Archive for the ‘Biz & IT’ Category

50 years on, we’re living the reality first shown at the “Mother of All Demos”

December 9th, 2018
Douglas Engelbart during his 1968 demonstration.

Douglas Engelbart during his 1968 demonstration. (credit: SRI International)

A half century ago, computer history took a giant leap when Douglas Engelbart—then a mid-career 43-year-old engineer at Stanford Research Institute in the heart of Silicon Valley—gave what has come to be known as the "mother of all demos."

On December 9, 1968 at a computer conference in San Francisco, Engelbart showed off the first inklings of numerous technologies that we all now take for granted: video conferencing, a modern desktop-style user interface, word processing, hypertext, the mouse, collaborative editing, among many others.

Even before his famous demonstration, Engelbart outlined his vision of the future more than a half-century ago in his historic 1962 paper, "Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework."

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Why driving is hard—even for AIs

December 7th, 2018
Why driving is hard—even for AIs

Enlarge (credit: Dong Wenjie via Getty Images)

Welcome to Ars UNITE, our week-long virtual conference on the ways that innovation brings unusual pairings together. Each day this week from Wednesday through Friday, we're bringing you a pair of stories about facing the future. Today's focus is on AI in the city—get ready for a lot of smart buildings and self-driving stuff!

I have a couple of kids of learner’s permit age, and it’s my fatherly duty to give them some driving tips so they won’t be a menace to themselves and to everyone else. So I’ve been analyzing the way I drive: How did I know that the other driver was going to turn left ahead of me? Why am I paying attention to the unleashed dog on the sidewalk but not the branches of the trees overhead? What subconscious cues tell me that a light is about to change to red or that the door of a parked car is about to open?

This exercise has given me a renewed appreciation for the terrible complexity of driving—and that’s just the stuff I know to think about. The car itself already takes care of a million details that make the car go, stop, and steer, and that process was complex enough when I was young and cars were essentially mechanical and electric. Now, cars have become rolling computers, with humans controlling (at most) speed, direction, and comfort.

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All hail the AI overlord: Smart cities and the AI Internet of Things

December 7th, 2018
Urban highrises connected by invisible radio signals.

Enlarge / Shanghai. (credit: Dong Wenjie / Getty Images)

Welcome to Ars UNITE, our week-long virtual conference on the ways that innovation brings unusual pairings together. Each day this week from Wednesday through Friday, we're bringing you a pair of stories about facing the future. Today's focus is on AI in the city—get ready for a lot of smart buildings and self-driving stuff!

Cities generate lots of data. The exact amount depends on the size of the city and its sophistication and ambitions, but it's certainly more than mere humans can absorb and use. The Smart Cities movement, which looks for ways to find data-driven technological solutions to everyday urban challenges, is increasingly turning to artificial intelligence to deliver "services" to its residents—everything from locating gunshots and finding tumors to dispatching work crews to pick up trash.

New York is one of about 90 cities worldwide that uses a system called ShotSpotter, which uses a network of microphones to instantly recognize and locate gunshots. In Moscow, all chest X-rays taken in hospitals are run through an AI system to recognize and diagnose tumors. And Taiwan is building a system that will be able to predict air quality, allowing city managers to warn residents of health dangers and work to lessen what the data tells them will be the worst of the impacts.

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Posted in ars-unite-2018, Biz & IT, Features | Comments (0)

Google Play ejects 22 backdoored apps with 2 million+ downloads

December 6th, 2018
Google Play ejects 22 backdoored apps with 2 million+ downloads

(credit: Jeremy Brooks / Flickr)

Almost two dozen apps with more than 2 million downloads have been removed from the Google Play market after researchers found they contained a device-draining backdoor that allowed them to surreptitiously download files from an attacker-controlled server.

The 22 rogue titles included Sparkle Flashlight, a flashlight app that had been downloaded more than 1 million times since it entered Google Play sometime in 2016 or 2017, antivirus provider Sophos said in a blog post published Thursday. Beginning around March of this year, Sparkle Flashlight and two other apps were updated to add the secret downloader. The remaining 19 apps became available after June and contained the downloader from the start.

“Serious harm”

By the time Google removed the apps in late November, they were being used to click endlessly on fraudulent ads. "Andr/Clickr-ad," as Sophos has dubbed the family of apps, automatically started and ran even after a user force-closed them, functions that caused the apps to consume huge amounts of bandwidth and drain batteries. In Thursday's post, Sophos researcher Chen Yu wrote:

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Posted in ad fraud, Android, apps, Biz & IT, google play, Malicious | Comments (0)

Amazon “automated machine” punctures bear spray can, 24 employees hospitalized

December 6th, 2018
Robbinsville Amazon warehouse

Enlarge / Employees fufill online orders at the Amazon.com Inc. fulfillment center in Robbinsville, New Jersey, on Thursday, June 7, 2018. (credit: Bess Adler/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

On Wednesday, 24 Amazon employees working in a Robbinsville Township, New Jersey, warehouse were sent to five different area hospitals after a 9oz canister of bear spray was deployed.

Early reports that the canister was punctured by an Amazon robot have not been confirmed by either Amazon or the Township's communication official, John Nalbone. Nalbone told Ars that Robbinsville first responders only reported that an "automated machine" was to blame, which could mean anything from a programmed robotic arm to an automated conveyor belt. (Of course, may readers of Ars would agree that defining the meaning of "robot" is more than just an exercise in trivia. This Wired article explores the topic more deeply.)

On Wednesday evening, one of the 24 people hospitalized was in critical condition, while another 30 were treated on the scene, ABC News says.

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Posted in amazon, Biz & IT, employment, robots, Working conditions | Comments (0)

NASA’s next Mars rover will use AI to be a better science partner

December 6th, 2018
The Mars 2020 rover will likely carry artificial intelligence software to help manage the science workload.

Enlarge / The Mars 2020 rover will likely carry artificial intelligence software to help manage the science workload. (credit: NASA)

Welcome to Ars UNITE, our week-long virtual conference on the ways that innovation brings unusual pairings together. Each day this week from Wednesday through Friday, we're bringing you a pair of stories about facing the future. Today's focus is on AI in manufacturing and space—stand by to blast off!

NASA can't yet put a scientist on Mars. But in its next rover mission to the red planet, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is hoping to use artificial intelligence to at least put the equivalent of a talented research assistant there. Steve Chien, head of the AI Group at NASA JPL, envisions working with the Mars 2020 Rover "much more like [how] you would interact with a graduate student instead of a rover that you typically have to micromanage."

The 13-minute delay in communications between Earth and Mars means that the movements and experiments conducted by past and current Martian rovers have had to be meticulously planned. While more recent rovers have had the capability of recognizing hazards and performing some tasks autonomously, they've still placed great demands on their support teams.

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Posted in ars-unite-2018, artificial intellignece, Biz & IT, Earth Observing One, expert systems, image processing, Mars Rover 2020, NASA | Comments (0)

AT&T/Verizon lobby misunderstands arrow of time, makes impossible claim

December 6th, 2018
Illustration of a clock and arrows pointing to the right.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | D3Damon)

The telecom industry lobby group that represents AT&T and Verizon has consistently claimed that net neutrality rules hurt broadband investment. Yet the same lobby group has released data showing that fiber deployment grew significantly while net neutrality rules were in effect.

Even more surprising: the lobby group, USTelecom, also recently claimed that an increase in broadband network investment that happened before the net neutrality repeal was somehow caused by the repeal that hadn't yet taken effect.

USTelecom released a new analysis last week, saying that, "from the end of 2015 to mid-2017, US fiber deployment grew from 21 percent to 29 percent of homes and competitive availability of wired broadband at 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload [speeds] increased from 31 percent to 55 percent." Fixed wireless deployment has also helped expand broadband access, USTelecom wrote.

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Posted in AT&T, Biz & IT, broadband, Net Neutrality, Policy, ustelecom, verizon | Comments (0)

Artificial Intelligence and the coming of the self-designing machine

December 6th, 2018
Robot, heal thyself.

Enlarge / Robot, heal thyself. (credit: Gmas3r, via Getty Images)

Welcome to Ars UNITE, our week-long virtual conference on the ways that innovation brings unusual pairings together. Each day this week from Wednesday through Friday, we're bringing you a pair of stories about facing the future. Today's focus is on AI in manufacturing and space—stand by to blast off!

Manufacturing is in the early states of a state of disruption brought on by technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and 3D printing. "Additive manufacturing" has already worked itself into companies such as Porsche and Bugatti, and aircraft builder Airbus is experimenting with UAV THOR, a drone made entirely of 3D-printed parts. At the same time, AI is coming into play in a number of ways, in everything from analytics to manufacturing robotics. So the "factory of the future," as envisioned by projects such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Adaptive Vehicle Make program, is one in which software drives the manufacturing process and the factory can be rapidly reconfigured to change what it makes.

AI has increasingly played a role in designing products in the form of generative design software. AI-driven generative design software makes it possible for humans and AI to work together to rapidly consider every conceivable design option and to test them all before choosing one for production.

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Posted in ars-unite-2018, Biz & IT, Features | Comments (0)

As US coal use drops to 1979 levels, EPA may ease rules on new coal plants

December 5th, 2018
Uncovered coal trains

Enlarge / An eastbound Norfolk Southern Corp. unit coal train passes through Waddy, Kentucky. (credit: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The Trump administration's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) appears poised to roll back Obama-era rules that effectively prevented new coal plants from opening in the US. The rules required new coal plants to emit no more than 1,400 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour (MWh), a constraint that is nearly impossible for new coal generators to meet without carbon-capture technology.

According to anonymous sources speaking to The New York Times, the EPA will announce a rollback of this rule on Thursday, effectively making it possible for energy companies to build new coal plants that emit up to 1,900 pounds of CO2 per MWh, which is more in-line with emissions from modern coal plants without carbon capture.

Although the Obama-era regulations didn't prohibit the construction of new coal plants, opponents of the rules said the carbon-emissions caps were an effective prohibition, because carbon-capture projects are few and far between and are quite expensive to implement.

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Posted in Biz & IT, coal, Energy, Policy, Trump | Comments (0)

Iranians indicted in Atlanta city government ransomware attack

December 5th, 2018
The message posted to social media by the city of Atlanta in the wake of an apparent ransomware attack.

Enlarge / The message posted to social media by the city of Atlanta in the wake of an apparent ransomware attack. (credit: City of Atlanta)

The US Attorney's Office for the District of Northern Georgia announced today that a federal grand jury had returned indictments against two Iranian nationals charged with executing the March 2018 ransomware attack that paralyzed Atlanta city government services for over a week. Faramarz Shahi Savandi and Mohammed Mehdi Shah Mansouri are accused of using the Samsam ransomware to encrypt files on 3,789 City of Atlanta computers, including servers and workstations, in an attempt to extort Bitcoin from Atlanta officials.

Details leaked by City of Atlanta employees during the ransomware attack, including screenshots of the demand message posted on city computers, indicated that Samsam-based malware was used. A Samsam variant was used in a number of ransomware attacks on hospitals in 2016, with attackers using vulnerable Java Web services to gain entry in several cases. In more recent attacks, including one on the health industry companies Hancock Health and Allscripts, other methods were used to gain access, including Remote Desktop Protocol hacks that gave the attackers direct access to Windows systems on the victims' networks.

The Atlanta attack was not a targeted state-sponsored attack. The attackers likely chose Atlanta based on a vulnerability scan. According to the indictment, the attackers offered the city the option of paying six Bitcoin (currently the equivalent of $22,500) to get keys to unlock all the affected systems or 0.8 Bitcoin (about $3,000) for individual systems. "The ransom note directed the City of Atlanta to a particular Bitcoin address to pay the ransom and supplied a web domain that was only accessible using a Tor browser," a Department of Justice spokesperson said in a statement. "The note suggested that the City of Atlanta could download the decryption key from that website." But within days of the attack, the Tor page became unreachable, and the City of Atlanta did not pay the ransom.

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Posted in Atlanta, Biz & IT, Iran, Policy, ransomware | Comments (0)