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Rookie Coding Mistake Prior To Gab Hack Came From Site's CTO

Slashdot - March 2, 2021 - 10:30pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Over the weekend, word emerged that a hacker breached far-right social media website Gab and downloaded 70 gigabytes of data by exploiting a garden-variety security flaw known as an SQL injection. A quick review of Gab's open source code shows that the critical vulnerability -- or at least one very much like it -- was introduced by the company's chief technology officer. The change, which in the parlance of software development is known as a "git commit," was made sometime in February from the account of Fosco Marotto, a former Facebook software engineer who in November became Gab's CTO. On Monday, Gab removed the git commit from its website. Below is an image showing the February software change, as shown from a site that provides saved commit snapshots. The commit shows a software developer using the name Fosco Marotto introducing precisely the type of rookie mistake that could lead to the kind of breach reported this weekend. Specifically, line 23 strips the code of "reject" and "filter," which are API functions that implement a programming idiom that protects against SQL injection attacks. This idiom allows programmers to compose an SQL query in a safe way that "sanitizes" the inputs that website visitors enter into search boxes and other web fields to ensure that any malicious commands are stripped out before the text is passed to backend servers. In their place, the developer added a call to the Rails function that contains the "find_by_sql" method, which accepts unsanitized inputs directly in a query string. Rails is a widely used website development toolkit. "Sadly Rails documentation doesn't warn you about this pitfall, but if you know anything at all about using SQL databases in web applications, you'd have heard of SQL injection, and it's not hard to come across warnings that find_by_sql method is not safe," Dmitry Borodaenko, a former production engineer at Facebook who brought the commit to my attention wrote in an email. "It is not 100% confirmed that this is the vulnerability that was used in the Gab data breach, but it definitely could have been, and this code change is reverted in the most recent commit that was present in their GitLab repository before they took it offline." Ironically, Fosco in 2012 warned fellow programmers to use parameterized queries to prevent SQL injection vulnerabilities.

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CVS, Walgreens Look For Big Data Reward From Covid-19 Vaccinations

Slashdot - March 2, 2021 - 9:02pm
Thelasko shares a report from The Wall Street Journal: Administering Covid-19 vaccines comes with a valuable perk for retail pharmacies: access to troves of consumer data. Chains such as CVS Health Corp., Walmart Inc. and Walgreens-Boots Alliance, Inc. are collecting data from millions of customers as they sign up for shots, enrolling them in patient systems and having recipients register customer profiles. The retailers say they are using the information to promote their stores and services, tailor marketing and keep in touch with consumers. The companies also say the information is critical in streamlining vaccinations and improving record-keeping, while ensuring only qualified people are receiving shots.

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Hackers Release a New Jailbreak Tool For Almost Every iPhone

Slashdot - March 2, 2021 - 8:25pm
An iPhone hacking team has released a new jailbreak tool for almost every iPhone, including the most recent models, by using the same vulnerability that Apple last month said was under active attack by hackers. TechCrunch reports: The Unc0ver team released its latest jailbreak this weekend, and says it works on iOS 11 (iPhone 5s and later) to iOS 14.3, which Apple released in December. In a tweet, the jailbreak group said it used its âoeown exploitâ for CVE-2021-1782, a kernel vulnerability that Apple said was one of three flaws that "may have been actively exploited" by hackers. By targeting the kernel, the hackers are able to get deep hooks into the underlying operating system. Apple fixed the vulnerability in iOS 14.4, released last month, which also prevents the jailbreak from working on later versions. It was a rare admission that the iPhone was under active attack by hackers, but the company declined to say who the hackers were and who they were targeting. Apple also granted anonymity to the researcher who submitted the bug.

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Beyond Meat Signs Global Supply Deals With McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut

Slashdot - March 2, 2021 - 7:45pm
U.S. plant-based protein company Beyond Meat has signed global supply deals with fast food firms McDonald's and Yum! Brands, which includes KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and others. AgFunderNews reports: The three-year strategic agreement with McDonald's will see Beyond Meat become the 'preferred supplier' of patties for the fast food chain's new McPlant plant-based burger. Under their separate strategic partnership, Beyond Meat and Yum! Brands will co-develop a range of exclusive plant-based protein menu items for the latter's KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell chains. Bruce Friedrich, executive director of the Good Food Institute, said in comments sent to AFN that the two deals represent "the clearest sign yet that the future of meat will be plant-based." "The world's largest restaurant chains are placing plant-based meat directly on the plates of millions of customers around the world," he said. "With more restaurants and revenue than any other food chains on the planet, McDonald's and Yum! Brands will bring plant-based meat onto the mainstream menus of millions of people. When these restaurant chains move, the entire food industry takes notice."

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Volvo To Go All Electric By 2030

Slashdot - March 2, 2021 - 7:02pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Volvo's entire car lineup will be fully electric by 2030, the Chinese-owned company said on Tuesday, joining a growing number of automakers planning to phase out fossil-fuel engines by the end of this decade. "I am totally convinced there will be no customers who really want to stay with a petrol engine," Volvo Chief Executive Hakan Samuelsson told reporters when asked about future demand for electric vehicles. "We are convinced that an electric car is more attractive for customers." The Swedish-based carmaker said 50% of its global sales should be fully-electric cars by 2025 and the other half hybrid models. Owned by Hangzhou-based Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, Volvo will launch a new family of electric cars in the next few years, all of which will be sold online only. On Tuesday it unveiled the first of those models, the C40, a fully electric SUV, which will have an initial battery range of around 420 kilometers (261 miles). Volvo will include wireless upgrades and fixes for its new electric models -- an approach originally pioneered by electric carmaker Tesla Inc. This means the C40's range will be extended over time with software upgrades, Chief Technology Officer Henrik Green said. Volvo said it will "radically reduce" the complexity of its model line-up and provide customers with transparent pricing. The carmaker's global network of 2,400 traditional bricks-and-mortar dealers will remain open to service vehicles and to help customers make online orders.

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Microsoft Launches Power Fx, a New Open Source Low-Code Language

Slashdot - March 2, 2021 - 6:20pm
Microsoft today announced Power Fx, a new low-code language that "will become the standard for writing logic customization across Microsoft's own low-code Power Platform," reports TechCrunch. "[S]ince the company is open-sourcing the language, Microsoft also hopes others will implement it as well and that it will become the de facto standard for these kinds of use cases." From the report: Microsoft says the language was developed by a team led by Vijay Mital, Robin Abraham, Shon Katzenberger and Darryl Rubin. Beyond Excel, the team also took inspiration from tools and languages like Pascal, Mathematica and Miranda, a functional programming language developed in the 1980s. Microsoft plans to bring Power Fx to all of its low-code platforms, but given the focus on community, it'll start making appearances in Power Automate, Power Virtual Agents and elsewhere soon. But the team clearly hopes that others will adopt it as well. Low-code developers will see it pop up in the formula bars of products like Power Apps Studio, but more sophisticated users will also be able to use it to go to Visual Studio Code and build more complex applications with it. As the team noted, it focused on not just making the language Excel-like but also having it behave like Excel -- or like a REPL, for you high-code programmers out there. That means formulas are declarative and instantly recalculate as developers update their code.

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New Technique Reveals Centuries of Secrets in Locked Letters

Slashdot - March 2, 2021 - 5:45pm
M.I.T. researchers have devised a virtual-reality technique that lets them read old letters that were mailed not in envelopes but in the writing paper itself after being folded into elaborate enclosures. From a report: In 1587, hours before her beheading, Mary, Queen of Scots, sent a letter to her brother-in-law Henry III, King of France. But she didn't just sign it and send it off. She folded the paper repeatedly, cut out a piece of the page and left it dangling. She used that strand of paper to sew the letter tight with locking stitches. In an era before sealed envelopes, this technique, now called letterlocking, was as important for deterring snoops as encryption is to your email inbox today. Although this art form faded in the 1830s with the advent of mass-produced envelopes, it has recently attracted renewed attention from scholars. But they have faced a problem: How do you look at the contents of such locked letters without permanently damaging priceless bits of history? On Tuesday, a team of 11 scientists and scholars at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other institutions disclosed their development of a virtual-reality technique that lets them perform this delicate task without tearing up the contents of historical archives. In the journal Nature Communications, the team tells of virtually opening four undelivered letters written from 1680 and 1706. The dispatches had ended up in a wooden postal trunk in The Hague. Known as the Brienne Collection, the box contains 3,148 items, including 577 letters that were never unlocked. The new technique could open a window into the long history of communications security. And by unlocking private intimacies, it could aid researchers studying stories concealed in fragile pages found in archives all over the world.

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A Folding iPhone Could Be Coming In 2023

Slashdot - March 2, 2021 - 5:02pm
Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says that Apple could be launching a folding iPhone in 2023, and that the phone could have a screen between 7.5 and eight inches. The Verge reports: There have been numerous reports about Apple prototyping a folding iPhone, but according to MacRumors, Kuo says that the product has "not yet officially kicked off." According to Kuo, the screen will be iPad Mini-sized when folded out, so it seems as if Apple is going for the Galaxy Fold approach of having a regular-sized phone that folds out into a small tablet, rather than the Z Flip or Razr approach of having a compact folding phone. (This is a bummer to me, but it seems like the folding phablet approach is the most popular at the moment.) It's unclear who would be making those folding displays -- there have been rumors of Apple working with both LG and Samsung. While the rumors of a prototype and this report from Kuo indicate that Apple is indeed working on a folding phone, it's not something to wait around for just yet. Kuo's 2023 launch date is dependent on Apple being able to figure out "key technology and mass production issues." As we've seen, folding phones can be hard to get right. If Apple can do it, though, it could be in the position to do what it does best: adopt a technology after other companies have figured out the bugs and pitfalls, and release a product that seems polished in comparison.

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Google-Free<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/e/ OS Is Now Selling Preloaded Phones In the US, Starting At $380

Slashdot - March 2, 2021 - 4:25pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: /e/ OS, the "open-source, pro-privacy, and fully degoogled" fork of Android, is coming to Canada and the USA. Of course, you've always been able to download the software in any region, but now (as first spotted by It's Foss News) the e Foundation will start selling preloaded phones in North America. Previously, /e/ only did business in Europe. Like normal, the e Foundation's smartphone strategy is to sell refurbished Samsung devices with /e/ preloaded. In the US, there are only two phones right now: the Galaxy S9 for $379.99 or a Galaxy S9+ for $429.99. North Americans still have reason to be jealous of Europe, where you can get /e/ preloaded on a Fairphone, which is also Europe-exclusive. These Samsung phones are used devices, but the site says the devices have "been checked and reconditioned to be fully working at our partner's facilities." The phones have a one-year warranty and are described as "Good-as-New" with "no surprises." An /e/ device means you'll be getting a fork of Android 10, and for ongoing support, the e Foundation says, "We aim to support with at least 3 years of software updates and security patches." /e/ OS was founded by Gael Duval, the creator of Mandrake Linux, and the project describes itself as a "non-profit project in the public interest." /e/ is built a lot like a Linux distribution, in that it takes a curated collection of other open source projects, merges them into a single product, and does its best to fill in the remaining gaps. In this case, /e/ is based on LineageOS, the Android community's open source, device-ready version of Google's Android source code. The primary contribution of /e/ is filling in all the gaps left by the lack of Google apps, so there's an /e/ app store, an /e/ cloud storage and account system, and various Google-replacement apps like a Chromium-based browser, a fork of K-9 Mail for email, contacts, search, photos, etc. The company is even trying to build a Google Assistant replacement. Actually getting regular Android apps to run on a forked version of Android is a challenge. Google Play Services is built into many apps for things like push notifications, and there's a good chance that functionality won't work on /e/ OS. These apps will at least run on /e/ OS instead of exiting outright, thanks to the inclusion of MicroG, an open source project that hijacks Google API calls.

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PayPal In Talks To Buy Crypto Custody Firm Curv, Reports Say

Slashdot - March 2, 2021 - 3:45pm
PayPal is said to be in the process of buying Curv, a technology firm that powers the secure storage of cryptocurrency, news outlet CoinDesk reported Tuesday, citing three sources familiar with the situation. From the report: Israeli news outlet Calcalist reported Tuesday that Curv was being sold for between $200 million and $300 million, without naming the buyer. "PayPal is buying Curv for $500 million," a source from within the digital asset custody space told CoinDesk on Monday. "From where I'm hearing it, I'm pretty sure it's true." Several people in the cryptocurrency space have said PayPal, which made an entrance to the crypto space last year, turned its attention to Curv after talks to buy crypto custody and trading firm BitGo fell through last year. PayPal offered $750 million in cash for BitGo, two sources familiar with the deal told CoinDesk. Bloomberg has corroborated the talks.

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Intel Told To Pay $2.18 Billion After Losing Texas Patent Trial

Slashdot - March 2, 2021 - 3:09pm
Intel was told to pay $2.18 billion after losing a patent-infringement trial over technology related to chip-making. From a report: Intel infringed two patents owned by closely held VLSI Technology, a federal jury in Waco, Texas, said. The jury found $1.5 billion for infringement of one patent and $675 million for infringement of the second. Intel, the world's largest chipmaker, denied infringing either of the patents and said one was invalid because it claimed to cover work done by Intel engineers, but the jury rejected those arguments. The patents had been owned by Dutch chipmaker NXP Semiconductors, which would get a cut of any damage award, Intel lawyer William Lee of WilmerHale told jurors in closing arguments Monday. VLSI, founded four years ago, has no products and its only potential revenue is this lawsuit, he said. VLSI "took two patents off the shelf that hadn't been used for 10 years and said, 'We'd like $2 billion,"' Lee told the jury. The "outrageous" demand by VLSI "would tax the true innovators."

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PlayStation Store Will Stop Selling Movies Nobody Bought

Slashdot - March 2, 2021 - 2:31pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: Have you ever bought a movie or TV show through the PlayStation Store? Me neither. As a result, Sony announced today it will remove them, starting August 31, 2021. "We've seen tremendous growth from PlayStation fans using subscription-based and ad-based entertainment streaming services on our consoles," Sony wrote in a post over on the PlayStation Blog. "With this shift in customer behavior, we have decided to no longer offer movie and TV purchases and rentals through PlayStation Store." As a multimedia company producing movies and TV alongside music and games, it made sense for Sony to sell all of it through various iterations of the PlayStation's digital storefront, in theory at least. In practice, it seems like console owners were mostly just interested in buying games, especially following the rise of Netflix and Amazon Prime.

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How Microsoft Plans To Give Virtual Reality Apps a Big Boost

Slashdot - March 2, 2021 - 1:42pm
The market for virtual and augmented reality products has developed slower than expected, but Microsoft is seeking to accelerate the sector by making it much easier for people to connect from different locations and with different kinds of devices. From a report: The ultimate goal of the new effort, dubbed Microsoft Mesh, is to allow, for example, a person in an office in New York using Facebook's Oculus VR headset to collaborate with a person in Seattle using Microsoft's HoloLens 2 glasses. Using Mesh-compatible hardware and software, the two people would be able to see virtual representations of each other appearing in their offices, talking and moving in real time as if they were present. And both would be able to see a common view of virtual charts or digital objects projected before them that they could change or manipulate. At least that's the vision that Microsoft demonstrated for the first time in public at its Ignite conference on Tuesday. Ultimately, Mesh could be used to connect users on a variety of VR gadgets, PC and Mac computers, and smartphones. But getting all the various hardware makers to agree to use Microsoft's standards may not be as easy as the company hopes. And while Microsoft's HoloLens and popular collaboration software like Teams and Office will be compatible with Mesh, other software developers also may be wary of depending on the company for such critical functionality. "This has been the dream for mixed reality, the idea from the very beginning," Alex Kipman, a Microsoft technical fellow working on the project, explained at the demonstration. "You can actually feel like you're in the same place with someone sharing content or you can teleport from different mixed reality devices and be present with people even when you're not physically together."

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Microsoft's Dream of Decentralized IDs Enters the Real World

Slashdot - March 2, 2021 - 1:02pm
For years, tech companies have touted blockchain technology as a means to develop identity systems that are secure and decentralized. The goal is to build a platform that could store information about official data without holding the actual documents or details themselves. Instead of just storing a scan of your birth certificate, for example, a decentralized ID platform might store a validated token that confirms the information in it. Then when you get carded at a bar or need proof of citizenship, you could share those pre-verified credentials instead of the actual document or data. Microsoft has been one of the leaders of this pack -- and is now detailing tangible progress toward its vision of a decentralized digital ID. From a report: At its Ignite conference today, Microsoft announced that it will launch a public preview of its "Azure Active Directory verifiable credentials" this spring. Think of the platform as a digital wallet like Apple Pay or Google Pay, but for identifiers rather than credit cards. Microsoft is starting with things like university transcripts, diplomas, and professional credentials, letting you add them to its Microsoft Authenticator app along with two-factor codes. It's already testing the platform at Keio University in Tokyo, with the government of Flanders in Belgium, and with the United Kingdom's National Health Service. "If you have a decentralized identifier I can verify, say, where you went to school and I don't need you to send me all of the information," says Joy Chik, corporate vice president for Microsoft's cloud and enterprise identity division. "All I need is to get that digital credential and because it's already been verified I can trust it." Microsoft will release a software development kit in the coming weeks that organizations can use to start building applications that issue and request credentials. And long-term the company says it hopes the system could be used around the world for everything from renting an apartment to establishing identity for refugees who are struggling without documents -- a dream of virtually all decentralized identification efforts. In the NHS pilot, for example, healthcare providers can request access to professional certifications from existing NHS health care workers, who can in turn choose to allow that access, streamlining a process for transferring to another facility that previously required a much more involved back and forth. Under Microsoft's set-up, you can also revoke access to your credentials if the recipient no longer needs access.

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SmartThings Starts Saying Goodbye To Its Hardware

Slashdot - March 2, 2021 - 12:25pm
Stacey Higginbotham: If you own a 2013 SmartThings hub (that's the original) or a SmartThings Link for the Nvidia Shield TV, your hardware will stop working on June 30 of this year. The device depreciation is part of the announced exodus from manufacturing and supporting its own hardware and the Groovy IDE that Samsung Smartthings announced last summer. SmartThings has set up a support page for customers still using those devices to help those users transition to newer hubs. That transition will also include a discount for users of the affected devices if they want to purchase the latest Aeotec version of the SmartThings hub. If you're still using either of the older devices you should expect an email that will provide a discount code to buy the Aeotec hub through TheSmartestHouse.com. That discount will be available until April 15.

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'Email Is Making Us Miserable'

Slashdot - March 2, 2021 - 11:45am
Cal Newport, writing for New Yorker: A study, published in 2019, looked at long-term trends in the health of a group of nearly five thousand Swedish workers. They found that repeated exposure to "high information and communication technology demands" (translation: a need to be constantly connected) were associated with "suboptimal" health outcomes. This trend persisted even after they adjusted the statistics for potential complicating factors such as age, sex, socioeconomic status, health behavior, body-mass index, job strain, and social support. Of course, we don't really need data to capture something that so many of us feel intuitively. I recently surveyed the readers of my blog about e-mail. "It's slow and very frustrating. . . . I often feel like email is impersonal and a waste of time," one respondent said. "I'm frazzled -- just keeping up," another admitted. Some went further. "I feel an almost uncontrollable need to stop what I'm doing to check email," one person reported. "It makes me very depressed, anxious and frustrated." When employees are miserable, they perform worse. They're also more likely, as the French labor minister warned, to burn out, leading to increased health-care costs and expensive employee turnover. A Harvard Business School professor found that giving a group of management consultants predictable time off from e-mail increased the percentage of them who planned to stay at the firm "for the long term" from forty per cent to fifty-eight per cent. E-mail's power to makes us unhappy also has more philosophical implications. There are two hundred and thirty million knowledge workers in the world, which includes, according to the Federal Reserve, more than a third of the U.S. workforce. If this massive population is being made miserable by a slavish devotion to in-boxes and chat channels, then this adds up to a whole lot of global miserableness! From a utilitarian perspective, this level of suffering cannot be ignored -- especially if there is something that we might be able to do to alleviate it. Given these stakes, it's all the more surprising that we spend so little time trying to understand the source of this discontent. Many in the business community tend to dismiss the psychological toll from e-mail as an incidental side effect caused by bad in-box habits or a weak constitution. I've come to believe, however, that much deeper forces are at play in generating our mismatch with this tool, including some that get at the very core of what drives us as humans.

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User Says Apple Disabled His iCloud, App Store, and Apple ID Accounts After Payment To Apple Card Failed

Slashdot - March 2, 2021 - 11:02am
Dustin Curtis, writing on his blog: About ten days ago, when I went to update a few apps in the App Store on my Mac, I was met with a curious error: "Your account has been disabled in the App Store and iTunes." The internet is filled with stories from people whose Google accounts were locked for unexplained reasons, causing them to lose all of their data, including years of email, so I was somewhat concerned. But I'd never heard of similar cases involving Apple's services, and I wouldn't expect such behavior from a customer-focused company like Apple, so I figured it was a glitch and made a mental note to try again later. The next day, Music.app stopped working: "You cannot login because your account has been locked." Now I was genuinely worried. I checked my phone and neither the App Store nor Apple Music would work there, either. A few minutes later, Calendar popped up an error â" it had stopped syncing. I immediately tried to call Apple Support from my Mac, but Apple's Handoff feature had been disabled as well. The first person I spoke to at Apple spent a while researching the issue and then told me there was nothing she could do but escalate the issue, and that I should expect a call "hopefully" within the next day. I asked what the problem might be, and she seemed as confused as I was. Although some Apple services were still working, like iMessage (thank God) and Photos, I was terrified that more services would suddenly become inaccessible or that I would lose the considerable amount of data I have stored in iCloud. A couple of days later, I became impatient and contacted Apple Support again. This time, the representative mumbled something about Apple Card before saying that he also had no power to help me. Apple ID was a different department, he said, and they could only be contacted by email. He emailed them. I continued to wait. The next time I tried to use my Apple Card, it was declined. Strange. I checked the Wallet app, and the balance was below the limit. I remembered the Apple support representative mumbling about Apple Card, so I did some digging through my email to see if I could find a connection. As it turns out, my bank account number changed in January, causing Apple Card autopay to fail. Then the Apple Store made a charge on the card. Less than fifteen days after that, my App Store, iCloud, Apple Music, and Apple ID accounts had all been disabled by Apple Card. Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, which is fighting a legal battle with Apple, offered some commentary on this: "It's terrifying how much leverage Apple has over consumers and developers by integrating everything, locking us all in, and exerting total control. Normal companies respect the natural boundaries that exist between platforms and services. Apple does not! For Apple, every choke point they create is both a profit center and a lever to exert control. After blocking Fortnite updates from over a billion iOS users, Apple threatened to block Sign in With Apple -- which they forced us to adopt -- affecting Fortnite players on 7 platforms."

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Disney CEO Suggests There's No 'Going Back' To Pre-COVID Film Releases

Slashdot - March 2, 2021 - 10:25am
As Disney prepares to release "Raya and the Last Dragon" in theaters and as a premium on-demand title this Friday, CEO Bob Chapek says that he thinks the experimentation his studio and others in Hollywood are doing with releasing movies during the pandemic will permanently change the movie business. From a report "The consumer is probably more impatient than they've ever been before," Chapek said during a Q&A at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecommunications Conference, "particularly since now they've had the luxury of an entire year of getting titles at home pretty much when they want them. So, I'm not sure there's going back. But we certainly don't want to do anything like cut the legs off a theatrical exhibition run." Disney previously released its remake of "Mulan," initially a March 2020 theatrical release, as a premium title for $29.99 for Disney+ subscribers while Pixar's "Soul" went from being a theatrical June 2020 release to a Christmas Day release on Disney+ at no extra cost. [...] Disney has yet to show an exact number of days it would like to shorten the theatrical window to, but Chapek's remarks suggest that the hybrid release strategy Disney is using for "Raya" may be a model it continues to explore while it waits for the box office to return to normal. Once it does, Disney has a very good reason not to leave movie theaters behind, as the studio grossed a record $11.1 billion worldwide in 2019 off of films like "Avengers: Endgame," "Frozen II," and a CGI remake of "The Lion King." "This is a fluid situation and it's fluid for two reasons: The short term impact of COVID on the number of screens open and on consumers' willingness to go back, but also the fundamental changes of consumer behavior, which might be more profound," Chapek said. "We are watching very carefully... to see how long term those preferences are going to shift. and that's why we talk about flexibility so often."

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Microsoft's New Intelligent Speakers Deliver Its Promised Meeting Room of the Future

Slashdot - March 2, 2021 - 9:52am
Microsoft demonstrated prototype hardware a few years ago that promised meeting rooms of the future with automatic speaker identification, transcription, and even translation. Microsoft now claims it's delivering this for real with new Intelligent Speakers, small puck-like devices that can identify up to 10 different voices in a Microsoft Teams meeting. From a report: These speakers will automatically generate a transcript during a meeting, with individual identification of those speaking. They will also help remote attendees follow along and see who's talking in a meeting. Microsoft has teamed up with Yealink and Epos to create the hardware, and it even supports translation if you want to follow a meeting in a different language.

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China Will Dominate AI Unless US Invests More, Commission Warns

Slashdot - March 2, 2021 - 9:03am
The U.S., which once had a dominant head start in artificial intelligence, now has just a few years' lead on China and risks being overtaken unless government steps in, according to a new report to Congress and the White House. From a report: Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who chaired the committee that issued the report, tells Axios that the U.S. risks dire consequences if it fails to both invest in key technologies and fully integrate AI into the military. The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence approved its 750-page report on Monday, following a 2-year effort. Schmidt chaired the 15-member commission, which also included Oracle's Safra Catz, Microsoft's Eric Horvitz and Amazon's Andy Jassy. On both the economic and military fronts, the biggest risk comes from China. "China possesses the might, talent, and ambition to surpass the United States as the world's leader in AI in the next decade if current trends do not change," the report states. And It's not just AI technology that the U.S. needs to maintain a lead in. The report mentions a number of key technologies, including quantum computing, robotics, 3D printing and 5G. "We don't have to go to war with China," Schmidt said. "We don't have to have a cold war. We do need to be competitive."

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