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    - How 'The Big Bang Theory' Normalized Nerd Culture
    Last week, the last episode of the final season of "The Big Bang Theory" was broadcasted on CBS. Say what you will about the show, but one thing is clear: it was popular. While the average episode in Season 11 received over 18.6 million views, the season finale ended its run with an audience of 23.44 million viewers. The New Yorker's Neima Jahromi reflects on the show and how it "normalized nerd culture": On Thursday night, "The Big Bang Theory" closed out its run with an audience of eighteen million viewers. Despite all the cast changes, Sheldon remained emphatically misanthropic, self-centered, and alienated. In the end, the reason he became a kind of dweeby Fonz has to do with the structural tendencies of the oft-dismissed multi-camera sitcom. Such shows extract empathy in real time. With a live audience, silence is not an option: if a joke or a scene doesn't land, if real people aren't feeling it, then the writers storm the soundstage and change it. Alienated characters, who are the least likely to garner empathy, require extra attention from writers, and therefore often gravitate toward the center of a show. As a result, viewers come halfway, too. It's unlikely that a curmudgeonly Archie Bunker on "All in the Family" or an uptight Alex P. Keaton on "Family Ties" will remain detestable for long, even if their creators did set them up to be antagonists. Eventually, audiences saw that Sheldon was as befuddled by the world as they were uncomprehending of his intellectual pursuits. They also learned that he hated change as much as they did. In this way, an outmoded form of television cushioned the anxiety of the brave new tech culture for a generation. How do you feel about the ending of The Big Bang Theory?

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    - New Paper Confirms Near-Room-Temperature Superconductivity In Wild, Hydrogen-Rich Material
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: A team of physicists has published peer-reviewed results documenting near-room-temperature superconductivity in the hydrogen-rich compound lanthanum hydride. The team, led by physicist Mikhail Eremets from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, kicked off the most recent race for a high-temperature superconducting hydride in 2015, when they published a paper announcing the discovery of superconductivity at -70 Celsius (-94 Fahrenheit). In this most recent paper, the researchers placed a piece of lanthanum into an insulating ring, then placed it into a box full of pressurized hydrogen gas. They clamped the gasket between a pair of diamonds, and continued squeezing the diamonds until they hit the desired pressures, nearly 2 million times the pressure on the surface of Earth. Then, they hit the sample with a laser to form the lanthanum hydride. Finally, they take measurements to confirm they really created the material and that it's really a superconductor. The researchers detail two measurements in the paper: In one, they measure the resistance drop to zero at the -23 Celsius or -9.67 Fahrenheit temperature. In another, they notice that this temperature decreases in the presence of a magnetic field -- a clue that they were actually measuring the sample rather than something being wrong with their experimental setup.

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    - Huawei Executive Accused of Helping Steal Trade Secrets
    CNEX Labs, a Silicon Valley startup backed by Microsoft and Dell, is accusing high-level Huawei executive Eric Xu of participating in a conspiracy to steal its trade secrets (Warning: source paywalled; alternative source), reports The Wall Street Journal. From a report: The Journal quotes a newly released hearing transcript that offers some details in a largely locked-down trial. According to its write-up, CNEX claims that Xu -- one of Huawei's rotating chairmen -- "directed a Huawei engineer to analyze Cnex's technical information." The engineer then allegedly posed as a potential CNEX customer to obtain details about its operations. CNEX also says that Xu was briefed on a plot to surreptitiously gather information from Xiamen University, which had obtained a computer memory board from CNEX. According to the Journal, Huawei lawyers admitted that Xu had been "in the chain of command that had requested" information about CNEX, but they denied that any trade secrets had been stolen. Huawei originally filed a lawsuit against CNEX co-founder Yiren "Ronnie" Huang in 2017, claiming Huang -- who left Huawei in 2013 -- had poached employees and used its patents to build CNEX's solid-state drive technology. CNEX counter-sued, claiming that Huawei had misappropriated its tech and was trying to gather even more information through the lawsuit.

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    - Apple Agrees To Notify iPhone Users If iOS Updates Will Affect Performance, UK Watchdog Says
    A UK watchdog group said on Wednesday that Apple has agreed to clearly notify consumers if future iOS software updates slow down or change the performance of an iPhone. CNBC reports: The U.K. Competition and Markets Authority investigated the issue after Apple said in early 2018 that it had deliberately slowed down processor speeds through a software update on some iPhones to extend battery life. Public pressure stemming from the revelation forced Apple to provide discounted $29 battery replacements that were cited by the company as one reason iPhone sales last holiday quarter were slower than expected. That program has ended. "To ensure compliance with consumer law Apple has formally agreed to improve the information it provides to people about the battery health of their phones and the impact performance management software may have on their phones," the U.K. government said on its website. The CMA said that Apple is legally required to tell consumers about the software and battery health, something the company was already doing through software on the iPhone as well as a letter on its website.

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    - Phones Can Now Tell Who Is Carrying Them From Their Users' Gaits
    PolygamousRanchKid shares an excerpt from a report via The Economist: Most online fraud involves identity theft, which is why businesses that operate on the web have a keen interest in distinguishing impersonators from genuine customers. Passwords help. But many can be guessed or are jotted down imprudently. Newer phones, tablets, and laptop and desktop computers often have beefed-up security with fingerprint and facial recognition. But these can be spoofed. To overcome these shortcomings the next level of security is likely to identify people using things which are harder to copy, such as the way they walk. Many online security services already use a system called device fingerprinting. This employs software to note things like the model type of a gadget employed by a particular user; its hardware configuration; its operating system; the apps which have been downloaded onto it; and other features, including sometimes the Wi-Fi networks it regularly connects through and devices like headsets it plugs into. LexisNexis Risk Solutions, an American analytics firm, has catalogued more than 4 billion phones, tablets and other computers in this way for banks and other clients. Roughly 7% of them have been used for shenanigans of some sort. But device fingerprinting is becoming less useful. Apple, Google and other makers of equipment and operating systems have been steadily restricting the range of attributes that can be observed remotely. That is why a new approach, behavioral biometrics, is gaining ground. It relies on the wealth of measurements made by today's devices. These include data from accelerometers and gyroscopic sensors, that reveal how people hold their phones when using them, how they carry them and even the way they walk. Touchscreens, keyboards and mice can be monitored to show the distinctive ways in which someone's fingers and hands move. Sensors can detect whether a phone has been set down on a hard surface such as a table or dropped lightly on a soft one such as a bed. If the hour is appropriate, this action could be used to assume when a user has retired for the night. These traits can then be used to determine whether someone attempting to make a transaction is likely to be the device's habitual user. If used wisely, the report says behavioral biometrics could be used to authenticate account-holders without badgering them for additional passwords or security questions; it could even be used for unlocking the doors of a vehicle once the gait of the driver, as measured by his phone, is recognized, for example. "Used unwisely, however, the system could become yet another electronic spy, permitting complete strangers to monitor your actions, from the moment you reach for your phone in the morning, to when you fling it on the floor at night," the report adds.

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    - Consumer Reports: Latest Autopilot 'Far Less Competent Than a Human'
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In recent weeks, Tesla has been pushing out a new version of Autopilot with automatic lane-change capabilities to Model 3s -- including one owned by Consumer Reports. So the group dispatched several drivers to highways around the group's car-testing center in Connecticut to test the feature. The results weren't good. The "latest version of Tesla's automatic lane-changing feature is far less competent than a human driver," Consumer Reports declares. CR found that the Model 3's rear cameras didn't seem able to see very far behind the vehicle. Autopilot has forward-facing radar to help detect vehicles ahead of the car and measure their speed, but it lacks rear-facing radar that would give the car advance warning of vehicles approaching quickly from the rear. The result: CR found that the Model 3 tended to cut off cars that were approaching rapidly from behind. The vehicle also violated some Connecticut driving laws, the testers found. "Several CR testers observed Navigate on Autopilot initiate a pass on the right on a two-lane divided highway," writes CR's Keith Barry. "We checked with a law enforcement official who confirmed this is considered an 'improper pass' in Connecticut and could result in a ticket." The vehicle also failed to move back over to the right lane after completing a pass as required by state law, CR reports. Ultimately, driving with Autopilot's automatic lane-changing feature is "much harder than just changing lanes yourself," writes CR's Jake Fisher said. "Using the system is like monitoring a kid behind the wheel for the very first time. As any parent knows, it's far more convenient and less stressful to simply drive yourself."

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    - Millions of Golfers Land In Privacy Hazard After Cloud Misconfig
    Millions of golfer records from the Game Golf app, including GPS details from courses played, usernames and passwords, and even Facebook login data, were all exposed for anyone with an internet browser to see -- a veritable hole-in-one for a cyberattacker looking to build profiles for potential victims, to be used in follow-on social-engineering attacks. Threatpost reports: Security Discovery researcher Bob Diachenko recently ran across an Elastic database that was not password-protected and thus visible in any browser. Further inspection showed that it belongs to Game Golf, which is a family of apps developed by San Francisco-based Game Your Game Inc. Game Golf comes as a free app, as a paid pro version with coaching tools and also bundled with a wearable. It's a straightforward analyzer for those that like to hit the links -- tracking courses played, GPS data for specific shots, various player stats and so on -- plus there's a messaging and community function, and an optional "caddy" feature. It's popular, too: It has 50,000+ installs on Google Play. Unfortunately, Game Golf landed its users in a sand trap of privacy concerns by not securing the database: Security Discovery senior security researcher Jeremiah Fowler said that the bucket included all of the aforementioned analyzer information, plus profile data like usernames and hashed passwords, emails, gender, and Facebook IDs and authorization tokens. In all, the exposure consisted of millions of records, including details on "134 million rounds of golf, 4.9 million user notifications and 19.2 million records in a folder called 'activity feed,'" Fowler said. The database also contained network information for the company: IP addresses, ports, pathways and storage info that "cybercriminals could exploit to access deeper into the network," according to Fowler, writing in a post on Tuesday. No word on whether malicious players took a swing at the data, as it were, but the sheer breadth of the information that the app gathers is concerning, Fowler noted.

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    - Crowdfunded Android Console Ouya Will Be Shut Down On June 25th
    Razer, the gaming hardware manufacturing company that purchased Ouya's software assets in mid-2015, announced today that the crowdfunded Android console will cease functioning on June 25th. "That date will mark the unremarkable end of what began as a runaway Kickstarter success story: the inexpensive Ouya mini-console was powered by Android and introduced games such as TowerFall," reports The Verge. "But despite being positioned as the indie console, Ouya never quite took off after its $8.5 million crowdfunding campaign. The goal was to move Android's indie gaming scene to TV screens -- with exclusive Ouya-only titles mixed in -- but the execution didn't pan out." From the report: The hardware has been discontinued ever since Razer acquired Ouya's software assets in 2015. So it's somewhat surprising that the platform has continued to plod along for nearly four additional years. But that all ends next month. Accounts will be deactivated on June 25th. After that, Razer says "access to the Discover section will no longer be available. Games downloaded that appear in Play may still function if they do not require a purchase validation upon launch." But by and large, games on the Ouya platform will stop working after the cutoff date. Razer notes that some developers might choose to help their Ouya customers by activating the same game on some other platform (i.e., Google Play) where available following the shutdown. Razer's own Forge TV device will continue functioning as an Android TV set-top box, but the Forge TV games store is also going offline come the 25th. Part of Razer's thinking behind the Ouya acquisition was to propel its long-term Android TV gaming ambitions. The company has clearly shifted its priorities over the last few years, as indicated by the decision to finally shut down Ouya once and for all.

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    - Reddit Co-Founder Alexis Ohanian Speaks Out Against 'Always-On' Work Culture
    At The Wall Street Journal's Future of Everything Festival on Tuesday, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian spoke out against the toxicity of "hustle porn" and how always-on work culture creates "broken" people. An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from the report: I've spoken out quite a bit about things like 'hustle porn,' and this ceremony of showing off on social [media] about how hard you're working," said Mr. Ohanian, who previously co-founded online discussion forum Reddit. "Y'all see it on Instagram and you certainly see it in the startup community, and it becomes really toxic." Business men in his position are rarely asked about juggling the requirements of their roles outside of work, like in their family, he said, and that contributes to unrealistic expectations that a job can reflect the entirety of anyone's identity as a human being. "All of us who decide to start a company, we're kind of broken as people," because founders are often singularly-focused on the success of their venture, said Mr. Ohanian. Even with great mentors and investors supporting their vision, entrepreneurs tend to put a great deal of pressure on themselves to work harder than anyone else to achieve success and profitability. That psychological pressure is compounded by what he and others refer to as "hustle culture." "You have this culture of posturing, and this culture that glorifies the most absurd things and ignores things like self-care, and ignores things like therapy, and ignores things like actually taking care of yourself as a physical being for the sake of work at all costs. It's a toxic problem," said Mr. Ohanian. This issue isn't limited to technology companies, he added, noting that his acquaintances in finance and other industries also promote an unhealthy attitude that encourages 12-hour work days and few breaks. "Social media has made it possible to weaponize it to the point where, if [bragging about your difficult workweek] gets hearts, you're incentivized to keep pushing" the limits.

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    - Hackers Are Holding Baltimore's Government Computers Hostage
    On May 7, hackers infected about 10,000 of Baltimore city government's computers with an aggressive form of ransomware called RobbinHood, and insisted the city pay 13 bitcoin (then $76,280, today $102,310) to cut the computers loose. The hackers claimed the price would go up every day after four days, and after the tenth day, the affected files would be lost forever. From a report: "We won't talk more, all we know is MONEY!" the ransom note read. "Hurry up! Tik Tak, Tik Tak, Tik Tak!" But the city has not paid. In the two weeks since, Baltimore citizens have not had access to many city services. The city payment services and email systems are still offline. A May 7 Baltimore Sun report stated the Robbinhood ransomware used in this attack encrypts files with a "file-locking" virus so the hackers can hold the files hostage. Among the departments that have had issues with their email and phone systems are the Department of Public Works, the Department of Transportation, and the Baltimore Police Department. According to the Wall Street Journal, Baltimore Health Department's epidemiologists aren't able to use the network that allows them to alert citizens of certain which types of drugs are causing recent overdoses. Many services have resumed through phone, and vital emergency systems like 911 and 311 reportedly continued to function. The ransomware froze the system the city uses for executing home sales, which reportedly hurt the local market, but the city began implementing a manual workaround earlier this week.

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    - How the World's First Digital Circuit Breaker Could Completely Change Our Powered World
    This week the world's first and only digital circuit breaker was certified for commercial use. The technology, invented by Atom Power, has been listed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the global standard for consumer safety. This new breaker makes power easier to manage and 3000 times faster than the fastest mechanical breaker, marking the most radical advancement in power distribution since Thomas Edison. From a report: Picture the fuse box in your basement, each switch assigned to different electrical components of your home. These switches are designed to break a circuit during an electrical overload to protect your lights and appliances. When this happens, you plod down to your mechanical room and flick the switches on again. Now multiply that simple system in your home to city high rises and industrial buildings, which might have 250 circuit breakers on any given floor, each one ranging from 15 to 4000 amps at higher voltages. At this scale, the limitations and dangers of a manually controlled power system become much more evident -- and costly. Ryan Kennedy, CEO of Atom Power, has been working to build a better electrical system since he began his career 25 years ago, first as an electrician and then as an engineer and project manager on large, high profile commercial electrical projects. His experienced based inquiry has revolved around a central assertion that analog infrastructure doesn't allow us to control our power the way we should be able to. That idea has led to some pretty critical questions: "What would it take to make power systems controllable?" and "Why shouldn't that control be built in to the circuit breaker itself?"

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    - Google's Ad System Under EU Probe For How It Spreads Your Private Data
    Ireland's data protection watchdog has launched an investigation into Google's collection of personal data for the purpose of online advertising. From a report: "A statutory inquiry pursuant to section 110 of the Data Protection Act 2018 has been commenced in respect of Google Ireland Limited's processing of personal data in the context of its online Ad Exchange," the Data Protection Commission said in a statement Wednesday. The DPC, one of the lead authorities over Google in the European Union, wants to know whether the search giant's "processing of personal data carried out at each stage of an advertising transaction" is in compliance with the EU's General Data Protection Regulation. The GDPR is a sweeping law that gives residents of the European Union more control over their personal data and seeks to clarify rules for online services. The DPC inquiry follows a complaint filed in Europe in September by privacy-focused browser maker Brave that says Google violates GDPR by broadcasting personal information to companies bidding to show targeted ads. At the time, Google denied any wrongdoing. On Wednesday, Johnny Ryan, Brave's chief policy and industry relations officer, said the DPC inquiry signals a change is coming that goes beyond just Google. "We need to reform online advertising to protect privacy, and to protect advertisers and publishers from legal risk under the GDPR," Ryan said in a blog post.

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    - EE To Switch on UK's First 5G Network on May 30
    UK mobile carrier EE announced its plans to launch 5G in the UK on Wednesday. The network will be switched on on May 30, with the first 5G phones available to preorder from today. From a report: EE's initial 5G rollout will focus on six cities (London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester), with promises to expand to 19 cities by the end of the year. EE CEO Marc Allera promised EE 5G customers would experience average download speeds of 156 Mbps. It will be "like having a lane of the motorway all to yourself," he said, speaking at an event in London. The first devices EE will offer on its 5G plans include the OnePlus 7 Pro, the Samsung Galaxy S10, the Oppo Reno 5G, the LG V50 ThinQ, a 5G home router and an HTC Wi-Fi device. Plans start from $68 per month (for 10GB of data) and extend up to $94 per month (for 120GB of data). Earlier this month, EE announced it would offer the Huawei Mate 20 X as one of the first 5G phones it offered to customers, but due to the developments earlier this week calling into question the future of Android on Huawei phones, the network has pulled them from its initial 5G device lineup. "We've put the Huawei devices on pause until we've got a bit more information on that," said Allera.

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    - Android and iOS Devices Impacted By New Sensor Calibration Attack
    A new device fingerprinting technique can track Android and iOS devices across the Internet by using factory-set sensor calibration details that any app or website can obtain without special permissions. From a report: This new technique -- called a calibration fingerprinting attack, or SensorID -- works by using calibration details from gyroscope and magnetometer sensors on iOS; and calibration details from accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer sensors on Android devices. According to a team of academics from the University of Cambridge in the UK, SensorID impacts iOS devices more than Android smartphones. The reason is that Apple likes to calibrate iPhone and iPad sensors on its factory line, a process that only a few Android vendors are using to improve the accuracy of their smartphones' sensors. "Our approach works by carefully analysing the data from sensors which are accessible without any special permissions to both websites and apps," the research team said in a research paper published yesterday. "Our analysis infers the per-device factory calibration data which manufacturers embed into the firmware of the smartphone to compensate for systematic manufacturing errors [in their devices' sensors]," researchers said. This calibration data can then be used as a fingerprint, producing a unique identifier that advertising or analytics firms can use to track a user as they navigate across the internet.

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    - Shareholder Efforts To Curb Amazon Facial Recognition Tech Fall Short
    Two Amazon shareholder proposals about the company's controversial facial recognition technology failed to pass Wednesday, following a concerted push by civil rights groups and activist investors. From a report: One proposal would have banned Amazon from selling its Rekognition technology to government agencies unless it first determines the software doesn't infringe on civil liberties. The other proposal called for an independent study of the potential privacy and human rights violations caused by Rekognition. Both proposals were presented at Amazon's annual shareholder meeting in Seattle on Wednesday. The company said it isn't disclosing the vote tallies until this Friday. "The fact that there needed to be a vote on this is an embarrassment for Amazon's leadership team. It demonstrates shareholders do not have confidence that company executives are properly understanding or addressing the civil and human rights impacts of its role in facilitating pervasive government surveillance," Shankar Narayan, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington's Technology and Liberty Project director, said in a statement. "While we have yet to see the exact breakdown of the vote, this shareholder intervention should serve as a wake-up call for the company to reckon with the real harms of face surveillance and to change course." Both proposals, which were non-binding, were long shots to pass, since Amazon's board said it was against the proposals. Major shareholders typically follow such positions to show support for the board. Also, CEO Jeff Bezos, Amazon's board chairman, is the company's biggest shareholder, controlling about 16% of its stock, and wasn't expected to vote for either proposal.

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