Transportation

Elon Musk Begins Digging a Hyperloop Tunnel In Maryland (baltimoresun.com) 3

Elon Musk has been granted permission by Maryland to start digging tunnels for his hyperoop transit system that he wants to build between New York and Washington. "Hogan administration officials said Thursday the state has issued a conditional utility permit to let Musk's tunneling firm, The Boring Co., dig a 10.3-mile tunnel beneath the state-owned portion of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, between the Baltimore city line and Maryland 175 in Hanover," reports Baltimore Sun. From the report: It would be the first portion of the underground system that Musk says could eventually ferry passengers from Washington to New York, with stops in Baltimore and Philadelphia, in just 29 minutes. Maryland's approval is the first step of many needed to complete the multibillion-dollar project. Gov. Larry Hogan toured a site in Hanover that aides said could become an entry point for the hyperloop. The state does not plan to contribute to the cost of the project, aides said. Administration officials said they will treat the hyperloop like a utility, and permitted it in the same way the state allows electric companies to burrow beneath public rights-of-way. It was not immediately clear Thursday what environmental review or other permitting procedures must be completed before the company breaks ground.
Businesses

Vungle CEO Arrested For Child Rape and Attempted Murder (axios.com) 15

Freshly Exhumed writes: Axios is working to get details about a revelation on a government website that Vungle CEO Zain Jaffer is facing charges at the Maple Street Correctional Center in Redwood City, California of attempted murder, a lewd act on a child, oral copulation of a person under 14, child abuse, assault with a deadly weapon and battery upon an officer and emergency personnel. Vungle is self-described on its website as "the leading in-app video advertising platform for performance marketers," and was founded by Jaffer in 2011. Vungle has since issued a statement: "While we do not have any information that is not in the public record at this point, these are extremely serious allegations, and we are shocked beyond words. While these are only preliminary charges, they are obviously so serious that it led to the immediate removal of Mr. Jaffer from any operational responsibility at the company. The company stressed that this matter has nothing to do with Mr. Jaffer's former role at the company." Axios notes that "the San Francisco-based company has raised over $25 million in VC funding from firms like Google Ventures, Thomvest Ventures, Crosslink Capital, SoftTech VC and 500 Startups."
Android

Google Says 64 Percent of Chrome Traffic On Android Now Protected With HTTPS, 75 Percent On Mac, 66 Percent On Windows (techcrunch.com) 16

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Google's push to make the web more secure by flagging sites using insecure HTTP connections appears to be working. The company announced today that 64 percent of Chrome traffic on Android is now protected, up 42 percent from a year ago. In addition, over 75 percent of Chrome traffic on both ChromeOS and Mac is now protected, up from 60 percent on Mac and 67 percent on ChromeOS a year ago. Windows traffic is up to 66 percent from 51 percent. Google also notes that 71 of the top 100 websites now use HTTPS by default, up from 37 percent a year ago. In the U.S., HTTPS usage in Chrome is up from 59 percent to 73 percent. Combined, these metrics paint a picture of fairly rapid progress in the switchover to HTTPS. This is something that Google has been heavily pushing by flagging and pressuring sites that hadn't yet adopted HTTPS.
Education

Arkansas Will Pay Up To $1,000 Cash To Kids Who Pass AP Computer Science A Exam 36

theodp writes: The State of Arkansas will be handing out cash to high school students who pass an Advanced Placement test in computer science. "The purpose of the incentive program is to increase the number of qualifying scores (3, 4, or 5) on Advanced Placement Computer Science A exams," explained a press release for the Arkansas Advanced Placement Computer Science A Incentive Program (only 87 Arkansas public school students passed the AP CS A exam in 2016, according to College Board data). Gov. Asa Hutchinson added, "The Arkansas Department of Education's incentive for high scores on the AP Computer Science A exam is a terrific way to reward our students for their hard work in school. The real payoff for their hard work, of course, is when they show their excellent transcripts to potential employers who offer good salaries for their skills." The tiered monetary awards call for public school students receiving a top score of 5 on the AP CS A exam to receive $1,000, with another $250 going to their schools. Scores of 4 will earn students $750 and schools $150, while a score of 3 will result in a $250 payday for students and $50 for their schools. The program evokes memories of the College Board's Google-funded AP STEM Access program, which rewarded AP STEM teachers with a $100 DonorsChoose.org gift card for each student who received a 3, 4, or 5 on an AP exam. DonorsChoose.org credits were also offered later by tech-bankrolled Code.org and Google to teachers who got their students coding.
Media

Body Camera Giant Wants Police To Collect Your Videos Too (fastcompany.com) 33

tedlistens shares a report from Fast Company: Axon, the police supplier formerly known as Taser and now a leading maker of police body cameras, has also charged into police software with a service that allows police to manage and eventually analyze increasingly large caches of video, like a Dropbox for cops. Now it wants to add the public's video to the mix. An online tool called Citizen, set to launch later this year, will allow police to solicit the public for photos or video in the aftermath of suspected crimes and ingest them into Axon's online data platform. Todd Basche, Axon's executive vice president for worldwide products, said the tool was designed after the company conducted surveys of police customers and the public and found that potentially valuable evidence was not being collected. "They all pointed us to the need to collect evidence that's out there in the community."

[But] systems like Citizen still raise new privacy and policy questions, and could test the limits of already brittle police-community relations. Would Citizen, for instance, also be useful for gathering civilian evidence of incidents of police misconduct or brutality? [And how would ingesting citizen video into online police databases, like Axon's Evidence.com, allow police to mine it later for suspicious activity, in a sort of dragnet fashion?] "It all depends," says one observer, "on how agencies use the tool."

Twitter

Twitter Plans To End Revenge Porn Next Week, Hate Speech In Two (arstechnica.com) 111

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In the beginning of 2017, Twitter said it would take on harassment and hate speech. CEO Jack Dorsey said the company would embrace a "completely new approach to abuse on Twitter" with open dialogue along the way. For months, though, the company has offered few details about what it would do, or when. That changed late yesterday, when Twitter posted a timeline with specific promises on actions it will take. The changes begin next week. On October 27, Twitter will expand what types of "non-consensual nudity" (aka "revenge porn") that it takes action against. The company will already act when a victim complains, but Twitter will soon act even in cases where the victims may not be aware images were taken, instances like upskirt photos and hidden webcams. "Anyone we identify as the original poster of non-consensual nudity will be suspended immediately," the October entry reads. On November 3, Twitter will ban hate imagery in profile headers and avatars, and the service will start suspending accounts "for organizations that use violence to advance their cause." The same day it will institute a policy of stopping "Unwanted Sexual Advances," although the company says it has already been taking enforcement actions on this front. Later in November, Twitter will ban "hateful display names."
AI

The AI That Has Nothing to Learn From Humans (theatlantic.com) 47

An anonymous reader shares a report: Now that AlphaGo's arguably got nothing left to learn from humans -- now that its continued progress takes the form of endless training games against itself -- what do its tactics look like, in the eyes of experienced human players? We might have some early glimpses into an answer. AlphaGo Zero's latest games haven't been disclosed yet. But several months ago, the company publicly released 55 games that an older version of AlphaGo played against itself. (Note that this is the incarnation of AlphaGo that had already made quick work of the world's champions.) DeepMind called its offering a "special gift to fans of Go around the world." Since May, experts have been painstakingly analyzing the 55 machine-versus-machine games. And their descriptions of AlphaGo's moves often seem to keep circling back to the same several words: Amazing. Strange. Alien. "They're how I imagine games from far in the future," Shi Yue, a top Go player from China, has told the press. A Go enthusiast named Jonathan Hop who's been reviewing the games on YouTube calls the AlphaGo-versus-AlphaGo face-offs "Go from an alternate dimension." From all accounts, one gets the sense that an alien civilization has dropped a cryptic guidebook in our midst: a manual that's brilliant -- or at least, the parts of it we can understand. Will Lockhart, a physics grad student and avid Go player who codirected The Surrounding Game (a documentary about the pastime's history and devotees) tried to describe the difference between watching AlphaGo's games against top human players, on the one hand, and its self-paired games, on the other. According to Will, AlphaGo's moves against Ke Jie made it seem to be "inevitably marching toward victory," while Ke seemed to be "punching a brick wall." Any time the Chinese player had perhaps found a way forward, said Lockhart, "10 moves later AlphaGo had resolved it in such a simple way, and it was like, 'Poof, well that didn't lead anywhere!'" By contrast, AlphaGo's self-paired games might have seemed more frenetic. More complex. Lockhart compares them to "people sword-fighting on a tightrope."
Microsoft

Consumer Reports Refuses To Recommend Microsoft Surface Book 2 (betanews.com) 76

An anonymous reader writes: Earlier in the year, the review group said that problems with reliability meant that it was impossible for it to recommend any Microsoft laptop or tablet. Now Consumer Reports says that this extends to the Surface Book 2, meaning that the device will not be recommended. Microsoft is likely to be similarly disappointed with Consumer Reports' statement about the Surface Book 2. Speaking to Benzinga, Consumer Reports' spokesperson James McQueen said: "We will evaluate the performance of the Microsoft Surface Book 2 once we get it into our labs next month for testing, but we will not be able to recommend it. Our decision to withhold our recommendation of all Microsoft laptops and tablets is still in effect."
Security

Student Expelled After Using Hardware Keylogger to Hack School, Change Grades (bleepingcomputer.com) 110

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: Kansas University (KU) officials have expelled a student for installing a hardware keylogger and using the data acquired from the device to hack into the school's grading system and chang his grades. KU did not release the student's name to the public, but they said the keystroke logging device had been installed on one of the computers in its lecture halls. The student used data collected from the device to change F grades into A grades. Professors said the incident would not have been noticed if the student didn't get greedy about modifications. The hardware device the student used was a run-of-the-mill hardware keylogger that anyone can buy on Amazon or eBay for prices as low as $20. Speaking to local media, various KU professors said they hope not to see any copycats in the near future.
Transportation

Laptops Could Be Banned From Checked Bags on Planes Due To Fire Risk (cnn.com) 123

Readers share a report: Laptops could be banned from checked baggage on planes due to a fire risk under a proposal being recommended by an international air safety panel. According to a report, an overheating laptop battery could cause a significant fire in a cargo hold that fire fighting equipment aboard the plane would not be able to extinguish. That could "lead to the loss of the aircraft," according to the proposal. The ban will be considered by the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations organization, at its meeting this month. Even if the organization endorses the proposal from its Dangerous Goods Panel, which is making the recommendation, it would be up to regulators in individual nations to pass rules to enforce it. The U.S. FAA has no comment on the proposal. But it is represented on the panel that is supporting the ban, and its research on the risk of fires from laptops is included in the proposal.
Privacy

Smartwatches For Kids Are a Total Privacy Nightmare (gizmodo.com) 29

An anonymous reader shares a report: Kids' smartwatches are usually intended to help parents feel at ease that their children are safe when they're not around. But as it turns out, a number of these devices may do more harm than good. A 49-page report on smartwatches for children details all the ways in which they are a security nightmare. The report (PDF), conducted by the Norwegian Consumer Council (NCC) and European security firm Mnemonic, analyzed four kids' smartwatches -- Gator 2, Tinitell, Viksfjord, and Xplora. According the NCC's report, two of the aforementioned devices were vulnerable to hackers, affording them the ability to remotely control the apps on the device. Through a breached device, the NCC says a hacker could access information on a child's whereabouts in real-time, uncover their personal information, and even communicate with the child. What's more, one of the devices could allow someone "with some technical knowledge" to discreetly listen to the child's surroundings. Beyond these gross invasions of privacy, the Council said certain key features of these devices -- an SOS button and a feature that alerts parents when kids leave virtual boundaries -- were unreliable. The report also notes issues regarding collecting user data -- only one of the product's terms and services allowed parents to opt in to or out of data collection. And one watch, the Xplora app, gave up children's data to marketers, the NCC said.
Businesses

Japan's SoftBank Says It Could Invest as Much As $880 Billion in Tech (recode.net) 37

SoftBank could commit as much as $880 billion to tech investments in the coming years, a gargantuan, unprecedented amount of cash that would amount to a seismic shift in tech-sector finance. From a report: "The Vision Fund was just the first step, 10 trillion yen ($88 billion) is simply not enough," CEO Masayoshi Son said in an interview with The Nikkei Asian Review that was published late Thursday. "We will briskly expand the scale. Vision Funds 2, 3 and 4 will be established every two to three years." Son's comment confirms a Recode report that his Vision Fund -- which is sinking $100 billion into the technology sector worldwide -- was only the first in a series of investments that he plans to make in young companies. "We are creating a mechanism to increase our funding ability from 10 trillion yen to 20 trillion yen to 100 trillion yen," Son told the outlet. That comes out to about $880 billion. Companies that SoftBank either completely owns or has major or minor stakes in include Vodafone Japan, Yahoo! Japan, India's Snapdeal, India's Ola, Sprint Corporation, and India's Flipkart. The company is expected to become a major stake holder in Uber as soon as next week.
Security

MasterCard Has Finally Realized That Signatures Are Obsolete and Stupid (fastcompany.com) 259

An anonymous reader shares a report: For years, credit card companies have relied on an illegible squiggly line as the frontline of defense against credit card fraud. Customers are forced to use a pen (how retro!) to scrawl their signature on bills at restaurants and sign digitally at cash registers -- as if somehow in the age of chips, PINs, biometrics, and online fraud alerts, a line on a page is still a great tool against fraud prevention. Personally, I have been known to sign on the dotted line with a doodle of a piece of tofu and no one has ever stopped me, because signatures mean very little in this digital age. Companies are finally seeing the light. Starting in April 2018, MasterCard cardholders will no longer be required to sign their name when they purchase something using their debit or credit cards. The company has been moving away from requiring signatures for a few years now, with only about 80% of purchases (typically over a certain dollar amount) requiring a signature these days. MasterCard did some digging, though, and per its press release, realized that most of their customers "believe it would be easier to pay and that checkout lines would move faster if they didn't need to sign when making a purchase."
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Nears $6,000 For the First Time (bloomberg.com) 103

Bitcoin closed in on another milestone Friday, as the digital currency approached $6,000 for the first time to put its gain in 2017 to above 500 percent. From a report: The push higher comes just three days after bitcoin suffered its biggest one-day drop in a month on rising concern that regulators are increasingly targeting digital currencies. It's added almost $500 in value in the past two days alone.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Market Value Hits a Dot-Com Era Milestone: $600 Billion (wsj.com) 86

An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft's value is returning to tech-bubble peaks. The software giant closed with a market value of $600 billion Thursday for the first time since January 2000, according to the Journal's Market Data Group. Shares rose 0.4 percent to $77.91, setting a fresh all-time high. For the year, Microsoft shares are up 25% and on track for their best year since 2013, as the firm continues its rebirth as a force in cloud-computing. The firm is the third-largest S&P 500 company in market value, trailing Apple (about $800 billion) and Google's parent company, Alphabet, (about $690 billion). In July, fellow technology and internet stalwarts Facebook and Amazon.com joined the trio as the only U.S.-listed companies valued at more than in the $500 billion. The last time Microsoft was over $600 billion back in 2000, it didn't stay there for long. The tech bubble would peak in March of that year, and the Nasdaq Composite Index wouldn't climb back to the level it reach that year until 2015.

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