Businesses

Toshiba Forecasts $1 Billion Loss (zdnet.com)

Toshiba has announced a forecast net loss of $970 million due to the tax impact of selling its memory chip business, which was itself sold to make up for losses incurred from its nuclear energy business. ZDNet reports: The loss will come instead of its previously forecast net profit of 230 billion yen due to taxes incurred during the sale of the chip business, although its revenue forecast remains unchanged, Reuters reported. Toshiba had last month announced that it would be selling its memory chip business for 2 trillion yen to a consortium led by Bain Capital that includes Seagate and is backed by the Japanese government. As part of the sale, Toshiba said it would be investing 350.5 billion yen into the memory chip unit, maintaining some ownership over it, and last month said that it expected to close the deal "within days."

The tech company had originally named Bain as its preferred bidder back in June, although the sale had been slowed down after joint venture partner Western Digital had struggled to submit a competing bid alongside KKR after its original bid was rejected. As a result, Toshiba announced in June that it was planning to sue Western Digital for 120 billion yen, claiming the latter had interfered in the sale of the memory chip business. Western Digital had "continually interfered with the bid process" and "exaggerated" the power it had in relation to a potential sale, Toshiba claimed, and also made moves to prevent Western Digital employees in its Yokkaichi plant from accessing information pertaining to their partnership. Reuters said the delayed sale could potentially lead to Toshiba "not getting anti-trust clearance before the end of the financial year," which could in turn result in the Tokyo Stock Exchange delisting the company.

Science

Bird Feeders Might Be Changing Bird Beaks (axios.com) 24

An anonymous reader shares a report: Bird beaks might be evolving to better fit bird feeders. A study of great tits in the UK, where feeders are common, found the bird's beaks have grown over the last 26 years, that British birds had longer beaks than those in the Netherlands, and that birds with genes for longer beaks were more likely to visit feeders, per Science News. Scientists have known that environmental changes, like El Nino, can influence the evolution of animals. Now, it appears something as simple as bird feeders can do the same. The scientists looked at the beaks of 2,322 great tits from the UK and the Netherlands, and also examined their genes. They tagged birds with gene variants for short and long beaks and tracked their feeding habits. What they found: The British birds had longer beaks and were more likely to have genes associated with beak length.
Sci-Fi

Star Trek: Discovery Is Returning For a Second Season (engadget.com) 101

Engaget reports that CBS' Star Trek: Discovery series is being renewed for a second season. The show has reportedly been enough of a success to justify a second season of episodes. From the report: The move comes as a vote of confidence for both the show and its platform, since it has recently aired the sixth of its fifteen-episode first season. Now, a second run of Discovery will air, presumably at some point toward the back-half of 2018. Discovery has certainly benefited from plenty of hype, since it's the first Trek show to air as a TV show since 2005. The pull of the Star Trek name was always going to be a draw, but it wasn't clear how much of a draw given the saga's lackluster popularity at the box office. CBS refused to offer numbers, but did boast that Discovery's debut lead to the highest number of sign-ups in the history of its All Access service.
Medicine

High-Nicotine E-Cigarettes May Make Teens Vape More, Study Warns (philly.com) 89

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Philly.com: Teens who vape e-cigarettes with higher nicotine levels are more likely to start smoking conventional cigarettes soon after, new research shows. E-cigarettes are sold with nicotine levels ranging from zero to more than 25 milligrams of nicotine per milliliter (mg/mL). In this study, a high-nicotine device was defined as having levels at or above 18 mg/mL. Leventhal's team tracked outcomes for 181 grade-10 students from high schools in the Los Angeles area. All of the teens said they had used e-cigarettes within the past month, and they provided data on nicotine levels in the devices they used. Six months later, those who used higher nicotine levels in their e-cigarettes were more likely to report use of both e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes within the past month. These teens also reported vaping and/or smoking more intensely. While 43 percent of the students who'd used high-nicotine e-cigarettes said they were "frequent smokers" of traditional cigarettes six months later, that was true for only 10 percent of those who'd vaped using lower-nicotine devices, Leventhal's group found. And teens who vaped using high-nicotine e-cigarettes smoked an average of 14 times as many "regular" cigarettes per day six months later compared to those who'd tried nicotine-free versions of the devices, the findings showed. The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.
The Courts

Computer Parts Site Newegg Is Being Sued For Allegedly Engaging In Massive Fraud (gizmodo.com) 103

schwit1 shares a report from Gizmodo: A suit filed Friday in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles by four South Korean banks alleges "massive fraud" with an outstanding debt of at least $230 million, and California-based electronic parts seller Newegg has been named as a defendant, along with wholesaler ASI Corporation and its officers. These new documents allege that Moneual, Newegg, and ASI were engaging in "an intricate scheme of circular transactions." The banks submitted a list of over 70 pages of supposedly fraudulent orders as evidence that Newegg and ASI created the paperwork that Moneual used to secure loans. The suit further claims that Newegg and ASI "received kickbacks from Moneual in varying amounts in exchange for agreeing to collude with Moneual to defraud the Banks." One method of inflating purchase orders for Moneual -- a brand barely remembered in North America as a a low-tier entrant into the robotic vacuums market -- allegedly involved creating paperwork that showed components being sold for over 370 times their value.
Software

Why Xbox One Backward Compatibility Took So Long (ign.com) 36

A new report from IGN this morning explains why it took so long for backwards compatibility to be supported on the Xbox One. Microsoft veteran Kevin La Chapelle says the answer to the question can be found in 2015 -- the year that Phil Spencer announced backwards compatibility at Microsoft's Xbox E3 media briefing. From the report: The fan-first feature has evolved from an experiment conducted by two separate Microsoft Research teams into a service planned for Xbox One's launch -- complete with hardware hooks baked into the Durango silicon -- until the well-publicized changes to the Xbox One policies (namely, stripping out the always-online requirement for the console) forced it to be pushed to the back burner. It's obviously back for good now, and expanding into original Xbox compatibility of select titles on Xbox One (the first batch of which we announced today). Even the Xbox One X is getting involved, with a handful of Xbox 360 games getting Scorpio-powered enhancements like 10-bit color depth, anisotropic filtering, and up to 9x additional pixel counts displayed on screen. [...]

It was 2007. One of [the research] teams was working on PowerPC CPU emulation -- getting 32-bit code, which the 360 uses, to run on the 64-bit architecture that the third-generation Xbox would be using. The other team, out of Beijing, started writing a virtual GPU emulator based on the Xbox 360 GPU architecture. "These were like peanut butter and chocolate," Microsoft VP of Xbox software engineering Kareem Choudhry recalled. "[So we thought,] 'Why don't we put them both together?'" Choudhry did just that, and so the first steps to Xbox One backwards compatibility were taken, long before the console had a name or anything remotely resembling final specifications. As Durango crystallized, so too did plans for Xbox 360 compatibility on the new machine. "This was primarily a software exercise, but we enabled that by thinking ahead with hardware," Gammill explained. "We had to bake some of the backwards compatibility support into the [Xbox One] silicon." This was done back in 2011. Preliminary tests showed that support for key Xbox middleware XMA audio and texture formats was extremely taxing to do in software alone, with the former, Gammill noted, taking up two to three of the Xbox One's six CPU cores. But a SOC (system on chip) -- basically an Xbox 360 chip inside every Xbox One, similar to how Sony put PS2 hardware inside the launch-era PS3s -- would've not only been expensive, but it would've put a ceiling on what the compatibility team could do. "If we'd have gone with the 360 SOC, we likely would've landed at just parity," he said. "The goal was never just parity." So they built the XMA and texture formats into the Xbox One chipset...

Social Networks

Snapchat Reportedly Stuck With 'Hundreds of Thousands' of Unsold Spectacles (theverge.com) 36

According to The Information, Snapchat expected demand for its camera-equipped glasses known as Spectacles to continue after the holidays and ordered "hundreds of thousands" of additional units. But demand didn't pick up after the company opened up its sales to a wider audience, leaving those units to collect dust in warehouses. The Verge reports: It's not known exactly how many Spectacles have been sold so far, but from the sound of it, Snap may have dramatically over-ordered units of its debut hardware device. Earlier this month, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel said the company had sold "over 150,000 units," which sounds pretty bad in the context of having hundreds of thousands sitting around waiting to be sold; although The Information says that figure includes unassembled units with parts that could potentially be used in other products. Spiegel has tried to paint Spectacles as both relatively successful and merely an early start in hardware. He claims they outsold Apple's first iPod -- a comparison clearly meant to suggest they could eventually have enormous success. But Spiegel also said hardware would really only be important to Snap a decade from now.
Education

Stephen Hawking's Thesis Crashes Cambridge Site After It's Posted Online (bbc.com) 55

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: Demand for Stephen Hawking's PhD thesis intermittently crashed part of Cambridge University's website as physics fans flocked to read his work. Prof Hawking's 1966 thesis "Properties of expanding universes" was made freely available for the first time on the publications section of university's website at 00:01 BST. More than 60,000 have so far accessed his work as a 24-year-old postgraduate. Prof Hawking said by making it available he hoped to "inspire people." He added: "Anyone, anywhere in the world should have free, unhindered access to not just my research, but to the research of every great and enquiring mind across the spectrum of human understanding. It's wonderful to hear how many people have already shown an interest in downloading my thesis -- hopefully they won't be disappointed now that they finally have access to it!" The 75-year-old's doctoral thesis is the most requested item in Cambridge University's library. Since May 2016, 199 requests were made for the PhD -- most of which are believed to be from the general public rather than academics. The next most requested publication was asked for just 13 times. The Cambridge Library made several PDF files of the thesis available for download -- a high-resolution "72 Mb" file, digitized version that's less than half the size, and a "reduced" version that was even smaller -- but intense interest overwhelmed the servers. Here's the first paragraph of Hawking's introduction: "The idea that the universe is expanding is of recent origin. All the early cosmologies were essentially stationary and even Einstein whose theory of relativity is the basis for almost all modern developments in cosmology, found it natural to suggest a static model of the universe. However there is a very grave difficulty associated with a static model such as Einstein's which is supposed to have existed for an infinite time. For, if the stars had been radiating energy at their present rates for an infinite time, they would have needed an infinite supply of energy. Further, the flux of radiation now would be infinite. Alternatively, if they had only a limited supply of energy, the whole universe would by now have reached thermal equilibrium which is certainly not the case. This difficulty was noticed by Olders who however was not able to suggest any solution. The discovery of the recession of the nebulae by Hubble led to the abandonment of static models in favour of ones which were expanding."
Science

Chinese Scientists Create Genetically Modified Low-Fat Pigs (npr.org) 122

Chinese scientists have created low-fat pigs using new genetic engineering techniques. "In a paper published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists report that they have created 12 healthy pigs with about 24 percent less body fat than normal pigs," reports NPR. From the report: The scientists created low-fat pigs in the hopes of providing pig farmers with animals that would be less expensive to raise and would suffer less in cold weather. The animals have less body fat because they have a gene that allows them to regulate their body temperatures better by burning fat. That could save farmers millions of dollars in heating and feeding costs, as well as prevent millions of piglets from suffering and dying in cold weather. The Chinese scientists created the animals using a new gene-editing technique known as CRISPR-Cas9. It enables scientists to make changes in DNA much more easily and precisely than ever before. Pigs lack a gene, called UPC1, which most other mammals have. The gene helps animals regulate their body temperatures in cold temperatures. The scientists edited a mouse version of the gene into pig cells. They then used those cells to create more than 2,553 cloned pig embryos. Next, scientists implanted the genetically modified cloned pig embryos into 13 female pigs. Three of the female surrogate mother pigs became pregnant, producing 12 male piglets, the researchers report.
Facebook

Facebook Tests Removing Publishers From News Feed -- Unless They Pay (mashable.com) 68

According to a report via Mashable, Facebook is removing posts from Pages in the original News Feed and relegating them to another feed, forcing users to "pay to play" in order to have their content back in the News Feed. The setting is only available in Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Cambodia for now, but it could be rolled out to other countries later. From the report: The social network last week officially launched its secondary news feed called Explore. The feed generally features posts from Facebook Pages users don't follow. News Feed, meanwhile, hosts posts from friends and Pages users do follow. But that's not true for everyone. In six markets, Facebook has removed posts from Pages in the original News Feed and relegated them to another feed, Filip Struharik, editor and social media manager at Dennik N, wrote. That means Facebook's main feed is no longer a free playing field for publishers. Instead, it's a battlefield of "pay to play," where publishers have to pony up the dough to get back into the News Feed. It's a stark change from how media outlets have grown with Facebook. Publishers like BuzzFeed's Tasty and NowThis grew via distributing viral posts and videos on News Feed, as Ziad Ramley, former social lead at Al Jazeera English, wrote. While companies had to employ social media managers, they could generally rely on them sharing content without paying to boost it.
The Courts

Apple, Samsung Face New iPhone Damages Trial (reuters.com) 40

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California issued her order late on Sunday, 10 months after the U.S. Supreme Court set aside a $399 million award against Samsung, whose devices include the Galaxy. The three Apple patents covered design elements of the iPhone such as its black rectangular front face, rounded corners, and colorful grid of icons for programs and apps. Koh's order is a setback for Apple, which called a retrial unnecessary and said the award should be confirmed. The $399 million represented profit from Samsung's sales of infringing smartphones, though the South Korean company has said it deserved reimbursement if it prevailed in the litigation. It was part of a $548 million payment that Samsung made to Apple in December 2015. The legal dispute concerned whether the "article of manufacture" for which Samsung owed damages included its entire smartphones, or only parts that infringed Apple patents.
AI

Google Worked With Intel on a custom AI Chip For Its Pixel Phones (cnbc.com) 71

A special-purpose chip for artificial intelligence and other tasks in Google's new Pixel smartphones draws on Intel technology. From a report: In addition to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip, the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL both feature a new custom Pixel Visual Core co-processor, which is meant to improve speed and battery life when shooting photos with Google's HDR+ technology, and better handle AI workloads in apps, Google has said. But the company didn't disclose details about its partners on the chip. Then, last week, device repair website iFixit published a teardown of the Pixel 2 XL that showed what the Pixel Visual Core chip actually looks like. The serial number on the chip in a photograph begins with "SR3," like some Intel chips. Google confirmed the connection. "Google built Pixel Visual Core with Intel," the Google spokesperson wrote in an email to CNBC. "Pixel Visual Core is a custom designed processor from Google, built to serve specific computational photography requirements that could not be met by existing chips."
Bitcoin

Wolf of Wall Street: Cryptocurrency ICOs Are 'the Biggest Scam Ever' (betanews.com) 215

An anonymous reader shares an article: Jordan Belfort -- the real-life Wolf of Wall Street -- has warned that ICOs (or "token sales" or "coin sales") are "the biggest scam ever" and will "blow up in so many people's faces." The former stockbroker, who spent nearly two years in prison for fraud and financial scams, says that the Initial Coin Offerings used to raise money for cryptocurrencies are "far worse than anything I was ever doing." His fears seem to stem from the way ICOs differ from the more traditional IPO. With IPOs investors gain shares in whatever company they plough money into, and profits can be easily shared. With ICOs, however, there is no mechanism in place for distributing any profits that may be made, profits are reliant on the value of a given cryptocurrency increasing and, perhaps more worrying, ICOs are not regulated in the way IPOs are. Aside from the fact that some ICOs are out-and-out scams, many people believe that the cryptocurrency bubble is just that -- a currently growing bubble that will eventually pop, leading many people to lose out.
Encryption

FBI Couldn't Access Nearly 7,000 Devices Because of Encryption (foxbusiness.com) 243

Michael Balsamo, writing for Associated Press: The FBI hasn't been able to retrieve data from more than half of the mobile devices it tried to access in less than a year, FBI Director Christopher Wray said Sunday, turning up the heat on a debate between technology companies and law enforcement officials trying to recover encrypted communications. In the first 11 months of the fiscal year, federal agents were unable to access the content of more than 6,900 mobile devices, Wray said in a speech at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Philadelphia. "To put it mildly, this is a huge, huge problem," Wray said. "It impacts investigations across the board -- narcotics, human trafficking, counterterrorism, counterintelligence, gangs, organized crime, child exploitation." The FBI and other law enforcement officials have long complained about being unable to unlock and recover evidence from cellphones and other devices seized from suspects even if they have a warrant, while technology companies have insisted they must protect customers' digital privacy.
China

Hong Kong Has No Space Left for the Dead (vice.com) 142

Justin Heifetz, writing for Motherboard: When Fung Wai-tsun's family carried their grandfather's ashes across the Hong Kong border to Mainland China in 2013, they worried Customs officers, thinking the urn was full of drugs, would stop them. Fung, like many others in Hong Kong, could not find a space to lay his loved one to rest in his own city and would have to settle for a site across the border and hours away. It's an increasingly common story as demand for spaces to house the dead outpaces supply here in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory of some 7.4 million people. Hong Kong's public, government-run spaces to store ashes -- which are affordable to the public, starting at $360 -- have waiting lists that can last years. But many Chinese, like Fung, strongly believe the ashes must be put in a resting place immediately as to not disrespect their ancestor's spirit. Meanwhile, a private space -- one that is not run by the government -- tends to start at more than $6,000 and can go for as high as $130,000. This is simply not an option for many families like the Fung's. In Hong Kong, most people cremate their loved ones and house the urns in columbariums, or spaces where people can then go to pay their respects. While burying a body is possible, the option is prohibitively expensive -- and besides, Hong Kong has a law that the body must be exhumed after six years, at which point one must be cremated.

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