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    - Amazon Ties Video Games Deeper Into Prime Subscription Program
    Amazon is making it easier for Prime subscribers to play games, the latest effort to extend the appeal of a loyalty program designed to keep shoppers engaged. From a report: The world's largest e-commerce company on Monday gave its more than 150 million Prime members access to free video-game content, eliminating a step that required them to link their Amazon account with one on Twitch, the company's live-streaming subsidiary. The service, once known as Prime Twitch, is now called Prime Gaming and offers special in-game perks and free downloadable PC games. Prime, which now costs $119 a year in the U.S., began as an unlimited free-shipping program designed to entice customers. Amazon has since tacked on a suite of digital perks, such as video streaming, music and photo storage. Members spend far more on the retail site than non-members, surveys show.

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    - Google Rival's Study Urges Letting Mobile Users Pick Search Defaults
    Google could lose 20% of the mobile search market that it dominates if more users had the option to choose their default search provider via a preference menu, privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo argues in new research. From a report: This study fleshes out that idea and gives DuckDuckGo ammunition it can give authorities investigating Google for anticompetitive practices in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. Google developed the Android operating system, which is used by roughly 80 percent of the global mobile market, and Google's search tools are built into Android in a variety of ways. DuckDuckGo conducted user testing of 12,000 people in the U.S., UK and Australia, where Google market share in mobile search is 95%, 98% and 98% respectively. A preference menu could reduce those market shares by 20%, 22% and 16% respectively, the testing found. Testing also concluded that when given options, users scroll through to see the options before making a choice on a search engine. DuckDuckGo also tested user behavior when Google was placed on the last screen of the preference menu, finding no statistically significant difference in how often users selected it.

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    - AI Invents New 'Recipes' For Potential COVID-19 Drugs
    sciencehabit writes: As scientists uncover drugs that can treat coronavirus infections, demand will almost certainly outstrip supplies -- as is already happening with the antiviral remdesivir. To prevent shortages, researchers have come up with a new way to design synthetic routes to drugs now being tested in some COVID-19 clinical trials, using artificial intelligence (AI) software. The AI-planned new recipes -- for 11 medicines so far -- could help manufacturers produce medications whose syntheses are tightly held trade secrets. And because the new methods use cheap, readily available starting materials, licensed drug suppliers could quickly ramp up production of any promising therapies. "If you are going to supply a drug to the world, your starting materials have to be cheap and as available as sugar," says Danielle Schultz, a chemist at Merck. The new method, posted as a preprint this week, "is really solid," she says. "I am impressed by the speed at which [the researchers] were able to find new solutions for making existing drugs." Patents give pharmaceutical companies the right to be the sole supplier of a new drug in a given country, usually for 20 years. Once a drug goes off patent, other companies can produce and sell it as a generic. The method to make the drug is often secret to discourage competition even after patents expire. But COVID-19 has changed all that, Schultz says. "We are at a time when it's all hands on deck." Only two medicines -- remdesivir and dexamethasone -- are currently proven to fight COVID-19. That has led to supply shortages for both. On 4 August, attorneys general from 34 U.S. states wrote federal officials, calling remdesivir supplies "dangerously limited," and urging states be given "march-in rights" to violate owner Gilead Sciences' patents. Such rights would allow states to work with third-party manufacturers to make additional supplies of the drug. To prevent future supply crunches, University of Michigan chemist Timothy Cernak and colleagues turned to a commercial drug synthesis AI program called Synthia. The software can help pharmaceutical manufacturers find the most efficient and cost-effective strategy for synthesizing medicines, most of which are fairly complex molecules that can be built in myriad ways -- much as an artist can apply brush strokes in infinite combinations to paint the same landscape. "It's more options than the human mind can comprehend," Cernak says.

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    - Google Gives Android TV Developers Instant Apps, Speech-to-Text, and Predictive Typing
    An anonymous reader shares a report: Even before the pandemic, the battle to own your living room was reaching a boiling point. Now the big screen is bigger than ever as 2020 accelerates the streaming wars and raises the smart TV platform stakes. Naturally, Google is making every effort to avoid being left behind. Today the company gave Android TV developers new tools, including Google Play Instant, the Play Store in the emulator, PIN code purchases, Gboard TV, auto low latency mode, and leanback library improvements. [...] Google says Android TV now works with seven of the top 10 smart TV OEMs and over 160 TV operators. The company also added that there are now "over 80% more Android TV monthly active devices than a year ago," but didn't divulge raw numbers. Developers have built about 7,000 apps for Google Play on Android TV, to date, up from 5,000 in April 2019.

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    - Russian Watchdog Says Apple Abused Mobile App Market Dominance
    Russian competition watchdog FAS on Monday said that Apple has abused its dominant position in the mobile apps market through its App Store for iOS devices and will issue an order demanding that the company resolve regulations breaches. From a report: An Apple spokesman said the company plans to appeal against the FAS ruling. The Russian ruling comes against the backdrop of European Commission investigations into Apple and the App Store's rules, including requirements that app developers use its own in-app purchase system. The FAS cited the need to download apps for the Apple's iOS operating system via its App Store. It also said that Apple has unlawfully reserved rights to block any third-parties' apps from the App Store. The investigation by the FAS followed a complaint from cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab, which had said that a new version its Safe Kids application had been declined by Apple's operating system.

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    - Global Coronavirus Cases Hit 20 Million
    Global coronavirus cases pushed past 20 million on Monday, according to a Reuters tally, with the United States, Brazil and India accounting for more than half of all known infections. From a report: The respiratory disease has infected at least four times the average number of people struck down with severe influenza illnesses annually, according to the World Health Organization. The death toll from COVID-19, meanwhile, at more than 728,000 has outpaced the upper range of annual deaths from the flu. The Reuters tally, which is based on government reports, shows the disease is accelerating. It took almost six months to reach 10 million cases after the first infection was reported in Wuhan, China, in early January. It took just 43 days to double that tally to 20 million. Experts believe the official data likely undercounts both infections and deaths, particularly in countries with limited testing capacity. The United States is responsible for around 5 million cases, Brazil 3 million and India 2 million. Russia and South Africa round out the top ten.

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    - Amazon and Mall Operator Look at Turning Sears, J.C. Penney Stores Into Fulfillment Centers
    The largest mall owner in the U.S. has been in talks with Amazon.com, the company many retailers denounce as the mall industry's biggest disrupter, to take over space left by ailing department stores. From a report: Simon Property Group has been exploring with Amazon the possibility of turning some of the property owner's anchor department stores into Amazon distribution hubs, according to people familiar with the matter. Amazon typically uses these warehouses to store everything from books and sweaters to kitchenware and electronics until delivery to local customers. The talks have focused on converting stores formerly or currently occupied by J.C. Penney and Sears, these people said. The department-store chains have both filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and as part of their plans have been closing dozens of stores across the country. Simon malls have 63 Penney and 11 Sears stores, according to its most recent public filing in May. It wasn't clear how many stores are under consideration for Amazon, and it is possible that the two sides could fail to reach an agreement, people briefed on the matter said. The talks reflect the intersection of two trends that predate the pandemic but have been accelerated by it: the decline of malls and the boom in e-commerce. Malls were struggling for years, as more customers stayed home to shop online. The spread of the coronavirus, which forced malls to temporarily close and limited their crowds even after reopening, has worsened the situation. Amazon, meanwhile, was able to navigate new logistical challenges during Covid-19 and recently reported its greatest quarter ever. For Amazon, a deal with Simon would be consistent with its efforts to add more distribution hubs near residential areas to speed up the crucial last mile of delivery.

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    - Kuo: iPhone Shipments Could Decline Up To 30% If Apple Forced To Remove WeChat From Worldwide App Store
    An anonymous reader shares a report: In a worst-case scenario, Apple's annual iPhone shipments could decline by 25-30% if it is forced to remove WeChat from its App Stores around the world, according to a new research note from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo viewed by MacRumors. The removal could occur due to a recent executive order aiming to ban U.S. transactions with WeChat and its parent company Tencent. Kuo lays out optimistic and pessimistic scenarios depending on whether Apple is only required to remove WeChat from the App Store in the United States or if the ban would apply to the App Store in all countries. WeChat is extremely popular with Chinese mobile device users, essentially operating as its own platform on top of iOS and Android for many users, and Kuo argues that a worldwide ban on WeChat in the App Store would be devastating due to the size of the Chinese market. "Because WeChat has become a daily necessity in China, integrating functions such as messaging, payment, e-commerce, social networking, news reading, and productivity, if this is the case, we believe that Apple's hardware product shipments in the Chinese market will decline significantly. We estimate that the annual iPhone shipments will be revised down by 25-30%, and the annual shipments of other Apple hardware devices, including AirPods, iPad, Apple Watch and Mac, will be revised down by 15-25%," he wrote in a note. Under his optimistic scenario in which WeChat is only removed from the U.S. App Store, Kuo predicts iPhone shipments would be impacted by 3-6% with other Apple products being affected by less than 3%.

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    - PDF Still Unfit for Human Consumption, 20 Years Later
    Research spanning 20 years proves PDFs are problematic for online reading. Yet they're still prevalent and users continue to get lost in them. They're unpleasant to read and navigate and remain unfit for digital-content display. From a report: [...] Burying information in PDFs means that most people won't read it. Participants in several of our recent usability studies on corporate websites and intranets did not appreciate PDFs and skipped right over them. They complained woefully whenever they encountered PDF files and many who opened PDFs quickly abandoned them. Following are behaviors and quotes from business professionals testing the About Us areas of corporate websites. One user looking for information on the Small Business Administration's website got stuck in a PDF. While she was trying to figure out what exactly the administration did, she said, "I expect it to talk more about what they can do for me. If the print was bigger, that would be really helpful. Now, I'm stuck in a PDF."

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    - Pen Test Partners: Boeing 747s Receive Critical Software Updates Over 3.5" Floppy Disks
    Boeing 747-400s still use floppy disks for loading critical navigation databases, Pen Test Partners has revealed to the infosec community after poking about one of the recently abandoned aircraft. From a report: The eye-catching factoid emerged during a DEF CON video interview of PTP's Alex Lomas, where the man himself gave a walkthrough of a 747-400, its avionics bay and the flight deck. Although airliners are not normally available to curious infosec researchers, a certain UK-based Big Airline's decision to scrap its B744 fleet gave Pen Test Partners a unique opportunity to get aboard one and have a poke about before the scrap merchants set about their grim task. "Aircraft themselves are really expensive beasts, you know," said Lomas as he filmed inside the big Boeing. "Even if you had all the will in the world, airlines and manufacturers won't just let you pentest an aircraft because [they] don't know what state you're going to leave it in." While giving a tour of the aircraft on video, Lomas pointed out the navigation database loader.

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    - Apple Is Fighting Trademark for Prepear's Pear-Shaped Logo
    In a legal filing, says Apple: Consumers encountering Applicant's Mark are likely to associate the mark with Apple. Applicant's Mark consists of a minimalistic fruit design with a right-angled leaf, which readily calls to mind Apple's famous Apple Logo and creates a similar commercial impression, as shown in the following side-by-side comparison. John Gruber, writing at DaringFireball: Here's the comparison. I could actually see this being a reasonable objection if Prepear were selling computers or phones or watches. But they're a recipe app. Their logo clearly looks like a pear, not an apple, and their pear does not even look like an Apple-logo-like pear. Back in the old days Apple didn't even pursue legal action against the Banana Junior series of personal computers, and their logo was a six-color banana.

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    - Uber CEO Calls For 'Benefits Funds' for Gig Workers
    Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi on Monday said its drivers should get the "best of both worlds" -- benefits and work flexibility. In an op-ed published in The New York Times, Khosrowshahi proposed that lawmakers require gig economy companies to create benefits funds, which would "give workers cash that they can use for the benefits they want, like health insurance or paid time off." From a report: "Our current employment system is outdated and unfair. It forces every worker to choose between being an employee with more benefits but less flexibility, or an independent contractor with more flexibility but almost no safety net," wrote Khosrowshahi. "It's time to move beyond this false choice." The op-ed comes as Uber and rival ride-hailing company Lyft face a possible injunction in California that would force them to reclassify their drivers as employees. Currently, drivers are classified as independent contractors, which means they pay for their own expenses, such as gas, car maintenance and insurance. Drivers also don't have benefits like health care and sick leave.

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    - For Space Junk Cleanup, DragRacer Satellite Will Test 'Terminator Tape' This Fall
    schwit1 quotes Space.com: An experimental mission to test tether-based orbital debris cleanup methods with "Terminator Tape" is slated to launch this fall to test the deorbit performance of two satellites. The Millennium Space Systems mission, called DragRacer, involves two small satellites that are set to launch simultaneously to low Earth orbit (LEO) to measure how fast satellites fall out of space. The goal, the company said, is to study technologies for removing space debris from orbit. One of the satellites will fall from orbit on its own. The second satellite, meanwhile, will use an onboard tether made of Terminator Tape that's designed to speed up reentry and deorbit the craft.

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    - Should the U.K. Government Form a Coalition to Buy ARM?
    With SoftBank's Masayoshi Son trying to sell ARM, a columnist for the Observer newspaper has a suggestion for the U.K. government (and specifically Brexit Tories), calling the Cambridge-based company "a kind of public-interest commercial company: licensing state-of-the art instruction sets that can be implemented in silicon architecture by everyone. It was in nobody's pocket." Its business, as its chief founder, Tudor Brown, acknowledges, relied on it never betraying its neutrality... A future owner could almost trash Arm in the pursuit of its own commercial ends. Nvidia, reported to be in advanced talks with Son, is just such a possible owner. Rooted in the games industry, it has found to its surprise that its processing units are much in demand as artificial intelligence applications mushroom. Son wanted to sell Arm to an industry coalition that might protect the company's independence and business model. None could be found, so, desperate for cash, given a string of failed and written-down investments (WeWork, Uber etc), he is now having to sup with a buyer that can only destroy Arm. Nvidia's ambitions are scarcely hidden. Once it owns Arm it will withdraw its licensing agreements from its competitors, notably Intel and Huawei, and after July next year take the rump of Arm to Silicon Valley, just as Google has done with the British AI company DeepMind. Arm, and Britain's hopes to be a player in hi-tech, will be dead. Ownership is fundamental and the lesson of the story is that unless Britain creates the legal, cultural and institutional framework allowing companies such as Arm (or DeepMind) to have anchor shareholders — or simply allowing founder shareholders to have powerful differential voting rights as in the U.S. and Canada — we are condemned to inferiority. But even now Britain could act. The government could offer a foundational investment of, say, £3bn-£5bn and invite other investors — some industrial, some sovereign wealth funds, some commercial asset managers — to join it in a coalition to buy Arm and run it as an independent quoted company, serving the worldwide tech industry... if Britain is to develop an industrial strategy, this is how it must act... A successful capitalism is always about framing innovative private dynamism within a fit-for-purpose regulatory and ownership architecture designed by the state, a reality that neither major party has ever understood. The open question is whether Brexit Tories, forced by reality, might change. This kind of audacious deal could appeal to Johnson and Cummings, a statement of intent to match China in our commitment to a decisive presence in 21st-century hi-tech. Brexit was meant to give Britain the freedom to make this kind of move.

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    - Richard Stallman Discusses Privacy Risks of Bitcoin, Suggests 'Something Much Better'
    Richard Stallman gave a new interview to the site Cointelegraph, which asked him his feelings about cryptocurrencies. "I'm not against them," Stallman answers "I'm not campaigning to eliminate them, I just don't particularly want to use them." Cointelegraph then asks Stallman how he feels about tests underway for the Chinese government's own central bank digital currency: Richard Stallman: "Digital payment systems are fundamentally dangerous if they are not engineered to ensure privacy. China is the enemy of privacy. China shows what totalitarian surveillance is like. I consider that hell on earth. That's part of why I haven't used cryptocurrencies that are issued by the community. If the cryptocurrency is issued by a government, it would surveille people just the way credit cards do and PayPal does, and all those other systems meaning completely unacceptable." Stallman later says "I don't do any kind of digital payments, and the reason is the systems that exist do not respect the user's privacy, and that includes Bitcoin. Every Bitcoin transaction is published." But when Cointelegraph asks about various Bitcoin modifications designed for privacy, Stallman answers "I am not convinced about them." Richard Stallman: In any case, the GNU project has developed something much better, which is GNU Taler. GNU Taler is not a cryptocurrency. It is not a currency at all. It is a payment system designed to be used for anonymous payments to businesses to buy something. It is anonymous through a blind signature for the payer. However, the payee has to identify itself for every purchase in order to get money out of the system. So the idea is you can use your bank account to get Taler Tokens, and you can spend them and the payee won't be able to tell who you are. It won't be able to tell that you got the token from a particular bank account at a particular time, even though you did so. To convert your payment into money in its own bank, the store (the payee) will have to identify itself. So this gives privacy in a much more reliable way than cryptocurrencies do, and it blocks the idea of using this system to enable tax evasion. GNU Taler recently had an exciting milestone. A few months ago the eurozone banking system became interested in supporting Taler payments, and just recently they succeeded using a test setup in obtaining Taler tokens with one bank account and paying them to another bank account through the Taler system. Now, it's not something that anybody can use but it will be, and that will be really exciting. And in response to a question about Facebook's "Libra" digital currency project, Stallman says he hasn't study the details "because the most important thing about it I already know. It's connected with Facebook, and Facebook means surveillance. "I urge people to join me in absolutely refusing to use Facebook or rather be used by Facebook. Because Facebook doesn't have users. Facebook has used. So don't be a sucker, don't be used by Facebook."

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