Category: News

Imgur’s Snacks is a Story-like collection of curated GIFs

Imgur began as a way for Redditors to share images quickly and easily, but has grown into a pretty robust site and accompanying mobile app. Last week, the company announced two new features that should help you find more time-wasting goodness: a tag-based content feed and a new Snacks feature, which echoes Snapchat (and Instagram, Facebook and YouTube) Stories.

Your new feed is accessible from its own tab on your Imgur home screen, right next to the "Most Viral" tab. You'll need to tap through a few tags of your own interests and your feed will fill up with images and GIFs from the people and tags you follow. You can up/down vote, comment and add favorites from the endless scroll of Imgur content. It's a nice way to just browse stuff you're interested in, instead of what's most viral on the service.

You can find Snacks in the search tab within the Imgur app. You'll see a bar at the top, just under the search field, with a curated list of GIFs that you can tap and just, well, watch. There doesn't appear to be a way to create your own list, unfortunately, which separates Snacks from the other social media story features.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Imgur

Hypocrisy at the FCC and the illusion of transparency

Less than two weeks after being named chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai said one of his priorities was to "make the agency's operation more transparent," beginning with a pilot program to release internal documents pertaining to upcoming FCC meetings. It was a nice sentiment, and one that — on its face — seemed to be an attempt on Pai's part to do the right thing. If sunlight is the best disinfectant, surely shedding more of it on a government agency that deals in massively important, far-reaching technical policy is a good thing... right?

It has been clear for months, however, that Pai does not intend to do the right thing where the internet — our internet — is concerned.

Just one day after Pai released that statement on transparency, he quickly repealed several orders and reports issued by the FCC as the Obama administration wound down. Pai's reasoning was that these "midnight regulations" did not have the support of two of the four remaining commissioners and ran "contrary to the wishes expressed by the leadership of... congressional oversight committees." If you think that rationale sounds a little thin, because it basically boils down to "we didn't like it," you're not the only one. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn responded to Pai's actions that same day by noting that it's "a basic principle of administrative procedure" that actions should be explained. She also added that Pai was critical of the commission's earlier left-leaning majority because for "not providing sufficient reasoning behind its decisions."

The list of items yanked from the record ranged from a report on potential security concerns around 5G to a paper that addresses progress on reforming discounted internet access for schools. Seemingly important stuff, by the sound of things. Most notably, an investigation into "zero-rating" -- a worrisome practice in which telecoms and ISPs don't count certain services against data caps, giving them distinct advantages over their competitors -- was shut down. These are meaty topics that would benefit from more insight, but the haste with which Pai dismissed these reports sure seems to indicate some disdain. Forget about leading by example — Chairman Pai's push for transparency has been marred by hypocrisy since the very beginning. And things obviously didn't end there.

Later that month, the commission voted along party lines to revive and revise an exemption that allowed certain ISPs to dodge reporting requirements laid out in the 2015 Open Internet Order. That resuscitated exemption means that any internet service provider with fewer than 250,000 subscribers doesn't have to disclose information about fees, data caps and ways providers manage their networks to their customers. While this, strictly speaking, doesn't have much to do with the sort of operational transparency Pai pushed for early in his chairmanship, it's a chilling admission that the majority of the FCC — Pai included — isn't troubled by hiding important information from the public.

Prior to the publication of the FCC's new plan to roll back the open internet protections laid out in the 2015 order, Chairman Pai met with a number of people, including representatives on lobbyist groups like USTelecom. Despite the far-reaching implications of those conversations, the contents of those meetings have never been revealed. Two FOIA requests and a subsequent lawsuit filed by watchdog group American Oversight shed some light on the situation, but what happened inside those meetings remains a mystery. As a result, though, the FCC did eventually release calendar information and related messages about Pai's meetings, along with communications with Congress and the White House on the subject of net neutrality. This definitely isn't a good look for a man who began his tenure as FCC chairman claiming to want a more open process.

Before enacting new rules for managing the internet, the FCC must also accept feedback from the public, though it's been made clear that even an avalanche of pro-net neutrality comments probably won't make a difference. Unless you're a lawyer or a telecom insider, your arguments are held in very, very low regard by the FCC. That sort of disregard for feedback was made even more apparent when reports surfaced alleging that many of the nearly 22 million statements the FCC received during its public comment period were fraudulent. An analysis performed by data scientist David Kao found that, after stripping out apparently fake comments, nearly 99 percent of the remaining submissions favored existing net-neutrality rules.

A follow-up report from the Pew Research Center found that only 6 percent of comments submitted were unique, and that the seven copied-and-pasted comments accounted for 38 percent of all submissions. The kicker: Six of those seven comments "argued against net neutrality regulations," indicating a concerted effort to stuff this virtual ballot box. Pai's response to all this? Nothing of substance. He instead spent his time in the days leading up to the report's release taking aim at celebrity critics on Twitter and reaffirmed that the commenting process isn't an opinion poll "for good reason." Meanwhile, an investigation into the fake comments led by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneidermann was met by an unhelpful agency and an FCC spokesperson -- Mark Wigfield -- who derided the whole thing as a publicity stunt.

The FCC inspector general's office finally relented last week, and signaled that it may — in some way — aid in the investigation. Still, the dragging of feet and the political posturing have prompted even more criticism of the FCC's handling of net neutrality.

"While I fundamentally disagree with the merits of the FCC's proposal, what is equally concerning is the lack of integrity to the FCC's process that has led to this point," said commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel in a statement. "To review, the FCC has held zero public hearings. The FCC has knowingly maintained a system that has already been corrupted and is susceptible to abuse."

Recently Pai delivered a keynote address at the Telecommunications and Media Forum at — where else? — Verizon Communications' Washington, D.C., headquarters. (Quick reminder, if it wasn't obvious: Verizon owns Engadget's parent company, Oath, but it has no control over what we cover and how.) The contents of Pai's address remain secret, as the event's organizers held to the decades-old Chatham House rule (just because, apparently), which stipulates that "participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed."

Given Pai's tenure as a Verizon lawyer, Verizon's sponsorship of the event and the topics slated to be discussed there, it seems rather convenient that Pai is using an arcane British code to shield his comments. For all we know, Pai might have spent his time pandering to his telecom buddies, or gloating over the impending death of the Open Internet Order. As with many things the FCC has done this year, we'll probably never know what really happened. Thanks to a video Gizmodo obtained of Pai's recent address at the Federal Communications Bar Association Dinner, though, we do know that he doesn't mind joking about being a Verizon shill.

Despite what he has said in the past, Ajit Pai's version of transparency is willfully ignorant at best and maliciously hypocritical at worst. When the FCC convenes to vote next week, the agency's ideological fault line will most certainly lead to an unavoidable conclusion. With Commissioner Brendan Carr joining Pai and Michael O'Rielly, the FCC will vote to abolish the common-carrier classification that would force ISPs and telecom giants to treat all data passing through their pipes equally. What happens next remains to be seen, but one thing seems clear: While true transparency might not have changed this outcome, it certainly would've helped the rest of us come to grips with the process. Unfortunately, Chairman Pai's words and actions just don't match up.

Uplay is giving Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag away for free this week

When publishers give away games, it often feels like the digital equivalent of a box marked “Free!” on the side of the road—inevitably you open it up to find a VHS copy of Captain Ron, a pair of ripped sweatpants, and some scratched-up Neil Diamond records. Case in point: Last week Deep Silver gave away copies of Homefront and like...why?

But occasionally a freebie comes along that’s actually worth nabbing. Cue Ubisoft, which this week is giving out free copies of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag—either the best of the Assassin’s Creeds or, if you’ve been in this a long time, maybe the second-best (after ACII). Okay, some people really love this year’s Assassin's Creed: Origins and might say third best.

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Researchers create prosthetic hand that offers more lifelike dexterity

Researchers at Georgia Tech have developed a prosthetic hand inspired by the bionic one given to Star Wars' Luke Skywalker. What sets this one apart from other prosthetics is the amount of dexterity it offers, allowing users to move individual fingers at will. With it, Jason Barnes, the amputee working with the researchers, was able to play piano for the first time since losing part of his arm in 2012.

Most available prosthetics use electromyogram (EMG) sensors to translate muscle movement where the limb was removed to hand and finger motions. But those types of sensors are pretty limited in what they can do. "EMG sensors aren't very accurate," Gil Weinberg, the professor leading the project, said in a statement. "They can detect a muscle movement, but the signal is too noisy to infer which finger the person wants to move." So the team took their prosthetic one step further and attached an ultrasound probe. Just as physicians can use ultrasound machines to take a look at a fetus inside of a womb, the probe can see which muscles are moving in an amputee's arm. Algorithms can then translate that into individual finger movements. "By using this new technology, the arm can detect which fingers an amputee wants to move, even if they don't have fingers," said Weinberg.

There are a number of groups working on improving prosthetics and trying to make them more lifelike. Some of those efforts include introducing tactile feedback to let users know where their prosthetic is without having to look and giving prosthetics the ability to see what they need to grasp. DARPA even has an advanced prosthetic named LUKE, also inspired by Skywalker.

This isn't the first prosthetic built for Barnes by the Georgia Tech team. In 2014, they gave him an arm that let him play drums. It even had a second drumstick that moved based on the music being played and could play faster than any human drummer. About his second, dexterous prosthetic, Barnes said, "It's completely mind-blowing. This new arm allows me to do whatever grip I want, on the fly, without changing modes or pressing a button. I never thought we'd be able to do this."

Source: Georgia Tech

Amazon’s Alexa can now wake you up with music instead of alarms

One of the greatest perks of connected speakers is waking up to whatever music you like, not just a buzzer or the radio. However, that hasn't been an option for Alexa-equipped devices like the Echo -- until today, that is. Amazon has added a feature to Alexa that lets you wake up to the music of your choice from one of several streaming services, including its own options and Spotify.

To begin with, your criteria can be as broad or narrow as you like. You can name a song, playlist or genre, or ask to play any kind of music if you're not picky. Alexa can stream radio channels from the likes of TuneIn and iHeartRadio. Naturally, there are a few perks if you use one of Amazon's music services. You can ask Alexa to wake you based on a mood (like "relaxing"), or find a wake-up song by reciting the lyrics.

This sounds like a minor feature, but it's potentially very important. If Amazon is going to make the Echo Spot a viable alarm clock, it needs to give the device better functionality than that 20-year-old clock radio sitting on your nightstand. This also makes all Echo models more directly competitive with rivals that have had music wake features for years, such as Sonos. And let's face it: even if you're just using Alexa on your phone, Amazon would rather be the one to start your day.

Lowe’s is selling a two-port Anker power bank for $17

Lowe's has a nice deal today on an Anker Power Bank charger. For $17, you can get a 10,400 mAH Anker portable charger from the big-box store. This is about $11 cheaper than the price you can find on Amazon, and $10 off Lowe's usual price.

This charger comes with two USB ports, and supports high-speed charging via Anker's PowerIQ and VoltageBoost technologies. Anker claims this Power Bank can charge the iPhone 6 up to four times, the Samsung Galaxy S6 up to three times, or the iPad Air once. Each port pumps out a maximum of 2.4 amps each. The Power Bank only comes in black, and it has indicator lights on the side to show how much power the device has left.

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Microsoft offers developers a preview of its quantum computing kit

Developers hoping to get on the quantum computer train early can now get started with Microsoft's Quantum Development Kit, a free preview version of which was released today. The kit, which was first announced at Microsoft's Ignite conference in September, includes the Q# programming language, a quantum computing simulator that can simulate 30 logical qubits of power and a companion collection of documentation, libraries and sample programs that will help developers get a better foothold on the complex science behind quantum computing.

The simulator will allow developers to test programs and debug code with their own computers, which is necessary since there really aren't any quantum computers for them to test their work on yet. Microsoft is also offering a more powerful simulator -- one with over 40 logical qubits of computing power -- through its Azure cloud computing service. And because the kit is integrated into Microsoft's Visual Studio developer tool suite, many aspects of the new kit will be familiar.

"What you're going to see as a developer is the opportunity to tie into tools that you already know well, services you already know well," Todd Holmdahl, Microsoft's VP in charge of its quantum effort, said in a statement. "There will be a twist with quantum computing, but it's our job to make it as easy as possible for the developers who know and love us to be able to use these new tools that could potentially do some things exponentially faster – which means going from a billion years on a classical computer to a couple hours on a quantum computer."

Source: Microsoft (1), (2)

The Tech Wars of 2018

We are coming up to the end of the year, and it's a good time to look forward. Next week, I'll look back and call out my product of the year. Stepping outside of politics and the obvious war between the Democrats, Republicans and common sense, there is the war between Amazon and Google, which likely will redefine the growth of digital assistants. There's also the war between Intel and Qualcomm in the personal computing arena. With both Google and Intel behaving foolishly, I'm going to call the battles for Amazon and Qualcomm.

Russian hackers steal $10 million from ATMs through bank networks

The recent rash of bank system hacks goes deeper than you might have thought -- it also includes stealing cash directly from ATMs. Researchers at Group-iB have published details of MoneyTaker, a group of Russian hackers that has stolen close to $10 million from American and Russian ATMs over the past 18 months. The attacks, which targeted 18 banks (15 of which were American), compromised interbank transfer systems to hijack payment orders -- "money mules" would then withdraw the funds at machines.

The first known attack was in the spring of 2016, when MoneyTaker hit First Data's STAR network (the largest transfer messaging system for ATMs in the US). They also compromised Russia's AW CRB network, and swiped documents for OceanSystems' Fed Link system used by roughly 200 banks across the Americas. And in some cases, the group stuck around after the initial heist -- at least one US bank's documents were stolen twice, while the perpetrators kept spying on Russian bank networks.

While it's not clear who's behind MoneyTaker, you're only hearing about them now because they're particularly clever. They've repeatedly switched their tools and methods to bypass software, and have taken care to erase their tracks. For instance, they've 'borrowed' security certificates from the US federal government, Bank of America, Microsoft and Yahoo. One Russian bank did manage to spot an attack and return some of the ill-gotten gains.

This particular hack didn't directly affect users, since it was more about intercepting bank-to-bank transfers than emptying personal accounts. However, it illustrates both the sophistication of modern bank hacks and the vulnerability of the banks themselves. While it would be difficult to completely prevent hacks, it's clear that attackers are having a relatively easy time making off with funds and sensitive data.

Via: Reuters

Source: Group-iB (reg. required)

Xbox One can now stream YouTube video in 4K

The Xbox One X and S both allow you to watch 4K video, but the consoles didn't have a way to watch YouTube in 4K. That is, until now. This week, Microsoft is rolling out an app for both versions of the Xbox One console that provides support for 4K videos at up to 60 fps -- but not HDR.

While the Xbox One X is a tough sell for us, we think the 4K experience on the Xbox One S (which doesn't allow for 4K gaming, but does upscale graphics and supports HDR) is definitely worth it if you're in the market for a new console. Adding (long overdue) 4K YouTube support just makes it even better. If you have the console, you'll see the updated YouTube app this week, or if you're impatient, you can download it from the Windows Store today.

Via: The Verge

Source: Microsoft Store