Space

ESA Releases Largest Star Map Ever Online (gizmodo.com) 9

S810 writes: The European Space Agency (ESA) has released a treasure trove of data from its Gaia Spacecraft; totaling around 1.7 billion stars. This star map is the largest of its kind to date. In addition to the star map, the data also contains motion and color data of 1.3 billion stars relative to the Sun. Furthermore, it includes "radial velocities, amount of dust, and surface temperatures of lots of stars, and a catalogue of over 14,000 Solar System objects, including asteroids," reports Gizmodo. You can view the data here, and view a guide for what the data contains and how to use it here.
Education

Kazakhstan Is Changing Its Alphabet From Cyrillic To Latin-Based Style Favored By the West (bbc.com) 107

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: The Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan is changing its alphabet from Cyrillic script to the Latin-based style favored by the West. The change, announced on a blustery Tuesday morning in mid-February, was small but significant -- and it elicited a big response. The government signed off on a new alphabet, based on a Latin script instead of Kazakhstan's current use of Cyrillic, in October. But it has faced vocal criticism from the population -- a rare occurrence in this nominally democratic country ruled by Nazarbayev's iron fist for almost three decades. In this first version of the new alphabet, apostrophes were used to depict sounds specific to the Kazakh tongue, prompting critics to call it "ugly." The second variation, which Kaipiyev liked better, makes use of acute accents above the extra letters. So, for example, the Republic of Kazakhstan, which would in the first version have been Qazaqstan Respy'bli'kasy, is now Qazaqstan Respyblikasy, removing the apostrophes. The BBC article goes on to explain the economics of such a change, citing a restuarant owner that marketed his business using the first version of the alphabet. "All his marketing materials, the labelling on napkin holders and menus, and even the massive sign outside the building will have to be replaced," reports the BBC. "In his attempt to get ahead by launching in the new alphabet, [the owner] had not predicted that the government would revise it. He thinks it will cost about $3,000 to change the spelling of the name on everything to the new version, Sabiz." The full transition to the Latin-based script is expected to be completed by 2025, impacting this owner and many other small business owners.
Crime

Belgium Declares Video Game Loot Boxes Gambling and Therefore Illegal (arstechnica.com) 89

The Belgian Gaming Commission has reviewed several big video games and found that randomized loot boxes in at least three of the titles count as "games of chance," and publishers could therefore be subject to fines and prison sentences under the country's gaming legislation. Ars Technica reports: A statement by Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Geens (machine translation) identifies loot boxes in Overwatch, FIFA 18, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive as meeting the criteria for that "game of chance" definition: i.e., "there is a game element [where] a bet can lead to profit or loss and chance has a role in the game." The Commission also looked at Star Wars: Battlefront II and determined that the recent changes EA made to the game means it "no longer technically forms a game of chance." Beyond that simple definition, the Gaming Commission expressed concern over games that draw in players with an "emotional profit forecast" of randomized goods, where players "buy an advantage with real money without knowing what benefit it would be." The fact that these games don't disclose the odds of receiving specific in-game items is also worrisome, the Commission said. The three games noted above must remove their loot boxes or be in criminal violation of the country's gaming legislation, Geens writes. That law carries penalties of up to 800,000EU (~$973,680) and five years in prison, which can be doubled if "minors are involved." But Geens says he wants to start a "dialogue" with loot box providers to "see who should take responsibility where."
IOS

iOS 11.3.1 Fixes Bug Where Third-Party Screen Repairs Made iPhone 8 Touchscreens Stop Working (gizmodo.com) 28

The latest version of iOS 11.3.1 includes a fix for an issue where people who use third-party repair services to replace their displays had their devices become unresponsive. According to release notes, "iOS 11.3.1 improves the security of your iPhone or iPad and addresses an issue where touch input was unresponsive on some iPhone 8 devices because they were serviced with non-genuine replacement displays." Gizmodo reports: Retailers and customers alike suspected that Apple was deliberately letting the issue and other malfunctions that arose from replacing other components go unresolved in some sort of ploy to pressure customers into paying for officially licensed repair services that are more expensive. It's possible that some users indeed were forced to shell out a fair chunk of change to Apple for official repairs, in which case they might justifiably be angry that this was an issue that could be resolved with an update. iOS 11 was notoriously buggy after its release, and Apple has devoted so much effort to bug-fixing that this year's iOS 12 update will reportedly have fewer new features. Though Apple says the 11.3.1 fix will work, it also warned people to please not use third-party repair shops: "Note: Non-genuine replacement displays may have compromised visual quality and may fail to work correctly. Apple-certified screen repairs are performed by trusted experts who use genuine Apple parts. See support.apple.com for more information."
Transportation

Amazon Will Now Deliver Packages To the Trunk of Your Car (theverge.com) 72

Last year, Amazon unveiled a service called Amazon Key that lets delivery people into your home to drop off packages. Now, the tech giant wants to do the same thing with your car. Amazon announced a new service that gives it couriers access to a person's vehicle for the purpose of leaving package deliveries inside. "Amazon wants to use the connected technologies embedded in many modern vehicles today" to gain entry, reports The Verge. "The company is launching this new service in partnership with two major automakers -- General Motors and Volvo -- and will be rolling out in 37 cities in the U.S. starting today." From the report: Amazon has been beta testing the new service in California and Washington state for the past six months. To start out, the service will only be available to Amazon Prime subscribers. It's also limited to owners of GM and Volvo vehicles, model year 2015 or newer, with active OnStar and Volvo on Call accounts. Amazon says it plans to add other automobile brands over time. Packages that weigh over 50 pounds, are larger than 26 x 21 x 16 inches in size, require a signature, are valued over $1,300, or come from a third-party seller also are not eligible for in-car delivery.

To access the new delivery service, you need to add your car to your Amazon Key app and include a description of the vehicle, so Amazon's couriers will be able to locate it. The car will need to be parked within a certain radius of an address used for Amazon deliveries, so either home or work. Driveways, parking lots, parking garages, and street parking are all eligible locations, just as long as it's not at some random address across town. To find your car, Amazon's couriers will have access to its GPS location and license plate number, as well as an image of the car.

Transportation

Ford To Stop Selling Every Car In North America But the Mustang, Focus Active (techcrunch.com) 174

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Ford today announced it will phase out most cars it sells in North America. According to its latest financial release, the auto giant "will transition to two vehicles" -- the Mustang and an unannounced vehicle, the Focus Active, being the only traditional cars it sells in the region. Ford sees 90 percent of its North America portfolio in trucks, utilities and commercial vehicles. Citing a reduction in consumer demand and product profitability, Ford is in turn not investing in the next generation of sedans. The Taurus is no more. The press release also talks about a new type of vehicle, though it sounds like a crossover. This so-called white space vehicle will "combine the best attributes of cars and utilities, such as higher ride height, space and versatility." Currently, Ford sells six sedans and coupes in North America: the Fiesta, Focus, Fusion, C-Max, Mustang and Taurus. This lineup hits multiple segments, from the compact Fiesta to the mid-size Focus, C-Max and Fusion to the full-size Taurus. The Mustang stands alone as the lone coupe.
Google

Slashdot Asks: How Do You Like the New Gmail UI? (vortex.com) 89

Earlier today, Google pushed out the biggest revamp of Gmail in years. In addition to a new material design look, there are quick links to other Google services, such as Calendar, Tasks, and Keep, as well as a new "confidential mode" designed to protect users against certain attacks by having the email(s) automatically expire at a time of the sender's choosing. Long-time Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein shares their initial impressions of Google's new Gmail UI: Google launched general access to their first significant Gmail user interface (UI) redesign in many years today. It's rolling out gradually -- when it hits your account you'll see a "Try the new Gmail" choice under the settings ("gear") icon on the upper right of the page (you can also revert to the "classic" interface for now, via the same menu). But you probably won't need to revert. Google clearly didn't want to screw up Gmail, and my initial impression is that they've succeeded by avoiding radical changes in the UI. I'll bet that some casual Gmail users might not even immediately notice the differences.

The new Gmail UI is what we could call a "minimally disruptive" redesign of the now "classic" version. The overall design is not altered in major respects. So far I haven't found any notable missing features, options, or settings. My impression is that the back end systems serving Gmail are largely unchanged. Additionally, there are a number of new features (some of which are familiar in design from Google's "Inbox" email interface) that are now surfaced for the new Gmail. Crucially, overall readability and usability (including contrast, font choices, UI selection elements, etc.) seem so close to classic Gmail (at least in my limited testing so far) as to make any differences essentially inconsequential. And it's still possible to select a dark theme from settings if you wish, which results in even higher contrast.
Have you tried the new Gmail? If so, how do you like the new interface?
Businesses

Trump Meets With Apple's Tim Cook To Talk Trade (reuters.com) 22

New submitter genfail shares a report from Reuters: President Donald Trump met with Apple CEO Tim Cook on Wednesday to discuss trade issues as the technology industry grapples with a U.S. spat over import tariffs with China, a manufacturing hub for the iPhone maker and other companies. Apple, the world's largest technology company, and other hardware makers have deep ties with China, where many of their products are built for export around the world. Cook urged an easing of U.S.-China tensions and called for more open trade after the trade dispute flared last month between the world's two largest economies. Trump announced about $50 billion in planned tariffs on certain Chinese imports, China retaliated with proposed tariffs on some American goods and Trump responded that the United States could counter with $100 billion in additional levies. U.S. and Chinese officials have been working to resolve the dispute.
Bitcoin

Bezop Cryptocurrency Server Exposes Personal Info of 25,000 Investors (threatpost.com) 19

lod123 shares a report from Threatpost: A leaky Mongo database exposed personal information, including scanned passports and driver's licenses, of 25,000 investors and potential investors tied to the Bezop cryptocurrency, according to researchers. Kromtech Security said that it found the unprotected data on March 30, adding that it included a treasure-trove of information ranging from "full names, (street) addresses, email addresses, encrypted passwords, wallet information, along with links to scanned passports, driver's licenses and other IDs," according to the researchers. Kromtech researchers, in their overview of the results of its investigation, said that Bezop.io, the organization behind the currency, immediately secured the data after being notified. Bezop is one of over 1,000 cryptocurrencies in a crowded playing field vying for investor attention. According to Kromtech, the list of 25,000 people included both current and prospective investors promised Bezop cryptocurrency in exchange for promoting the cryptocurrency on social media.
Medicine

Medicare To Require Hospitals To Post Prices Online (pbs.org) 87

An anonymous reader quotes a report from PBS: Medicare will require hospitals to post their standard prices online and make electronic medical records more readily available to patients, officials said Tuesday. The program is also starting a comprehensive review of how it will pay for costly new forms of immunotherapy to battle cancer. Hospitals are required to disclose prices publicly, but the latest change would put that information online in machine-readable format that can be easily processed by computers. It may still prove to be confusing to consumers, since standard rates are like list prices and don't reflect what insurers and government programs pay.

Likewise, many health care providers already make computerized records available to patients, but starting in 2021 Medicare would base part of a hospital's payments on how good a job they do. Using electronic medical records remains a cumbersome task, and the Trump administration has invited technology companies to design secure apps that would let patients access their records from all their providers instead of having to go to different portals.
Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, also announced Medicare is starting a comprehensive review of how it will pay for a costly new form of immunotherapy called CAR-T. It's an expensive gene therapy that turbocharges a patient's own immune system cells to attack cancer. The cost for such a procedure can exceed $370,000 per patient.
Businesses

Appliance Companies Are Lobbying To Protect Their DRM-Fueled Repair Monopolies (vice.com) 101

Electronics companies Dyson, LG, and Wahl are fighting right-to-repair legislation, Motherboard reported Wednesday, citing letters it has obtained. From a report: The manufacturers of your appliances do not want you to be able to fix them yourself. Last week, at least three major appliance manufacturers -- Dyson, LG, and Wahl -- sent letters to Illinois lawmakers opposing "fair repair" legislation in that state. The letters were written with the help of a trade group called the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM). All three letters are similar but include slightly different wording and examples in parts. The letters ask lawmakers to "withdraw" a bill that would protect and expand the ability for consumers and independent repair professionals to repair everything from iPhones to robot vacuums, electric shavers, toasters, and tractors. Here are links to the Wahl, Dyson, and LG letters.
Government

More FISA Orders Were Denied During President Trump's First Year in Office Than in the Court's 40-Year History (zdnet.com) 178

In its first year, the Trump administration kept one little-known courtroom in the capital busy. From a report: A secretive Washington DC-based court that oversees the US government's foreign spy programs denied more surveillance orders during President Donald Trump's first year than in the court's 40-year history, according to newly released figures. Annual data published Wednesday by the US Courts shows that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court last year denied 26 applications in full, and 50 applications in part. That's compared to 21 orders between when the court was first formed in 1978 and President Barack Obama's final year in office in 2016.
Programming

Drupal Warns of New Remote-Code Bug, the Second in Four Weeks (arstechnica.com) 44

For the second time in a month, websites that use the Drupal content management system are confronted with a stark choice: install a critical update or risk having your servers infected with ransomware or other nasties. From a report: Maintainers of the open-source CMS built on the PHP programming language released an update patching critical remote-code vulnerability on Wednesday. The bug, formally indexed as CVE-2018-7602, exists within multiple subsystems of Drupal 7.x and 8.x. Drupal maintainers didn't provide details on how the vulnerability can be exploited other than to say attacks work remotely. The maintainers rated the vulnerability "critical" and urged websites to patch it as soon as possible.
Censorship

North Korea Linked To Global Hacking Operation Against Critical Infrastructure, Telecoms (thehill.com) 43

A suspected North Korean hacking campaign has expanded to targets in 17 different countries, including the U.S., pilfering information on critical infrastructure, telecommunications and entertainment organizations, researchers say. From a report: Cybersecurity firm McAfee released new research on the hacking campaign this week, calling it Operation GhostSecret and describing the attackers as having "significant capabilities" to develop and use multiple cyber tools and rapidly expand operations across the globe. The findings demonstrate the growing sophistication of North Korea's army of hackers, which has been blamed for high-profile hacking operations such as the WannaCry malware outbreak last year.
AI

Researchers Hacked Amazon's Alexa To Spy On Users, Again (threatpost.com) 39

New submitter lod123 writes: A malicious proof-of-concept Amazon Echo Skill shows how attackers can abuse the Alexa virtual assistant to eavesdrop on consumers with smart devices -- and automatically transcribe every word said. Checkmarx researchers told Threatpost that they created a proof-of-concept Alexa Skill that abuses the virtual assistant's built-in request capabilities. The rogue Skill begins with the initiation of an Alexa voice-command session that fails to terminate (stop listening) after the command is given. Next, any recorded audio is transcribed (if voices are captured) and a text transcript is sent to a hacker. Checkmarx said it brought its proof-of-concept attack to Amazon's attention and that the company fixed a coding flaw that allowed the rogue Skill to capture prolonged audio on April 10.

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