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TurboTax Started Charging the Disabled, Unemployed and Students To Make Up For Trump Tax Law

Slashdot - Thu, 18/07/2019 - 02:45
The 2017 tax overhaul directly threatened the lucrative business of Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, so it pushed students, the disabled, and unemployed to a paid tier to make up for the lost profits. ProPublica reports: Although the company draws in customers with the promise of a "free" product, its fortunes depend on getting as many customers as possible to pay. It had been regularly charging $100 or more for returns that included itemized deductions for mortgage interest and charitable donations. Under the new law, many wealthier taxpayers would no longer be filing that form, qualifying them to use the company's free software. Intuit executives came up with a way to preserve the company's hefty profit margins: It began charging more low-income people. Which ones? Individuals with disabilities, the unemployed and people who owe money on student loans, all of whom use tax forms that TurboTax previously included for free. The shift was described to ProPublica by two people familiar with the process. Because the new law almost doubled the standard deduction, Intuit faced a loss of users of its Deluxe edition. Most of the millions of Americans who would no longer be itemizing their deductions are relatively affluent -- making more than $75,000 a year -- but they would now potentially be eligible to use the Free Edition. In response, the company bumped a number of forms typically used by lower-income filers, which were previously available in the Free Edition, into paying editions. "They were always supposed to be customer focused, customer first," one former staffer said. But the income levels of the groups that were being driven to paid products "was never really considered." One of these forms was for a tax credit that goes exclusively to poor taxpayers who are elderly or get disability benefits. Another is used by low- to middle-income households that receive a credit for putting money in a retirement account. A third is used by taxpayers who collected unemployment benefits.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Making the Case For a Microsoft Surface Phone That Runs Android

Slashdot - Thu, 18/07/2019 - 02:03
Zac Bowden from Windows Central makes the case for why Microsoft may want to make a Surface phone that runs Android. An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from the report: While a Surface Phone running Android would never sell to the quantity that Samsung smartphones do (or at least not a first- or second-generation phone), Microsoft could utilize the Surface brand to showcase the best of Microsoft's Android efforts all in one place, just like it has done for Windows PCs. I'm picturing a Surface-branded, Microsoft-built smartphone that comes with Microsoft Launcher, Edge, Office, Your Phone phone-mirroring integration, and more, out of the box. In fact, that's one of four unique selling points that a Surface Phone running Android could have: -- Showcase the best of Microsoft's efforts on Android. -- Seamless integration with Windows PCs using Your Phone. -- Provide the best security and update support on Android. -- Brand recognition that can rival Apple and Samsung. That last point is more for Microsoft fans, but the first three are important. A Surface Phone running Android would be the only smartphone out there that's always guaranteed to work with all of Your Phone's features. I have a wide array of Android smartphones, yet 90 percent of them don't support all of Your Phone's features on Windows 10. Screen mirroring is only available on select devices, and while that may improve, there's no guarantee your smartphone will ever get it, or if it'll work well. Microsoft could also provide enhanced features, such as the ability to take cellular phone calls on your PC directly from your Surface Phone. It could also build out dedicated Phone and SMS apps that sync up with the Messages app on your PC, instead of having to relay it through the Your Phone app. There's so much more potential when you build your own Android phone.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Google's Project Dragonfly 'Terminated' In China

Slashdot - Thu, 18/07/2019 - 01:20
An executive at Google said the company's plan to launch a censored search engine in China has been "terminated." The project was reportedly put on hold last year but rumors that it remained active persisted. From a report: "We have terminated Project Dragonfly," Google executive Karan Bhatia told the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Buzzfeed, which reported the new comments, said it was the first public confirmation that Dragonfly had ended. A spokesman for Google later confirmed to the site that Google currently had no plans to launch search in China and that no work was being done to that end.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Netflix Stock Tumbles After US Subscribers Drop For the First Time Ever

Slashdot - Thu, 18/07/2019 - 00:40
Netflix saw its first-ever decline in paid U.S. subscribers in the second quarter, losing 126,000 U.S. users when Wall Street was expecting 352,000 domestic adds. Barron's reports: The slight drop in Netflix's U.S. subscriber base, combined with fewer-than expected international adds in the second quarter, sent the company's stock tumbling over 10% in after-hours trading Wednesday. The streaming company still reported better-than-expected earnings, but investors tend to focus on its subscriber trends and not much else. The company said it sees a return to subscriber growth in the third quarter. For the second quarter, Netflix reported 60 cents in earnings per share, versus the 56 cents analysts had been expecting. Revenue came in at $4.9 billion, about equal to the consensus estimate. That compares with 85 cents in earnings per share on $3.9 billion in sales in the same period last year. Second-quarter net income was $270.7 million. But Netflix's subscriber numbers tend to be the most important metric for investors, and Netflix fell short where it mattered. It added 2.8 million net new international subscribers but lost 126,000 U.S. users in the second quarter. Wall Street had been expecting 352,000 domestic and 4.8 million international adds, and Netflix had guided to a total of 5.0 million new subscribers. For the third quarter, Netflix "calls for $1.04 in EPS, $5.3 billion in revenue, and for user numbers to return to growth to the tune of 800,000 new domestic subscribers and 6.2 million international subscribers," the report says. "That compares with 89 cents in EPS on $4 billion in sales in the same period last year, when Netflix also added 1.1 million new domestic subscribers and 5.9 million international subscribers."

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Sea of Thieves kicks off new monthly content schedule with explosive limited-time event

Eurogamer - Thu, 18/07/2019 - 00:32

After something of an extended lull in regular updates, Sea of Thieves has launched a new limited-time event, Black Powder Stashes, marking the start of a new, and very welcome, monthly content delivery plan for developer Rare's multiplayer pirate adventure.

Black Powder Stashes - the first limited-time event to launch since Sea of Thieves' massive Anniversary Update in April - is available to play now and introduces new limited-time voyages, purchasable from Duke at any tavern using doubloons. There are six variants in total, each plotting a course for different locales, with two tougher challenges forcing multiple ships along the same routes. That could make for some particularly hairy encounters given that the goal of the event is to find, ferry around, and turn in, as many explosive barrels as possible.

Gunpowder and Stronghold Kegs can both be handed over to the Trading Companies of your choice to earn rewards in the form of their respective XP boosts - and Pirate Legends can even get Athena's Fortune reputation from the Mysterious Stranger.

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Categories: Video Games

Microsoft officially embraces popular community "lifehack" to save big on Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

Eurogamer - Thu, 18/07/2019 - 00:20

A while back, Xbox fans discovered that it was possible, by making clever use of an official promotion, to significantly reduce the cost of Microsoft's new Xbox Game Pass Ultimate all-in-one subscription service. And now, rather than attempting to hobble the venture, Microsoft has embraced it, highlighting the steps required to make some juicy savings on its official blog.

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate was announced ahead of this year's E3 and combines an Xbox Game Pass subscription with Xbox Live Gold - providing a cheaper option for those that had previously subscribed to both separately. And to get the ball rolling, Microsoft revealed that interested parties could get the first month of Ultimate for £1, rather than the usual £10.99.

Here's where it gets interesting though; those already subscribed to either Xbox Game Pass or Xbox Live Gold can also choose to upgrade to Ultimate for £1.

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Categories: Video Games

Amazon Faces Antitrust Probe In Europe Over Use of Merchant Data

Slashdot - Thu, 18/07/2019 - 00:03
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal: Amazon faces a formal European Union antitrust investigation (Warning: source paywalled; alternative source) into its dealings with merchants that sell goods on its site, marking an expansion of a multi-pronged regulatory push that has ensnared other U.S. tech giants like Facebook and Google. The European Commission, the EU's top antitrust enforcer, said Wednesday that its investigation will examine whether Amazon is abusing its dual role as a marketplace where independent sellers can offer products and as a retailer of products in its own right. In particular, the probe will study whether Amazon is using nonpublic data from independent merchants to compete unfairly against them. Investigators will also examine what data Amazon uses to pick a seller as the default option for a given product when a user clicks the "buy" button -- and whether Amazon has an unfair advantage to be designated the default for products it sells. The probe could eventually lead to formal charges, fines and orders for the company to change business practices, but it could also be dropped.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Firefox To Warn When Saved Logins are Found in Data Breaches

Slashdot - Wed, 17/07/2019 - 23:25
Starting in Firefox 70, Mozilla aims to have the browser report when any of your saved logins were found in data breaches. This will be done through their partnership with the Have I Been Pwned data breach site. From a report: Mozilla is slowly integrating their independent Firefox Monitor service and the new Firefox Lockwise password manager directly into Firefox. Mozilla is also considering premium services based around these features in the future. As part of this integration, Firefox will scan the saved login names and passwords and see if they were exposed in a data breach listed on Have I been Pwned. If one is found, Firefox will alert the user and prompt them to change their password. This new feature will only work, though, for data breaches that exposed passwords and when the password was saved prior to an associated data breach.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Announcing the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Bounty program

Microsoft Security Response Blog - Wed, 17/07/2019 - 22:49
One of Microsoft’s many security investments to protect customers is in the partnerships we build with the external security research community. We are excited to announce the launch of the Dynamics 365 Bounty program and welcome researchers to seek out and disclose any high impact vulnerabilities they may find in Dynamics 365. Rewards up to …

Announcing the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Bounty program Read More »

Categories: IT

Delta, Alaska, and American Airlines Have All Been Sued Over Their Uniforms.

Slashdot - Wed, 17/07/2019 - 22:45
Rashes, blisters, and hair loss have all been reported. So has vomiting, migraines, and shortness of breath. All of these -- and more -- are symptoms reported by flight attendants after their airlines got new uniforms. But no one knows why. From a report: Delta is the latest airline to have flight attendants report health issues possibly related to their uniforms, and employees at the airline filed a lawsuit in May against the manufacturer, Lands' End. But flight attendants have been battling health issues that have appeared after an airline instituted new uniforms for years. And for years, airlines have said their uniforms are safe. Meanwhile, flight attendants and others are working to discover the cause of their symptoms and the identity and total number of chemicals present in their uniforms, all of which can be difficult to ascertain. Until the cause can be identified -- or until airlines start listening to employees and moving quickly after their complaints -- it's likely employees will continue to face symptoms. And it's likely that flight attendants will keep heading to court, where they've historically needed to go to get policy changed by their employers. The problem was first reported after employees at Alaska Airlines got new uniforms toward the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011. Flight attendants began to report rashes and eye irritation, and documented hives, blisters, and scaly patches, according to a 2012 National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) report looking into the issue. In 2013, flight attendants at Alaska Airlines filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the uniforms, Twin Hill, and the airline recalled the uniforms in 2014. In October 2016, Twin Hill won the lawsuit, with the court claiming there was no reliable evidence the injuries were caused by the uniforms.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

PUBG's fourth season bringing big changes to original Erangel map next week on PC

Eurogamer - Wed, 17/07/2019 - 22:10

Player Unknown's Battlegrounds is preparing to launch its fourth content season next week on PC, starting on 24th July, and developer PUBG Corp has detailed all incoming new features, including a major overhaul of the game's ageing Erangel map.

Erangel is Battlegrounds' oldest map, having been part of the experience since the battle royale game's pre-alpha release in 2016. Since then Erangel has been joined by desert map Miramar, the tropical Sanhok map, and the snowy Vikendi.

Compared to those newer efforts, Erangel has started to look a little long in the tooth, and PUBG Corp says the upcoming overhaul aims to "bring our most classic map in line with our more recent offerings, all without losing the magic that made it a fan favourite in the first place".

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Categories: Video Games

The $20B Plan To Power Singapore With Australian Solar

Slashdot - Wed, 17/07/2019 - 22:06
The desert outside Tennant Creek, deep in the Northern Territory, is not the most obvious place to build and transmit Singapore's future electricity supply. Though few in the southern states are yet to take notice, a group of Australian developers are betting that will change. From a report: If they are right, it could have far-reaching consequences for Australia's energy industry and what the country sells to the world. Known as Sun Cable, it is promised to be the world's largest solar farm. If developed as planned, a 10-gigawatt-capacity array of panels will be spread across 15,000 hectares and be backed by battery storage to ensure it can supply power around the clock. Overhead transmission lines will send electricity to Darwin and plug into the NT grid. But the bulk would be exported via a high-voltage direct-current submarine cable snaking through the Indonesian archipelago to Singapore. The developers say it will be able to provide one-fifth of the island city-state's electricity needs, replacing its increasingly expensive gas-fired power. After 18 months in development, the $20bn Sun Cable development had a quiet coming out party in the Top End three weeks ago at a series of events held to highlight the NT's solar potential. The idea has been embraced by the NT government and attracted the attention of the software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, who is considering involvement through his Grok Ventures private investment firm. The NT plan follows a similarly ambitious proposal for the Pilbara, where another group of developers are working on an even bigger wind and solar hybrid plant to power local industry and develop a green hydrogen manufacturing hub. On Friday, project developer Andrew Dickson announced the scale of the proposed Asian Renewable Energy Hub had grown by more than a third, from 11GW to 15GW. "To our knowledge, it's the largest wind-solar hybrid in the world," he says.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

40 Years Later, Lessons From the Rise and Quick Decline of the First 'Killer App'

Slashdot - Wed, 17/07/2019 - 21:26
It was the first killer app, the spark for Apple's early success and a trigger for the broader PC boom that vaulted Microsoft to its central position in business computing. And within a few years, it was tech-industry roadkill. From a report: The story of VisiCalc, a humble spreadsheet program that set the tech world ablaze 40 years ago, has reverberated through the industry and still influences the decisions of executives, engineers and investors. Its lessons include the power of simplicity and the difficulty of building a hypergrowth company in a hypergrowth industry. Indeed, its lessons have been so internalized by today's tech titans that they have significantly inoculated themselves against that sort of tumultuous, competitive dynamism -- aka disruption. VisiCalc was unveiled on June 4, 1979, and shipped that October. Dan Bricklin first dreamed it up in a classroom at Harvard Business School -- the room now bears a plaque commemorating his idea -- and partnered with Bob Frankston, who coded VisiCalc and collaborated in its design. When users opened VisiCalc, they would see a character-based grid where numbers or text could be manipulated. It was handy for budgeting, financial projections, bookkeeping and making lists. Today it's instantly recognizable as a spreadsheet, as familiar to us as a blinking cursor, but at the time it was a novel idea that had to be experienced to be understood. Initially VisiCalc ran only on the Apple II, a then-revolutionary new personal computer and Apple's first major consumer product. While some Apple II models had just 4 kilobytes of RAM, VisiCalc demanded a whopping 32KB. (Even the cheapest of today's iPhones have tens of thousands of times as much RAM.) Further reading: VisiCalc Turns 25, Creators Interviewed (June, 2004).

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

How Many Kinds of USB-C To USB-C Cables Are There?

Slashdot - Wed, 17/07/2019 - 20:47
From a blog post: Classic USB from the 1.1, 2.0, to 3.0 generations using USB-A and USB-B connectors have a really nice property in that cables were directional and plugs and receptacles were physically distinct to specify a different capability. A USB 3.0 capable USB-B plug was physically larger than a 2.0 plug and would not fit into a USB 2.0-only receptacle. For the end user, this meant that as long as they have a cable that would physically connect to both the host and the device, the system would function properly, as there is only ever one kind of cable that goes from one A plug to a particular flavor of B plug. Does the same hold for USB-C? Sadly, the answer is no. Cables with a USB-C plug on both ends (C-to-C), hitherto referred to as "USB-C cables", come in several varieties. Here they are, current as of the USB Type-C Specification 1.4 on June 2019: USB 2.0 rated at 3A, USB 2.0 rated at 5A, USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5gbps) rated at 3A, USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5gbps) rated at 5A, USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10gbps) rated at 3A, and USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10gpbs) rated at 5A. We have a matrix of 2 x 3, with 2 current rating levels (3A max current, or 5A max current), and 3 data speeds (480mbps, 5gbps, 10gpbs). Adding a bit more detail, cables 3-6, in fact, have 10 more wires that connect end-to-end compared to the USB 2.0 ones in order to handle SuperSpeed data rates. Cables 3-6 are called "Full-Featured Type-C Cables" in the spec, and the extra wires are actually required for more than just faster data speeds. "Full-Featured Type-C Cables" are required for the most common USB-C Alternate Mode used on PCs and many phones today, VESA DisplayPort Alternate Mode. VESA DP Alt mode requires most of the 10 extra wires present in a Full-Featured USB-C cable.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Bluetooth Exploit Can Track and Identify iOS, Microsoft Mobile Device Users

Slashdot - Wed, 17/07/2019 - 20:11
A flaw in the Bluetooth communication protocol may expose modern device users to tracking and could leak their ID, researchers claim. From a report: The vulnerability can be used to spy on users despite native OS protections that are in place and impacts Bluetooth devices on Windows 10, iOS, and macOS machines. This includes iPhones, iPads, Apple Watch models, MacBooks, and Microsoft tablets & laptops. On Wednesday, researchers from Boston University David Starobinski and Johannes Becker presented the results of their research at the 19th Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium, taking place in Stockholm, Sweden. According to the research paper, Tracking Anonymized Bluetooth Devices, many Bluetooth devices will use MAC addresses when advertising their presence to prevent long-term tracking, but the team found that it is possible to circumvent the randomization of these addresses to permanently monitor a specific device. Android is immune as the OS does not continually send out advertising messages, the researchers said.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Switch is getting a few new official Joy-Con colours, and one's a little bit Wario

Eurogamer - Wed, 17/07/2019 - 20:08

Nintendo, clearly in the throes of hardware frenzy at present, has followed up its new Switch announcement with word that a couple more Joy-Con colours are on the way - and one of them has more than whiff of Wario about it. By which I don't mean farts.

According to Nintendo of America (so details may differ according to your territory of residence), two new Joy-Con variants are scheduled to arrive on 4th October. Joining the likes of Switch's Grey, Neon Red/Neon Blue, and Neon Green/Neon Pink controllers, are a new Blue/Neon Yellow offering, and the delicious Neon Purple/Neon Orange combo.

The latter's rich purple hue immediately, if not necessarily intentionally, calls to mind Wario's preferred shade of dungaree (even if he'd ordinarily pair it with yellow rather than exuberant orange), while the Blue/Neon Yellow bundle has, to my eyes at least, a touch of F-Zero's Captain Falcon about it. Which, at this point, just seems cruel. Oh, and if you're not picturing either, here're some comparison shots I whipped up for the occasion:

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Categories: Video Games

AI Photo Editor FaceApp Goes Viral Again on iOS, Raises Questions About Photo Library Access

Slashdot - Wed, 17/07/2019 - 19:34
FaceApp, an app that applies filters to photos, is having another moment in the spotlight this week. An anonymous reader shares a report: The app has gone viral again after first doing so two years ago or so. The effect has gotten better but these apps, like many other one-off viral apps, tend to come and go in waves driven by influencer networks or paid promotion. We first covered this particular AI photo editor from a team of Russian developers about two years ago. It has gone viral again now due to some features that allow you to edit a person's face to make it appear older or younger. You may remember at one point it had an issue because it enabled what amounted to digital blackface by changing a person from one ethnicity to another. In this current wave of virality, some new questions are floating around about FaceApp. The first is whether it uploads your camera roll in the background. We found no evidence of this and neither did security researcher and Guardian App CEO Will Strafach or researcher Baptiste Robert. The second is how it allows you to pick photos without giving photo access to the app.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Microsoft To Explore Using Rust

Slashdot - Wed, 17/07/2019 - 18:49
Microsoft plans to explore using the Rust programming language as an alternative to C, C++, and others, as a way to improve the security posture of its and everyone else's apps. From a report: The announcement was made yesterday by Gavin Thomas, Principal Security Engineering Manager for the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC). "You're probably used to thinking about the Microsoft Security Response Center as a group that responds to incidents and vulnerabilities," Thomas said. "We are a response organization, but we also have a proactive role, and in a new blog series we will highlight Microsoft's exploration of safer system programming languages, starting with Rust." The end game is to find a way to move developers from the aging C and C++ programming language to so-called "memory-safe languages." Memory-safe languages, such as Rust, are designed from the ground up with protections against memory corruption vulnerabilities, such as buffer overflows, race conditions, memory leaks, use-after free and memory pointer-related bugs.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Microsoft outlines Xbox Gamescom plans, including playable Minecraft Dungeons

Eurogamer - Wed, 17/07/2019 - 18:34

Microsoft is returning to Gamescom this August to flaunt its Xbox wares once more, and would like you to know what happening this time around - including a first public hands-on of the intriguing Minecraft Dungeons and Gears of War 5's Horde Mode.

This year's Gamescom, once again being held in Cologne, will run for four days from 20th August. Microsoft, however, will be kicking things off a day early, holding a special Gamescom-themed episode of its Inside Xbox show, live from Cologne's Gloria Theatre. The latest "news, games, accessories, and features" are promised, with proceedings scheduled to begin at 4pm BST on Monday, 19th August.

Should you be interested in tuning in, you're not exactly short of options; it'll be streamed via Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Mixer, and the official Xbox website.

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Categories: Video Games

Nintendo Unveils New Switch Model With Better Battery Life

Slashdot - Wed, 17/07/2019 - 18:10
This August, Nintendo is releasing a new Switch model with a longer battery life. It will be priced the same as the current model and, aside from the improved battery, feature the same specs. From a report: The new model's battery life will last between 4.5 and 9 hours, depending on the game. For Breath of the Wild, for example, the battery life will last for an estimated 5.5 hours. In comparison, the current model has a battery life that's between 2.5 and 6.5 hours, depending on the game. Once again, for Breath of the Wild, the battery life is 3 hours.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff
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