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    - Microsoft Says the FCC 'Overstates' Broadband Availability In the US
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Microsoft this week was the latest to highlight the U.S. government's terrible broadband mapping in a filing with the FCC, first spotted by journalist Wendy Davis. In it, Microsoft accuses the FCC of over-stating actual broadband availability and urges the agency to do better. "The Commission's broadband availability data, which underpins FCC Form 477 and the Commission's annual Section 706 report, appears to overstate the extent to which broadband is actually available throughout the nation," Microsoft said in the filing. "For example, in some areas the Commission's broadband availability data suggests that ISPs have reported significant broadband availability (25 Mbps down/3 Mbps up) while Microsoft's usage data indicates that only a small percentage of consumers actually access the Internet at broadband speeds in those areas," Microsoft said. Similar criticism has long plagued the agency. The FCC's broadband data is received via the form 477 data collected from ISPs. But ISPs have a vested interest in over-stating broadband availability to obscure the sector's competition problems, and the FCC historically hasn't worked very hard to independently verify whether this data is truly accurate. The FCC's methodology has long been criticized as well. As it currently stands, the agency declares an entire ZIP code as "served" with broadband if just one home in an entire census block has it. In its filing, Microsoft "suggested that the Commission's ongoing effort to more accurately measure broadband could be improved by drawing on the FCC's subscription data, along with other broadband data sets from third-parties such as Microsoft, to complement survey data submitted under the current rules."

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    - Tesla Sues Former Employees For Allegedly Stealing Data, Autopilot Source Code
    Tesla is suing a former engineer at the company, claiming he copied the source code for its Autopilot technology before joining a Chinese self-driving car startup in January. Reuters reports: The engineer, Guangzhi Cao, copied more than 300,000 files related to Autopilot source code as he prepared to join China's Xiaopeng Motors Technology Company Ltd, the Silicon Valley carmaker said in the lawsuit filed in a California court. Separately, Tesla lawyers on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against four former employees and U.S. self-driving car startup Zoox Inc, alleging the employees stole proprietary information and trade secrets for developing warehousing, logistics and inventory control operations. The Verge reported on the lawsuit filed against Cao: Tesla says that last year, Cao started uploading "complete copies of Tesla's Autopilot-related source code" to his iCloud account. The company claims he ultimately moved more than 300,000 files and directories related to Autopilot. After accepting a job with XPeng at the end of last year, Tesla says Cao deleted 120,000 files off his work computer and disconnected his personal iCloud account, and then "repeatedly logged into Tesla's secure networks" to clear his browser history before his last day with the company. Tesla also claims Cao recruited another Autopilot employee to XPeng in February. Tesla claims that it gives XPeng "unfettered access" to Autopilot: "Absent immediate relief, Tesla believes Cao and his new employer, [XPeng], will continue to have unfettered access to Tesla's marquee technology, the product of more than five years' work and over hundreds of millions of dollars of investment, which they have no legal right to possess," the company's lawyers write.

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    - Grandson of Legendary John Deere Inventor Calls Out Company On Right To Repair
    chicksdaddy writes: The grandson of Theo Brown, a legendary engineer and inventor for John Deere who patented, among other things, the manure spreader is calling out the company his grandfather served for decades for its opposition to right to repair legislation being considered in Illinois. In an opinion piece published by The Security Ledger entitled "My Grandfather's John Deere would support Our Right to Repair," Willie Cade notes that his grandfather, Theophilus Brown is credited with 158 patents, some 70% of them for Deere & Co., including the manure spreader in 1915. His grandfather used to travel the country to meet with Deere customers and see his creations at work in the field. His hope, Cade said, was to help the company's customers be more efficient and improve their lives with his inventions. In contrast, Cade said the John Deere of the 21st Century engages in a very different kind of business model: imposing needless costs on their customers. An example of this kind of rent seeking is using software locks and other barriers to repair -- such as refusing to sell replacement parts -- in order to force customers to use authorized John Deere technicians to do repairs at considerably higher cost and hassle. "It undermines what my grandfather was all about," he writes. Cade, who founded the Electronics Reuse Conference, is supporting right to repair legislation that is being considered in Illinois and opposed by John Deere and the industry groups it backs. "Farmers who can't repair farm equipment and a wide spectrum of Americans who can't repair their smartphones are pushing back in states across the country."

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    - Historic, Widespread Flooding Will Continue Through May, NOAA Says
    The U.S. is likely to see "historic, widespread flooding" through May, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association's spring outlook. From a report: "This is shaping up to be a potentially unprecedented flood season, with more than 200 million people at risk for flooding in their communities," said Ed Clark, director of NOAA's National Water Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. NOAA's outlook calls for nearly two-thirds of the lower 48 states to face an elevated risk of flooding through May, with the potential for major to moderate flooding in 25 states across the Great Plains, Midwest and down through the Mississippi River valley. "The flooding this year could be worse than what we have seen in previous years ... even worse than the historic floods we saw in 1993 and 2011," said Mary Erickson, deputy director of the National Weather Service. The warning comes amid record flooding triggered by a sudden warm-up and heavy rains earlier this month brought on by the "bomb cyclone." Combined with rapid snowmelt, the factors in recent weeks have put many places in the Great Plains and Midwest underwater.

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    - Cable Lobby Seeks Better Reputation By Dropping 'Cable' From Its Name
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Cable lobbyists don't want to be called cable lobbyists anymore. The nation's top two cable industry lobby groups have both dropped the word "cable" from their names. But the lobby groups' core mission -- the fight against regulation of cable networks -- remains unchanged. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) got things started in 2016 when it renamed itself NCTA-The Internet & Television Association, keeping the initialism but dropping the words it stood for. The group was also known as the National Cable Television Association between 1968 and 2001. The American Cable Association (ACA) is the nation's other major cable lobby. While NCTA represents the biggest companies like Comcast and Charter, the ACA represents small and mid-size cable operators. Today, the ACA announced that it is now called America's Communications Association or "ACA Connects," though the ACA's website still uses the americancable.org domain name. "The new name reflects a leading position for the association in the fast-growing telecommunications industry, where technology is rapidly changing how information is provided to and used by consumers," the cable lobby said. "It's all about the communications and connections our members provide," said cable lobbyist Matthew Polka, who is CEO of the ACA. The "ACA Connects" moniker "explains what our association and members really do," Polka continued. "We connect, communicate, build relationships and work together with all, and that will never change."

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    - PewCrypt Ransomware Locks Users' Files and Won't Offer a Decryption Key Until - and Unless - PewDiePie's YouTube Channel Beats T-Series To Hit 100M Subscribers
    The battle between PewDiePie, currently the most subscribed channel on YouTube, and T-Series, an Indian music label, continues to have strange repercussions. In recent months, as T-Series closes in on the gap to beat PewDiePie for the crown of the most subscribers on YouTube, alleged supporters of PewDiePie, in an unusual show of love, have hacked Chromecasts and printers to persuade victims to subscribe to PewDiePie's channel. Now ZDNet reports about a second strain of ransomware that is linked to PewDiePie. From the report: A second one appeared in January, and this was actually a fully functional ransomware strain. Called PewCrypt, this ransomware was coded in Java, and it encrypted users' files in the "proper" way, with a method of recovering files at a later date. The catch --you couldn't buy a decryption key, but instead, victims had to wait until PewDiePie gained over 100 million followers before being allowed to decrypt any of the encrypted files. At the time of writing, PewDiePie had around 90 million fans, meaning any victim would be in for a long wait before they could regain access to any of their files. Making matters worse, if T-Series got to 100 million subscribers before PewDiePie, then PewCrypt would delete the user's encryption key for good, leaving users without a way to recover their data. While the ransomware was put together as a joke, sadly, it did infect a few users, ZDNet has learned. Its author eventually realized the world of trouble he'd get into if any of those victims filed complaints with authorities, and released the ransomware's source code on GitHub, along with a command-line-based decryption tool.

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    - Comcast Unveils $5-a-Month Streaming Service Xfinity Flex
    Comcast announced a $5-a-month streaming video service Thursday called Xfinity Flex, an offering that aggregates on-demand video from your subscriptions like Netflix Amazon Prime Video and HBO, as well as offering free ad-supported shows to watch and options to rent and buy programming. From a report: It essentially replicates some of the features of a cable service but delivers over the internet rather than... well, cable. But it won't have live channels or DVR, and it won't let you watch a live-TV streaming service like YouTube TV or Sling TV, keeping Flex squarely in the realm of on-demand viewing that's less threatening to Comcast's traditional -- and lucrative -- cable TV packages. Instead, Flex will have built-in ways to upgrade to live TV from Comcast. Xfinity Flex comes with a 4K and HDR-ready wireless set-top box with an X1 voice remote, Engadget adds. It's scheduled to launch March 26th, and will be available to customers who have Comcast internet.

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    - Nokia Firmware Blunder Sent Some User Data To China
    HMD Global, the Finnish company that sublicensed the Nokia smartphone brand from Microsoft, is under investigation in Finland for collecting and sending some phone owners' information to a server located in China. From a report: In a statement to Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, the company blamed the data collection on a coding mistake during which an "activation package" was accidentally included in some phones' firmware. HMD Global said that only a single batch of Nokia 7 Plus devices were impacted and included this package. The data collection was exposed today in an investigation published by Norwegian broadcaster NRK, which learned of it from a user's tip. According to NRK, affected Nokia phones collected user data every time the devices were turned on, unlocked, or the screen was revived from a sleep state. Collected data included the phone's GPS coordinates, network information, phone serial number, and SIM card number.

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    - US Companies Are Moving Tech Jobs To Canada Rather Than Deal With Trump's Immigration Policies, Report Says
    US companies are going to keep hiring foreign tech workers, even as the Trump administration makes doing so more difficult. For a number of US companies that means expanding their operations in Canada, where hiring foreign nationals is much easier. From a report: Demand for international workers remained high this year, according to a new Envoy Global survey of more than 400 US hiring professionals, who represent big and small US companies and have all had experience hiring foreign employees. Some 80 percent of employers expect their foreign worker headcount to either increase or stay the same in 2019, according to Envoy, which helps US companies navigate immigration laws. That tracks with US government immigration data, which shows a growing number of applicants for high-skilled tech visas, known as H-1Bs, despite stricter policies toward immigration. H-1B recipients are all backed by US companies that say they are in need of specialized labor that isn't readily available in the US -- which, in practice, includes a lot of tech workers. Major US tech companies, including Google, Facebook, and Amazon, have all been advocating for quicker and more generous high-skilled immigration policies. To do so they've increased lobbying spending on immigration.

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    - Microsoft Ships Antivirus For macOS as Windows Defender Becomes Microsoft Defender
    Microsoft is bringing its Windows Defender anti-malware application to macOS -- and more platforms in the future -- as it expands the reach of its Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) platform. From a report: To reflect the new cross-platform nature, the suite is also being renamed to Microsoft Defender ATP, with the individual clients being labelled "for Mac" or "for Windows." macOS malware is still something of a rarity, but it's not completely unheard of. Ransomware for the platform was found in 2016, and in-the-wild outbreaks of other malicious software continue to be found. Apple has integrated some malware protection into macOS, but we've heard from developers on the platform that Mac users aren't always very good at keeping their systems on the latest point release. Further reading: Microsoft launches previews of Windows Virtual Desktop and Defender ATP for Mac.

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    - Amazon To Launch Mobile Ads, in a Threat To Google and Facebook
    Amazon.com has been beta testing its in-house made ads on Apple's iOS platform for several months, Bloomberg reported Thursday, in a move that is described as ecommerce giant's growing efforts to grab a chunk of the $129 billion digital advertising market that is currently dominated by Google and Facebook. Bloomberg's report added that Amazon plans to introduce a similar ad product on Google's Android platform later this year. From the report: Amazon has emerged as a fast-growing challenger in the digital advertising market since it captures 50 percent of all online sales in the US. Amazon's digital advertising market share will grow to 8.8 percent this year from 6.8 percent in 2018, according to EMarketer Market-leader Google will see its share slip to 37.2 percent from 38.2 percent. Selling more video ads opens a new revenue opportunity for Amazon's advertising division, which mostly sells space featuring brand logos, product photographs and descriptions that are the equivalent of digital billboards. Video ad spots are similar to television commercials and can deepen the power of promotion.

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    - For Years, Hundreds of Millions of Facebook Users Had Their Account Passwords Stored in Plain Text and Searchable By Thousands of Facebook Employees
    Hundreds of millions of Facebook users had their account passwords stored in plain text and searchable by thousands of Facebook employees -- in some cases going back to 2012, KrebsOnSecurity reported Thursday. From the report: Facebook says an ongoing investigation has so far found no indication that employees have abused access to this data. Facebook is probing the causes of a series of security failures in which employees built applications that logged unencrypted password data for Facebook users and stored it in plain text on internal company servers. That's according to a senior Facebook employee who is familiar with the investigation and who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press. The Facebook source said the investigation so far indicates between 200 million and 600 million Facebook users may have had their account passwords stored in plain text and searchable by more than 20,000 Facebook employees. The source said Facebook is still trying to determine how many passwords were exposed and for how long, but so far the inquiry has uncovered archives with plain text user passwords in them dating back to 2012. Facebook has responded.

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    - Flood of 4K James Bond Leaks Further Point To iTunes Breach
    AmiMoJo writes: All 24 movies from the iTunes exclusive 4K "James Bond Collection" have leaked online. This is further evidence to suggest that pirates have found a way to decrypt 4K source files from the iTunes store. How, exactly, remains a mystery. While most regular releases can be ripped or decrypted nowadays, 4K content remains a challenge to breach. Up until a few days ago, pirate sites had never seen a decrypted 4K download from Apple's video platform. However, a flurry of recent leaks, including many titles from the iTunes-exclusive "James Bond Collection," suggests that the flood gates are now open. It all started earlier this month ago when a pirated 4K copy of Aquaman surfaced online. The file is a so-called "Web" release, also known as WEB-DL in P2P circles. This means that it's a decrypted copy of the original source file. These were never seen before for 4K releases. Because the Aquaman release was only available on iTunes in this quality at the time, the most likely conclusion was that Apple's platform was the source. However, based on just one single leak, it was tricky to draw strong conclusions.

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    - Global Box Office Flat in 2018, Netflix and Subscription Services Rise in Popularity
    An anonymous reader shares a report: The domestic box office rebounded in 2018 in a recovery fueled by blockbusters such as "Black Panther" and "Incredibles 2." Ticket sales in the U.S. climbed 7% to top out at a record $11.9 billion, according to a new report by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). That helped off-set declines in overseas markets in Europe and Latin America, pushing the global box office to $41.1 billion, a year-over-year improvement of a percentage point. The MPAA study is produced by the entertainment industry trade group and is intended to provide a comprehensive look at the overall state of the film business. In addition to box office revenues, the report found that the global home entertainment business increased by 16% to reach $55.7 billion last year. This was driven primarily by the rise of digital rentals, sales, and subscriptions to streaming services such as Netflix. Digital home entertainment spending in the U.S. increased 24% to $17.5 billion; internationally this sector climbed 34% to $25.1 billion. That helped plug the gap left by massive declines in the sale and rental of DVDs and Blu-rays. In the U.S., disc sales dropped 15% to $5.8 billion and fell 14% internationally to $7.3 billion. Four years ago, physical sales in the U.S. were $10.3 billion and were $14.9 billion internationally, a sign of just how precipitously the DVD market has fallen. Over that same period, digital spending has increased 170% globally. Much of that rise is attributable to the popularity of Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other subscription services. Globally, the number of digital subscriptions increased by 27% to 613.3 million. Online video subscriptions surpassed cable for the first time in 2018. Cable subscriptions fell 2% to 556 million.

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    - Coders' Primal Urge To Kill Inefficiency -- Everywhere
    For software engineers, lack of friction is an aesthetic joy, an emotional high, the ideal existential state. It's what drives them, and what shapes our world. An excerpt from an upcoming book on coding, via Wired: The thrust of Silicon Valley is always to take human activity and shift it into metabolic overdrive. And maybe you've wondered, why the heck is that? Why do techies insist that things should be sped up, torqued, optimized? There's one obvious reason, of course: They do it because of the dictates of the market. Capitalism handsomely rewards anyone who can improve a process and squeeze some margin out. But with software, there's something else going on too. For coders, efficiency is more than just a tool for business. It's an existential state, an emotional driver. Coders might have different backgrounds and political opinions, but nearly every one I've ever met found deep, almost soulful pleasure in taking something inefficient -- even just a little bit slow -- and tightening it up a notch. Removing the friction from a system is an aesthetic joy; coders' eyes blaze when they talk about making something run faster or how they eliminated some bothersome human effort from a process. This passion for efficiency isn't unique to software developers. Engineers and inventors have long been motivated by it. During the early years of industrialization, engineers elevated the automation of everyday tasks to a moral good. The engineer was humanity's "redeemer from despairing drudgery and burdensome labor," as Charles Hermany, an engineer himself, wrote in 1904. [...] Many of today's programmers have their efficiency "aha" moment in their teenage years, when they discover that life is full of blindingly dull repetitive tasks and that computers are really good at doing them. (Math homework, with its dull litany of exercises, was one thing that inspired a number of coders I've talked to.) Larry Wall, who created the Perl programming language, and several coauthors wrote that one of the key virtues of a programmer is "laziness" -- of the variety where your unwillingness to perform rote actions inspires you to do the work to automate them.

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