Microsoft's Cortana Drops Consumer Skills as it Refocuses on Business Users Slashdotby msmash on microsoft at January 1, 1970, 1:00 am (cached at February 29, 2020, 9:35 am)

With the next version of Windows 10, coming this spring, Microsoft's Cortana digital assistant will lose a number of consumer skills around music and connected homes, as well as some third-party skills. From a report: That's very much in line with Microsoft's new focus for Cortana, but it may still come as a surprise to the dozens of loyal Cortana fans. Microsoft is also turning off Cortana support in its Microsoft Launcher on Android by the end of April and on older versions of Windows that have reached their end-of-service date, which usually comes about 36 months after the original release. As the company explained last year, it now mostly thinks of Cortana as a service for business users. The new Cortana is all about productivity, with deep integrations into Microsoft's suite of Office tools, for example. In this context, consumer services are only a distraction, and Microsoft is leaving that market to the likes of Amazon and Google .

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Comic for February 28, 2020 Dilbert Daily Strip(cached at February 29, 2020, 7:31 am)

Dilbert readers - Please visit to read this feature. Due to changes with our feeds, we are now making this RSS feed a link to
When AI Can't Replace a Worker, It Watches Them Instead Slashdotby msmash on ai at January 1, 1970, 1:00 am (cached at February 29, 2020, 6:35 am)

Whether software that digitizes manual labor makes workers frowny or smiley will come down to how employers choose to use it. From a report: When Tony Huffman stepped away from the production line at the Denso auto part factory in Battle Creek, Michigan, to talk with WIRED earlier this month, the workers he supervised were still being watched -- but not by a human. A camera over each station captured workers' movements as they assembled parts for auto heat-management systems. The video was piped into machine-learning software made by a startup called Drishti, which watched workers' movements and calculated how long each person took to complete their work. [...] Denso's use of Drishti shows how some jobs will be transformed by artificial intelligence even when they're unlikely to be eliminated by AI anytime soon. Many jobs in manufacturing require dexterity and resourcefulness, for example, in ways that robots and software still can't match. But advances in AI and sensors are providing new ways to digitize manual labor. That gives managers new insights -- and potentially leverage -- on workers. Some workers say the results are unpleasant. Last year, Amazon warehouse employees in Minnesota staged a walkout to protest how the company uses inventory and worker-tracking technology. They allege that Amazon uses it to enforce a punishing working pace that causes injuries. The company has disputed those claims, saying it coaches employees on how to safely meet quotas. Workers at Denso were initially wary of the prospect of being video-recorded all day to feed machine-learning algorithms, but Huffman says they have since come to appreciate Drishti's technology. After something goes wrong, workers can now look at the data and video with their managers, instead of having to hope bosses take their account of what happened seriously. Huffman says having a constant readout on productivity also helps managers be more responsive to nascent problems. "If somebody's struggling, not every associate is going to call for help," he says. "If we see their cycle time is jumping through the roof, we can go over and say 'Are you having any issues?'"

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Telescopes Detect 'Biggest Explosion Since Big Bang' Slashdotby msmash on space at January 1, 1970, 1:00 am (cached at February 29, 2020, 4:35 am)

Scientists have detected evidence of a colossal explosion in space -- five times bigger than anything observed before. Iwastheone shares a report: The huge release of energy is thought to have emanated from a supermassive black hole some 390 million light years from Earth. The eruption is said to have left a giant dent in the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster. Researchers reported their findings [PDF] in The Astrophysical Journal. "I've tried to put this explosion into human terms and it's really, really difficult," co-author Melanie Johnston-Hollitt told BBC News. "The best I can do is tell you that if this explosion continued to occur over the 240 million years of the outburst -- which it probably didn't, but anyway -- it'd be like setting off 20 billion, billion megaton TNT explosions every thousandth of a second for the entire 240 million years. So that's incomprehensibly big. Huge."

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FCC Approves Plan To Pay Satellite Companies To Give Up Airwaves Slashdotby msmash on communications at January 1, 1970, 1:00 am (cached at February 29, 2020, 2:05 am)

U.S. regulators approved a plan to pay Intelsat SA and other satellite providers to give up airwaves so they can be redeployed for the fast 5G mobile networks being rolled out. From a report: The Federal Communications Commission on a 3-2 vote Friday approved Chairman Ajit Pai's plan for as much as $9.7 billion to clear the frequencies, with the money coming from bidders expected to include large telephone companies such as Verizon Communications Inc. The action "will help deliver 5G services to consumers across our country and promote our global leadership," said Pai. The satellite companies use the spectrum to beam TV and radio programs to stations, but say they can give up part of it while still serving customers on frequencies they retain, in part because they would use new satellites to carry data. The FCC will sell the airwaves at a public auction. Pai earlier proposed that Intelsat get as much as $4.85 billion for clearing airwaves quickly. The FCC in its vote didn't say if that figure had changed.

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Making chopsticks into house furnishings BBC News | Science/Nature | UK Edition(cached at February 29, 2020, 2:00 am)

ChopValue collects 350,000 used bamboo chopsticks from Vancouver restaurants every week.
Anak Krakatau: Lightning frenzy points to scale of volcanic plume BBC News | Science/Nature | UK Edition(cached at February 29, 2020, 1:30 am)

The 2018 volcanic eruption put so much ice into the sky it set off a huge display of lightning.
Google's Black Box Algorithm Controls Which Political Emails Land in Your Main Inbox Slashdotby msmash on google at January 1, 1970, 1:00 am (cached at February 29, 2020, 12:35 am)

Adrianne Jeffries, Leon Yin, and Surya Mattu, reporting for The Markup: Pete Buttigieg is leading at 63 percent. Andrew Yang came in second at 46 percent. And Elizabeth Warren looks like she's in trouble with 0 percent. These aren't poll numbers for the U.S. 2020 Democratic presidential contest. Instead, they reflect which candidates were able to consistently land in Gmail's primary inbox in a simple test. The Markup set up a new Gmail account to find out how the company filters political email from candidates, think tanks, advocacy groups, and nonprofits. We found that few of the emails we'd signed up to receive -- 11 percent -- made it to the primary inbox, the first one a user sees when opening Gmail and the one the company says is "for the mail you really, really want." Half of all emails landed in a tab called "promotions," which Gmail says is for "deals, offers, and other marketing emails." Gmail sent another 40 percent to spam. For political causes and candidates, who get a significant amount of their donations through email, having their messages diverted into less-visible tabs or spam can have profound effects. "The fact that Gmail has so much control over our democracy and what happens and who raises money is frightening," said Kenneth Pennington, a consultant who worked on Beto O'Rourke's digital campaign. "It's scary that if Gmail changes their algorithms," he added, "they'd have the power to impact our election."

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[no title] Scripting News(cached at February 29, 2020, 12:33 am)

Now would be a really good time to get in touch with our Senators and Reps and tell them the CDC and NIH have to be free to communicate with the public. This is unacceptable. Your constituents lives are at stake, all of them.
Why Warren freaks me out Scripting News(cached at February 29, 2020, 12:03 am)

This came up in a Twitter conversation with Miguel de Icaza, earlier today, mentioned above. I said that Sanders and Warren freak me out. Warren is his candidate, so he asked why. I said I didn't want to discuss it on Twitter. After giving it a few hours thought I decided to try it on my blog, here, now.

PS: Here's a Google search for Elizabeth Warren on my blog, so you can see how I've written about her in the past.