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    - Apple Is Considering Bundling Digital Subscriptions as Soon as 2020
    Apple is considering bundling its paid internet services, including News+, Apple TV+ and Apple Music, as soon as 2020, in a bid to gain more subscribers, Bloomberg reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter. From a report: The latest sign of this strategy is a provision that Apple included in deals with publishers that lets the iPhone maker bundle the News+ subscription service with other paid digital offerings, the people said. They asked not to be identified discussing private deals. Apple News+, which debuted in March, sells access to dozens of publications for $10 a month. It's often called the "Netflix of News." Apple keeps about half of the monthly subscription price, while magazines and newspapers pocket the other half. If Apple sold Apple News+ as part of a bundle with Apple TV+ and Apple Music, publishers would get less money because the cost of the news service would likely be reduced, the people said. As the smartphone market stagnates, Apple is seeking growth by selling online subscriptions to news, music, video and other content. Bundling these offerings could attract more subscribers, as Amazon.com's Prime service has done.

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    - Public Cloud Providers' Network Performance Wildly Varies
    ThousandEyes, a cloud analysis company, in its second annual Cloud Performance Benchmark, has succeeded in measuring a major performance factor objectively: Public cloud providers' global network performance. ZDNet reports: In this study, ThousandEyes looked at the five major public cloud providers: Alibaba Cloud, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), IBM Cloud, and Microsoft Azure. It did by analyzing over 320 million data points from 98 global metro locations over 30 days. This included measuring network performance from within the U.S. using multiple ISPs and global network measurements and by checking out speeds between availability zones (AZ)s and connectivity patterns between the cloud providers. Besides measuring raw speed, the company also looked at latency, jitter, and data loss. First, ThousandEyes found some cloud providers rely heavily on the public internet to transport traffic instead of their backbones. This, needless to say, impacts performance predictability. During the evening Netflix internet traffic jam, if your cloud provider relies on the internet, you will see slowdowns in the evening. So, while Google Cloud and Azure rely heavily on their private backbone networks to transport their customer traffic, AWS and Alibaba Cloud rely heavily on the public internet for the majority of transport, IBM takes a hybrid approach that varies regionally. What about AWS Global Accelerator? If you pay for this service, which puts your traffic on the AWS private backbone network, will you always see a better performance? Surprisingly, the answer's no. AWS doesn't always out-perform the internet. ThousandEyes found several cases, where the internet performs faster and more reliably than Global Accelerator -- or the results were negligible. For example, ThousandEyes discovered that from your headquarters in Seoul, you'd see a major latency improvement when accessing AWS US-East-1. That's great. But your office in San Francisco wouldn't see any improvement, while your group in Bangalore India would see a performance decrease. Generally speaking, Latin America and Asia have the highest performance variations across all clouds, whereas, in North America, cloud performance is generally comparable. You need to look at ThousandEye's detailed findings to pick out the best cloud provider on a per-region basis to ensure optimal performance. Regional performance differences can make a huge impact. Additionally, the ISP you use and whether or not you're moving traffic in or out of China also affects cloud performance. For more on the report, see ThousandEyes' website.

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    - George Lucas Has Apparently Changed the Famous Greedo Scene In 1977's Star Wars Again, For Disney+
    Freshly Exhumed shares a report from The Guardian: George Lucas, whose departure from all things Star Wars seems to have been greatly exaggerated -- appears to have yet again doctored the famous Greedo scene in 1977's Star Wars [prior to it being shown on the Disney+ streaming service]. The scene depicts the Mos Eisley cantina in which Harrison Ford's Han Solo is confronted by an alien bounty hunter and winds up shooting him dead in a brief flurry of blaster fire. It has been much discussed over the years, largely because Solo shot Greedo in cold blood in the original, "Han shot first" 1977 cut, while in later versions Lucas re-edited the footage to depict Greedo as the aggressor, with Han returning fire in self-defense. Many fans have speculated about what effect that subtle change had on Han's transformation in the original trilogy from cold-hearted hustler to hero of the resistance. Now Lucas has tinkered all over again, to further muddy the waters. As seen on new streaming service Disney+, the scene features Han and Greedo shooting at roughly the same moment -- to be fair, this is a change introduced several years back. But now, Greedo appears to utter the phrase "MacClunkey!" before succumbing to his wounds. Reports suggest Lucas made the changes some years ago, perhaps around the time he sold Lucasfilm to Disney for $4 billion, in 2012. Celebrities such as Stephen King and Patton Oswalt have speculated about what the re-edit means for the future of Star Wars, though nobody seems to have much of a clue.

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    - Motorola Resurrects the Razr As a Foldable Android Smartphone
    After teasing it last month, Motorola has officially announced the successor to the Motorola Razr. The "razr," as it is called, "keeps the same general form factor but replaces the T9 keypad and small LCD with a 6.2-inch foldable plastic OLED panel and Android 9 Pie," reports The Verge. "It'll cost $1,499 when it arrives in January 2020." From the report: The new Razr is a fundamentally different take on the foldable phones that we've seen so far: instead of turning a modern-sized phone into a smaller tablet, it turns a conventional-sized smartphone into something much smaller and more pocketable. [...] The core of the phone is, of course, the display. It's a 6.2-inch 21:9 plastic OLED panel that folds in half along the horizontal axis. Unfolded, it's not dramatically bigger than any other modern phone, and the extra height is something that the Android interface and apps adapt to far better than a tablet-size screen. The screen does have a notch on top for a speaker and camera and a curved edge on the bottom, which takes a bit of getting used to, but after a minute or two, you barely notice it. There's also a second, 2.7-inch glass-covered OLED display on the outside that Motorola calls the Quick View display. It can show notifications, music controls, and even a selfie camera mode to take advantage of the better main camera. Motorola is also working with Google to let apps seamlessly transition from the front display to the main one. There are some concerns about durability for the folding display, especially after Samsung's Galaxy Fold issues. But Motorola says that it has "full confidence in the durability of the Flex View display," claiming that its research shows that "it will last for the average lifespan of a smartphone." There's a proprietary coating to make the panel "scuff resistant," and it also has an internal nano-coating for splash resistance. (Don't take it swimming, though.) Motorola says that the entire display is made with a single cut, with the edges entirely enclosed by the stainless steel frame to prevent debris from getting in. Aside from the mid-range specs, like the Snapdragon 710 processor and "lackluster" 16-megapixel camera, seasoned reviewers appear to really like the nostalgic look and feel of the device. Did you own a Razr phone from the mid-2000s? How do you think the new model compares?

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    - Hologram-Like Device Animates Objects Using Ultrasound Waves
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Researchers in Southampton have built a device that displays 3D animated objects that can talk and interact with onlookers. A demonstration of the display showed a butterfly flapping its wings, a countdown spelled out by numbers hanging in the air, and a rotating, multicolored planet Earth. Beyond interactive digital signs and animations, scientists want to use it to visualize and even feel data. While the images are similar, the device is not the sort of holographic projector that allowed a shimmering Princess Leia to enlist Obi-Wan Kenobi's help in Star Wars. Instead, it uses a 3D field of ultrasound waves to levitate a polystyrene bead and whip it around at high speed to trace shapes in the air. The 2mm-wide bead moves so fast, at speeds approaching 20mph, that it traces out the shape of an object in less than one-tenth of a second. At such a speed, the brain doesn't see the moving bead, only the completed shape it creates. The colors are added by LEDs built into the display that shine light on the bead as it zips around. Because the images are created in 3D space, they can be viewed from any angle. And by careful control of the ultrasonic field, the scientists can make objects speak, or add sound effects and musical accompaniments to the animated images. Further manipulation of the sound field enables users to interact with the objects and even feel them in their hands. "The images are created between two horizontal plates that are studded with small ultrasonic transducers," reports The Guardian. "These create an inaudible 3D sound field that contains a tiny pocket of low pressure air that traps the polystyrene bead. Move the pocket around, by tweaking the output of the transducers, and the bead moves with it." In the journal Nature, researchers describe how they've improved the display to produce sounds and tactile responses to people reaching out to the image.

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    - GitHub Faces More Resignations In Light of ICE Contract
    TechCrunch reports that another employee, engineer Alice Goldfuss, has resigned from GitHub over the company's $200,000 contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). From the report: In a tweet, Goldfuss said GitHub has a number of problems to address and that "ICE is only the latest." Meanwhile, Vice reports at least five staffers quit today. These resignations come the same day as GitHub Universe, the company's big product conference. Ahead of the conference, Tech Workers Coalition protested the event, setting up a cage to represent where ICE detains children. Last month, GitHub staff engineer Sophie Haskins resigned, stating she was leaving because the company did not cancel its contract with ICE, The Los Angeles Times reported. Last month, GitHub employees penned an open letter urging the company to stop working with ICE. That came following GitHub's announcement of a $500,000 donation to nonprofit organizations in support of "immigrant communities targeted by the current administration." In that announcement, GitHub CEO Nat Friedman said ICE's purchase was made through one of GitHub's reseller partners and said the deal is not "financially material" for the company. Friedman also pointed out that ICE is responsible for more than immigration and detention facilities.

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    - John Carmack Stepping Down As CTO of Oculus To Work On AI
    Oculus CTO John Carmack announced Wednesday that he is stepping down from the augmented-reality company to focus his time on artificial general intelligence. The Verge reports: Carmack will remain in a "consulting CTO" position at Oculus, where he will "still have a voice" in the development work at the company, he wrote. Recent comments from Carmack suggest he may have soured on VR. Carmack was a champion of phone-based VR for years at Oculus, but in October, he delivered a "eulogy" for Oculus' phone-based Gear VR. And in a video for receiving a lifetime achievement award this week at the VR Awards, he said that "I really haven't been satisfied with the pace of progress that we've been making" in VR.

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    - Apple Is Finally Willing To Make Gadgets Thicker So They Work Better
    Apple has started to make its products thicker in an effort to give people what they want: functionality over form. This is a good thing. There are two recent examples: this year's iPhones and the new 16-inch MacBook Pro. Todd Haselton writes via CNBC: This is a theory, but it seems this may be that there are some design changes being made after the departure of Apple's former chief design officer Jony Ive. Ive was known for creating gorgeous products but, sometimes as we've seen with the older MacBook keyboard, perhaps at the cost of functionality. Form over function, as they say. [...] If you look back at the iPhone 8, for example, the phone measured just 7.3-mm thick, an example of Apple's seeming obsession with creating devices that were as thin as possible but often at the cost of battery life. But this year, Apple put a huge focus on battery life because it knows that's one of top things people want from their phones (along with great cameras). As a result of the larger battery, this year's iPhone 11 is slightly fatter at 8.3-mm thick. It's barely noticeable but shows that Apple knows people are willing to sacrifice on thinness for a phone that lasts all day. Then there's the 16-inch MacBook Pro that was announced on Wednesday. It's less than 1-mm thicker than the 15-inch MacBook Pro that it replaces, and it weighs 4.3 pounds instead of 4 pounds in the prior model. It's 2% larger than the 15-inch MacBook Pro, too. All of this helps Apple include what people want in a similar but slightly bigger form factor: a keyboard with keys that you can actually tap into and that works, instead of one that's practically flat with very little key travel. The flat so-called butterfly keyboard was prone to exposure to dust and debris, which could lead to keys not registering or repeating themselves and, ultimately, lots of typos. Apple also focused on battery life in its new laptop. It lasts an hour longer than last year's model and charges fully in just 2.5 hours. That's partly because Apple was able to increase the battery size, something that likely contributed to the larger and heavier form factor.

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    - The NYPD Kept an Illegal Database of Juvenile Fingerprints For Years
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Intercept: For years, the New York Police Department illegally maintained a database containing the fingerprints of thousands of children charged as juvenile delinquents -- in direct violation of state law mandating that police destroy these records after turning them over to the state's Division of Criminal Justice Services. When lawyers representing some of those youths discovered the violation, the police department dragged its feet, at first denying but eventually admitting that it was retaining prints it was supposed to have destroyed. Since 2015, attorneys with the Legal Aid Society, which represents the majority of youths charged in New York City family courts, had been locked in a battle with the police department over retention of the fingerprint records of children under the age of 16. The NYPD did not answer questions from The Intercept about its handling of the records, but according to Legal Aid, the police department confirmed to the organization last week that the database had been destroyed. To date, the department has made no public admission of wrongdoing, nor has it notified the thousands of people it impacted, although it has changed its fingerprint retention practices following Legal Aid's probing. "The NYPD can confirm that the department destroys juvenile delinquent fingerprints after the prints have been transmitted to DCJS," a police spokesperson wrote in a statement to The Intercept. Still, the way the department handled the process -- resisting transparency and stalling even after being threatened with legal action -- raises concerns about how police handle a growing number of databases of personal information, including DNA and data obtained through facial recognition technology. As The Intercept has reported extensively, the NYPD also maintains a secretive and controversial "gang database," which labels thousands of unsuspecting New Yorkers -- almost all black or Latino youth -- as "gang members" based on a set of broad and arbitrary criteria. The fact that police were able to violate the law around juvenile fingerprints for years without consequence underscores the need for greater transparency and accountability, which critics say can only come from independent oversight of the department. It's unclear how long the NYPD was illegally retaining these fingerprints, but the report says the state has been using the Automated Fingerprint Identification System since 1989, "and laws protecting juvenile delinquent records have been in place since at least 1977." Legal Aid lawyers estimate that tens of thousands of juveniles could have had their fingerprints illegally retained by police.

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    - GitHub Places Open-Source Code In Arctic Cave For Safekeeping
    pacopico writes: GitHub's CEO Nat Friedman traveled to Svalbard in October to stash Linux, Android, and 6,000 other open-source projects in a permafrost-filled, abandoned coal mine. It's part of a project to safeguard the world's software from existential threats and also just to archive the code for posterity. As Friedman says, "If you told someone 20 years ago that in 2020, all of human civilization will depend on and run on open-source code written for free by volunteers in countries all around the world who don't know each other, and it'll just be downloaded and put into almost every product, I think people would say, 'That's crazy, that's never going to happen. Software is written by big, professional companies.' It's sort of a magical moment. Having a historical record of this will, I think, be valuable to future generations." GitHub plans to open several more vaults in other places around the world and to store any code that people want included.

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    - YouTube's New Kids' Content System Has Creators Scrambling
    As of Tuesday afternoon, YouTube is requiring creators to label any videos of theirs that may appeal to children. If they say a video is directed at kids, data collection will be blocked for all viewers, resulting in lower ad revenue and the loss of some of the platform's most popular features, including comments and end screens. It's a major change in how YouTube works, and has left some creators clueless as to whether they're subject to the new rules. The Verge reports: Reached by The Verge, Google confirmed that this new system was the result of a landmark $170 million settlement YouTube reached with the Federal Trade Commission in September for allegedly violating children's privacy. It's the largest fine ever collected under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which forbids collecting data from children under the age of 13 without explicit consent from their parents. In this case, the ruling means YouTube can't employ its powerful ad-targeting system on anyone who might be under the age of 13 -- a dire problem for a platform with so many young users. The new system is already sending creators reeling over what exactly is considered kids' content and what could happen if they unintentionally mislabel videos. Some of YouTube's most popular categories falls into a gray area for the policy, including gaming videos, family vlogging, and toy reviews. [...] In theory, YouTube has always been subject to COPPA, but those restrictions have taken on new urgency in the wake of the recent settlement with the FTC. Under the terms of the settlement, YouTube is required to "develop, implement, and maintain a system for Channel Owners to designate whether their Content on the YouTube Service is directed to Children." Under the system that YouTube rolled out on Tuesday, creators who strictly make children's content can also have their entire channel designated as directed at children. Once a video is labeled as kids' content, all personalized ads will be shut off, replaced with "contextualized" advertising based on the video itself. In addition to the removal of targeted ads, child-directed YouTube videos will also no longer include a comments section, click-through info cards, end screens, notification functions, and the community tab. "The consequences for not labeling a video as 'child-directed' could be even more severe," reports The Verge. "In its September order, the FTC made it clear that it could sue individual channel owners who abuse this new labeling system. Crucially, those lawsuits will fall entirely on channel owners, rather than on YouTube itself. Under the settlement, YouTube's responsibility is simply to maintain the system and provide ongoing data updates."

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    - Stadia Launch Developer Says Game Makers Are Worried 'Google Is Just Going To Cancel It'
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Google has a long and well-documented history of launching new services only to shut them down a few months or years later. And with the launch of Stadia imminent, one launch game developer has acknowledged the prevalence of concerns about that history among her fellow developers while also downplaying their seriousness in light of Stadia's potential. "The biggest complaint most developers have with Stadia is the fear that Google is just going to cancel it," Gwen Frey, developer of Stadia launch puzzle game Kine, told GamesIndustry.biz in recently published comments. "Nobody ever says, 'Oh, it's not going to work,' or 'Streaming isn't the future.' Everyone accepts that streaming is pretty much inevitable. The biggest concern with Stadia is that it might not exist." While concerns about Stadia working correctly aren't quite as nonexistent as Frey said, early tests show the service works well enough in ideal circumstances. As for the service's continued existence, Frey thinks such concerns among other developers are "kind of silly." "Working in tech, you have to be willing to make bold moves and try things that could fail," Frey continued. "And yeah, Google's canceled a lot of projects. But I also have a Pixel in my pocket, I'm using Google Maps to get around. I only got here because my Google Calendar told me to get here by giving me a prompt in Gmail. It's not like Google cancels every fucking thing they make." "Nothing in life is certain, but we're committed to making Stadia a success," said Stadia Director of Product Andrew Doronichev in July. "Of course, it's OK to doubt my words. There's nothing I can say now to make you believe if you don't. But what we can do is to launch the service and continue investing in it for years to come."

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    - Facebook Says Government Demands For User Data Are at a Record High
    Facebook's latest transparency report is out. The social media giant said the number of government demands for user data increased by 16% to 128,617 demands during the first-half of this year compared to the second-half of last year. From a report: That's the highest number of government demands its received in any reporting period since it published its first transparency report in 2013. The U.S. government led the way with the most number of requests -- 50,741 demands for user data resulting in some account or user data given to authorities in 88% of cases. Facebook said two-thirds of all of the U.S. government's requests came with a gag order, preventing the company from telling the user about the request for their data. But Facebook said it was able to release details of 11 so-called national security letters (NSLs) for the first time after their gag provisions were lifted during the period. National security letters can compel companies to turn over non-content data at the request of the FBI. These letters are not approved by a judge, and often come with a gag order preventing their disclosure. But since the Freedom Act passed in 2015, companies have been allowed to request the lifting of those gag orders.

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    - More Than 10 Million Sign Up For Disney+ in First Day
    The Walt Disney Company said Wednesday that its new streaming service Disney+ had 10 million sign-ups since it launched Tuesday at midnight. From a report: Disney wouldn't release the number if the company didn't think it represented a major milestone. Disney told investors in the spring that it hopes to reach 60 million to 90 million subscribers by 2024. The number is also notable, considering the service launched with a few hiccups. Early reports on Tuesday suggested the technology for Disney+ began crashing on launch day. Analysts anticipated strong consumer interest prior to the launch of the new service. Polling suggests that consumers were interested in the service at launch because of the access to Disney's movie catalog, as well as its new show, "The Mandalorian."

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    - Health Websites Are Sharing Sensitive Medical Data with Google, Facebook, and Amazon
    Popular health websites are sharing private, personal medical data with big tech companies, according to an investigation by the Financial Times. From a report: The data, including medical diagnoses, symptoms, prescriptions, and menstrual and fertility information, are being sold to companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Oracle and smaller data brokers and advertising technology firms, like Scorecard and OpenX. The FT analyzed 100 health websites, including WebMD, Healthline, health insurance group Bupa, and parenting site Babycentre, and found that 79% of them dropped cookies on visitors, allowing them to be tracked by third-party companies around the internet. This was done without consent, making the practice illegal under European Union regulations. By far the most common destination for the data was Google's advertising arm DoubleClick, which showed up in 78% of the sites the FT tested.

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