Aug 06

The last RHEL release, RHEL 7.7, is now available for current Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscribers via the Red Hat Customer Portal. ZDNet reports on what’s new: RHEL 7.7’s most important updates are support for the latest generation of enterprise hardware and remediation for the recently disclosed ZombieLoad vulnerabilities. The latest RHEL 7 also includes network stack performance enhancements. With this release, you can offload virtual switching operations to network interface card (NIC) hardware. What that means for you is, if you’re using virtual switching and network function virtualization (NFV), you’ll see better network performance on cloud and container platforms such as Red Hat OpenStack Platform and Red Hat OpenShift.

RHEL 7.7 users can also use Red Hat’s new predictive problem shooter: Red Hat Insights. This uses a software-as-a-service (SaaS)-based predictive analytics approach to spot, assess, and mitigate potential problems to their systems before they can cause trouble. For developers, RHEL 7.7 comes with Python 3.6 interpreter, and the pip and setup tools utilities. Previously, Python 3 versions were available only as a part of Red Hat Software Collections. Moving on to the cloud, RHEL 7.7 Red Hat Image Builder is now supported. This feature, which is also in RHEL 8, enables you to easily create custom RHEL system images for cloud and virtualization platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), VMware vSphere, and OpenStack. To help cloud-native developers, RHEL 7.7 includes full support for Red Hat’s distributed-container toolkit — buildah, podman, and skopeo — on RHEL workstations. After building on the desktop, programmers can use Red Hat Universal Base Image to build, run, and manage containerized applications across the hybrid cloud.

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Aug 05

An anonymous reader shares a report: A couple years ago, a friend invited Carl Perez to a virtual world promising online discourse free of Nazis. That world was Germany. Perez, who uses gender-neutral pronouns, didn’t fly from their home in Colorado to escape the hatred they saw online. Instead, Perez simply changed their Twitter account location. “Since then, I’ve seen pretty much no nationalist content,” they said. Perez is not alone in trying to escape a sea of hate by virtually jumping ship to Germany. But local residents and researchers say German Twitter is not exactly the internet utopia some imagine.

“We are not the paradise of social media without any hate speech whatsoever,” said Stephan Dreyer, a senior media law and governance researcher at the Hans-Bredow-Institut in Germany. While the most obvious expressions of Nazism and racism may be harder to find on Twitter accounts with their locations set to Germany, there is still plenty of coded content that slips through the cracks, Dreyer said. Twitter users often point to the company’s content policy in Germany to argue it should be able to identify and remove Nazis from the platform in other regions. When Maureen Colford learned about the location setting “hack” to filter out Nazis, she said she was “amazed that somehow Twitter manages to do this in Germany,” and wondered, “why can’t they do this everywhere?”

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Aug 02

mfilion writes: Want to use the GNOME or KDE Linux desktops on your virtual-reality headset? A new open-source project aims to let you play games and use your Linux desktop with your VR head-mounted display. Xrdesktop is an open-source project “designed to let you work with traditional desktop environments, such as GNOME and KDE, in VR,” reports ZDNet. “It does this by making window managers aware of VR. It then uses VR runtimes to render desktop windows in 3D space. Once there, you’ll be able to work on the desktop using VR controllers in place of a mouse and keyboard.”
You can find installation instructions on xrdesktop Wiki. The Valve-backed program is available in packages for Arch Linux and Ubuntu Linux. You can also install it on other distributions, but you’ll need to install xrdesktop from source.

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Aug 02

Amazon said Thursday that it will turn off the capabilities of all its Dash buttons worldwide on August 31st. “The decision follows Amazon’s move in February to stop selling new buttons,” reports CNET. “At the time, the company let folks with existing Dash buttons continue to order stuff with them, but an Amazon spokesperson said usage “has significantly slowed” since then, resulting in the company pulling the plug completely on the program. CNET reports: The Dash button, the ultimate single-use device, lets you buy an item on Amazon with one click. […] Amazon has replaced the physical buttons with virtual Dash buttons on its website, which will continue to be available. The company said it’s seen growth in other options, too, such as voice shopping through Alexa as well as Dash Replenishment Service, which allows appliances to automatically reorder items like printer ink when they’re running low. Subscribe & Save is another popular option that should help fill the shopping void left for any longtime Dash button enthusiasts. While those buttons will no longer work by month’s end, folks will notice Dash’s core concept of more seamless shopping remains alive in just about every smart home.

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Jul 29

An anonymous reader quotes Variety:
Oculus VR headset users just got one more video service to watch in their virtual living rooms: Amazon’s Prime Video service went live on Oculus Go, Quest and Samsung Gear VR headsets with a dedicated Prime Video VR app Wednesday.

In addition to access to the entire Prime Video catalog, Prime Video VR will also feature select 360-degree video films. At launch, these include “Invasion!” from Baobab Studios and “Greenland Melting” from Frontline and NOVA, according to a blog post.

The app offers users a way to watch Prime Video titles in a virtual theater setting, and also comes with voice search for the entire Prime catalog. Prime Video VR is at launch only available to Prime subscribers in the U.S. and the U.K., but there does seem to be a way for users who aren’t Prime subscribers to browse their Amazon Video purchases.

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Jul 26

The Internal Revenue Service has begun sending letters to more than 10,000 cryptocurrency holders, warning about penalties for failing to report income and pay tax on transactions involving virtual currencies. From a report: The agency expects its mailing to be completed by the end of August [Editor’s note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source]. It is sending three variations of one letter, depending on the information it has about the recipient. “Taxpayers should take these letters very seriously. The IRS is expanding efforts involving virtual currency, including increased use of data analytics,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. An IRS spokesman declined to say whether the letters stem from information turned over by digital-currency platform Coinbase. In mid-March of 2018, Coinbase provided data — under a federal court order — on about 13,000 accounts requested by the IRS.

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Jul 26

Alphabet’s autonomous driving and robotaxi company Waymo teamed up with fellow Alphabet company and AI specialist DeepMind to develop new training methods that would help makes its training better and more efficient. TechCrunch reports: The two worked together to bring a training method called Population Based Training (PBT for short) to bear on Waymo’s challenge of building better virtual drivers, and the results were impressive — DeepMind says in a blog post that using PBT decreased by 24% false positives in a network that identifies and places boxes around pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists spotted by a Waymo vehicle’s many sensors. Not only that, but is also resulted in savings in terms of both training time and resources, using about 50% of both compared to standard methods that Waymo was using previously.

What DeepMind and Waymo did with this experiment was essentially automate killing the “bad” training and replacing them with better-performing spin-offs of the best-in-class networks running the task. That’s where evolution comes in, since it’s kind of a process of artificial natural selection. Yes, that does make sense — read it again. In order to avoid potential pitfalls with this method, DeepMind tweaked some aspects after early research, including evaluating models on fast, 15-minute intervals, building out strong validation criteria and example sets to ensure that tests really were building better-performing neural nets for the real world, and not just good pattern-recognition engines for the specific data they’d been fed. Finally, the companies also developed a sort of “island population” approach by building sub-populations of neural nets that only competed with one another in limited groups, similar to how animal populations cut off from larger groups (i.e. limited to islands) develop far different and sometimes better-adapted characteristics versus their large land-mass cousins.

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Jul 18

DoNotPay, a free chatbot that offers AI-powered legal counsel, has a new service called Free Trial Card that will help you cancel free trials before you get charged. Wired reports: The Free Trial Card is a virtual credit card you can use to sign up for free trials of any service anonymously, instead of using your real credit card. When the free trial period ends, the card automatically declines to be charged, thus ending your free trial. You don’t have to remember to cancel anything. If you want, the app will also send an actual legal notice of cancelation to the service. The DoNotPay app will send you an email when you sign up for a service and another when your trial ends — a way of nudging you with the reminder that if you want to convert your trial into a paid subscription, you’ll need to update your payment info and hand over your actual credit card number.

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Jul 16

Two years ago Nasdaq and Citigroup announced a new blockchain system they said would make payments of private securities transactions more efficient. Nasdaq Chief Executive Adena Friedman called it “a milestone in the global financial sector.” But the companies did not move forward with the project, Reuters reported Tuesday, because while it worked in testing, the cost to fully adopt it outweighed the benefits. From a report: Blockchain, the person added, “is a shiny mirage” and its wide-scale adoption may still “take a while.” In a joint statement, the companies said the pilot was successful and they were “happy to partner” on other initiatives. Both companies are also working on other projects. Companies, including banks, large retailers and technology vendors, are investing billions of dollars to find uses for blockchain, a digital ledger used by cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. Just last month, Facebook revealed plans for a virtual currency and a blockchain-based payment system. But a review of 33 projects involving large companies announced over the past four years and interviews with more than a dozen executives involved with them show the technology has yet to deliver on its promise.

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Jul 12

President Donald Trump on Thursday night warned Facebook over its plan to create digital currency Libra, a move that poses a new obstacle to the company’s cryptocurrency ambitions. From a report: “Facebook Libra’s ‘virtual currency’ will have little standing or dependability. If Facebook and other companies want to become a bank, they must seek a new Banking Charter and become subject to all Banking Regulations, just like other Banks,” Trump said in a series of posts on Twitter. In the tweets, the president also expressed scepticism of digital currencies in general. “I am not a fan of Bitcoin and other Cryptocurrencies, which are not money, and whose value is highly volatile and based on thin air,” Trump wrote. “Unregulated Crypto Assets can facilitate unlawful behavior, including drug trade and other illegal activity.” Trump’s entrance into the debate over Bitcoin and Libra could mark a significant development for crypto enthusiasts. The White House has largely remained silent on the subject even as federal regulators like the Securities Exchange Commission, Commodity Futures Trading Commission and units of the Treasury Department have grappled with how to regulate virtual coins.

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