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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Crime-fighting robot retired after launching alleged ‘war on the homeless’ - The Washington Post

"Like so many classic Western anti-heroes before him, he rolled (literally) into town with a singular goal in mind: cleaning up the streets, which had become a gritty hotbed of harassment, vandalism, break-ins and grift.

The only difference was that he was a slow-moving, 400-pound robot with a penchant for snapping hundreds of photos a minute without people’s permission, and this was San Francisco’s Mission District in 2017.

What could go wrong? Quite a bit, as it turns out.

In the past month, his first on the job, “K-9″ — a 5-foot-tall, 3-foot-wide K5 Autonomous Data Machine that can be rented for $6 an hour from Silicon Valley start-up Knightscope — was battered with barbecue sauce, allegedly smeared with feces, covered by a tarp and nearly toppled by an attacker.

As if those incidents weren’t bad enough, K-9 was also accused of discriminating against homeless people who had taken up refuge on the sidewalks he was assigned to patrol. It was those troubling allegations, which went viral this week, that sparked public outrage and prompted K-9’s employers — the San Francisco chapter of the animal rescue group SPCA — to pull the plug on their newly minted robot security pilot program.

“Effective immediately, the San Francisco SPCA has suspended its security robot pilot program,” Jennifer Scarlett, the organization’s president, wrote in a statement emailed to The Washington Post on Thursday. “We piloted the robot program in an effort to improve the security around our campus and to create a safe atmosphere for staff, volunteers, clients and animals. Clearly, it backfired.”

[Saudi Arabia, which denies women equal rights, makes a robot a citizen]

SPCA officials said the robot was hired to patrol the parking lot and sidewalk outside the animal shelter after the building had been broken into twice and employees had become fed up with harassment and catcalls. The robot, they said, would be able to snap photos, record security footage, and then notify shelter employees or police during an emergency.

The backlash began after an animal shelter spokeswoman, in an interview with the San Francisco Business Times this week, seemed to suggest that the robot was an effective tool for eliminating the homeless encampments outside the SPCA, leading to a sudden reduction in crime. SPCA officials now say they didn’t mean to imply that they wanted to be rid of the homeless and have pointed out that they partner with several local organizations to provide veterinary care for homeless pet owners.

Nevertheless, a public outcry, complete with calls for the robot’s destruction, quickly ensued. A flurry of attention-grabbing headlines implied that the robot was specifically employed to target the homeless.

“Robot wages war on the homeless,” a particularly inflammatory Newsweek headline read."

Crime-fighting robot retired after launching alleged ‘war on the homeless’ - The Washington Post

Chromebook Myths Debunked - Chromebooks are awesome!

Microsoft Surface Book 2 vs. HP Spectre x360 Comparison Smackdown

Glowing Auras and ‘Black Money’: The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program - The New York Times

"The Defense Department has never before acknowledged the existence of the program, which it says it shut down in 2012. But its backers say that, while the Pentagon ended funding for the effort at that time, the program remains in existence. For the past five years, they say, officials with the program have continued to investigate episodes brought to them by service members, while also carrying out their other Defense Department duties.

The shadowy program — parts of it remain classified — began in 2007, and initially it was largely funded at the request of Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who was the Senate majority leader at the time and who has long had an interest in space phenomena. Most of the money went to an aerospace research company run by a billionaire entrepreneur and longtime friend of Mr. Reid’s, Robert Bigelow, who is currently working with NASA to produce expandable craft for humans to use in space.

On CBS’s “60 Minutes” in May, Mr. Bigelow said he was “absolutely convinced” that aliens exist and that U.F.O.s have visited Earth.

Harry Reid, the former Senate majority leader, has had a longtime interest in space phenomena. Credit Al Drago/The New York Times

Photo by: Al Drago/The New York Times

Working with Mr. Bigelow’s Las Vegas-based company, the program produced documents that describe sightings of aircraft that seemed to move at very high velocities with no visible signs of propulsion, or that hovered with no apparent means of lift.

Officials with the program have also studied videos of encounters between unknown objects and American military aircraft — including one released in August of a whitish oval object, about the size of a commercial plane, chased by two Navy F/A-18F fighter jets from the aircraft carrier Nimitz off the coast of San Diego in 2004.

Mr. Reid, who retired from Congress this year, said he was proud of the program. “I’m not embarrassed or ashamed or sorry I got this thing going,” Mr. Reid said in a recent interview in Nevada. “I think it’s one of the good things I did in my congressional service. I’ve done something that no one has done before.”

Two other former senators and top members of a defense spending subcommittee — Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, and Daniel K. Inouye, a Hawaii Democrat — also supported the program. Mr. Stevens died in 2010, and Mr. Inouye in 2012."

Glowing Auras and ‘Black Money’: The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program - The New York Times

Amazon's on a mission to make Alexa on your Echo more human

"...But despite Alexa’s human name and female persona, Zorn counters that Amazon doesn’t aim to turn its voice assistant into another member of your family. Instead, the team’s guiding light and original idea for the Echo is the all-knowing but behind-the-scenes computer from “Star Trek.”

“We don’t have an explicit desire for customers to anthropomorphize more or less than they do,” Zorn says, as if reading aloud the warning label on the tush of a giant metal robot. “We’ve recognized that some do.”

Amazon's on a mission to make Alexa on your Echo more human

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The iMac Pro is a beast, but it's not for everybody - The Verge

"...It comes with four Thunderbolt/USB-C ports, four USB-A ports, 10Gb Ethernet, an SDXC card slot that supports UHS-II speeds, and a headphone jack. It has the same screen as the current 27-inch iMac Retina 5K and it is as beautiful on the Pro as it is on that other machine.

The iMac Pro also has the usual complement of RAM and storage options — though "usual" in this case of course means top-flight components and the opportunity to get as much as 128Gb of RAM. (The base model has 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage.) Apple says that the entire system has been optimized throughout so the iMac Pro will perform better than a custom-built workstation using the same components. Apple also argues that building a comparable workstation with comparable components will end up costing you as much or more than the iMac Pro.

Much of that integration comes thanks to new, custom silicon that Apple is calling the T2. It's an integrated system that handles a ton of the deep computer controls that are usually handled by disparate parts of the motherboard. It handles audio, the image processing for the upgraded 1080p camera, and other system management functions. It also acts as a more powerful SSD controller, handling the compute load of file encryption directly rather than having it bog down your main processor.

The iMac Pro is a beast, but it's not for everybody - The Verge

Net neutrality, neutered: FCC votes out Obama-era rules - CNET

"The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to repeal Obama-era net neutrality rules, handing the broadband and wireless industries a big victory in their battle against government oversight of the internet.

The Republican-led FCC voted 3-2 along party lines to dismantle the 2015 regulations, which ensured all traffic on the internet is treated equally, and prevented broadband and wireless providers from blocking or slowing online content. The agency also voted to eliminate the legal foundation that gives the FCC oversight over internet service providers. 

The vote was delayed briefly while security at FCC headquarters cleared the room. 

Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr called it 'a great day for consumers, for innovation and for freedom.' He said the vote returns the FCC to a light regulatory regime that had worked for 20 years until they were changed in 2015."

(Via.)  Net neutrality, neutered: FCC votes out Obama-era rules - CNET

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

FCC net neutrality repeal -- what you need to know - CNET

"Donald Trump's FCC is set to roll back the controversial Obama-era net neutrality regulation this week.

At its monthly meeting Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission, led by Republican Chairman Ajit Pai, will vote to repeal regulation passed in 2015 that prevents broadband companies from blocking or slowing access to websites or services. The rules also prohibit broadband companies from offering paid-priority services that could lead to internet "fast lanes."

FCC net neutrality repeal -- what you need to know - CNET