US school runs lights 24/7/365: The smart lights have been broken since 2021

ARS Technica - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 15:20
The Minnechaug Regional High School.

Enlarge / The Minnechaug Regional High School. (credit: Minnechaug Regional High School)

The lights at Massachusetts' Minnechaug Regional High School burn ever bright. They actually never turn off. They can't turn off. The smart lighting system for the entire building is broken, and it's stuck in the "on" position. It has apparently been this way for over a year now, and the electric bills are really starting to pile up.

“We are very much aware this is costing taxpayers a significant amount of money,” the school district's assistant superintendent of finance, Aaron Osborne, told NBC News. “And we have been doing everything we can to get this problem solved.”

The school's entire "green lighting system," some 7,000 lights, was installed over a decade ago and was supposed to save money, but according to the report, "the software that runs it failed on Aug. 24, 2021" and no one has been able to turn off the lights for the following 17 months. Teachers are adjusting by unscrewing light bulbs at the end of the day and throwing some breakers not connected to vital parts of the school. Dimming the lights to show movies or something projected on a whiteboard has also been difficult: The lights are on full brightness all the time.

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Categories: Tech News

Three billion objects, 10TB+ of data – yup, it's the largest-yet survey of our galaxy

The Register - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 15:15
And not even close to mapping it all

Astronomers have mapped over three billion objects shimmering in the Milky Way, providing the most detailed survey of our galaxy yet.…

Categories: Tech News

300+ models of MSI motherboards have Secure Boot turned off. Is yours affected?

ARS Technica - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 15:00
A stylized skull and crossbones made out of ones and zeroes.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Secure Boot is an industry standard for ensuring that Windows devices don’t load malicious firmware or software during the startup process. If you have it turned on—as you should in most cases, and it's the default setting mandated by Microsoft—good for you. If you’re using one of more than 300 motherboard models made by manufacturer MSI in the past 18 months, however, you may not be protected.

Introduced in 2011, Secure Boot establishes a chain of trust between the hardware and software or firmware that boots up a device. Prior to Secure Boot, devices used software known as the BIOS, which was installed on a small chip, to instruct them how to boot up and recognize and start hard drives, CPUs, memory, and other hardware. Once finished, this mechanism loaded the bootloader, which activates tasks and processes for loading Windows.

The problem was: The BIOS would load any bootloader that was located in the proper directory. That permissiveness allowed hackers who had brief access to a device to install rogue bootloaders that, in turn, would run malicious firmware or Windows images.

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Categories: Tech News

This Smart Shower Head Tells Me (Pretty Neat) Stats About My Bathing Habits

Motherboard (Vice) - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 14:41

As someone with a mother who has suggested taking a shower to cure a variety of ailments—to calm down, relax, feel less sick, or just boost your general mood—it’s been pretty ingrained in me that a nice little reprieve under a steamy mist can do wonders. So, when I recently moved from my comfortable (large) apartment with a massive tub and adjustable showerhead to a much smaller solo apartment with a bathroom akin to your average high school locker room, you could say I had a little bit of a meltdown.

As someone who knows a thing or two about a solid shower setup, the existing shower head had basically zero pressure, with random jets spitting out all over so that you basically got pelted in the eye every few seconds. It wasn’t long before I realized my current shower needed an upgrade. Enter: Hai, the Bluetooth-connected smart shower head that not only promises gallons of water saved over time, but also a luxury spa experience, real-time stats, and really chic hardware.

I was elated to stumble upon this colorful little device—not only for self-care reasons, but also it claimed it could mitigate the impact my long, indulgent showers are having on the planet. In addition to conserving water and increasing my shower’s water pressure, it also promises to provide me with stats about the temperature, length, and impact of each sesh. As the app has informed me in the mere 10 days I’ve had it installed, I’ve already managed to save a total of 103.12 gallons and 9.72 kilowatts of energy. But let’s rewind—here was my experience of testing this upgrade to your bathroom.

First impressions

The instructions weren’t lying— a Hai shower head is incredibly easy to install (even for novices who can barely screen in a light bulb). Inside the box are simplified DIY instructions, with a scannable QR code to sync your device—easy-peasy. The hardest part was removing my old janky shower head that was clinging on for dear life. I had to call in my superintendent for help when my measly Ikea wrench wasn't large enough to get a good grip, but after that, installation was a breeze. You don’t need any special tools to install the Hai: You straight up open the box, pause to admire your gorgeous new accessory—I went with the rose quartz color, a subtle dusty pink that best matched my dingy, beige, faux-travertine tile—and screw that bad boy into the existing pipe. There are five other aesthetically pleasing colors to choose from, ranging from a spicy persimmon to a serene surf blue surrounded by stainless steel that the brand says is “designed to last a lifetime and be better for the environment.”

IMG_2802.jpg What rules

Pretty much everything about the Hai is an upgrade for your shower experience; as someone with a very short attention span, if it had taken any more than 10 minutes to set up and configure this shower head I would have likely given up and never bothered to delve into all of the smart features it has to offer. It’s seriously as easy as screwing in the shower head—which is attached to a long hose perfect for reaching all those tricky crevices, or washing your pet (which I did, immediately) or your [redacted]—downloading the Hai app, and turning on the shower. The app is incredibly user-friendly, and upon first use, goes through a little explainer so you know exactly where to find all your shower stats.

As long as you have your Bluetooth turned on, and your phone is nearby, the rest of the setup is done for you. After each shower, you receive a little debrief on how much water you used (and, more importantly, saved), your average temperature, and the amount of time you spent basking in the water.

Not only are you helping conserve water (Mother Earth is smiling), but you can also set a ton of personal preferences, like what color you want the little LED light to glow when the water has reached the ideal temperature and when it’s time to wrap things up. Not only that: Hai will actually send you a push notification to let you know when the water is hot. Now you don’t have to stand there questioning your reality while you wait for it to get to shower-temp—or, if you’re like me, get distracted and accidentally let the water “heat up” for 10 minutes. It is an ADHD-person’s dream device, and it has actively gotten me to think about my water and power usage on a daily basis, and have already begun saving gallons.

Now, let’s talk about the water pressure: I was a little worried that a technically “low-flow” device would be able to deliver the kind of aggressive pummeling I desire, but I was surprised at how strong a stream Hai delivered. There are two options to toggle between—high pressure (perfect for the aforementioned regular daily shower) and a soothing spa mist, excellent if you have a nice eucalyptus or lavender bundle hanging in your shower. Personally, I think the mist setting is weak-sauce, but it was just the right pressure for keeping my dog from knocking me ass-over-tea-kettle while trying to make a break for it during his bi-weekly bath. If you’re a resident of one of the six states that require a WaterSense-certified, low-flow shower head, you’re in luck, because Hai offers that as an option as well.

What was meh

I don’t have much to say about the pitfalls of this product, aside from the fact that it is quite pricey. For $250 I would expect a few extra pressure modes, or maybe a rainfall option—but in all honesty, that’s just me being nitpicky. Furthermore, the showerhead’s pipe can be a little finicky; if you have a shower caddy that attaches to your showerhead, it can occasionally knock the suction cups off the wall. This was the case for my shower, and I found myself having to reaffix the caddy’s suction cups back into place.

That said, for the most part, the pros outweigh the cons. The only downside to this product so far is the initial price, but considering how much time, money, and resources (water and energy) you will save in the long run, the investment certainly makes sense.  Considering how easy it is to install and remove, you also won’t have to worry about leaving your bathroom investment behind for the next lucky soul in the event you need to move out.

TL;DR

This Hai smart shower head has truly changed my morning routine. I never worry anymore about forgetting the shower’s running while I pour my coffee, and Hai’s gentle little reminders when the water is the ideal temperature, or when I need to rinse and run help me avoid wasting time in and around the shower. I honestly get excited now, playing a little game with myself to see if I can continue to cut down on water usage, and to see how long I took after the fact. I’ve definitely become more conscious of the time I spend relishing in the steam—it’s basically my version of beating your step-count or mile time for people who exercise. The only drawbacks are the showerhead’s steep price, and the fact that there’s no purification system or the multiple spray settings that other similar models boast. All in all, Hai is the first product to exceed my expectations in quite a while, especially based on its aesthetically pleasing social media presence and focus on design.

Go ahead, get dirty, just to get clean.

Purchase the Hai Smart Shower head at Hai.

The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. Want more reviews, recommendations, and red-hot deals?Sign up for our newsletter.

Categories: Tech News

FTC: Shkreli may have violated lifetime pharma ban, should be held in contempt

ARS Technica - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 14:21
Martin Shkreli, former CEO of Turing, smirked his way through a congressional hearing.

Enlarge / Martin Shkreli, former CEO of Turing, smirked his way through a congressional hearing. (credit: CSPAN)

Infamous ex-pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli is yet again in trouble with the Federal Trade Commission, which announced today that the convicted fraudster has failed to cooperate with the commission's investigation into whether he violated his lifetime ban from the pharmaceutical industry by starting a company last year called "Druglike, Inc."

In a court filing today, the FTC asked a federal judge in New York to find Shkreli in contempt for failing to turn over requested documents to the FTC and failing to make himself available for an interview. Under the 2022 court order barring him from involvement in the pharmaceutical industry for life, Shkreli is required to provide such information to the FTC, the commission noted.

"Martin Shkreli’s failure to comply with the court’s order demonstrates a clear disregard for the law," Holly Vedova, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, said in a press release. "The FTC will not hesitate to deploy the full scope of its authorities to enable a comprehensive investigation into any potential misconduct."

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Categories: Tech News

How to Make Your Bachelor Pad Feel More Adult (and Ick-Proof)

Motherboard (Vice) - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 14:15

If you’re a dude living on your own for the first time (or a self-proclaimed man-child) your apartment could probably use some zhuzhing; you want your abode to be your best wingman, not the thing that gives that hot girl you somehow managed to woo “the ick.” Seriously, your wits and charm may be enough to get her through the door, but your pile of dirty clothes and mattress on the floor could result in her getting a case of the gotta-gos. That crate you found on the street is not a nightstand, and no matter how much you love Pink Floyd, that giant thumb-tacked poster isn’t doing you any favors. But, don’t fret, OK? This hot girl is about to give you all the tips for turning your messy space into a certified bachelor pad.

Sadly, there’s no 30-day retreat to help combat mattress-on-the-ground syndrome. It’s more of a gradual lifestyle change—a literal investment in your future, if you will. The easiest way to get started on this “adulting” journey? Securing some quality—dare we say chic—furniture and art (that's still very affordable on a sk8r boi budget). Lucky for you, we put together a list of some of our favorite pieces that are sure to help get that mattress (and your home’s self esteem) off the ground.

Step 1: It’s time you owned a bed frame

They really aren’t that expensive these days! Well, some are—but baby steps, people. Remember, anything is better than your sheets touching the floor, so as long as your mattress is resting atop one of these bad boys, you can count it as a win. All you really need is $50 and some motivation to kickstart your grown-up apartment journey, but we also found some aesthetic options, if you’re ready to dive in head first.

A “nightstand” is not, in fact, a skateboard trick

Where else are you gonna put empty bottles of Modelo and that copy of The Stranger you skimmed once in college? A nightstand is the next step toward a full-blown adult room, and is a serious upgrade from using a cardboard box or the floor to hold all the essentials (condoms and lube, obvi).

That pile of clothes on “the chair” has become sentient

It also has an accent you can’t place. (Québécois?) Anyway, before you start filing it as a dependent (“The IRS will know I had good intentions!”) grab a roll of quarters and a large hamper that has plenty of room and will fill up slowly, since we know you’re only really doing laundry once a month. Maybe.

Take down the Barstool flag

You know what? Take down all of the flags, tapestries, and posters that may have once adorned a college dorm room or childhood bedroom. It’s about time to put up some grown-up art (or, at the very least, a Japanese version of the Taxi Driver poster to make you look more worldly). At the very least cop a few frames to snazz up whatever’s on your wall.

A place for your three shirts

Well, four, if you count that lacrosse pinnie. (We don’t.) Dressers and armoires are perfect for getting all your crap off the ground (especially if you don’t have a closet). You’ll have “so much room for activities,” and it'll be a great place to line up empty bottles of liquor when you panic and have a frat-house/art-kid home-decor relapse.

Really tie the room together

Rugs really can change the entire vibe of a room. And, let’s be real, you’re not mopping those hardwood floors. Cover up those dingy floors with something soft for your hungover feet to land on when you finally crawl out of bed on Sunday.

Add some mood lighting

Trust us, no one wants to smash under bright fluorescent lighting. Do your dirty apartment (and everyone) a favor by adding some subtle lighting that will definitely set the mood, if you know what I mean. Make sure to have an easily reachable light on your nightstand

And for common eras, go with a floor lamp for maximum ambiance (set it up with a color-changing, app-controlled bulb if you like to mix things up for home-watching-Netflix night versus date night).

Cheers to the new lease on life, boys. [Cracks a Tecate.]

The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. VICE may receive a small commission if you buy through the links on our site.

Categories: Tech News

The Breville Barista Touch (Almost) Turned Me Into a Latte Artist

Motherboard (Vice) - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 13:47

I don’t get along with caffeine. I’ll never forget the time I had a glass of RC Cola as a kid (that was my first mistake, who even drinks that???), and had no idea why I was so ill with unexplainable physical symptoms for the rest of the day. This relationship with caffeine followed me into my teenage angst phase, when I would order sickly sweet Starbucks Java Chip Frappuccinos. Those are so damn good, by the way, but even those fancy milkshake-coffee hybrids sadly sent my body into an anxious state, and I thought I had to say farewell for good to my relationship caffeine. How can something so impeccably tasty be such a traitor? I missed the Frappuccinos, but past loves are in the past for a reason.

You may be thinking, “Why don’t you just visit a coffee shop and order decaf?” It sounds simple on paper, but baristas are in such a rush making elaborate skinny oatmilk mochas with three pumps of sugar-free vanilla syrup that they simply don’t give two sh*ts when it comes time to get my order right. The result of that coffee shop chaos means my should-be-decaf order gets messed up more often than not.

To be clear: I love the taste of coffee, but I have trust issues about carefully managing the caffeine content of my drinks. With a particular POV on how I want to caffeinate my body on a daily basis, my solution is to take the artistry of coffee making into my own hands, and that’s how I ended up with the most beautiful coffee machine I’ve ever had the pleasure of owning—the Breville Barista Touch.

If you’re unfamiliar, Breville is an Australian brand founded in Sydney way back in 1932, so it's had plenty of time to become a powerhouse in the at-home coffee-making industry. And, I’m not just saying that—it has proven to me that this glorious espresso machine is, in fact, a workhorse. My first experience in engaging in the world of at-home coffee-making came via Nespresso machines; while many brands produce machines that create capsule-coffee goodness, my past experience has shown me that Breville makes some of the best. But, that was just popping pods into the machine—it’s time to kick things up to a professional level.

I’ve always wanted to be a barista while in high school and college to pick up some extra cash, but it just never happened. Instead, I was a smoothie barista (LOL) and worked at a high-end Italian restaurant and steakhouse that was way too high-brow for me (and mean). Long story short: Now that I have a proper espresso machine, the time has come for me to live out my coffee-making dreams.

First impressions

The Breville Barista Touch is loaded with features, so unlocking its full potential can be challenging to get the hang of, but it’s also entry-level enough to learn on. It also comes with everything you need to be a coffee master: single and double wall filter baskets, a stainless steel frothing jug, a dose trimming tool, a cleaning kit, a portafilter, tamper, and water filter. At first glance, it is a somewhat big boy that you’ll definitely need counter space for, but it seems pretty easy to operate with its automatic functions. Dare I say this is a coffee machine for dummies? It comes with a variety of pre-programmed drinks that can be automatically made via touchscreen, but I learned it won’t exactly translate to five-star tasting espresso without customizing the settings yourself. There’s one thing that made me really fall in love, though: the automatic milk frother. She’s beauty, she’s grace, and, with that automatic frothing sensor,  she froths my almond milk flawlessly better than a teen barista ever would.

The tech behind it

This may be a coffee machine, but it’s also a robotic, espresso-making genius. Grinding whole bean coffee has always intimidated me, but the automatic grinder with 30 different settings does all the work for me and delivers the right dose of coffee right into my puck. You can opt for the manual setting if you wish to control how many seconds it takes to grind, and it can all be controlled and adjusted via touchscreen. Speaking of time: With its 15-bar Italian pump brewing system integrated with a ThermoJet heating system, it takes only three seconds to heat up the water for a piping hot cup of joe. The machine also automatically times the espresso pull and frothed milk if you prefer not to be bothered with getting into the nitty gritty of things. You can also adjust the coffee strength, milk foam level, and temperature, while saving up to eight personalized coffee drinks that you’ve made previously.

What’s tricky about it

Even though this machine boasts a touchscreen that makes everything from a flat white to cappuccino, there’s a lot more strategy behind this machine. Depending on the type of roast your beans are, you need to adjust how coarse and fine the grind is. It sounds easy, but it’s actually pretty tedious and takes pulling many trial-and-error espresso shots to get the taste just right. (Personally, it took a lot of YouTube-watching to educate myself before nailing things down). To practice and play, I treated myself to some local decaf coffee beans from Devocion in Brooklyn. The specific coffee I used was a medium roast with notes of sugarcane. By the time I really got things exactly where I wanted them, I must’ve pulled 20 shots of espresso (over the course of a few weeks).

As of now, I set the burr (the grinding wheel) to four and the coarseness and fineness to a setting of 12. This is an extremely important step to have great-tasting espresso and takes a lot of trial and error to get right. The coffee can either come out under- or over-extracted or (ideally) balanced depending on your settings. Under-extracted coffee will taste sour, finish pouring too quickly, and will be almost unbearable to drink, while over-extracted coffee will taste bitter and be watery. A good shot should be almost sweet, balanced, and have a complex acidity. For my specific roast, the ideal time for it to start expelling espresso is eight seconds and then stop running at 30 seconds.

Latte art is hard [sigh]

The automatic frothing function is one of my favorite features of the Barista Touch, instantly producing warm, foamy milk like you’d get at your favorite coffee shop. The temperature can reach up to 170 degrees Fahrenheit and the machine offers eight frothing levels. I, of course, tried everything up to the highest setting possible because I wanted the *full experience*. I use almond milk which isn’t the easiest to froth, so I need all the help I can get (although Califia’s Barista Almond Milk is hands-down the foamiest brand I’ve experienced). I’ve tried numerous times to master heart and leaf latte art, but I’m still working to earn the title of a “latte artist.” Even still, I would like to flex my makeshift bunny (or bird???) and janky leaf.

PXL_20230109_205212761.jpg PXL_20230118_024505373.jpg Is it hard to clean?

I’m going to be honest: I haven’t cleaned it much since using it, but I’ve only had it for a few weeks (yes, I’m defending myself). It does, in fact, look easy to clean and it’s stainless steel, which is a simple exterior to wipe clean. To clean the burr, all you have to do is use up all your beans and run it. It will expel the excess. As for the bottom grill where grinds fall, just remove it and wipe clean. After using the milk frothing wand, it automatically expels water to self-clean its tract. Just make sure to remember to wipe the wand clean immediately after use with a wet, clean cloth so dried, stanky milk doesn’t get stuck to this precious metal baby.

My TL;DR is thus: I’ve been having hot dates with my Breville Barista Touch day and night. It’s a great kitchen gadget to make your friends jealous, the star of any party if you want to wow guests with espresso martinis, and simply a game changer for any coffee freak that wants to get into the art of coffee-making and needs some guidance. I never knew making an impeccable espresso shot took so much work, and now I’m highly appreciative of the art behind the coffee. I guess I apologize to all the baristas I cursed out in my head for screwing up my order, but I’d rather make my own (except a select few—I love you Devocion—*chef’s kiss*).

Now, excuse me, I need to practice my latte art.

The Breville Barista Touch is available for purchase at Breville and Amazon.

The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. Want more reviews, recommendations, and red-hot deals? Sign up for our newsletter.

Categories: Tech News

Tone deaf? Microsoft must have booked Sting for Davos because he's a good singer

The Register - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 13:45
But the next day it laid off 10,000 staff

Comment  As Microsoft employees went to sleep on Tuesday not knowing that the next day their jobs would be on the line, company execs hobnobbing in Davos hosted a private performance by a geriatric popster.…

Categories: Tech News

Daily Horoscope: January 21, 2023

Motherboard (Vice) - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 13:06

The moon in Capricorn mingles with Neptune in Pisces at 3:01 AM and meets Pluto in Capricorn at 10:52 AM, inspiring creativity and emotional depth. The moon enters Aquarius at 1:29 PM, encouraging us to take a detached look at things. The new moon in Aquarius takes place at 3:53 PM and the moon connects with Jupiter in Aries at 8:09 PM, which can find us exploring new opportunities!

All times ET.

Read your monthly horoscope for January!

Stay in the cosmic loop with the VICE horoscopes newsletter. Get horoscopes straight to your inbox when you sign up here!

Aries glyph Aries: March 20, 2023 - April 20, 2023

The new moon in Aquarius can find you connecting with a new social circle or exploring a new hobby! A new wish or hope for the future may enter your heart, and the moon connects with Jupiter in your sign, Aries, which might find you feeling expansive and lucky.

Taurus glyphs Taurus: April 20, 2023 - May 21, 2023

The new moon in Aquarius can mark a fresh start in your career or your life in the public eye, and some behind-the-scenes moves could bring you great success as the moon mingles with lucky Jupiter in Aries.

Gemini glyph Gemini: May 21, 2023 - June 21, 2023

There’s a new moon in fellow air sign Aquarius today, which could find you planning a new journey, traveling, studying something new, or publishing ideas. The moon connects with Jupiter in Aries, perhaps finding you connecting with exciting and influential people.

Cancer glyph Cancer: June 21, 2023 - July 22, 2023

The new moon in Aquarius could find you resolving a debt or setting some other lingering issue. The moon connects with Jupiter in Aries, boding well for your career.

Leo glyph Leo: July 22, 2023 - August 23, 2023

The new moon in Aquarius could signify a new partnership in your life, or a relationship may get a fresh start. New adventures and opportunities may be offered to you as the moon connects with Jupiter in fellow fire sign Aries.

Virgo glyph Virgo: August 23, 2023 - September 23, 2023

The new moon in Aquarius can find you starting a new project, gig, or wellness routine. The moon connects with Jupiter in Aries, which inspiring a productive, problem solving atmosphere.

Libra glyph Libra: September 23, 2023 - October 23, 2023

The new moon in fellow air sign Aquarius activates the sector of your chart that rules fun, creativity, and romance, perhaps bringing a fresh start in your life concerning these themes. Inspiring connections can form as the moon connects with Jupiter in Aries.

Scorpio glyph Scorpio: October 23, 2023 - November 22, 2023

The new moon in Aquarius may find you redecorating your home, moving, or connecting with family or loved ones in some significant way. The moon connects with Jupiter in Aries, which can inspire a productive atmosphere.

Sagittarius glyph Sagittarius: November 22, 2023 - December 21, 2023

The new moon in Aquarius marks the start of a new conversation, and the mood can be especially fun and flirtatious as the moon connects with lucky planet Jupiter in Aries.

Capricorn glyph Capricorn: December 21, 2023 - January 20, 2024

The new moon in Aquarius can find you exploring a new stream of income or a new way of managing wealth. The moon connects with Jupiter in Aries, inspiring a feeling of growth or abundance in your home and personal life.

Aquarius glyphs Aquarius: January 20, 2023 - February 18, 2023

There’s a new moon in your zodiac sign today, Aquarius! A fresh start could be here, especially in regards to how you care for yourself. You may be presenting yourself to the world in a new way.

Pisces glyph Pisces:  February 18, 2023 - March 20, 2023

The new moon in Aquarius may find you reconnecting with your intuition in some significant way, and a brilliant idea can result in tangible success as the moon connects with your ruling planet Jupiter in Aries.

Categories: Tech News

Capital One cuts over 1,000 roles in Technology segment

The Register - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 12:15
Bids farewell to the 'Agile' job family which will be blended into 'existing engineering and product manager roles'

The same day Google is allowing staffers to work from home while they process the news that it's firing 12,000 of them, fintech biz Capital One has cut over 1,000 roles in its Technology segment.…

Categories: Tech News

Millennials Are Finally Buying Houses... And Making Them Ugly

Motherboard (Vice) - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 11:56

There’s a war raging all around us, and the battlefield is recently renovated houses. On one side are the excited, young homeowners, eager to transform the fixer-up they bought into their dream home. On the other side, there’s… pretty much everyone else, furious and horrified at the sight of the original hardwood replaced with slate-colored vinyl flooring, or vintage bath fixtures ripped out and modernized into a vision in chrome and off-white marble. 

TikTok is rife with people posting their renovation before-and-afters, and unless the house is literally falling apart in the “before” portion, each video is met by an inevitable stream of comments about how much better it used to look.

For the record, I agree with the haters—the HGTV-ification of homes across the U.S. is ugly as hell. These renovations strip down the quirks of a house built decades ago, replacing warm wood tones, funky wallpaper, and brick exteriors with nouveau-McMansion chic: shades of beige and gray, brushed silver fixtures, a “clean,” monotonous look. Plus, everyone who redoes their bathroom adds the style of toilet where you have to push a button on top to flush, which I despise. Couple that with the fact that new consumer goods, housing materials included, are often demonstrably lower quality these days, and you have a recipe for schadenfreude. Not only is it hideous, but it’s going to age like a fine carton of milk! 

The renovation backlash smacks of more than just a universal passion for interior design, though. A little under half—48.6 percent—of millennials own a home in the U.S., and I couldn’t even find information on Gen Z homeownership, so it feels safe to say that a lot of the people shitting on renovation content have never actually done a renovation themselves, myself included. On a personal level, watching someone my age renovate a house makes me feel envious. When the renovation sucks ass, that envy tips into a twinge of self-righteous anger—not enough to make me hound a woman into oblivion for putting a wine cellar under her stairs, but enough to get me to watch three to five TikToks telling her she fucked up. 

In defense of these renovations, though, we obviously know less about the property transformations we see on TikTok than the people who post them. Maybe that adorable seashell sink’s drain clogged every other day; maybe mildew made the wallpaper smell like old socks! And, you know, the choice to go with cookie-cutter interior design could also come from the same place that keeps us from living in these vintage homes we’re so crazy about: Money is tight. Mass-produced is cheap. Do I think I could do better on a budget if I had the chance? For sure. But how would I even find out?

Mortgage rates are trending upward and inflation looms, which means the prospect of homeownership for anyone my age (without a six-figure dose of help from Mom and Dad) feels less and less possible for the foreseeable future. Until something about that changes, I guess we’ll all have to content ourselves with being mean about other people’s homes instead.

Categories: Tech News

Supreme Court allows Reddit mods to anonymously defend Section 230

ARS Technica - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 11:29
Supreme Court allows Reddit mods to anonymously defend Section 230

Enlarge (credit: SOPA Images / Contributor | LightRocket)

Over the past few days, dozens of tech companies have filed briefs in support of Google in a Supreme Court case that tests online platforms’ liability for recommending content. Obvious stakeholders like Meta and Twitter, alongside popular platforms like Craigslist, Etsy, Wikipedia, Roblox, and Tripadvisor, urged the court to uphold Section 230 immunity in the case or risk muddying the paths users rely on to connect with each other and discover information online.

Out of all these briefs, however, Reddit’s was perhaps the most persuasive. The platform argued on behalf of everyday Internet users, whom it claims could be buried in “frivolous” lawsuits for frequenting Reddit, if Section 230 is weakened by the court. Unlike other companies that hire content moderators, the content that Reddit displays is “primarily driven by humans—not by centralized algorithms.” Because of this, Reddit’s brief paints a picture of trolls suing not major social media companies, but individuals who get no compensation for their work recommending content in communities. That legal threat extends to both volunteer content moderators, Reddit argued, as well as more casual users who collect Reddit “karma” by upvoting and downvoting posts to help surface the most engaging content in their communities.

“Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act famously protects Internet platforms from liability, yet what’s missing from the discussion is that it crucially protects Internet users—everyday people—when they participate in moderation like removing unwanted content from their communities, or users upvoting and downvoting posts,” a Reddit spokesperson told Ars.

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Categories: Tech News

Ericsson's earnings slip as telcos rein in their 5G spending

The Register - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 10:45
Oh, snap... next gen networks suddenly not a must-have in this economic climate

Sweden's Ericsson missed earnings estimates for the last quarter after telco customers reined in spending on 5G network expansion amid uncertainty about the future direction of the economy.…

Categories: Tech News

The Best Gifts for Aquarius, Other Than Another Fleeting Obsession

Motherboard (Vice) - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 10:14

Think of Aquarius Season as a chaser for hard-assed Capricorn Season. That isn’t to say that these air signs aren’t ambitious, too, but they operate on a more eclectic intellectual vibration; famous real-life Aquarians include Yoko Ono, Angela Davis, and Julia Fox; unofficial Aquarians include Jules from Euphoria, Janice from The Muppet Show, and that hot Swedish girl with a tooth gem who lost my lighter in 2014. Being in the orbit of this zodiac sign is so unnerving for Virgos never boring, so it’s no wonder that shopping for their birthday present is a hoot.

Born between January 20 and February 18, Aquarius is positioned as one of the most eccentric, engaged signs of the zodiac because it's ruled by Uranus, a planet of change and continual awakening. Aquarians can be very socially expressive air signs (but have a hard time opening up about their deeper feelings), and tend to act like a human encyclopedia, because everything intrigues them. They also dabble in a broad range of hobbies and interests that are often humanitarian, niche, and might make you blush. Their eclecticism is also why they have such a hard time settling down with one person—not that they’d ever say they’re loners. They just enjoy their own company.

The best gifts for an Aquarius should dazzle and challenge them on an aesthetic and intellectual level. They should be functional and symbolic; lighthearted, dark-hearted, playful, and even educational. Get the Aquarius in your life something as classic as a beautiful art book, and as specific as a custom-made neon sign. Whether you’re shopping for your lover, BFF, or landlord, here are the best gifts to sweep an Aquarius off their sweet peach.

Pay homage to their astrological symbol

Aquarius is an air sign with the symbol of a water-bearer—which makes zero sense, but still looks cool, just like your sweet, chaotic Aquarius. The two streams of water that also symbolize the sign are meant to represent the embodiment of both Uranus and Saturn, with the former encouraging a more rule-based mindset, and the latter being a little more freewheeling, which is definitely what they’ll be thinking when they over-water their home office plants with this slick indoor watering can. It has an extra long neck (handy for those plants on the high shelf) and a 4.7-star average rating on Amazon from over 500 reviews.

They already skate, so teach them to roller boogie

Aquarius was definitely the kid at the skatepark in a neon flannel, rolling joints like a pro and reading a graphic novel about Karl Marx. Now, it’s time for this pair of vintage-inspired roller skates to enchant them and everyone else at the disco roller derby (they already own rollerblades).   

An utterly unique scratch and sniff 

Candles are cool, but Aquarius will be intrigued by the concept of an adult scratch-and-sniff/air freshener by D.S. & DURGA, whose Holy Ficus Auto Fragrance brings all the sensory swag of “the revered fig tree of Siddhartha” to their truck. Big flex.

A personality lamp

Of course they listen to Belarusian post-punk and smoke both herbal cigarettes and Lucky Strikes—which, of course, means they deserve space-age bedside lamps to light up their life, such as this Yamada Shomei dupe or a (sentient??) red mushroom lamp with a USB port.

Happy birthday, David

Here’s to the Aquarius who really tickles our hearts and brains; the one who nominated Vladimir Putin to do the Ice Bucket Challenge, made our favorite Paris night club (and TV show), Daddy David Lynch. Cop your giftee an Eraserhead poster (and get it framed for an extra $20 or so) to pay some aesthetic homage the Aquarius icon.

This vibrating octopus sex toy

We crown the entire Cute Little Fuckers sexual wellness line as an Aquarius, based on the descriptions of the brand’s sex toys alone. “Princette Puppypus comes from a planet that is entirely covered in water,” the good people at Cute Little Fuckers write about this vibrating anal plug. “They make a great stand-alone vibrator with a ring of independently buzzing legs on one side and a larger curved vibrating head on the other. Both the legs and the head make this Royal We easily grasped by all hands, and can slide between fingers for an open-handed explorative grip.” Wowee. 

A perfumed oil with real amethyst

Does your Aquarius have some astrological water placements? Do they love crystals, Arca, and listen to TrueAnon? If so, they’ll love the sensuousness of a body oil perfumed by warming amber, tuberose, creamy ylang ylang, orange, and herbaceous petitgrain, all anchored by real, purple amethyst crystals and an amethyst roller ball for application.  

One of their niche interests is antiquity

A chunky percentage of your Aquarius’ personality comes from their niche childhood obsession with the lore of Greek gods and goddesses, which means that the art book that lives on their Very Adult™ coffee table should be this illustrated collection of seminal Greek myths. It’s smart, horny, and enchanting, just like them.  

A custom neon sign

Aquarius loves novelty trinkets, because they’re so naturally playful. But that also means they’ve probably done/seen/read every unique gift idea open in your tabs—due to their curious nature—so give them a custom neon sign that spells out a line of their favorite poem, song, or mantra of the week. 

They bring the circus to town

BONBONWHIMS makes jewelry for Aquarians, no question about it. The brand’s circus rings are eclectic, lighthearted, and make our inner clown go weak in the knees.

A shroomy button-down 

Your Aquarius likes to say that they were “way ahead of the microdose wave” with their love of shrooms, and they’re probably right. This is what they’ll wear to the wedding, the first day of grad school, and the karaoke night where they surprise everyone by knowing all the lyrics to “99 Luftballons”—in German, of course.

Well, that was fun, but exhausting. See you during Pisces season—don’t forget to bring your tissues.

The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. Want more reviews, recommendations, and red-hot deals? Sign up for our newsletter.

Categories: Tech News

Crime App ‘Citizen’ Fires Overseas $2 an Hour Workers

Motherboard (Vice) - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 09:51

Crime reporting and social media app Citizen has severed its relationship with an outsourcing firm it used to hire workers who were paid less than $2 an hour from countries such as Kenya and Nepal, according to sources and emails obtained by Motherboard. The workers were paid to listen to police radio audio and summarize those events for Citizen users..

The news showcases the paltry wages workers were paid for something that is a key part of Citizen’s app. It also highlights the continued uncertainty of Citizen’s future, as the app has explored how to monetize or further engage its user base, sometimes with disastrous and life-threatening results. Last week, Motherboard reported Citizen had laid off dozens of employees. Those cuts now extend to contract workers too.

Were you just laid off from Citizen? Do you know anything else about the company? We'd love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Joseph Cox securely on Signal on +44 20 8133 5190, Wickr on josephcox, or email joseph.cox@vice.com.

Whereas Citizen previously told Motherboard that laid off Citizen employees received “a generous severance package”, that severance does not extend to the contract workers, multiple sources said. Two sources said workers from CloudFactory, the contracting firm, were paid between $1.50 and $2 an hour.

“That’s what being from a third country means I guess. It wasn’t much but it was more than what we would get here, so it was okay. But again, not enough for the work we used to put in,” one source said. Motherboard provided multiple sources in this story anonymity to protect them from retaliation.

CloudFactory announced the end of its contract with Citizen in an email to workers earlier this month. 

“It is with great sadness that we announce the CloudFactory and Citizen partnership will come to an end on Friday 6th January, 2023,” an email sent to CloudFactory workers and obtained by Motherboard reads. “This is because of the current ongoing market conditions over which we have no control.”

One source said “I loved working there and helping thousands of people. It was a smooth run. This just caught us by surprise.”

Another source said “it came in as a shock for all of us, even the Citizen team I believe. None of us were financially or mentally prepared for it.” 

The email sent to CloudFactory workers said “new opportunities will be available for all who’ve demonstrated and continue to demonstrate a strong work ethic, excellent task performance and leadership.” One source said that hadn’t yet happened.

David Choi, operations manager at Citizen, also sent an email to CloudFactory workers. He wrote that in the summer of 2020, his manager pitched him a “seemingly impossible project.”

“Could we find a way to train talented individuals in Kenya, Ghana, Nepal, and the Philippines to learn local American geography, accents, and police codes to deliver important safety information to Citizen users? Three years and hundreds of trained Radio Desk analysts later, everyone at Citizen and CloudFactory know that the answer is a resounding ‘yes’,” the email read.

Because Citizen is focused on specific cities in the U.S., that meant that overseas CloudFactory workers, who were not on the ground, were producing many of Citizen’s alerts. Citizen says its own “analysts” review incident updates. 

Tech companies’ ‘magic’ actually being the purview of poorly paid workers overseas was recently highlighted with AI system ChatGPT. A Time investigation published this month found that OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, was also using workers in Kenya paid less than $2 an hour to filter through lines of text to make the chatbot safer to use.

Citizen is half social network, half news alert service. CloudFactory workers listened to police radio audio and crafted push notifications which summarized events in close proximity to users. These can range from missing animals to shots being fired. Citizen users can also upload their own videos and comment on others. Sometimes these discussions about crime and safety are racist.

A crucial problem for Citizen has been how to monetize that user base and create a return for its investors. Those investors include Peter Thiel. In August 2021 Citizen launched a paid product called Citizen Protect. For $20 a month, Citizen would let users have an on-demand agent who could follow their location and call 911 on their behalf if they felt unsafe.

Citizen has also explored running on-demand private security services, going so far as to have Citizen branded vehicles drive around Los Angeles. The company has also explored a similar service in Chicago.

In May 2021, Citizen’s CEO Andrew Frame offered a $30,000 bounty to any Citizen user who provided information that led to the capture of a suspected arsonist. Citizen staff broadcasted the wrong person’s name and photo, and encouraged users to find this person, potentially putting them in danger.

Jordan Carlson, vice president of marketing at CloudFactory, told Motherboard in an email that “CloudFactory does not publicly discuss the details of the commercial relationships we have with clients. Likewise, we do not publicly share private information about our workforce. We will respectfully decline to comment further.”

Citizen did not respond to a request for comment.

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Categories: Tech News

Google cuts 12,000 jobs, the largest layoff in the company’s history

ARS Technica - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 09:49
A battered and bruised version of the Google logo.

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson)

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has been on a cost-cutting tear over the last six months, shutting down various projects inside the company. This Friday, the ax has finally fallen on a big chunk of Google's workforce. In its largest layoff ever, Google says it will cut 12,000 jobs across Google and its parent company, Alphabet. The cuts represent about 6 percent of Google's workforce and match similar recent moves by Microsoft and Amazon.

Pichai announced the layoffs on the Google blog, saying US employees who are being let go have already been informed. For international employees, Pichai said that "this process will take longer due to local laws and practices." Pichai blamed the layoffs on the economy, saying, "We hired for a different economic reality than the one we face today."

As always, Pichai talked up AI as the future of the company, saying, "Pivoting the company to be AI-first years ago led to groundbreaking advances across our businesses and the whole industry." Google has struggled to monetize much of its AI work, though. The highest-profile Google AI product is the Google Assistant, but that is reportedly seeing reduced support after plans to monetize it failed (Amazon Alexa is facing a similar fate). Deepmind wowed the world with its ability to take on top players of the complicated game "Go," but that project never translated into any kind of business.

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Gonorrhea is becoming unstoppable; highly resistant cases found in US

ARS Technica - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 09:39
Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria, which causes gonorrhea.

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria, which causes gonorrhea. (credit: NIAID)

The most highly drug-resistant cases of gonorrhea detected in the US to date appeared in two unrelated people in Massachusetts, state health officials announced Thursday.

The cases mark the first time that US isolates of the gonorrhea-causing bacterium, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, have shown complete resistance or reduced susceptibility to all drugs that are recommended for treatment.

Fortunately, both cases were successfully cured with potent injections of the antibiotic ceftriaxone, despite the bacterial isolates demonstrating reduced susceptibility to the drug. Ceftriaxone is currently the frontline recommended treatment for the sexually transmitted infection.

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Plastic Surgery Clinic Ran a Vaccine Scam Where They Poured Shots Down the Drain, Injected Kids With Saline, Feds Allege

Motherboard (Vice) - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 09:17

An indictment against a Utah doctor and three co-defendants was unsealed this week, alleging that they engaged in a scheme to issue fake vaccine cards while squirting real vaccine doses down the drain. Federal prosecutors allege that Dr. Michael Kirk Moore, Jr. and his co-defendants at the Plastic Surgery Institute of Utah gave falsified vaccine cards to people in exchange for their donating $50 to an unnamed organization, one which exists to “liberate the medical profession from government and industry conflicts of interest.” As part of the scheme, Moore and his co-defendants are accused of giving children saline injections so that they would believe they were really being vaccinated. 

Court records show that Moore and his co-defendants were first indicted on January 11; the records were unsealed a week later. The other co-defendants are Kari Dee Burgoyne, an office manager at the Plastic Surgery Institute of Utah; Sandra Flores, the office’s receptionist; and, strangest of all, a woman named Kristin Jackson Andersen, who according to the indictment is Moore’s neighbor. Andersen has posted copious and increasingly conspiratorial anti-vaccine content on Facebook and Instagram; Dr. Moore himself was a signatory on a letter expressing support for a group of COVID-skeptical doctors whose certification was under review by their respective medical boards. The letter expresses support for ivermectin, a bogus treatment for COVID. 

According to the indictment, the Plastic Surgery Center of Utah was certified as a real vaccine provider and signed a standard agreement with the CDC, which among other things requires doctor’s offices not to “sell or seek reimbursement” for vaccines. 

Do you know anything we should know about Utah-based medical freedom groups? Contact the reporter at anna.merlan@vice.com

Prosecutors allege that when people seeking falsified vaccine cards contacted the office, Burgoyne, the office manager, referred them to Andersen, Dr. Moore’s neighbor. Andersen, according to the indictment, would ask for the name of someone who’d referred them—it had to be someone who’d previously received a fraudulent vaccine card, per the indictment—then direct people to make a $50 donation to a charitable organization, referred to in the indictment only as “Organization 1.” Each vaccine card seeker was required to put an orange emoji in the memo line of their donation, which is certainly very subtle. 

After making a donation to the unnamed charitable organization, prosecutors allege, Andersen would send a link to vaccine card seekers to enable them to make an appointment at the Plastic Surgery Institute. (Two different undercover agents communicated with her in this way, according to the indictment.) With adult patients, Moore would allegedly use a real COVID vaccine dose in a syringe, but squirt it down the drain. Flores, the office’s receptionist, gave an undercover agent a note, reading "with 18 & younger, we do a saline shot," meaning that kids were injected with saline instead of a vaccine. Prosecutors allege they disposed of at least 1,937 doses of COVID vaccines. 

All four people are charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States; conspiracy to convert, sell, convey, and dispose of government property; and conversion, sale, conveyance, and disposal of government property and aiding and abetting. Their first court appearance is scheduled for January 26 and court records do not indicate whether any of them have retained an attorney. Court records indicate that the government is not seeking to keep the defendants in jail before trial; they are, however, being ordered to surrender any vaccine cards in their possession to the Utah Department of Health.  

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Ireland’s data protection watchdog fines WhatsApp €5.5 million

The Register - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 09:15
You’ve got 6 months to bring data processing ops into compliance, it tells comms app

Ireland's data protection authority has fined WhatsApp Ireland €5.5 million for breaches of the GDPR relating to its service and told it comply with data processing laws within six months.…

Categories: Tech News

A New GOP Bill Could Fine You $1,500 For Not Misgendering Trans People

Motherboard (Vice) - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 09:06

A Republican lawmaker in North Dakota introduced a bill that would fine people $1,500 if they refer to trans people using their correct pronouns, rather than the pronouns they were assigned at birth.

The rule would apply to organizations that receive state funding—which includes public schools. That means schools and teachers could be fined for using their trans colleagues’ or students’ pronouns. 

‘Words used to reference an individual's sex, gender, gender identity, or gender expression, mean the individual's determined sex at birth, male or female,” states Senate Bill 2199. “Any person that violates this section must be assessed a fee of one thousand five hundred dollars.”

Republican state Sen. David Clemens introduced the bill, which has received basically zero support, according to local news station KFYR. In fact, the state’s senate judiciary committee recommended the bill shouldn’t pass, in part because it was poorly written and would be difficult to enforce. Still, the bill will move to the senate floor, and is a sign of just how emboldened many conservative lawmakers are getting in their crusades against trans and nonbinary people. In 2023, state governments have already tried to introduce some of the most draconian anti-trans bills yet, including an Oklahoma bill that would ban gender-affirming care for people under 26. 

North Dakota is already the site of many proposed anti-trans bills, including bans on gender-affirming care and trans sports participation. SB 2199 is the latest example in a string of related proposed policies.

According to the bill, when a person’s gender identity is contested, the person’s deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, would be used to establish the sex and gender. As LGBTQ Nation reported, this could be referring to chromosomes, which are made up of DNA and proteins.

“We do not have ‘he’ and ‘she’ encoded into our DNA, and human biological sex is not binary. One would wonder how a bill like this would treat intersex people with nonstandard DNA profiles,” said transgender activist and researcher Erin Reed in her newsletter. “Would people be forced to submit to mandatory DNA tests in order to determine what pronouns we should use for them? The implications of this bill are absurd.”

SB 2199 “does not publicly outlaw an individual’s personal expression, but it does outlaw the use of public funds to promote or support anything that is contrary to a person’s biological sex at birth,”  said Clemens while testifying to the judiciary committee in support of his new bill.

“Say they’re a boy, but they come to school and say they’re a girl. As far as that school is concerned in this bill, that person is still a boy,” added Clemens.  “If it becomes contested, the burden will be on the girl, the so-called girl, or the boy, to prove that he is a girl.”

Clemens reportedly struggled to explain how his bill would be enforced, and when it would apply in the first place.

The Republican-led committee unanimously voted for a “do not pass” recommendation, and said it was poorly written and unenforceable. More than 90 people showed up to testify against the bill on Wednesday, local news reported. No one testified in favor. 

“Respectfully, I see no way this law would pass any sort of legal challenge based on basic legal construction principles. It’s vague, fails to advance any legitimate state interests, and not only would cause impermissible, gender-based discrimination, its very purpose is gender-based discrimination,” Christina Sambor, a staffer representing the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition, told the committee. 

Following the committee meeting, Christina Feldmann, a local resident and mother of a trans woman who died by suicide in 2021, confronted Clemens, the Bismark Tribune reported. 

“If she were to have gone to a school that referred to her as he/him, we would have lost her much sooner,” Feldmann reportedly told Clemens. “Your bill will kill children. It’s important that you be aware of that.”

Clemens then proceeded to call Feldmann’s daughter a “boy” and “son,” and asked whether the family sought counseling “to bring her back to thinking that she was a boy.”

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