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American technology giants spent record sums on lobbying in 2018, according to disclosures the companies filed with the Federal Elections Commission on Tuesday.
Google led the pack, spending $21 million—up from $18 million in 2017. The company lobbied on a wide range of issues, including copyright and patent reform, privacy issues, cybersecurity, education, trade, health IT, immigration, workplace diversity, spectrum policy, network neutrality, autonomous vehicles, and tax reform.
Amazon spent $14 million lobbying on many of the same issues, while Facebook spent almost $13 million. Microsoft spent $9.5 million, while Apple spent $6 million.
For the second time in a month, lawyers have told the Electronic Frontier Foundation that their legal claims were sent in error.
On Wednesday, lawyers representing the British fashion company ASOS sent a short email to Daniel Nazer, an EFF attorney, apologizing for a recent cease-and-desist letter over a claimed trademark infringement.
"Clearly the C&D letter should never have been sent," the letter states. "We are taking the matter very seriously and are investigating how this happened. Of course, ASOS would like to assure you that we will not be taking any further action and will ensure appropriate correspondence is sent as soon as possible to confirm this."
In February, Hulu will drop the price of its ad-supported, on-demand streaming service from $7.99 per month to $5.99, while also raising the base price of its live TV cable replacement service from $39.99 per month to $44.99, Deadline reports. Its ad-free on-demand service will stay at $11.99.
The price changes will go into effect for new customers on February 26 and for existing customers in the billing cycle that follows that date.
One of Hulu's chief competitors, Netflix, did just the opposite recently—it raised the prices of all its plans by a dollar or two per month. Hulu is structured quite differently from Netflix, though; while Netflix licenses some shows from other content providers, its primary focus is on original content produced just for the online platform. Hulu, on the other hand, is co-owned by several of the broadcast TV networks and is primarily oriented toward distributing those networks' shows (and other content from traditional Hollywood sources) online. Hulu has some original series, too, though.
Comcast's cable division spent 3 percent less on capital expenditures last year, despite promises that the repeal of net neutrality rules would boost broadband network investment.
Comcast's cable division spent $7.95 billion on capital expenditures during calendar year 2017, but that fell to $7.72 billion in the 12 months ending on December 31, 2018.
"Cable Communications' capital expenditures decreased 3.0 percent to $7.7 billion, reflecting decreased spending on customer premise equipment and support capital, partially offset by higher investment in scalable infrastructure and line extensions," Comcast said in an earnings announcement today.
Want to be able to run classic Mac OS applications compiled for the Motorola 68000 series of processors on your ever-so-modern Mac OS X machine? Or maybe you'd rather run them on a Raspberry Pi, or an Android device for that matter? There's an emulation project that's trying to achieve just that: Advanced Mac Substitute (AMS).
Emulators of older computer platforms and game consoles are popular with vintage game enthusiasts. But emulators also could be attractive to others with some emotional (or economic) attachment to old binaries—like those with a sudden desire to resurrect aged Aldus PageMaker files.
Advanced Mac Substitute is an effort by long-time Mac hacker Josh Juran to make it possible to run old Mac OS software (up to Mac OS 6) without a need for an Apple ROM or system software. Other emulators out there for 68000 Mac applications such as Basilisk II require a copy of MacOS installation media—such as install CDs from Mac OS 7.5 or Mac OS 8. But AMS uses a set of software libraries that allow old Mac applications to launch right within the operating environment of the host device, without needing to have a full virtual hardware and operating system instance behind them. And it's all open source.
Google is planning to change the way extensions integrate with its Chrome browser. The company says that the changes are necessary for and motivated by a desire to crack down on malicious extensions, which undermine users' privacy and security, as part of the company's continued efforts to make extensions safer. The move also means that popular ad blocking extensions such as uBlock Origin and uMatrix will, according to their developer, no longer work.
The plans, called Manifest V3, are described in a public document. Google is proposing a number of changes to the way extensions work. The broad intent is to improve extension security, give users greater control over what extensions do and which sites they interact with, and make extension performance more robust. For example, extensions will no longer be able to load code from remote servers, so the extension that's submitted to the Chrome Web store contains exactly the code that will be run in the browser. This prevents malicious actors from submitting an extension to the store that loads benign code during the submission and approval process but then switches to something malicious once the extension is published. In a bid to discourage extensions from asking for blanket access to every site, Manifest V3 also changes the permissions system, so universal access can no longer be demanded at extension install time.
The problem for ad blockers comes with an API called webRequest. With the current webRequest API, the browser asks the extension to examine each network request that the extension is interested in. The extension can then modify the request before it's sent (for example, canceling requests to some domains, adding or removing cookies, or removing certain HTTP headers from the request). This provides an effective tool for ad blockers; they can examine each request that is made and choose to cancel those that are deemed to be for ads.
Officials with the widely used PHP Extension and Application Repository have temporarily shut down most of their website and are urging users to inspect their systems after discovering hackers replaced the main package manager with a malicious one.
“If you have downloaded this go-pear.phar [package manager] in the past six months, you should get a new copy of the same release version from GitHub (pear/pearweb_phars) and compare file hashes,” officials wrote on the site’s blog. "If different, you may have the infected file.”
The officials didn’t say when the hack of their Web server occurred or precisely what the malicious version of go-pear.phar did to infected systems. Initial indications, however, look serious. For starters, the advice applies to anyone who has downloaded the package manager in the past six months. That suggests the hack may have occurred in the timeframe of last July, and no one noticed either it or the tainted download until this week.
Amazon said on Wednesday that it will start delivering packages using a six-wheeled sidewalk robot called Amazon Scout.
"Starting today, these devices will begin delivering packages to customers in a neighborhood in Snohomish County, Washington," the company's announcement says—that's just north of Seattle. Amazon says that its robots "are the size of a small cooler and roll along sidewalks at a walking pace."
Amazon is far from the first company to experiment with sidewalk robots. Startups like Starship and Marble have been testing the concept for a few years now. But as the Internet's largest retailer, Amazon has the potential to rapidly make sidewalk delivery robots a mainstream phenomenon.
Gene drive is both a promising and disturbing technology. It allows us to engineer a stretch of DNA that, once inserted in a specific location in an organism's genome, will convert other versions of the gene so that they also carry the insert. Once started in a population, gene drive will convert the entire population within a relatively short number of generations.
That's promising, in that it opens the door to editing mosquitos to cause sterility to spread through a population, eliminating the spread of diseases and a fair bit of itching. But it's also a genie that, once out of the bottle, appears to be impossible to put back—and hence is disturbing. But so far, there has been a small consolation: it has only been shown to work in insects.
Now, a large research team at the University of California, San Diego, has managed to get it working in mice. Sort of. It turns out that the efficiency is much lower. While the gene drive DNA is inherited at rates well above normal Mendel-style inheritance, it's nowhere near as effective as in insects, and it's not clear we know how to fix it.
US cable Internet customers are using an average of 268.7GB per month, and 4.1 percent of households use at least 1TB, according to new research by the vendor OpenVault.
Households that use at least 1TB a month are at risk of paying overage fees because of the 1TB data caps imposed by Comcast and other ISPs. Terabyte users nearly doubled year over year, as just 2.1 percent of households hit the 1TB mark last year, according to OpenVault.
Cable Internet providers use OpenVault products to track "broadband data usage consumption levels for millions of subscribers," the company says. This gives OpenVault visibility into how much data broadband customers use each month.
A year ago, we highlighted industry analysis firm NPD's data to show that worries about the impending death of the console gaming industry were way overblown. One year later, NPD's annual sales estimates for 2018 show the US console business is doing even better, thanks in large part to the continued success of the Nintendo Switch.
NPD reports that the Switch was the best-selling system in the US for 2018 in terms of both unit sales and total hardware revenue. That said, the system didn't quite rise to the sales level the PS4 hit in 2015, its extremely strong second full year on store shelves.
December in particular was a banner month for Nintendo's portable/TV hybrid, though. You need to go back to the height of Nintendo Wii mania to find a month where any console made more hardware revenue (December 2009) or sold more units (December 2010) in the US.
The United States government said Tuesday that it is seeking the extradition of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou from Canada. In addition to being the chief financial officer of Huawei, Meng is also the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei.
Meng was arrested last month on charges that the Chinese telecom giant and affiliated companies have been doing business in Iran in violation of US sanctions laws—and that Meng had been directly involved in covering up Huawei's Iran dealings.
Meng sits on the board of a Huawei partner company called Skycom Tech that US and Canadian authorities have accused of doing business with Iran. "In late 2010, Skycom’s office in Tehran offered to sell at least 1.3 million euros worth of HP gear" to a major Iranian telecommunications provider, Reuters reported in 2013.
Under clear West Texas skies on Wednesday morning, Blue Origin's autonomous New Shepard launch system made what appeared to be a flawless flight into space and back. After separating from its booster, the spacecraft ascended to a height of 106.9km before returning to Earth by parachute. The booster also made a nominal powered landing.
For Blue Origin, the company's first flight of its reusable New Shepard system in more than six months served a dual purpose. It provided additional test data for the launch system as the company moves closer to crewed flights, and the launch allowed the company to fly eight NASA-sponsored research and technology payloads into space through NASA’s Flight Opportunities program.
During the webcast, Blue Origin's head of sales, Ariane Cornell, said the company was "aiming" to conduct human flights on board New Shepard before the end of 2019 but stressed that Blue Origin would not compromise on safety to meet any arbitrary dates. The company has yet to begin selling tickets for the six-person capsule or set a price for the 11-minute experience that will take passengers above the Kármán line and provide a few minutes of weightlessness.
Health officials in Clark County, Washington, have declared a public health emergency for a measles outbreak in an area with a high rate of unvaccinated children.
As of Tuesday January 22, officials tallied 23 confirmed cases in the county, which is just north of Portland, Oregon. The case count rose rapidly, more than doubling since last week, and will likely continue to rise amid low vaccination levels in the area.
Nearly eight percent of children in Clark County were exempt from standard vaccination for the 2017-2018 school year, according to state records reported by The Washington Post. Breaking down that eight percent, about seven percent of kids had personal or religious exemptions, and the remaining one percent or so had medical exemptions. Factoring in the rest of the population, the county is below the 92-percent to 94-percent range some experts consider required to prevent the spread of highly contagious diseases such as measles.
Larger OLED laptop screens are coming sooner than we anticipated. Samsung Displays announced that it has made a 15.6-inch 4K laptop display and will begin producing the panels next month. The company plans to provide them to other manufacturers to put into their premium notebooks.
"Samsung's 15.6-inch OLED offers a display solution that is optimized for portable IT devices such as overwhelming HDR, excellent color reproduction and high outdoor visibility," Samsung Display Marketing Director Yoon Jae-nam said in the announcement. "Consumers will enjoy a higher level of visual experience through OLED notebooks."
Samsung's 15.6-inch display has a brightness range of 0.0005 to 600 nits, and its spectrum of 34 million colors is double that of similar, 15-inch LCD panels. Samsung claims that its panel can produce blacks that are 200 times darker than those of LCD panels, and whites will be more than twice as bright. These attributes contribute to the HDR capabilities of the panel, and the company claims that the panel passes VESA's new DisplayHDR TrueBlack standard.
Yesterday, an indie extreme-sports game called FutureGrind launched on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Windows. And it's about time, too. I had played the game at events like E3, PlayStation Experience, and the Game Developers Conference several times over the years, and I got addicted—to the point that, in the lead-up to any new industry show, I started to wonder, "Oh man, I wonder what's new with FutureGrind."
Now FutureGrind is here, and I'm enjoying it just as much as I expected. In it, you ride bikes on rail-based tracks and perform stunts that draw from popular extreme sports titles like OlliOlli, SSX, and most of all Trials. But there are all sorts of unique spins (pun only sort of intended) made possible by the game's futuristic setting.
FutureGrind is hardly the only extreme sports game set in the future, but it doubles down on story more than most others do, and it uses the setting to add to game design in fresh ways.
Remember the December 13 email blast that threatened to blow up buildings and schools unless recipients paid a $20,000 ransom? It triggered mass evacuations, closures, and lockdowns in the US, Canada, and elsewhere around the world.
An investigation shows the spam run worked by abusing a weakness at GoDaddy that allowed the scammers to hijack at least 78 domains belonging to Expedia, Mozilla, Yelp, and other legitimate people or organizations. The same exploit allowed the scammers to hijack thousands of other domains belonging to a long list of other well-known organizations for use in other malicious email campaigns. Some of those other campaigns likely included ones that threatened to publish embarrassing sex videos unless targets paid ransoms.
Distributing the malicious emails across such a broad swath of reputable domains belonging to well-recognized organizations was a major coup. The technique, known as snowshoe spamming, drastically increased the chances the emails would be delivered because it weakened the reputation metrics spam filters rely on. Rather than appearing as fringe content sent by one or a handful of sketchy domains, the snowshoe technique gave the emails an air of legitimacy and normalcy. The technique gets its name because, like snowshoes, it distributes the heavy load evenly across a wide area.
Late last week, the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit published an opinion (PDF) stating that California's regulation of fuel sales based on a lifecycle analysis of carbon emissions did not violate federal commerce rules.
Since 2011, California has had a Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program, which requires fuel sellers to reduce their fuel's carbon intensity by certain deadlines. If oil, ethanol, or other fuel sellers can't meet those deadlines, they can buy credits from companies that have complied with the standard.
California measures "fuel intensity" over the lifecycle of the fuel, so oil extracted from tar sands (which might require a lot of processing) would be penalized more than lighter oil that requires minimal processing. Ethanol made with coal would struggle to meet its carbon intensity goals more than ethanol made from gas.
Google previously announced that its most popular messaging app, Google Hangouts, would be shutting down. In a post today on the GSuite Updates blog, Google detailed what the Hangouts shutdown will look like, and the company shared some of its plan to transition Hangouts users to "Hangouts Chat," a separate enterprise Slack clone.
First, we need to get some vocabulary down to navigate Google's extremely confusing branding. There are two totally separate products we're talking about here: "Hangouts" and "Hangouts Chat." These two products have nothing in common besides their similar names.
Google kills product
Back in the 1990s, HBO notably produced the cult-classic horror anthology series Tales from the Crypt. For its new horror anthology, Folklore, the scary monsters are drawn from the mythologies of various Asian cultures. Instead of a vampire, you get a pontianak, and in place of a trickster genie who grants wishes, there is a blood-drinking toyol from Malaysia.
Created by Singaporean Director Eric Khoo, the series features six standalone episodes, each with a different director and cast, set in a different country: Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Korea. (Khoo directed the Singapore-set episode, "Nobody.") The episodes have been making the rounds at film festivals, including the 2018 Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, and the 2018 Toronto Film Festival. And now they're coming to the small screen.
In "A Mother's Love," a single mother moves into a mansion with her young son and finds several unkempt children in the attic. When she helps return them to their families, she incurs the wrath of Wewe Gombel, a child-snatching vengeful spirit—although, to be fair, in the original folktale she only takes children who have been abused. (The story is reminiscent of how the Icelandic ogre Gryla was portrayed as a protector of children recently in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina solstice special.)