Drivers will find it harder to break speed limits, thanks to "intelligent speed assistance" systems.
On April 17, the French government introduced an Android application meant to be used by government employees as an internal secure channel for communications. Called Tchap, it was touted as a replacement for WhatsApp and Telegram, providing (in theory) both group and private messaging channels to which only people with government email addresses could join.
Tchap is not intended to be a classified communications system—it runs on regular Android phones and uses the public Internet. But as the DINSIC, the French inter-ministry directorate for information systems that runs Tchap put it, Tchap "is an instant messenger allowing government employees to exchange real-time information on everyday professional issues, ensuring that the conversations remain hosted on the national territory." In other words, it's to keep official government business off of Facebook's and Telegram's servers outside France.
Based on the Riot.im chat application from the open source project Matrix, Tchap is officially still in "beta," according to DINSIC. And that beta test is getting off to a rough start. Within two days, French security researcher Baptiste Robert—who goes by the Twitter handle @fs0c131y (aka Elliot Alderson)—had tapped into Tchap and subsequently viewed all of the internal "public" discussion channels hosted by the service.
Security researchers gave mixed grades to a recently discovered hacking campaign targeting government finance authorities and embassies. On the one hand, the attacks used carefully crafted decoy documents to trick carefully selected targets into installing malware that could gain full control of computers. On the other, a developer involved in the operation sometimes discussed the work in public forums.
The campaign has been active since at least 2018 when it sent Excel documents claiming to contain top-secret US data to people inside governments and embassies in Europe, security firm Check Point reported in a post published Monday. Macros in the documents would send a screenshot and user details of the target’s PC to a control server and then install a malicious version of TeamViewer that claimed to offer additional functionality. The trojan would then gain complete control over the infected computer.
A poorly secured control server allowed Check Point researchers to periodically see screenshots that were uploaded from infected computers, at least until the server was locked down. Most of the targets had a connection to public finance and government officials from revenue authorities. Using the intercepted images and telemetry data, Check Point researchers compiled a partial list of countries where targets were located. It included:
While all four major nationwide carriers in the United States have overhyped 5G to varying degrees, T-Mobile today made a notable admission about 5G's key limitation. T-Mobile Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray wrote in a blog post that millimeter-wave spectrum used for 5G "will never materially scale beyond small pockets of 5G hotspots in dense urban environments." That would seem to rule out the possibility of 5G's fastest speeds reaching rural areas or perhaps even suburbs.
Ray made his point with this GIF, apparently showing that millimeter-wave frequencies are immediately blocked by a door closing halfway while the lower 600MHz signal is unaffected:
Two teenaged science nerds in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn build a makeshift time machine to right a tragic wrong in See You Yesterday, a new film from Spike Lee's 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks. It's director Stefon Bristol's first feature film, based on a 2017 short film co-written by Fredrica Bailey and featured at the American Black Film Festival.
Here's the official synopsis:
High school best friends and science prodigies C.J. and Sebastian spend every spare minute working on their latest homemade invention: backpacks that enable time travel. But when C.J.'s older brother Calvin dies after an encounter with police officers, the young duo decide to put their unfinished tech to use in a desperate bid to save Calvin. From director Stefon Bristol and producer Spike Lee comes See You Yesterday, a sci-fi adventure grounded in familial love, cultural divides, and the universal urge to change the wrongs of the past.
The trailer is equally straightforward. We see C.J. (Eden Duncan-Smith) and Sebastian (Dante Crichlow) geeking out over their science experiment, excited about what it would mean for their college prospects should they actually get their time travel device to work. There's the obligatory shout-out to Einstein, whose general theory of relativity at least offers the (highly improbable) possibility of traveling back in time. Even if that were somehow possible, and with a portable device that fits in a backpack, there's still the question of whether it's possible to change the past. (Lost had it right: "Whatever happened, happened.")
In honor of Earth Day, the folks at Turo got in touch to tell me about the rising popularity of electric vehicles on the car sharing platform. For the uninitiated, Turo is a site that lets people rent out their vehicles when they're not using them—and yes, it includes insurance in case the renter does something they're not supposed to. Increasingly, the vehicles that people are looking for, and the vehicles they're sharing, are electric. In fact, the supply of EVs on Turo grew by 1.5 times the rate of hybrids or conventionally powered vehicles in 2017 and 1.6 times in 2018. The growth in demand is lagging a little, but demand for EVs still grew at 1.4 times the rate of hybrids and conventionally powered vehicles in 2017 and 1.5 times in 2018.
There are no prizes for guessing that much of this growth was from people adding Teslas to the platform and people correspondingly looking to rent Teslas. In 2014, there were just 67 Teslas for rent on Turo. At the time of writing, the company tells me that there are now 6,000 Teslas on the site.
As we discovered in January, the most popular car to rent on Turo last year was the Jeep Wrangler, and for 2018, none of the top five most-rented cars were battery EVs. But the Model S was in sixth place back then, with the Model X in tenth and the new Model 3 just one spot behind. "It's fascinating to see how popular EVs have become over the last year," explained Andre Haddad, Turo's CEO. "The Model 3 only showed up last spring, then started to take off in the summer as more people got their cars. And in Q4 2018, the Model 3 had overtaken the Model X." (Haddad also owns a Model S, Model X, and Model 3, all of which he rents out on the platform.)
MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas has forced out three senior researchers with ties to China. The move comes amid nationwide investigations by federal officials into whether researchers are pilfering intellectual property from US research institutions and running “shadow laboratories” abroad, according to a joint report by Science magazine and the Houston Chronicle.
The National Institutes of Health began sending letters to the elite cancer center last August regarding the conduct of five researchers there. The letters discussed “serious violations” of NIH policies, including leaking confidential NIH grant proposals under peer review to individuals in China, failing to disclose financial ties in China, and other conflicts of interest. MD Anderson moved to terminate three of those researchers, two of whom resigned during the termination process. The center cleared the fourth and is still investigation the fifth.
The move follows years of probing from the FBI, which first contacted MD Anderson back in 2015 with such concerns, according to MD Anderson President Dr. Peter Pisters. In December 2017, MD Anderson handed over hard drives containing employee emails to FBI investigators. That same year, a report by the US Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property used some rough calculations to estimate that IP theft by all parties cost the country upward of $225 billion, potentially as high as $600 billion, each year. The report called China the “world’s principal IP infringer.”
Charter Communications won't be kicked out of New York after all.
Nine months after a New York government agency ordered Charter to leave the state over its alleged failure to comply with merger conditions, state officials have announced a settlement that will let Charter stay in New York in exchange for further broadband expansions. The settlement will enforce a new version of the original merger conditions and require a $12 million payment, about half of which could help other ISPs deploy broadband.
The State Public Service Commission (PSC) had voted in July 2018 to revoke its approval of Charter's 2016 purchase of Time Warner Cable (TWC), saying Charter failed to meet interim deadlines for broadband-expansion requirements. The order, which came just a month after a $2 million fine, would have required Charter to sell the TWC system to another provider. But the PSC never enforced the merger revocation order as it repeatedly granted deadline extensions to Charter while the sides held settlement talks.
Samsung delays the release of its foldable smartphone after reviewers report broken screens.
We're on the lookout for the mid-range Pixel, which is expected to bring some of Google's flagship smartphone goodness to a lower price range. If you;'re in the market for a device like that, why not skip the mid-ranger and just buy the full flagship smartphone? Today only, Google is running an exceptional deal on the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL: they're available for half price as a way to celebrate Google Fi's birthday. So instead of $800 for the Pixel 3, you can pick up Google's smaller flagship for $400. The bigger Pixel 3 XL drops from $1,000 (for the 128GB version) to $500.
Buying the Pixel 3 for half price does come with some caveats. First, it's through the Project Fi site, and the terms of the deal say you have to "activate" the phone with Google Fi. Fi doesn't have a contract though, so assuming you use 0GB of data, that just means you'll be on the hook for one month of $20 service. The deal is good until 11:59pm PT today only (April 22) or while supplies last. It is only open to US residents.
We've complained about the limited amount of RAM in the Pixel 3 and 3 X and the idea that it's not competitive in price or design with devices like the OnePlus 6T. For half-price, though, this sale represents a pretty sweet deal. You're getting a great stock Android device with the fastest Android updates that will arrive until October 2021. It has one of the best mobile cameras on Earth, and if you're the crazy type that likes to play with beta builds of Android, the Pixel 3 gives you the earliest access. This is the lowest price we've ever seen for the device, so it seems hard to go wrong with a purchase here.
Some Microsoft employees are criticizing the company's efforts to increase hiring from under-represented demographics to make its staff more diverse, according to messages leaked to Quartz.
Threads started by an as-yet unnamed female program manager and posted on the internal Yammer message board in January and April assert that white and Asian men are being penalized or overlooked because of hiring practices that reward managers for hiring people outside of those groups. (Quartz hasn't named the employee who is apparently identified in the messages.) Further, the employee questions the value of diversity at all: "Many women simply aren't cut out for the corporate rat race, so to speak, and that's not because of 'the patriarchy,' it's because men and women aren't identical." She follows up that it is "established fact" that the "specific types of thought process and problem solving required for engineering of all kinds (software or otherwise) are simply less prevalent among women," and that women simply aren't interested in engineering jobs.Established fact?
Of course, these claims seemingly ignore troves of evidence showing how bias seeps into hiring and the workplace. Research has shown merely having a male name produces a more positive assessment of a job application, having a male presenter produces more positive reactions to pitches, and that managers skew their judgement criteria so as to favor men. Software developers who don't happen to be white and male are paid less than white men, and women, unlike men, are viewed negatively when they attempt to negotiate higher pay.