AI

Dadbot: How a Son Made a Chatbot of His Dying Dad (www.cbc.ca) 84

theodp writes: In A Son's Race to Give His Dying Father Artificial Immortality (Warning: may be paywalled; alternate source), James Vlahos recounts his efforts to turn the story of his father's life -- as told by his 80-year-old Dad in his final months after being diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer -- into what Vlahos calls "a Dadbot -- a chatbot that emulates not a children's toy but the very real man who is my father." Given the limits of tech at the time (2016) and his own inexperience as a programmer, Vlahos recognized that the bot would never be more than a shadow of his real dad, but hoped to get the bot to communicate in his father's distinctive manner and convey at least some sense of his personality. Of the first time he demoed the bot for his parents, Vlahos writes: "Emboldened, I bring up something that has preoccupied me for months. 'This is a leading question, but answer it honestly,' I say, fumbling for words. 'Does it give you any comfort, or perhaps none -- the idea that whenever it is that you shed this mortal coil, that there is something that can help tell your stories and knows your history?' My dad looks off. When he answers, he sounds wearier than he did moments before. 'I know all of this shit,' he says, dismissing the compendium of facts stored in the Dadbot with a little wave. But he does take comfort in knowing that the Dadbot will share them with others. 'My family, particularly. And the grandkids, who won't know any of this stuff.' He's got seven of them, including my sons, Jonah and Zeke, all of whom call him Papou, the Greek term for grandfather. 'So this is great,' my dad says. 'I very much appreciate it.'"
AI

Researchers Have Figured Out How To Fake News Video With AI (qz.com) 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: A team of computer scientists at the University of Washington have used artificial intelligence to render visually convincing videos of Barack Obama saying things he's said before, but in a totally new context. In a paper published this month, the researchers explained their methodology: Using a neural network trained on 17 hours of footage of the former U.S. president's weekly addresses, they were able to generate mouth shapes from arbitrary audio clips of Obama's voice. The shapes were then textured to photorealistic quality and overlaid onto Obama's face in a different "target" video. Finally, the researchers retimed the target video to move Obama's body naturally to the rhythm of the new audio track. In their paper, the researchers pointed to several practical applications of being able to generate high quality video from audio, including helping hearing-impaired people lip-read audio during a phone call or creating realistic digital characters in the film and gaming industries. But the more disturbing consequence of such a technology is its potential to proliferate video-based fake news. Though the researchers used only real audio for the study, they were able to skip and reorder Obama's sentences seamlessly and even use audio from an Obama impersonator to achieve near-perfect results. The rapid advancement of voice-synthesis software also provides easy, off-the-shelf solutions for compelling, falsified audio. You can view the demo here: "Synthesizing Obama: Learning Lib Sync from Audio"
Android

Samsung's 'Bixby' Voice Assistant Finally Launches In US (theverge.com) 35

After 3 months, Samsung announced that the voice capabilities of its digital assistant are now rolling out to U.S. Galaxy S8 and S8+ owners. Now, if you happen to own a Galaxy S8 or S8+, the physical Bixby button on the lefthand side of your phone will be able to actually do something somewhat useful. The Verge reports: Bixby's voice capabilities have been available in the US as part of an opt-in beta test, and Samsung says that feedback has led to faster response times, improved comprehension of varied phrasing around the same question, better hands-free operation, and more. Over 100,000 users of the flagship devices have enrolled in the early access program and issued over 4 million voice commands. Also, Samsung says Bixby can now read aloud your latest SMS messages and emails -- if you use its stock apps on the Galaxy S8. Bixby can be activated with a push of the dedicated Bixby button located on the side of the Galaxy S8 and S8+, or by saying "hi Bixby." Like Siri and Google Assistant, Bixby can handle alarms, send texts, and so on, but its real power lies in the ability to access granular phone settings or -- in supported apps -- automatically move through several menu screens to perform commands that Google Assistant simply can't do. Samsung says that deep learning should allow Bixby to improve over time as it begins to recognize users' preferences and ways of speaking. Here's a video showing some of the voice commands Bixby can respond to.
AI

Many Firms Are 'AI Washing' Claims of Intelligent Products (axios.com) 87

Software companies are seeking to exploit the current artificial intelligence craze by "AI washing" -- exaggerating the role of AI in their products, according to a new report by Gartner, the research firm. From a report: Gartner, which tracks commercial manias through a tool it calls the Hype Cycle, compares what is currently going on in AI with a prior surge in environmental over-statement -- "greenwashing, in which companies exaggerate the environmental-friendliness of their products or practices for business benefit." The bottom line: More than 1,000 vendors say their products employ AI, but many are "applying the AI label a little too indiscriminately," Gartner says in its report. Kriti Sharma, who runs the AI team at Sage, tells Axios that a lot of companies are seeking to solve problems using AI that would be better done by humans. And what is often called AI "is just automation that you are doing," she said.
Businesses

Avast Now Owns CCleaner After Acquiring Piriform (betanews.com) 98

An anonymous reader writes: Security firm Avast has acquired software firm Piriform. Not only does the acquired company make CCleaner, but many other solid programs too. In fact, the rest of Piriform's library -- Recuva, Speccy, and Defraggler -- are staples of the Windows freeware community. "CCleaner is a leading brand in the market, used by 130 million people, including 15 million Android users. CCleaner has an extensive and extremely loyal community of tech-savvy users, who need to speed up and optimize their PC and Android experience. Avast will maintain the CCleaner brand of products along with Avast's existing performance optimization products, Avast Cleanup and AVG Tune Up. With the addition of CCleaner, Avast has dramatically expanded its product offerings in the PC and smartphone optimization market reaching customers around the world who demand faster performance," says Avast. Vince Steckler, CEO of Avast explains, "We see many commonalities between CCleaner and Avast, allowing for great new products for our user bases. Avast and CCleaner are the top two downloaded products on popular download sites. They are both known by advanced users as focused on performance, so we believe there will be a great interest from our CCleaner customers in using Avast security products and vice versa. In today's connected world, it's all about speed and high performance, and with Piriform's robust technology we can address this need perfectly. We look forward to working with the Piriform team to grow the business together."
Android

Android Backdoor 'GhostCtrl' Can Silently Record Your Audio, Video and More (neowin.net) 65

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Neowin: A new strain of malware designed for Android devices has recently been discovered, which not only can silently record audio and video, but can also monitor texts and calls, modify files, and ultimately spawn ransomware. Dubbed as 'GhostCtrl' by researchers over at Trend Micro, the malware is apparently a variant of OmniRAT, a remote administration tool for Android, which is available to the public. It also appears to be part of a wider campaign that targeted Israeli hospitals, where a worm called RETADUP surfaced back in June. According to the report, there are three versions of the malicious software. The first variant stole information and controlled a device's functionalities, while the second added new features to exploit. The third one combines all the features of the old versions, and adds even more malicious components into its system. The latest iteration of GhostCtrl can now monitor call logs, text messages, contacts, phone numbers, location, and browsing history. Furthermore, it has the ability to record the victim's Android version, battery level, and Bluetooth information. To make make matters worse, it can now also spy on unsuspecting victims by silently recording audio and video. The malware distributes itself via illegitimate apps for WhatsApp or Pokemon GO. Trend Micro suggests you keep your Android devices up to date and data backed up regularly. They also recommend using an app reputation system that can detect suspicious and malicious apps.
AI

Michigan Will Build 25 Self-Driving Trolleys In 2017 (observer.com) 99

French trolley-maker Navya announced its first manufacturing facility in North America. The company will build a 20,000 square foot facility for the construction of its self-driving trolley, the Arma. "It aims to construct 25 vehicles there this year," reports Observer. "It has 45 vehicles deployed around the world already. These robots have a max speed of about 27 miles per hour, but typically travel more like 12 miles per hour (the speed of a typical bike ride). Each one can transport about 15 people." From the report: The plant will be built in Saline, Michigan, a suburban town just south of Ann Arbor with a population of less than 9,000. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation estimates that the plant will support 50 new jobs. "As the greater Ann Arbor area continues to establish itself as a hub for autonomous vehicle development, we feel it's the perfect location for us. Strong government and community support for mobility initiatives combined with an excellent talent pool provide the ideal environment for our expansion in North America," Navya CEO Christophe Sapet said in a press release. "I have no doubt that they will become an important and valued member of our already stellar business community," Brian Marl, Saline's mayor, said in a release.
Android

Some OnePlus 5s Are Reportedly Rebooting After Dialing 911 (theverge.com) 55

The OnePlus 5, dubbed "the best sub-$500 phone you can buy" when it launched, is having a few problems. Earlier this month, some owners of the new device complained about a weird jelly-like effect that appears when scrolling through apps. OnePlus went on to claim that the effect is normal and not the result of any manufacturing issues. Now, a handful of users are reporting that the OnePlus 5 will reboot itself once 911 is called, preventing them from reaching emergency services. The Verge reports: Reddit user Nick Morrelli noticed the glitch after he tried to call 911 to report a building fire in Seattle, and other users have reported that the OnePlus 5 is unable to dial 911 (or 999 in the UK, as another user reported) without rebooting. While most users haven't reported having the issue, any percentage of devices not being able to reach emergency services is a major issue for OnePlus. In a statement to The Verge, OnePlus says it's looking into the problem. "We have contacted the customer and are currently looking into the issue. We ask anyone experiencing a similar situation to contact us at support@oneplus.net."
Bug

Flaw In IoT Security Cameras Leaves Millions of Devices Open To Hackers (vice.com) 53

New submitter Aliciadivo writes: A nasty vulnerability found in Axis security cameras could allow hackers to take full control of several types of Internet of Things devices, and in some cases, software programs, too. The Senrio research team found that devices and software programs using an open source software library called gSOAP to enable their product to communicate to the internet could be affected. Stephen Ridley, founder of Senrio, said: "I bet you all these other manufacturers have the same vulnerability throughout their product lines as well. It's a vulnerability in virtually every IoT device [...] Every kind of device you can possibly think of." A spokesperson for ONVIF, an electronics industry consortium that includes Axis and has includes some members that use gSOAP, said it has notified its members of the flaw, but it's not "up to each member to handle this in the way they best see fit." Also, gSOAP "is not in any way mandated by the ONVIF specifications, but as SOAP is the base for the ONVIF API, it is possible that ONVIF members would be affected." Hundreds of thousands of devices might be affected, as a search for the term "Axis" on Shodan, an engine that scours the internet for vulnerable devices, returns around 14,000 results. You can view Senrio Labs' video on the exploit (which they refer to as the "Devil's Ivy Exploit") here.
China

China's Censors Can Now Erase Images Mid-Transmission (wsj.com) 90

Eva Dou, reporting for WSJ: China's already formidable internet censors have demonstrated a new strength -- the ability to delete images in one-on-one chats as they are being transmitted, making them disappear before receivers see them. The ability is part of a broader technology push by Beijing's censors to step up surveillance and get ahead of activists and others communicating online in China (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). Displays of this new image-filtering capability kicked into high gear last week as Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo lay dying from liver cancer and politically minded Chinese tried to pay tribute to him, according to activists and a new research report. Wu Yangwei, a friend of the long-jailed Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said he used popular messaging app WeChat to send friends a photo of a haggard Mr. Liu embracing his wife. Mr. Wu believed the transmissions were successful, but he said his friends never saw them. "Sometimes you can get around censors by rotating the photo," said Mr. Wu, a writer better known by his pen name, Ye Du. "But that doesn't always work." There were disruptions on Tuesday to another popular messaging app, Facebook's WhatsApp, with many China-based users saying they were unable to send photos and videos without the use of software that circumvents Chinese internet controls. Text messages appeared to be largely unaffected.
Security

Hacks 'Probably Compromised' UK Industry (bbc.com) 19

Some industrial software companies in the UK are "likely to have been compromised" by hackers, according to a document reportedly produced by British spy agency GCHQ. A copy of the document from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) -- part of GCHQ -- was obtained by technology website Motherboard. From a report: A follow-up by the BBC indicated that the document was legitimate. There have been reports about similar cyber-attacks around the world lately. Modern, computer-based industrial control systems manage equipment in facilities such as power stations. And attacks attempting to compromise such systems had become more common recently, one security researcher said. The NCSC report specifically discusses the threat to the energy and manufacturing sectors. It also cites connections from multiple UK internet addresses to systems associated with "advanced state-sponsored hostile threat actors" as evidence of hackers targeting energy and manufacturing organisations.
Android

End of the Line For Remix OS as Jide Shifts Its Energy Towards the Enterprise (neowin.net) 29

An anonymous reader shares a report: It was only in July last year that Remix OS, an Android-based operating system for PCs, was bumped up to Version 3.0, which featured Android 6.0 Marshmallow under the hood. In fact, news of the upgrade came hot on the heels of an announcement from Chuwi with regards to the release of its $239 Vi10 Plus tablet that dual-booted Remix OS and Windows 10. A little over a month later, Jide Technology then followed up with a "developer preview" of the OS leveraging Android 7.0 Nougat. However, after a somewhat brief period of existence of just a few years, the company has announced that it is shifting its focus away from the consumer segment to the enterprise. In a statement on its website, Jide stated that: "Over the past year, we received an increasing number of inquiries from enterprises in various industries, and began helping them build great tools for their organizations by leveraging Jide software and hardware. We see huge potential in the role that Jide can play to revolutionize how these businesses operate. And given our existing resources, we decided to focus our company efforts solely on the enterprise space moving forward."
Security

Exploit Derived From EternalSynergy Upgraded To Target Newer Windows Versions (bleepingcomputer.com) 61

An anonymous reader writes: "Thai security researcher Worawit Wang has put together an exploit based on ETERNALSYNERGY that can also target newer versions of the Windows operating system," reports Bleeping Computer. "ETERNALSYNERGY is one of the NSA exploits leaked by the Shadow Brokers hacking group in April this year. According to a Microsoft technical analysis, the exploit can allow an attacker to execute code on Windows machines with SMB services exposed to external connections. The exploit works up to Windows 8. According to Microsoft, the techniques used in the original ETERNALSYNERGY exploit do not work on newer platforms due to several kernel security improvements. Wang says his exploit targets the same vulnerability but uses a different exploitation technique. His method 'should never crash a target,' the expert says. 'Chance should be nearly 0%,' Wang adds." Combining his exploit with the original ETERNALSYNERGY exploit would allow a hacker to target all Windows versions except Windows 10. This is about 75% of all Windows PCs. The exploit code is available for download from Wang's GitHub or ExploitDB. Sheila A. Berta, a security researcher for Telefonica's Eleven Paths security unit, has published a step-by-step guide on how to use Wang's exploit.
Privacy

Facial Recognition Could Be Coming To Police Body Cameras (defenseone.com) 176

schwit1 quotes a report from Defense One: Even if the cop who pulls you over doesn't recognize you, the body camera on his chest eventually just might. Device-maker Motorola will work with artificial intelligence software startup Neurala to build "real-time learning for a person of interest search" on products such as the Si500 body camera for police, the firm announced Monday. Italian-born neuroscientist and Neurala founder Massimiliano Versace has created patent-pending image recognition and machine learning technology. It's similar to other machine learning methods but far more scalable, so a device carried by that cop on his shoulder can learn to recognize shapes and -- potentially faces -- as quickly and reliably as a much larger and more powerful computer. It works by mimicking the mammalian brain, rather than the way computers have worked traditionally.

Versace's research was funded, in part, by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA under a program called SyNAPSE. In a 2010 paper for IEEE Spectrum, he describes the breakthrough. Basically, a tiny constellation of processors do the work of different parts of the brain -- which is sometimes called neuromorphic computation -- or "computation that can be divided up between hardware that processes like the body of a neuron and hardware that processes the way dendrites and axons do." Versace's research shows that AIs can learn in that environment using a lot less code.

Intel

Windows 10 Creators Upgrade Cuts Support For Some Intel PCs Early (pcworld.com) 142

Windows PCs with Intel's Clover Trail Atom chips will not upgrade to the Windows 10 Creators Update, which could wind up being trouble in the future. PCWorld reports: Owners of some Windows 10 laptops and tablets are crashing into a worrying roadblock when they try to install the Windows 10 Creators Update. Windows Update initially says the notebooks are compatible with the upgrade, but fails to install it after downloading the setup files, instead displaying the following message: "Windows 10 is no longer supported on this PC. Uninstall this app now because it isn't compatible with Windows 10." That sounds ominous, but you don't need to uninstall your existing version of Windows 10, and there's no app to uninstall. Instead, the message means your PC's hardware isn't compatible with the Creators Update.

A recent ZDNet article thrust this issue into the spotlight, but Microsoft laid out details about the error in an April forum post. Microsoft won't let affected hardware install the Creators Update because "Icons and/or text throughout the Windows interface may not appear at all, or may appear as solid color blocks on some devices." Can I install the Windows 10 Creators Update? Nope. But you might be able to in the future, according to the April forum post. "Microsoft is working with our partners to provide compatible drivers for these processors. Until then, Windows Update will prevent devices containing one of the processors listed above from installing the Creators Update." [Devices with these Intel "Clover Trail" processors are impacted: Atom Z2760; Atom Z2520; Atom Z2560; Atom Z2580.]

Businesses

Ask Slashdot: What Are Some Developer Secrets That Could Sink Your Business? 236

snydeq writes: In today's tech world, the developer is king -- and we know it. But if you're letting us reign over your app dev strategy, you might be in for some surprises, thanks to what we aren't saying, writes an anonymous developer in a roundup of developer secrets that could sink the business. "The truth is, we developers aren't always straight with you. We have a few secrets we like to keep for ourselves. The fact that we don't tell you everything is understandable. You're the boss, after all. Do you tell your boss everything? If you're the CEO, do you loop in the board on every decision? So don't be so surprised when we do it." What possible damaging programming dirt are you keeping the lid on? Some of the points the developer mentions in his/her report include: "Your technical debt is a lot bigger than you think," "We're infatuated with our own code," and "We'd rather build than maintain." If you can think of any others not mentioned in the report, we're all ears! This may be a good time to check the "Post Anonymously" box before you submit your comment.
Transportation

Man Blames Tesla Autopilot System For Rollover Crash, Then Recants (autoguide.com) 118

According to AutoGuide, the driver of a Tesla is blaming the Autopilot system for a recent crash in Minnesota. "58-year old David Clark was approaching an intersection when he turned the Autopilot system on, causing the car to accelerate suddenly and veer off the road," reports AutoGuide. "The vehicle ended up on its roof in a marsh with all five occupants sustaining minor injuries." From the report: Tesla's Autopilot function is considered an SAE Level 2 autonomous system, meaning the car will accelerate and steer on its own, but the driver is expected to remain alert and intervene if necessary. In an emailed statement to Electrek, Tesla said it has yet to establish whether or not the Autopilot function was actually turned on at the time of the accident. The company also noted it is still the driver's responsibility to ensure the safe operation of the vehicle when Autopilot is engaged. AutoGuide's report was based off the information Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office received and reported. Now, it appears the Tesla driver is claiming the self-driving Autopilot system wasn't responsible for the crash, despite what he initially told investigators. According to ABC News, Clark said he was confused in the moments after the crash. After discussing the crash with his fellow passengers, he now believes that he disengaged Autopilot by stepping on the accelerator before the crash. "I then remember looking up and seeing the sharp left turn which I was accelerating into. I believe we started to make the turn but then felt the car give way and lose its footing like we hit loose gravel," Clark wrote in the email.
Windows

'Windows 10 Is Failing Us' (betanews.com) 547

Reader BrianFagioli writes: While Windows 10 is arguably successful from a market share perspective, it is still failing in one big way -- the user experience. Windows 8.x was an absolute disaster, and Microsoft's latest is certainly better than that, but it is still not an enjoyable experience. Before the company tries to add new features (and misses deadlines) like Timeline and Cloud Clipboard, it should focus more on improving the existing user experience. Right now it is failing us and things are not getting better. Even the third-party solutions that aim to turn this spying off aren't 100-percent successful. Unless you unplug from the internet entirely, you can't stop Windows from phoning home to Microsoft. This is a shame, as some consumers are being made to feel violated when using their own computer. Another issue that I can't believe hasn't been resolved is having two locations for system settings. Seriously, Microsoft? We still have "Settings" and "Control Panel" Live Tiles are still worthless, and it is time for Microsoft to kill them. Nobody opens an app launcher and stares at the icons for information. It is distracting and pointless. If I want the weather, I'll open a weather app and see it -- not stare at the icon for the information. It sort of made sense in the Windows 8.x era since you were presented with a full screen of app icons more often, but with a more traditional start-button design in Windows 10, it is time to retire it. Another example: Microsoft doesn't force you to use Edge and Bing entirely, but it still does force you. Cortana is a hot mess, but if you opt to use her, she will only open things in Edge. Searches are Bing-only. In other words, the virtual assistant ignores your default browser settings. Why? Not for the user's benefit. Sadly, the Windows Store is a garbage dump -- many of the "legit" apps are total trash.
Communications

Amazon May Unveil Its Own Messaging App (engadget.com) 87

The messaging app field is as hot as ever with Apple, Facebook and Google (among others) slugging it out... and Amazon appears to want in on the action. From a report: AFTVnews claims to have customer survey info revealing that Amazon is working on Anytime, a messaging app for Android, iOS and the desktop that promises a few twists on the usual formula. It has mainstays like message encryption, video, voice and (of course) stickers, but it reportedly has a few hooks that would make it easy to sign up and participate in group chats. You would only need a name to reach out to someone, for one thing -- no WhatsApp-style dependence on phone numbers here. You only have to use Twitter-style @ mentions to bring people into conversations or share photos, and you can color-code chats to identify the most important ones. Naturally, there are app-like functions (such as group music listening and food ordering) and promises of chatting with businesses for shopping or customer service.
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: What Are The Lesser-Known Roles Of The IT Department? 353

chadenright writes: On the same day that I was hired into a new IT position, my new employer also bought a pair of $1,500 conference phones from a third-party vendor, which turned out to be defective; I've spent a chunk of the last two weeks arguing with the vendor. During the process I've learned that, as the IT guy, I'm also the antibody of the corporation and my job is to prevent not just malware and viruses but also junk hardware from entering my business's system. As a software engineer who is new to the IT side of things, I have to ask, what else have you learned about IT?
What fresh hell has this software engineer gotten themselves into? Leave your best answers in the comments. What are the lesser-known roles of the IT department?

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