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Weird New Fruits Could Hit Aisles Soon Thanks To Gene Editing

Slashdot - 1 hour 30 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Smooth or hairy, pungent or tasteless, deep-hued or bright: new versions of old fruits could be hitting the produce aisles as plant experts embrace cutting-edge technology, scientists say. While researchers have previously produced plants with specific traits through traditional breeding techniques, experts say new technologies such as the gene-editing tool Crispr-Cas9 could be used to bring about changes far more rapidly and efficiently. Among the genes flagged in the new study in the journal Trends in Plant Science are those behind the production of a family of substances known as MYBs, which are among the proteins that control whether other genes are switched on or off. "MYBs are great targets because they are central to several consumer traits or features like color, flavor [and] texture," said Andrew Allan, a co-author of the review from the University of Auckland whose own projects include working on red-fleshed apples and changing the color of kiwi fruits. "Russet skin in apple and pear [is linked to MYBs]. Hairs on peaches but not nectarines -- another type of MYB." Dr Richard Harrison, head of genetics, genomics and breeding at the horticultural organization NIAB EMR, who was not involved in the article, said tweaking MYB genes or the way such genes are themselves controlled was a fruitful approach. Gene-editing of MYB genes and other genes could bring a host of benefits, Harrison said, adding: "There is a large opportunity to improve the nutritional profile of fruits and vegetables in the future using gene-editing technology, as well as other techniques." Such techniques, he said, introduce the same sort of DNA changes as plant breeders have introduced by artificially selecting traits that cropped up through spontaneous DNA mutation -- but much faster. Next week, the European Court of Justice will decide if or how plants that have been gene-edited will be regulated, and whether they will be treated like genetically modified plants. In April, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it will no longer regulate genetically altered plants, so long as the changes could have been produced through traditional plant-breeding techniques.

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The New MacBook Pro Keyboard Resists Dust Much Better Than Previous-Gen, Reports iFixit

Slashdot - 2 hours 40 min ago
iFixit tore apart the new 2018 MacBook Pro keyboard to see how well the silicone membrane works to protect the butterfly mechanism from dust and debris. After showering a 2017 and 2018 MacBook Pro in dust particles, the repair site found the newer generation holds up surprisingly well. 9to5Mac reports: As shown in the photo, the blue paint particles coat the outside of the keycaps and the edges of the membrane, but the silicon covers stop most of the particles from getting into the key mechanism -- which is what causes the sticky key issues on the previous models. However, the silicon covers have to have holes in them to allow the keycap clips to attach. Naturally, dust can and will get through these holes over time. iFixit placed some sand particles into the "danger zones" of the keycaps, and confirmed the keys will break/become-unreliable when that happens, just like the second-generation butterfly keys. The non-cocooned 2017 keyboard was "almost immediately flooded" in the particles, unsurprisingly. Clearly, the 2018 model is greatly improved in regard to reliability, but it remains to be seen just how much better it is in real-world use. Over time, you only need a couple specks of dust to get in the keycaps and the keys will get stuck. It's just the chances of dust getting in are greatly reduced with the 2018 models.

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Best Buy Is Thriving In the Age of Amazon

Slashdot - 3 hours 20 min ago
Best Buy is turning to in-home consultants to help distinguish it from Amazon. The advisors act as "personal chief technology officers," helping people make their homes smart or merely more functional. "Unlike the Geek Squad and blue shirts working in stores, they'll be paid an annual salary instead of an hourly wage," reports Bloomberg. "Their house calls are free and can last as long as 90 minutes. [...] They're supposed to establish long-term relationships with their customers rather than chase one-time transactions." From the report: With more than 1,000 big-box stores in North America and about 125,000 employees, Best Buy was supposed to have succumbed to the inevitable. "Everyone thought we were going to die," says Hubert Joly, who was hired as chief executive officer in August 2012 after profits shrunk about 90 percent in one quarter and his predecessor resigned amid an investigation into his relationship with an employee. Instead, Best Buy has become an improbable survivor led by an unlikely boss. The in-home advisors went national in September. When one of the trainees at the session in Minneapolis asked Joly how big he hoped the program could become, he said: "I don't have a specific goal. I don't think it would be helpful. McKinsey never had a goal of how many clients. It was how good was the work." Another employee said: "This is why Amazon can't compete with us. They can't dispatch an army of in-home agents." Joly wasn't as sure. "Amazon is an amazing company," he replied. "They kill companies. Maybe they will do this. But we have an incredible opportunity. If someone wants to copy, that's fine." Amazon has started offering free smart-home consultations and installations. It doesn't have a chain of big-box stores in which to meet customers, but that didn't bother investors. Best Buy's stock dropped 6.3 percent when Amazon announced its plans a year ago.

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Chinese Hackers Targeted IoT During Trump-Putin Summit

Slashdot - 4 hours 11 sec ago
Zorro shares a report from Defense One: Four days before U.S. and Russian leaders met in Helsinki, hackers from China launched a wave of brute-force attacks on internet-connected devices in Finland, seeking to gain control of gear that could collect audio or visual intelligence, a new report says. Traffic aimed at remote command-and-control features for Finnish internet-connected devices began to spike July 12, according to a July 19 report by Seattle-based cybersecurity company F5. China generally originates the largest chunk of such attacks; in May, Chinese attacks accounted for 29 percent of the total. But as attacks began to spike on July 12, China's share rose to 34 percent, the report said. Attacks jumped 2,800 percent. The China-based hackers' primary target was SSH (or Secure Shell) Port 22 -- not a physical destination but a specific set of instructions for routing a message to the right destination when the message hits the server. "SSH brute force attacks are commonly used to exploit systems and [internet of things, or IOT] devices online," the report says. "SSH is often used by IoT devices for 'secure' remote administration." The report notes that attack traffic came from the U.S., France, and Italy as well, but the U.S. and French traffic kept with its averages. "Russian attack traffic dropped considerably from third, its usual spot, to fifth," reports Defense One. "German attack traffic jumped."

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Chrome OS Isn't Ready For Tablets Yet

Slashdot - 4 hours 40 min ago
The Verge's Dieter Bohn set out to review Acer's Chromebook Tab 10 tablet, but ended up sharing his impressions of using Chrome OS instead. An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from his review: If you're not familiar with Chrome OS, you should know that there are three different tracks you can run Chrome OS on. There's "Stable," which is what most people should use. It's the build I mostly used while testing this device and coming to the conclusions you see above. Then there's "Beta," which is a little on the edge but has been pretty solid for me. Lots of people run it to get slightly earlier access to new features. But because I wanted to see what the future of Chrome looks like, I also looked at the "Developer" build. Most people shouldn't do this. It's buggy and maybe a little less secure. Here be monsters. On a tablet, Chrome OS looks and feels a lot like it does when you have a keyboard. There's a button to get to your apps, a task bar along the bottom, and a system menu in the lower-right corner. In the Developer build, you'll find more squarish tabs and a system menu that's been "Android-ified," so it looks like the Quick Settings you'd see on an Android phone. By default, all apps in Chrome OS go to full screen in tablet mode. Recently, however, split screen was rolled out. You tap the multitasking button on the lower right, drag one window to the left, then pick another open window to fill the right (or vice versa). You can then drag the divider to set up a one-third / two-thirds split screen if you like. That's all well and good, but it's the next steps that make this whole thing feel not quite baked. If you rotate the tablet 180 degrees, everything flips. So if you had a notepad open on the left and Chrome open on the right, when you flip it, the notepad ends up on the right. I found it disconcerting, but perhaps that's just a matter of it being different instead of it being broken. Different UX strokes for different OS folks. [...] I don't want to be too harsh on the lagginess I experienced because it's unfair to judge software that's still in development. But I did experience a lot, even on the more stable builds. That's a particularly egregious problem when there's no physical keyboard. If there's one thing that will drive a user crazy, it's input lag. And I saw much too much of that, even on the Stable build, which is what most educators will experience with this tablet. I also felt at times that I was struggling to hit buttons with my finger that would have been no problem if I had a mouse.

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FCC Vote Likely Dooms Sinclair-Tribune Merger

Slashdot - 5 hours 20 min ago
FCC commissioners unanimously voted on a Hearing Designation Order (HDO) to send the proposed sale of Tribune Media properties to Sinclair to a judge, where the merger is expected to cease. Engadget reports: Earlier this week, FCC chairman Ajit Pai raised "serious concerns" about Sinclair's selloff of 21 stations it had proposed in order to remain under station ownership limits post-merger. Had Sinclair declined to sell off some stations, its 173 broadcast stations in 81 markets, combined with Tribune's 42 stations in 33 markets would reach 72 percent of U.S. TV households. The FCC's National TV Ownership rule "does not limit the number of TV stations a single entity may own nationwide so long as the station group collectively reaches no more than 39 percent of all U.S. TV households." But the rule is more flexible for stations that broadcast using UHF frequencies. Pai, who has been accused of aiding the merger by relaxing the ownership regulations, said Monday that Sinclair's plan would allow the company "to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law." He noted that, "When the FCC confronts disputed issues like these, the Communications Act does not allow it to approve a transaction."

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FBI Director: Without Compromise on Encryption, Legislation May Be the 'Remedy'

Slashdot - 6 hours 11 sec ago
An anonymous reader shares a report: FBI Director Christopher Wray said Wednesday that unless the U.S. government and private industry are able to come to a compromise on the issue of default encryption on consumer devices, legislation may be how the debate is ultimately decided. "I think there should be [room for compromise]," Wray said Wednesday night at a national security conference in Aspen, Colorado. "I don't want to characterize private conversations we're having with people in the industry. We're not there yet for sure. And if we can't get there, there may be other remedies, like legislation, that would have to come to bear." Wray described the issue of "Going Dark" because of encryption as a "significant" and "growing" problem for federal, state and local law enforcement as well as foreign law enforcement and intelligence agencies. He claims strong encryption on mobile phones keeps law enforcement from gaining access to key evidence as it relates to active criminal investigations. "People are less safe as a result of it," he said.

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Microsoft's Plan To Try To Win Back Consumers With 'Modern Life Services'

Slashdot - 6 hours 40 min ago
It's not a secret that Microsoft hasn't been winning the hearts and minds of consumers lately. Killing off products like the Groove Music service, Microsoft Band fitness tracker, and Windows Phone have left many questioning whether Microsoft's grand plan is to simply focus on business users and leave consumers to its competitors. But at the company's Inspire partner show this week, Microsoft execs told partners that Redmond isn't giving up on consumers. From a report: Yusuf Mehdi -- whose new title as of June 2018 became corporate vice president of Modern Life and Devices -- led a session at the partner show in Las Vegas, Nev., where he outlined the company's vision for what officials plan to christen "Modern Life Services." Microsoft's core value proposition is productivity, he said. Microsoft is targeting so-called "professional consumers" with these services, Mehdi said. Microsoft officials believe because the company already "owns the work calendar with Outlook," that it has a foothold in working to blur the line between consumer and commercial activities. What, exactly, will qualify as a Modern Life Service? Mostly they will be apps, services, and features that Microsoft already makes available or soon will in Windows, Outlook, and PowerPoint, but which officials will attempt to position as well suited to the needs of professional consumers on Windows PCs, iPhones and Android phones.

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Senate Wants Netflix, Spotify To Send Out Federal Emergency Alerts

Slashdot - Thu, 19/07/2018 - 23:40
Senators in Hawaii and South Dakota have introduced a bill, called the "Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement (READI) act, that would "explore" broadcasting alerts to "online streaming services, such as Netflix and Spotify," amongst other changes to the Emergency Alert System. TechCrunch reports: Some of the other things the bill touches on: - Users on many phones can currently disable federal alerts; they want to get rid of that option - Building a better system for reporting false alarms and figuring out what happened - Updating the system to better prevent false alarms, and to better retract them when they do happen

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Fukushima's Nuclear Signature Found In California Wine

Slashdot - Thu, 19/07/2018 - 22:57
An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: Is it possible to see the effects of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in California wines produced at the time? Today we get an answer, thanks to a study carried out by french pharmacologist Philippe Hubert and a couple of colleagues. "In January 2017, we came across a series of Californian wines (Cabernet Sauvignon) from vintage 2009 to 2012," say Hubert and company. This set of wines provides the perfect test. The Fukushima disaster occurred on March 11, 2011. Any wine made before that date should be free of the effects, while any dating from afterward could show them. The team began their study with the conventional measurement of cesium-137 levels in the unopened bottles. That showed levels to be indistinguishable from background noise. But the team was able to carry out more-sensitive tests by opening the wine and reducing it to ash by evaporation. This involves heating the wine to 100 degrees Celsius for one hour and then increasing the temperature to 500 degrees Celsius for eight hours. In this way, a standard 750-milliliter bottle of wine produces around four grams of ashes. The ashes were then placed in a gamma ray detector to look for signs of cesium-137. Using this method, Hubert and his colleagues found measurable amounts of cesium-137 above background levels in the wine produced after 2011. "It seems there is an increase in activity in 2011 by a factor of two," conclude the team.

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Fukushima's Nuclear Signature Found In California Wine

Slashdot - Thu, 19/07/2018 - 22:57
An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: Is it possible to see the effects of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in California wines produced at the time? Today we get an answer, thanks to a study carried out by french pharmacologist Philippe Hubert and a couple of colleagues. "In January 2017, we came across a series of Californian wines (Cabernet Sauvignon) from vintage 2009 to 2012," say Hubert and company. This set of wines provides the perfect test. The Fukushima disaster occurred on March 11, 2011. Any wine made before that date should be free of the effects, while any dating from afterward could show them. The team began their study with the conventional measurement of cesium-137 levels in the unopened bottles. That showed levels to be indistinguishable from background noise. But the team was able to carry out more-sensitive tests by opening the wine and reducing it to ash by evaporation. This involves heating the wine to 100 degrees Celsius for one hour and then increasing the temperature to 500 degrees Celsius for eight hours. In this way, a standard 750-milliliter bottle of wine produces around four grams of ashes. The ashes were then placed in a gamma ray detector to look for signs of cesium-137. Using this method, Hubert and his colleagues found measurable amounts of cesium-137 above background levels in the wine produced after 2011. "It seems there is an increase in activity in 2011 by a factor of two," conclude the team.

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Google's Loon Brings Internet-By-Balloon To Kenya

Slashdot - Thu, 19/07/2018 - 22:14
A network of giant balloons will soon bring internet access to remote regions of rural Kenya. From a report: Google's sister-company Loon has announced its first commercial deal: partnering with Telkom Kenya to deliver connectivity to the region. The firm's antennae-dangling fleet will ride the wind high above parts of the African country. But experts have warned that the partnership could lead to a communications monopoly.

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Killer Robots Would Be 'Dangerously Destabilizing' Force in the World, Tech Leaders Warn

Slashdot - Thu, 19/07/2018 - 21:34
Thousands of artificial intelligence experts are calling on governments to take preemptive action before it's too late. The list is extensive and includes some of the most influential names in the overlapping worlds of technology, science and academia. From a report: Among them are billionaire inventor and OpenAI founder Elon Musk, Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn, artificial intelligence researcher Stuart Russell, as well as the three founders of Google DeepMind -- the company's premier machine learning research group. In total, more than 160 organizations and 2,460 individuals from 90 countries promised this week to not participate in or support the development and use of lethal autonomous weapons. The pledge says artificial intelligence is expected to play an increasing role in military systems and calls upon governments and politicians to introduce laws regulating such weapons "to create a future with strong international norms." "Thousands of AI researchers agree that by removing the risk, attributability, and difficulty of taking human lives, lethal autonomous weapons could become powerful instruments of violence and oppression, especially when linked to surveillance and data systems," the pledge says. "Moreover, lethal autonomous weapons have characteristics quite different from nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and the unilateral actions of a single group could too easily spark an arms race that the international community lacks the technical tools and global governance systems to manage," the pledge adds.

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Microsoft Reveals First Known Midterm Campaign Hacking Attempts

Slashdot - Thu, 19/07/2018 - 20:49
An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft detected and helped block hacking attempts against three congressional candidates this year, a company executive said Thursday, marking the first known example of cyber interference in the midterm elections. "Earlier this year, we did discover that a fake Microsoft domain had been established as the landing page for phishing attacks," said Tom Burt, Microsoft's vice president for security and trust, at the Aspen Security Forum. "And we saw metadata that suggested those phishing attacks were being directed at three candidates who are all standing for election in the midterm elections." Burt declined to name the targets but said they were "people who, because of their positions, might have been interesting targets from an espionage standpoint as well as an election disruption standpoint." Microsoft took down the fake domain and worked with the federal government to block the phishing messages.

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Tech Chief Role Grows More Strategic, Survey Finds

Slashdot - Thu, 19/07/2018 - 20:04
The rise of digital capabilities continues to elevate the role of IT leaders across the enterprise, moving them beyond back-office tech hubs and increasingly closer to products, services and customers, Korn/Ferry International reports. WSJ: In a recent survey, 83% of 199 technology chiefs said their role was more strategic than it was three years ago. Another 67% said they were on their company's executive committee, up from 55% in a similar survey last year, the executive-search firm said. As they shift from back-office technicians, 81% said they are now playing a greater role with customers, products and services than they were three years ago. The survey included responses from chief information officers, as well as chief technology and chief digital officers, at large businesses in a range of industries. "Based on the need to drive results, many companies are leveraging and deploying results-oriented technology leaders to drive the intersection of technology, product and digital efforts," Craig Stephenson, Korn Ferry managing director, North America Technology Officers Practice, told CIO Journal. He said the impact and scope of CIOs, CTOs and CDOs on the business side of operations is evolving rapidly and expected to expand even more in the years ahead. Further reading: Nicholas Carr was right --IT died, but was resurrected

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Hackers Breach Russian Bank and Steal $1 Million Due To Outdated Router

Slashdot - Thu, 19/07/2018 - 19:25
Catalin Cimpanu, reporting for BleepingComputer: A notorious hacker group known as MoneyTaker has stolen roughly $1 million from a Russian bank after breaching its network via an outdated router. The victim of the hack is PIR Bank, which lost at least $920,000 in money it had stored in a corresponding account at the Bank of Russia. Group-IB, a Russian cyber-security firm that was called in to investigate the incident, says that after studying infected workstations and servers at PIR Bank, they collected "irrefutable digital evidence implicating MoneyTaker in the theft." Group-IB are experts in MoneyTaker tactics because they unmasked the group's existence and operations last December when they published a report on their past attacks.

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GV, Formerly Known as Google Ventures, For Years Has Used an Algorithm That Effectively Permits or Prohibits Both New and Follow-on Investments

Slashdot - Thu, 19/07/2018 - 18:48
Dan Primack, reporting for Axios: When most venture capitalists want approval to make a new investment, they go to their partners. When venture capitalists at GV do it, they go to something called "The Machine." Axios has learned that the firm, formerly known as Google Ventures, for years has used an algorithm that effectively permits or prohibits both new and follow-on investments. Staffers plug in all sorts of deal details into "The Machine" -- which is programmed with all sorts of market data, and returns traffic signal-like outputs. Green means go. Red means stop. Yellow means proceed with caution, but sources say it's usually the practical equivalent of red. It was initially designed and used as a due diligence assistant that could be overruled but, according to three sources, it has evolved into a de facto investment committee.

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Project 'Fuchsia': Google is Quietly Working on a Successor To Android

Slashdot - Thu, 19/07/2018 - 18:00
A day after the European Commission fined Google over Android, more details about Fuchsia, a new operating system the company has been working on for several years has emerged. From the report: But members of the Fuchsia team have discussed a grander plan that is being reported here for the first time: Creating a single operating system capable of running all the company's in-house gadgets, like Pixel phones and smart speakers, as well as third-party devices that now rely on Android and another system called Chrome OS, according to people familiar with the conversations. According to one of the people, engineers have said they want to embed Fuchsia on connected home devices, such as voice-controlled speakers, within three years, then move on to larger machines such as laptops. Ultimately the team aspires to swap in their system for Android, the software that powers more than three quarters of the world's smartphones, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters. The aim is for this to happen in the next half decade, one person said. But Pichai and Hiroshi Lockheimer, his deputy who runs Android and Chrome, have yet to sign off on any road map for Fuchsia, these people said. The executives have to move gingerly on any plan to overhaul Android because the software supports dozens of hardware partners, thousands of developers -- and billions of mobile-ad dollars. [...] Still, Fuchsia is more than a basement skunkworks effort. Pichai has voiced his support for the project internally, said people familiar with the effort. Fuchsia now has more than 100 people working on it, including venerated software staff such as Matias Duarte, a design executive who led several pioneering projects at Google and elsewhere. Duarte is only working part-time on the project, said one person familiar with the company.

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Amazon Web Services Isn't Making a 'Commercial' Networking Switch, Cisco Says

Slashdot - Thu, 19/07/2018 - 17:20
A week after a report claimed that Amazon Web Services was building its own bare-bones networking switch in a potential threat to networking giant companies, Cisco says it has checked with Amazon, with which it has long maintained a relationship, and it has been assured by the ecommerce giant that is not entering its territory. From a report: AWS CEO Andy Jassy and Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins had a "recent call" from which Robbins walked away satisfied that AWS wasn't "actively building a commercial network switch," Marketwatch reported Wednesday, citing a statement from Cisco that it confirmed as authentic with AWS. That follows a report last week from The Information that AWS was working on a so-called "white-box switch," which the site portrayed as a frontal assault on Cisco that sent networking stocks slumping on a lazy summer Friday afternoon.

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GTA Online's After Hours update lands 24th July

Eurogamer - Thu, 19/07/2018 - 16:53

Rockstar has slapped a release date on nightclub-themed GTA Online update After Hours - 24th July, or as it's known to friends, next Tuesday. Look, here's a trailer.

The latest in a long line of free content drops for an online world that may yet outlive us all, After Hours lets GTA Online players set up their own nightclubs - though it sounds like the point of running these clubs is more what you do behind the scenes. It also lets you buddy up with one of GTA 4's favourite characters.

"Partner with legendary impresario Tony Prince to open and operate a top shelf Nightclub featuring world-class DJ acts Solomun, Tale Of Us, Dixon and The Black Madonna, and use it as a front for the most concentrated network of criminal enterprise ever to hit San Andreas," the Rockstar Newswire elaborates.

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