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Mozilla Acquires Ad Metrics Firm Anonym

Slashdot - Wed, 19/06/2024 - 00:40
Mozilla has acquired ad metrics firm Anonym in a move to "support user privacy" while delivering effective online advertising. Anonym, founded by former Meta executives in 2022, helps advertisers and ad networks measure the performance of online ads while preserving user privacy. The acquisition comes amid growing consumer concerns and regulatory scrutiny over current data practices in the advertising industry. Mozilla CEO Laura Chambers sees this as a pivotal shift in the coexistence of privacy and advertising. Mozilla maintains that advertising is the underlying business model of the web, but it can be reformed to minimize societal harms.

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Zelda is Finally Getting Her Own Game

Slashdot - Wed, 19/06/2024 - 00:00
After years of playing second fiddle to Link in her own franchise, Princess Zelda is finally getting a video game of her own this fall. From a report: During today's Direct presentation, Nintendo revealed The Legend of Zelda: Echoes of Wisdom, the franchise's first game to follow as Princess Zelda herself embarks on an adventure to save the world from destruction. After Ganon bests Link in battle, Zelda is left to her own devices to battle hordes of monsters that descend upon the game's take on Hyrule (which seems heavily inspired by 2019's Link's Awakening remake). According to series producer Eiji Aonuma, Zelda will navigate and fight through the world somewhat differently in Echoes of Wisdom as she wields a magical staff known as the Tri Rod with the assistance of a fairy named Tri. The trailer details how Zelda will be able to use the Tri Rod to create "echoes" of objects and monsters she's previously encountered and use them to overcome obstacles.

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KDE Plasma 6.1 Released

Slashdot - Tue, 18/06/2024 - 23:20
"The KDE community announced the latest release of their popular desktop environment: Plasma 6.1," writes longtime Slashdot reader jrepin. From the announcement: While Plasma 6.0 was all about getting the migration to the underlying Qt 6 frameworks correct, Plasma 6.1 is where developers start implementing the features that will take you desktop to a new level. In this release, you will find features that go far beyond subtle changes to themes and tweaks to animations (although there is plenty of those too). Among some of the new features in this release you will find improved remote desktop support with a new built-in server, overhauled and streamlined desktop edit mode, restoration of open applications from the previous session on Wayland, synchronization of keyboard LED colors with the desktop accent color, making mouse cursor bigger and easier to find by shaking it, edge barriers (a sticky area for mouse cursor near the edges between screens), explicit sync support eliminates flickering and glitches for NVidia graphics card users on Wayland, and triple buffering support for smoother animations and screen rendering. The changelog for Plasma 6.1 is available here.

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A Social Network Where AIs and Humans Coexist

Slashdot - Tue, 18/06/2024 - 22:40
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Butterflies is a social network where humans and AIs interact with each other through posts, comments and DMs. After five months in beta, the app is launching Tuesday to the public on iOS and Android. Anyone can create an AI persona, called a Butterfly, in minutes on the app. After that, the Butterfly automatically creates posts on the social network that other AIs and humans can then interact with. Each Butterfly has backstories, opinions and emotions. Butterflies was founded by Vu Tran, a former engineering manager at Snap. Vu came up with the idea for Butterflies after seeing a lack of interesting AI products for consumers outside of generative AI chatbots. Although companies like Meta and Snap have introduced AI chatbots in their apps, they don't offer much functionality beyond text exchanges. Tran notes that he started Butterflies to bring more creativity to humans' relationships with AI. "With a lot of the generative AI stuff that's taking flight, what you're doing is talking to an AI through a text box, and there's really no substance around it," Vu told TechCrunch. "We thought, OK, what if we put the text box at the end and then try to build up more form and substance around the characters and AIs themselves?" Butterflies' concept goes beyond Character.AI, a popular a16z-backed chatbot startup that lets users chat with customizable AI companions. Butterflies wants to let users create AI personas that then take on their own lives and coexist with other. [...] The app is free-to-use at launch, but Butterflies may experiment with a subscription model in the future, Vu says. Over time, Butterflies plans to offer opportunities for brands to leverage and interact with AIs. The app is mainly being used for entertainment purposes, but in the future, the startup sees Butterflies being used for things like discovery in a way that's similar to Instagram. Butterflies closed a $4.8 million seed round led by Coatue in November 2023. The funding round included participation from SV Angel and strategic angels, many of whom are former Snap product and engineering leaders. Vu says that Butterflies is one of the most wholesome ways to use and interact with AI. He notes that while the startup isn't claiming that it can help cure loneliness, he says it could help people connect with others, both AI and human. "Growing up, I spent a lot of my time in online communities and talking to people in gaming forums," Vu said. "Looking back, I realized those people could just have been AIs, but I still built some meaningful connections. I think that there are people afraid of that and say, 'AI isn't real, go meet some real friends.' But I think it's a really privileged thing to say 'go out there and make some friends.' People might have social anxiety or find it hard to be in social situations."

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Texas A&M University Tops Nation in Engineering Research Expenditures

Slashdot - Tue, 18/06/2024 - 21:20
An anonymous reader shares a report: Texas A&M University held the largest engineering research portfolio of any academic institution in the country last year, nearing half a billion dollars and surpassing Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the top spot, according to U.S. News & World Report. The state flagship's College of Engineering recorded $444.7 million in research expenditures in the 2023 fiscal year, university officials said. A mix of federal, state and private grants funds those efforts, so more expenditures means more partnerships and a larger engineering footprint than ever, Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp said. "An awful lot of people in Washington, a lot of people in Austin, a lot of people in the private sector now rely on Texas A&M to do their engineering research," Sharp said. "Of all the places in the country now, the No. 1 place people go to research engineering problems is Texas A&M University."

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Apple Mocks Microsoft's Spectacular Windows Recall AI Failure

Slashdot - Tue, 18/06/2024 - 20:40
At a panel discussion, Apple's global marketing SVP Greg "Joz" Joswiak mocked Microsoft's recent recall of its Windows Recall feature. When asked by commentator John Gruber if Apple was frustrated by Microsoft's inability to build trust in such features, Joswiak quipped, "are we frustrated by the failings of our competitors? The answer's no," eliciting laughter from the panel and audience.

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87% in New Poll Say Cost an Important Reason For Halting Studies

Slashdot - Tue, 18/06/2024 - 20:07
A new Gallup survey released Tuesday found cost and work conflicts are the top reasons Americans choose to discontinue their higher education. From a report: In the poll, 87 percent said cost was a "very" or "moderately" important reason for pursuing further institutional study, while 81 percent pointed to work conflicts. The other two leading reasons were the time it takes to complete a degree at 73 percent and lack of remote options at 70 percent. Cost tops the list among all demographic groups, including across racial and ethnic lines. "For many of these Americans, their time enrolled in these courses represents significant opportunity costs and financial investment. Given that they lack a degree or credential to show for their time enrolled, they are often worse off than if they never enrolled to begin with," Gallup said. Colleges prices have been surging for decades, with some estimating a 180 percent increase between 1980 and 2020. The cost of Ivy League schools is nearing $90,000 a year, and the average student debt held in the U.S. sits around $30,000. "Today, approximately 41.9 million Americans have some college experience but no degree or credential. The percentage of Americans who have taken some college courses, but who have stopped out and not completed their degree or credential, has increased significantly over the past five years," Gallup found.

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Nvidia Vaults Past Apple and Microsoft To Become World's Most Valuable Company

Slashdot - Tue, 18/06/2024 - 19:14
Nvidia has leapfrogged Microsoft and Apple to become the most valuable company in the world, following months of explosive share price growth driven by demand for its chips and an investor frenzy over artificial intelligence. From a report: The company's shares climbed 3.2 per cent to $135.18 on Tuesday, bringing its market capitalisation to $3.332tn and surpassing the two tech giants that have long jostled for pole position on US stock markets. Nvidia has been the chief beneficiary of a boom in demand for chips that can train and run powerful generative AI models such as OpenAI's ChatGPT. In less than two years, it has been transformed from a $300bn company, grappling with a chip glut exacerbated by a cryptocurrency bust, into one of the most powerful tech companies in the world, with other Silicon Valley giants lining up to secure its latest products.

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AI Images in Google Search Results Have Opened a Portal To Hell

Slashdot - Tue, 18/06/2024 - 18:40
An anonymous reader shares a report: Google image search is serving users AI-generated images of celebrities in swimsuits and not indicating that the images are AI-generated. In a few instances, even when the search terms do not explicitly ask for it, Google image search is serving AI-generated images of celebrities in swimsuits, but the celebrities are made to look like underage children. If users click on these images, they are taken to AI image generation sites, and in a couple of cases the recommendation engines on these sites leads users to AI-generated nonconsensual nude images and AI-generated nude images of celebrities made to look like children. The news is yet another example of how the tools people have used to navigate the internet for decades are overwhelmed by the flood of AI-generated content even when they are not asking for it and which almost exclusively use people's work or likeness without consent. At times, the deluge of AI content makes it difficult for users to differentiate between what is real and what is AI-generated.

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Los Angeles Schools To Consider Ban on Smartphones

Slashdot - Tue, 18/06/2024 - 18:04
The Los Angeles Unified School District on Tuesday will consider banning smartphones for its 429,000 students in an attempt to insulate a generation of kids from distractions and social media that undermine learning and hurt mental health. From a report: The proposal was being formulated before U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Monday called for a warning label on social media platforms, akin to those on cigarette packages, due to what he considers a mental health emergency. The board of the second-largest school district in the United States is scheduled to vote on a proposal to within 120 days develop a policy that would prohibit student use of cellphones and social media platforms and be in place by January 2025. The L.A. schools will consider whether phones should be stored in pouches or lockers during school hours, according to the meeting's agenda and what exceptions should be made for students with learning or physical disabilities. Nick Melvoin, a board member and former middle school teacher who proposed the resolution, said cell phones were already a problem when he left the classroom in 2011, and since then the constant texting and liking has grown far worse.

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Apple Suspends Work on Next High-End Headset

Slashdot - Tue, 18/06/2024 - 17:29
The Information: Apple has told at least one supplier that it has suspended work on its next high-end Vision headset, an employee at a manufacturer that makes key components for the Vision Pro said. The pullback comes as analysts and supply chain partners have flagged slowing sales of the $3,500 device. The company is still working on releasing a more affordable Vision product with fewer features before the end of 2025, the person involved in its supply chain and a person involved in the manufacturing of the headsets said. Apple originally planned to divide its Vision line into two models, similar to the standard and Pro versions of the iPhone, according to people involved in its supply chain and former Apple employees who worked on the devices. Apple's decision to halt work on the next version of its high-end headset is the latest example of the company reshuffling priorities. Apple has ramped up work on AI-powered features while paring back money-losing projects like its self-driving car, which it canceled earlier this year after spending nearly a decade on development. Augmented reality is one of Apple's biggest bets. The company aims to eventually replace the iPhone with lightweight glasses, and the Vision Pro is the first step in building consumer and developer interest in that effort.

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EV Maker Fisker Files for Bankruptcy

Slashdot - Tue, 18/06/2024 - 16:40
Fisker filed for bankruptcy on Monday, months after the electric-vehicle startup stopped production of its only model, the oft-malfunctioning Ocean SUV. From a report: Fisker is the second plug-in car company started by Henrik Fisker -- a famed designer of BMW and Aston Martin sports cars -- to end up in bankruptcy. An earlier venture, Fisker Automotive, filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2013 after a series of recalls spelled the downfall of its battery supplier, a fellow recipient of US Energy Department loans. The undoing of Fisker was more self-inflicted. The startup went public in 2020 as part of the wave of EV companies to benefit from the pandemic era boom in special purpose acquisition companies. Combining with a SPAC sponsored by Apollo Global Management Inc. left Fisker with roughly $1 billion in cash and helped the company land a deal with a Magna International subsidiary that manufactures vehicles for the likes of Toyota, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. While Fisker Ocean sport utility vehicle production started on schedule in November 2022, the first SUVs lacked basic features including cruise control. The California-based company told customers it would deploy capabilities it had promised them the following year, via over-the-air software updates. Software bugs ended up slowing production for months, leading Fisker to repeatedly slash its forecasts. In February of this year, influential YouTuber Marques Brownlee produced a video -- This is the Worst Car I've Ever Reviewed -- that summarizes a series of issues he experienced while borrowing an Ocean from a New Jersey dealership.

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SUSE Wants a Piece of the AI Cake, Too

Slashdot - Tue, 18/06/2024 - 16:02
SUSE, a Luxembourg-based open-source company, is launching a new vendor- and LLM-agnostic generative AI platform called SUSE AI solutions. The company aims to leverage the potential of AI to gain a stronger foothold in the U.S. market, where it has struggled to establish brand recognition compared to competitors like Red Hat and Canonical. SUSE CEO Dirk-Peter van Leeuwen believes that the open-source model provides infinite potential for enterprise customers, offering support, security, and long-term stability. The company's recent fork of CentOS has attracted a significant number of users, and its portfolio, including Kubernetes service Rancher and security service Neuvector, positions SUSE well in a market where enterprises are looking to consolidate platforms. Despite ownership changes over the years, SUSE remains committed to expanding its presence in the U.S. market.

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London Underground Hosts Tests For 'Quantum Compass' That Could Replace GPS

Slashdot - Tue, 18/06/2024 - 15:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Dr Joseph Cotter takes some unusual pieces of luggage on his trips on the London underground. They include a stainless steel vacuum chamber, a few billion atoms of rubidium and an array of lasers that are used to cool his equipment to a temperature just above absolute zero. While not the average kit you would expect to find being dragged into carriages on the District Line, this is the gear that Cotter -- who works at Imperial College London's Centre for Cold Matter -- uses on his underground travels. Though the baggage may be bizarre, it has an ambitious purpose. It is being used to develop a quantum compass -- an instrument that will exploit the behavior of subatomic matter in order to develop devices that can accurately pinpoint their locations no matter where they are placed, paving the way for the creation of a new generation of underground and underwater sensors. The ideal place to test it is the London underground, Cotter and his team have discovered. "We are developing very precise new sensors using quantum mechanics, and these are showing great promise in the laboratory," he told the Observer last week. "However, they are less accurate in real-life settings. That is why we are taking our equipment to the London underground. It's the perfect place for smoothing out the rough edges and getting our equipment to work in real life." [...] At the heart of the quantum compass -- which could be ready for widespread use in a few years -- is a device known as an accelerometer that can measure how an object's velocity changes over time. This information, combined with the starting point of that object, allows its future positions to be calculated. Mobile phones and laptops possess accelerometers but these versions cannot maintain their accuracy over lengthy periods. However, quantum mechanics offers scientists a way to provide new precision and accuracy by measuring properties of supercool atoms. At extremely low temperatures, atoms behave in a "quantum" way. They act like matter and like waves. "When atoms are ultra-cold, we can use quantum mechanics to describe how they move, and this allows us to make accurate measurements that tell us how our device is changing its position," said Cotter. In the devices -- which have been carried on board London underground track-testing trains and not on commuter services -- rubidium is inserted into the vacuum chamber that lies at the machine's heart. Powerful lasers are then used to cool these atoms to a fraction of a degree above absolute zero (-273.15C). In these conditions, the wave properties of the rubidium atoms are affected by the acceleration of the vehicle that is carrying the equipment, and these minute changes can be measured accurately. The system has been found to work well in a stable laboratory but needs to be tested in more extreme conditions if it is to be turned into a transportable, standalone device that can be used in remote or complex locations, added Cotter.

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Apple's Battery Supplier TDK Says It Made a Big Breakthrough

Slashdot - Tue, 18/06/2024 - 12:00
Rocio Fabbro reports via Quartz: TDK, the largest maker of smartphone batteries in the world, said Monday that it has successfully developed a material that could be used in a new battery with "significantly higher energy density" than its existing cells. Energy density refers to how much energy a battery can store relative to its size or weight. The material will be used in TDK's CeraCharge solid-state battery, which it says has an energy density of 1,000 watt-hours per liter -- approximately 100 times more than its conventional solid-state battery. These batteries use an oxide-based solid electrolyte, in contrast with the liquid electrolyte used in lithium-ion batteries that are widely found in electronic devices, making them "extremely safe." Solid-state batteries are smaller, charge faster, last longer, and have a lower risk of damage from temperature changes. "Smaller size and higher capacitance contribute to smaller device size and longer operating time," the Tokyo-based company said. The battery is designed to replace coin cell primary batteries, such as those found in wearable devices like wireless headphones, smartwatches, and hearing aids. The new batteries would be rechargeable, in compliance with new European Union battery regulations that are aimed at reducing the environmental impact of batteries. TDK said it's working toward mass production of solid-state batteries, and beefing up the batteries' capacity using multi-layer lamination technology and expanding their operating temperature range.

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Chinese Producer of Netflix's 'The Three-Body Problem' Is Poisoned in Suspected Murder Attempt

Slashdot - Tue, 18/06/2024 - 09:00
Lin Qi, chairman of China's Yoozoo Group and executive producer on Netflix's "The Three-Body Problem," is currently hospitalized in Shanghai following a suspected deliberate poisoning by colleague Xu Yao, who has been detained by police. Despite internal strife, Yoozoo reassured stakeholders that operations have returned to normal, with Lin in stable condition. Variety reports: Netflix announced in September that it will adapt all three books in the critically acclaimed "Three-Body Problem" sci-fi trilogy by Chinese writer Liu Cixin, with "Game of Thrones" creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, along with Alexander Woo, set to write and executive produce. The streamer bought the rights to adapt the series in English from video game developer Yoozoo, a Shenzhen-listed firm that acquired the rights itself in 2015, and is currently at work on other Chinese-language film and TV adaptations of its own. A male, 39-year-old patient surnamed Lin was "suspected of having been poisoned while receiving diagnosis and treatment at a hospital," the Shanghai Public Security Bureau said at 7pm local time Wednesday in a post on its official social media account. Police had received report of the incident last Thursday, Dec. 17. The statement continued: "After on-site surveys and investigations, it was discovered that Lin's colleague surnamed Xu (male, 39) was suspected of committing a major crime. At present, Xu has been criminally detained by the police in accordance with the law, and related investigations are being further carried out." The post did not tie the case directly to Yoozoo. Typical of such announcements in China, it also did not list either the victim or perpetrator's full name. Nevertheless, Chinese reports have tied the statement to 39-year-old Lin, who founded Yoozoo in 2009. Citing sources inside the firm, reports from outlets including respected financial publication Caixin identify the perpetrator as Yoozoo exec Xu Yao, 39. The University of Michigan Law School grad joined the company in 2017 and rose to become CEO of The Three-Body Universe, a branch of the broader group within its newer film production arm involved in managing and developing the "Three-Body" IP. In recent days, Chinese media had written in a more speculative fashion about in-fighting among Yoozoo executives that had led to a poisoning. Some reports allege that Lin was poisoned via an aged, prized varietal of fermented tea known as pu'er. Yoozoo Group's co-president Chen Fang has previously denied such claims on social media, saying that "there's no in-fighting -- rumors are the real poison," according to such reports. But after the public security bureau post gave new credibility to earlier speculation, Yoozoo on Wednesday issued a formal statement on the matter. "Although the company's management has recovered from the emergency situation last week and resumed normal operations, some friends are still uneasy and members of the public are curious" about the affair, it began. The series was in hit by a previous conflict a few months after its announcement, "after certain U.S. politicians questioned the company for choosing to adapt a work by Liu," notes Variety. "The author has previously expressed support for Chinese government policies in Xinjiang, a region where Beijing has forcibly jailed more than a million ethnic minority Uyghurs in detention camps."

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Nearly 20% of Running Microsoft SQL Servers Have Passed End of Support

Slashdot - Tue, 18/06/2024 - 07:20
An anonymous reader shares a report: IT asset management platform Lansweeper has dispensed a warning for enterprise administrators everywhere. Exactly how old is that Microsoft SQL Server on which your business depends? According to chief strategy officer Roel Decneut, the biz scanned just over a million instances of SQL Server and found that 19.8 percent were now unsupported by Microsoft. Twelve percent were running SQL Server 2014, which is due to drop out of extended support on July 9 -- meaning the proportion will be 32 percent early next month. For a fee, customers can continue receiving security updates for SQL Server 2014 for another three years. Still, the finding underlines a potential issue facing users of Microsoft's flagship database: Does your business depend on something that should have been put out to pasture long ago? While Microsoft is facing a challenge in getting users to make the move from Windows 10 to Windows 11, admins are facing a similar but far less publicized issue. Sure, IT professionals are all too aware of the risks of running business-critical processes on outdated software, but persuading the board to allocate funds for updates can be challenging.

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Kenya's First Nuclear Plant Faces Fierce Opposition

Slashdot - Tue, 18/06/2024 - 05:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Kilifi County's white sandy beaches have made it one of Kenya's most popular tourist destinations. Hotels and beach bars line the 165 mile-long (265km) coast; fishers supply the district's restaurants with fresh seafood; and visitors spend their days boating, snorkelling around coral reefs or bird watching in dense mangrove forests. Soon, this idyllic coastline will host Kenya's first nuclear plant, as the country, like its east African neighbour Uganda, pushes forward with atomic energy plans. The proposals have sparked fierce opposition in Kilifi. In a building by Mida Creek, a swampy bayou known for its birdlife and mangrove forests, more than a dozen conservation and rights groups meet regularly to discuss the proposed plant. "Kana nuclear!" Phyllis Omido, an award-winning environmentalist who is leading the protests, tells one such meeting. The Swahili slogan means "reject nuclear", and encompasses the acronym for the Kenya Anti-Nuclear Alliance who say the plant will deepen Kenya's debt and are calling for broader public awareness of the cost. Construction on the power station is expected to start in 2027, with it due to be operational in 2034. "It is the worst economic decision we could make for our country," says Omido, who began her campaign last year. A lawsuit filed in the environmental court by lawyers Collins Sang and Cecilia Ndeti in July 2023 on behalf of Kilifi residents, seeks to stop the plant, arguing that the process has been "rushed" and was "illegal", and that public participation meetings were "clandestine". They argue the Nuclear Power and Energy Agency (Nupea) should not proceed with fixing any site for the plant before laws and adequate safeguards are in place. Nupea said construction would not begin for years, that laws were under discussion and that adequate public participation was being carried out. Hearings are continuing to take place. In November, people in Kilifi filed a petition with parliament calling for an inquiry. The petition, sponsored by the Centre for Justice Governance and Environmental Action (CJGEA), a non-profit founded by Omido in 2009, also claimed that locals had limited information on the proposed plant and the criteria for selecting preferred sites. It raised concerns over the risks to health, the environment and tourism in the event of a nuclear spill, saying the country was undertaking a "high-risk venture" without proper legal and disaster response measures in place. The petition also flagged concerns over security and the handling of radioactive waste in a nation prone to floods and drought. The senate suspended (PDF) the inquiry until the lawsuit was heard. "If we really have to invest in nuclear, why can't [the government] put it in a place that does not cause so much risk to our ecological assets?" says Omido. "Why don't they choose an area that would not mean that if there was a nuclear leak we would lose so much as a country?" Peter Musila, a marine scientist who monitors the impacts of global heating on coral reefs, fears that a nuclear power station will threaten aquatic life. The coral cover in Watamu marine national reserve, a protected area near Kilifi's coast, has improved over the last decade and Musila fears progress could be reversed by thermal pollution from the plant, whose cooling system would suck large amounts of water from the ocean and return it a few degrees warmer, potentially killing fish and the micro-organisms such as plankton, which are essential for a thriving aquatic ecosystem. "It's terrifying," says Musila, who works with the conservation organisation A Rocha Kenya. "It could wreak havoc." Nupea, for its part, "published an impact assessment report last year that recommended policies be put in place to ensure environmental protections, including detailed plans for the handling of radioactive waste; measures to mitigate environmental harm, such as setting up a nuclear unit in the national environment management authority; and emergency response teams," notes the Guardian. "It also proposed social and economic protections for affected communities, including clear guidelines on compensation for those who lose their livelihoods, or are displaced from their land, when the plant is set up." "Nupea said a power station could create thousands of jobs for Kenyans and said it had partnered with Kilifi universities to start nuclear training programs that would enable more residents to take up jobs at the plant. Wilfred Baya, assistant director for energy for Kilifi county, says the plant could also bring infrastructural development and greater electricity access to a region which suffers frequent power cuts."

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The Short, Happy Reign of CD-ROM

Slashdot - Tue, 18/06/2024 - 03:25
"Over at Fast Company, where we're celebrating 1994 Week, I wrote about the year of Peak CD-ROM, when excitement over the medium's potential was sky-high and the World Wide Web's audience still numbered in the extremely low millions," writes Slashdot reader and Fast Company technology editor Harry McCracken (harrymcc). "I cover once-famous products such as Microsoft's Encarta encyclopedia, the curse of shovelware, the rise of a San Francisco neighborhood known as 'Multimedia Gulch,' and why the whole dream soon came crashing down." Here's an excerpt from the article: Thirty years ago, a breakthrough technology was poised to transform how people stayed informed, entertained themselves, and maybe even shopped. I'm not talking about the World Wide Web. True, it was already getting good buzz among early adopter types. But even three years after going online, Tim Berners-Lee's creation was "still relatively slow and crude" and "limited to perhaps two million Internet users who have the proper software to gain access to it," wrote The New York Times' Peter H. Lewis in November 1994. At the time, it was the CD-ROM that had captured the imagination of consumers and the entire publishing industry. The high-capacity optical discs enabled mass distribution of multimedia for the first time, giving software developers the ability to create new kinds of experiences. Some of the largest companies in America saw them as media's next frontier, as did throngs of startups. In terms of pure mindshare, 1994 might have been the year of Peak CD, with 17.5 million CD-ROM drives and $590 million in discs sold, according to research firms Dataquest and Link Resources. You already know that the frenzy didn't last. As the web got faster, slicker, and more readily accessible, CD-ROMs came to look pretty mundane, and eventually faded from memory. Myst, once the best-selling PC game of all time, might be the only 1990s disc that retains a prominent spot in our shared cultural consciousness. (Full disclosure: I do have a friend who can be relied upon to fondly bring up Microsoft's Cinemania movie guide about once a year for no apparent reason.) Revisiting the discs that defined the mid-1990s -- all of which are incompatible with modern operating systems -- isn't easy. To get some of them up and running again, I downloaded virtual CD-ROM files from the Internet Archive and used them with Windows 3.1 on my iPad Pro, courtesy of a piece of software Apple removed from the App Store in 2021. Spending time with titles such as Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia and It's a Wonderful Life Multi-Media Edition, three decades after they last commanded my attention, was a Proustian rush. You may not want to go to similar extremes. But would you indulge me as I wallow in enough CD-ROM nostalgia to get it out of my system?

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Meta Accused of Trying To Discredit Ad Researchers

Slashdot - Tue, 18/06/2024 - 01:20
Thomas Claburn reports via The Register: Meta allegedly tried to discredit university researchers in Brazil who had flagged fraudulent adverts on the social network's ad platform. Nucleo, a Brazil-based news organization, said it has obtained government documents showing that attorneys representing Meta questioned the credibility of researchers from NetLab, which is part of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). NetLab's research into Meta's ads contributed to Brazil's National Consumer Secretariat (Senacon) decision in 2023 to fine Meta $1.7 million (9.3 million BRL), which is still being appealed. Meta (then Facebook) was separately fined of $1.2 million (6.6 million BRL) related to Cambridge Analytica. As noted by Nucleo, NetLab's report showed that Facebook, despite being notified about the issues, had failed to remove more than 1,800 scam ads that fraudulently used the name of a government program that was supposed to assist those in debt. In response to the fine, attorneys representing Meta from law firm TozziniFreire allegedly accused the NetLab team of bias and of failing to involve Meta in the research process. Nucleo says that it obtained the administrative filing through freedom of information requests to Senacon. The documents are said to date from December 26 last year and to be part of the ongoing case against Meta. A spokesperson for NetLab, who asked not to be identified by name due to online harassment directed at the organization's members, told The Register that the research group was aware of the Nucleo report. "We were kind of surprised to see the account of our work in this law firm document," the spokesperson said. "We expected to be treated with more fairness for our work. Honestly, it comes at a very bad moment because NetLab particularly, but also Brazilian science in general, is being attacked by far-right groups." On Thursday, more than 70 civil society groups including NetLab published an open letter decrying Meta's legal tactics. "This is an attack on scientific research work, and attempts at intimidation of researchers and researchers who are performing excellent work in the production of knowledge from empirical analysis that have been fundamental to qualify the public debate on the accountability of social media platforms operating in the country, especially with regard to paid content that causes harm to consumers of these platforms and that threaten the future of our democracy," the letter says. "This kind of attack and intimidation is made even more dangerous by aligning with arguments that, without any evidence, have been used by the far right to discredit the most diverse scientific productions, including NetLab itself." The claim, allegedly made by Meta's attorneys, is that the ad biz was "not given the opportunity to appoint a technical assistant and present questions" in the preparation of the NetLabs report. This is particularly striking given Meta's efforts to limit research into its ad platform. A Meta spokesperson told The Register: "We value input from civil society organizations and academic institutions for the context they provide as we constantly work toward improving our services. Meta's defense filed with the Brazilian Consumer Regulator questioned the use of the NetLab report as legal evidence, since it was produced without giving us prior opportunity to contribute meaningfully, in violation of local legal requirements."

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