead to the shipment of RISC-V by the billion. There is a development kit available for those who would like to play with this processor and a number of designs for cores are available... RISC-V seems to have quite a bit of commercial support behind it -- the RISC-V Foundation has a long list of members. It seems likely that this architecture will continue to progress for some time.
Here's some of the reasons that Corbet argues open souce hardware "would certainly offer some benefits, but it would be no panacea."
Space

Flat Earther Plans New Rocket Launch, Predicts Super Bowl-Sized Ratings (phillyvoice.com) 203

Self-taught rocket scientist/daredevil "Mad" Mike Hughes will finally launch his homemade rocket in two weeks -- despite "anonymous online haters questioning his every move." An anonymous reader quotes PhillyVoice: He's found some private land in the "ghost town" of Amboy, California -- complete with a brand-spanking-new road that'll enable him to get his motor home and rocket gear to the site... "It'll be a vertical launch, me strapped into the rocket with 6,000 pounds of thrust, going up about three-eighths of a mile," he said, noting it's a prologue to a major launch this Fourth of July weekend. "It's the ultimate Wile E. Coyote move."

As with the scrubbed mission, this is in part an event which he hopes will get people to investigate the ideology which holds the earth is flat -- despite quite a bit of evidence to the contrary. He said it would've happened back in November if international publicity hadn't prompted government bureaucrats to "cover their asses" by pointing out that his launch site crept 150 feet into federal land. "I could've been arrested so at that point, I just went home and got back to work," he said... "But guess what? It's about to happen again... I should get more viewers than the Super Bowl," said Hughes, adding the launch will be aired on Noize TV [a video-on-demand service].

Noize TV has already posted video of a new interview with Hughes, touting his upcoming launch at 3 p.m. on Saturday, February 3, the day before the Super Bowl (which Hughes calls "nothing but bullshit.")

Hughes says he's also filing to run for Governor of California.

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