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A Solution For Loneliness: Get Out and Volunteer, Research Suggests

Slashdot - Wed, 22/05/2019 - 04:02
"Loneliness is rampant, and it's killing us," writes Kasley Killam for Scientific American. "Anywhere from one quarter to one half of Americans feel lonely a lot of the time, which puts them at risk for developing a range of physical and mental illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and depression." Killam surfaces several studies that found volunteering to be an effective strategy to help combat this widespread health problem. From the report: In a recent survey of over 10,000 people in the UK, two-thirds reported that volunteering helped them feel less isolated. Similarly, a 2018 study of nearly 6,000 people across the US examined widows who, unsurprisingly, felt lonelier than married adults. After starting to volunteer for two or more hours per week, their average level of loneliness subsided to match that of married adults, even after controlling for demographics, baseline health, personality traits, and other social involvement. These benefits may be especially strong the older you are and the more often you volunteer. Participating in volunteer opportunities may help alleviate loneliness and its related health impact for several reasons. The first and most obvious is that it's a meaningful way to connect with others and make new friends. Second, volunteering can make up for the loss of meaning that commonly occurs with loneliness. Research using the UCLA Loneliness Scale and Meaning in Life Questionnaire has shown that more loneliness is associated with less meaning. This makes sense, given our deeply rooted need for belonging. By volunteering for social causes that are important to us, we can gain a sense of purpose, which in turn may shield us from negative health outcomes. For example, purpose in life has been linked to a reduced likelihood of stroke and greater psychological well-being. Third, loneliness and isolation can lead to cognitive decline, such as memory loss. But according to the neuroscientist Lisa Genova, people who regularly engage in mentally stimulating activities build up more neural connections and are subsequently more resilient to symptoms of Alzheimer's. So, volunteering is one way to stay engaged and stimulated, rather than isolated and lonely, and thereby protect against cognitive decline.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Cable TV Customer Satisfaction Falls Even Further Behind Streaming Video

Slashdot - Wed, 22/05/2019 - 03:20
Netflix and other online video services have expanded their customer-satisfaction lead over cable and satellite TV, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) found in its annual telecommunications report released today. Ars Technica reports: Streaming-video services averaged a score of 76 on the ACSI's 100-point scale, up from 75 last year. Meanwhile, the traditional subscription-TV industry's score remained unchanged at 62. "For the past six years, customer satisfaction with subscription TV has languished in the mid-to-low 60s, not recovering enough to effectively compete with streaming services," the ACSI report said. "In 2018, subscription sales declined 3 percent to $103.4 billion. Customer service remains poor, and cord cutting is accelerating. As video-streaming services gain traction, a growing number of households may never subscribe to pay TV in the first place." Pay-TV and broadband -- two services that are generally offered in bundles by the same companies -- each posted an industry average of 62, which is again in "last place among all [46] industries tracked by the ACSI," the report said. Pay-TV's satisfaction score peaked at 68 in 2013 and has dropped steadily since. Streaming services rated significantly higher than cable and satellite in many categories, including the ease of understanding bills, mobile app quality and reliability, and call-center satisfaction. Comcast remained near the bottom of pay-TV rankings with a score of 57, while AT&T's U-verse led the ranking despite dropping from 70 to 69. Coincidentally, AT&T's streaming service -- DirecTV Now -- also fell from 70 to 69. But while the AT&T U-verse TV score of 69 was good enough to lead all cable and satellite TV providers, the DirecTV Now score of 69 was in second-to-last place among streaming providers. Netflix took the top spot in streaming satisfaction by raising its score from 78 to 79.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Some New Chevrolet Models Temporarily Won't Move Until Teen Drivers Buckle Up

Slashdot - Wed, 22/05/2019 - 02:40
Chevrolet is introducing a feature, specifically for teen drivers, that will temporarily block the auto from shifting into gear if their seat belt isn't buckled. A message will alert the driver to buckle up in order to shift into gear. After 20 seconds, the vehicle will operate normally. NPR reports: The feature, which Chevrolet says is an industry first, will come standard in the 2020 models of the Traverse SUV, Malibu sedan and Colorado pickup truck. It will be part of the "Teen Driver" package, which can also be used to set speed alerts and a maximum speed, among other controls, and give parents "report cards" tracking a teen's driving behavior. Chevrolet explains how it works: "To use Teen Driver mode, a parent can enable the feature by creating a PIN in the Settings menu that allows them to register their teen's key fob. The Teen Driver settings are turned on only when a registered key fob is used to start the vehicle."

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

New Proposal Would Let Companies Further Screw You Over With Terms of Service

Slashdot - Wed, 22/05/2019 - 02:03
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Vice: A collection of unelected lawyers [from the American Law Institute] this week is quietly pushing a new proposal that could dramatically erode your legal rights, leaving you at the mercy of giant corporations eager to protect themselves from accountability. Occasionally, this coalition (including all the members of the Supreme Court) meets to create "restatements," effectively an abridged synopsis or reference guide for the latest established precedents and legal trends. While restatements themselves aren't legally binding, they're very influential and often help shape judicial opinions. Seven years ago, the ALI began pondering a new restatement governing consumer contracts -- and your legal rights as a consumer. Today, the ALI meets to vote on the approval of this latest restatement. But a long line of legal experts have been blasting the group's updated language governing consumer contracts. Specifically, they noted that the updated draft language proclaims that consumers would not need to read a contract to be bound by its terms. The draft states as long as consumers received "reasonable notice" and had "reasonable opportunity to review" it, the contract would be legally binding. Under this model, consumers wouldn't need to even understand the contract to be bound by it, a problem given data suggests such agreements are often incomprehensible to the average user. The language was problematic enough to result in a letter this week by 23 state attorneys general, criticizing the ALI's proposal as a major threat to consumer rights. "To call boilerplate language that consumers never read (or if they did read, could not understand) a 'contract' simply has the effect of locking consumers in to terms that are likely to be stacked against them," John Bergmayer, Senior Counsel at consumer group Public Knowledge, said in an email. Traditionally, "contracts" are legal documents that are mutually agreed to after negotiation between two parties. Functionally, this isn't how Terms of Service, which few people read and few people can be expected to read and understand, work in the real world. "For some reason, everything you learn about contracts in the first year of law school gets tossed out the window when it comes to large companies unilaterally setting terms for consumers," Bergmayer added.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Comcast Is Reportedly Developing a Device That Would Track Your Bathroom Habits

Slashdot - Wed, 22/05/2019 - 01:20
Comcast is reportedly working on a device designed to closely monitor a user's health. "The device will monitor people's basic health metrics using ambient sensors, with a focus on whether someone is making frequent trips to the bathroom or spending more time than usual in bed," reports CNBC. "Comcast is also building tools for detecting falls, which are common and potentially fatal for seniors." The Verge reports: Many products on the market today already have the motion sensors, cameras, and other hardware that allow for what Comcast seems to be envisioning -- but not even Amazon or Google have directly sought to keep such a close eye on their customers' personal health with their respective Echo and Home devices. Comcast itself already offers home security services, and the company's much-touted X1 voice remote for its Xfinity cable platform has helped Comcast make advancements in recognizing and processing voice commands. According to CNBC, Comcast's device won't offer functionality like controlling smart home devices, nor will it have the ability to search for answers to a person's questions on the internet. But it will reportedly "have a personality like Alexa" and be able to place calls to emergency services. In an email to The Verge, a Comcast spokesperson said the company's upcoming device "is NOT a smart speaker" and "is purpose-built to be a sensor that detects motion." It's said that Comcast aims to offer the device and a companion health tracking service to "at-risk people, including seniors and people with disabilities." The company is also in discussions with hospitals about potentially "using the device to ensure that patients don't end up back in the hospital after they've been discharged."

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Sci-fi strategy game Stellaris now has multiplayer on consoles

Eurogamer - Wed, 22/05/2019 - 00:40

Budding intergalactic conquerers now have a little more of a challenge on their hands in Paradox Interactive's sci-fi strategy game Stellaris on consoles, courtesy of the game's free new online multiplayer mode.

Multiplayer has, of course, long been available in Stellaris for PC, but with Paradox slowly bringing the console version inline with its older sibling through free updates and paid DLC, it seemed only a matter of time before the mode would hit PS4 and Xbox One. And here we are now, with console players finally able to take on fellow fleshbags alongside AI opponents.

On consoles, multiplayers sessions of exploration, resource acquisition, and expansion (with occasional intergalactic fisticuffs) will support up to to four human opponents, and up to 14 empires. There's also the option to hotjoin a currently ongoing session, with those granted access to a match by the host able to play as any empire already active in-game.

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Categories: Video Games

Microsoft Calls For Federal Regulation of the Tech Industry

Slashdot - Wed, 22/05/2019 - 00:40
In a blog post, Microsoft Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Julie Brill says the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has been very effective in changing the way that tech companies handle personal data, and feels the U.S. should enact something similar at the federal level. TechSpot reports: "[Companies] have adapted, putting new systems and processes in place to ensure that individuals understand what data is collected about them and can correct it if it is inaccurate and delete it or move it somewhere else if they choose," she wrote. Brill points out that the GDPR has inspired other countries to adopt similar regulations. She also pats her company on the back for being "the first company to provide the data control rights at the heart of GDPR to our customers around the globe, not just in Europe." However, such self-regulation is not good enough. While some states such as California and Illinois have strong data protection laws in place, Brill feels the US needs something similar to the GDPR at the federal level. "No matter how much work companies like Microsoft do to help organizations secure sensitive data and empower individuals to manage their own data, preserving a strong right to privacy will always fundamentally be a matter of law that falls to governments," Brill states. "Despite the high level of interest in exercising control over personal data from U.S. consumers, the United States has yet to join the EU and other nations around the world in passing national legislation that accounts for how people use technology in their lives today." Brill suggests the federal government should enact regulation that models the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which goes into effect next year. "Brill says that consumers have the right to control their information and that companies need to be held to a higher degree of accountability and transparency with how they collect and use customer data," reports TechSpot. "The new laws also need to have teeth."

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Google Says Some G Suite User Passwords Were Stored In Plaintext Since 2005

Slashdot - Wed, 22/05/2019 - 00:08
Google says a small number of its enterprise customers mistakenly had their passwords stored on its systems in plaintext. The exact number was not disclosed. "We recently notified a subset of our enterprise G Suite customers that some passwords were stored in our encrypted internal systems unhashed," said Google vice president of engineering Suzanne Frey. Slashdot reader pegdhcp appears to be one of the users impacted by this security lapse: I am sharing a message that I received from G Suite, redacted. They are having some serious problem... If you missed the message or somehow tend to ignore sometimes extremely frequent and unnecessary G Suite messages like I do, this one can be important depending on your settings. [You can read the full email message (with redactions) below:]

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Wonderful fantasy adventure Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is coming to Switch next week

Eurogamer - Tue, 21/05/2019 - 23:35

Starbreeze Studios' masterful fantasy adventure Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is making the move to Switch next week, on 28th May, and it arrives with a notable new feature in the form of proper two-player co-op support.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, which was widely acclaimed when it first launched in 2013, tells the story of two siblings, on a quest across the land to find a cure for their father's mysterious affliction. What follows is a wonderful, genuinely affecting adventure, starting in the relative tranquility of the brothers' idyllic village and growing ever-more fantastical.

It's a journey that mirrors, quite magnificently, the relationship of the two brothers, one a stern, sure-footed teen, and the other a younger, more exuberant youth. And it's the interplay between the two that not only drives the story, but forms the very core of the game.

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Categories: Video Games

Microsoft Announces Xbox Content Moderation To Cut Back on Toxic Comments

Slashdot - Tue, 21/05/2019 - 23:25
As Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other social platforms come under fire for enabling hateful speech, Microsoft is stepping up to thwart toxic comments among its 63 million Xbox live users. From a report: Microsoft needs to make sure Xbox players don't hear or see content that might turn off users, or scare younger players away. Microsoft is making these moves after the ascent of the Gamergate controversy, which led to people harassing and making threats against women. The changes follow Microsoft's recent update to its Xbox "community standards" for gameplay, which pointed out several practices that aren't acceptable. Now it's taking that a step further with moderation tools. "This summer, we are empowering our official Club community managers with proactive content moderation features that will help create safe spaces for fans to discuss their favorite games," Microsoft's executive vice president of gaming, Phil Spencer, said Monday. "We plan to roll out new content moderation experiences to everyone on Xbox Live by the end of 2019." Xbox Live has 63 million monthly active users, and the service includes groups where people can post content and submit comments, along with chat rooms. "Our industry must now answer the fierce urgency to play with our fierce urgency for safety," he added.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Apple Updates Top-End MacBook Pros With Tweaked Keyboard and Faster Processors

Slashdot - Tue, 21/05/2019 - 22:45
Apple is refreshing its top laptops again by announcing newly updated specs for its 15-inch and 13-inch MacBook Pro models. It's bringing faster Intel processors and some slight changes to the much-maligned keyboard that Apple says should reduce issues. From a report: The biggest changes are coming to the 15-inch model, which is getting Intel's 9th Gen Core processors. The base model now starts with a 2.6GHz, 6-core i7 processor, which can turbo boost up to 4.5GHz. The next-step-up model is getting a 2.3GHz, 8-core i9 processor -- the first ever on a MacBook -- which can turbo boost up to 4.8GHz. And for those of you who want the most power possible, Apple will also offer a custom top configuration of an even more powerful 8-core i9 chip with a 2.4GHz base speed, which can boost all the way up to 5.0GHz for what Apple calls "the fastest Mac notebook ever." The 13-inch Touch Bar models are getting similar (albeit less exciting) processor refreshes: the base model now comes with a 2.4GHz 8th Gen quad-core i5 processor that can boost to 4.1GHz.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Microsoft Kicks Off the Rollout of the Windows 10 May Update 1903

Slashdot - Tue, 21/05/2019 - 22:01
It's technically "late May." So it's not too surprising that Microsoft's promised late May rollout of the Windows 10 May 2019 Update (also known as 1903) is kicking off today, May 21. From a report: As of today, mainstream consumer and business users who want to manually download and install the May feature update may do so. The May 2019 Update/1903 is available on WSUS, Windows Update for Business as of today. Users who aren't already on Windows 10 1809 (either because they weren't "offered" it or didn't proactively grab it) will be able to just skip over 1809 and go straight to 1903, since Windows 10 feature updates are cumulative. There are a quite a number of new features in the May 2019 Update/1903. Microsoft is providing users -- including Home users -- with more control over how and when Windows 10 feature updates will install with this release. Microsoft is adding the ability for Home users to pause updates for up to 35 days.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Self-Driving Trucks Begin Mail Delivery Test For US Postal Service

Slashdot - Tue, 21/05/2019 - 21:23
The U.S. Postal Service today started a two-week test transporting mail across three Southwestern states using self-driving trucks, a step forward in the effort to commercialize autonomous vehicle technology for hauling freight. From a report: San Diego-based startup TuSimple said its self-driving trucks will begin hauling mail between USPS facilities in Phoenix and Dallas to see how the nascent technology might improve delivery times and costs. A safety driver will sit behind the wheel to intervene if necessary and an engineer will ride in the passenger seat. If successful, it would mark an achievement for the autonomous driving industry and a possible solution to the driver shortage and regulatory constraints faced by freight haulers across the country. The pilot program involves five round trips, each totaling more than 2,100 miles (3,380 km) or around 45 hours of driving. It is unclear whether self-driving mail delivery will continue after the two-week pilot.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

The Sims 4 is currently free on PC

Eurogamer - Tue, 21/05/2019 - 20:58

If you've ever dreamed of wrangling the lives of little computer people into abject misery and ruin (or something nicer, I suppose), but still have a Sims-shaped hole in your games library for some reason, you might be interested to know that The Sims 4 is currently free on PC.

When The Sims 4 launched back in 2014, it was widely considered to be a little on the scant side, having ditched features from previous games - most notably the open-world structure of its predecessor - to create a more compact, focussed life sim experience. That's not to say it was a dud, though; the series' endless loops of busywork were as mesmerising ever, and significantly bolstered by powerful character customisation, building, and social tools, that placed much greater emphasis on personalisation and creativity.

These days, of course, The Sims 4 is a considerably more substantial experience than it was at launch, courtesy of six expansion packs, seven Game Packs, 14 Stuff Packs, and a raft of free updates - although, at £34.99 per expansion, £17.99 per Game Pack, and £9.99 per Stuff Pack, going all-in is an expensive proposition.

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Categories: Video Games

First Official Version of Tor Browser for Android Released on Play Store

Slashdot - Tue, 21/05/2019 - 20:40
The Tor Project today made the first stable version of its privacy-focused browser available on the Google Play Store. From a report: This new mobile browser integrates the Tor protocol stack into a standalone browser and replaces Orfox as the main way to navigate the Tor network from an Android device. Tor Project developers have been working on this browser for eight months now, since September 2018, when they first released an alpha version for public testing. "We made it a priority to reach the rising number of users who only browse the web with a mobile device," said Isabela Bagueros, Executive Director of the Tor Project. "These users often face heavy surveillance and censorship online, so it is critical for us to reach them. We made sure there are no proxy bypasses, that first-party isolation is enabled to protect you from cross-site tracking, and that most of the fingerprinting defenses are working," the Tor team added.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

TikTok Maker Set To Take on Spotify With Free New Music Streaming App

Slashdot - Tue, 21/05/2019 - 20:00
Does the overcrowded and cut-throat music streaming business have room for an additional player? The world's most valuable startup certainly thinks so. From a report: Chinese conglomerate ByteDance, valued at more than $75 billion, is working on a music streaming service, two sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. The company, which operates popular app TikTok, has held discussions with music labels in recent months to launch the app as soon as the end of this quarter, one of the sources said. The app will offer both a premium and an ad-supported free tier, one of the sources said. Bloomberg, which first wrote about the premium app, reported that ByteDance is targeting emerging markets with its new music app. Further reading: Chinese Video Sensation TikTok Surpassed Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube in Downloads in October 2018.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Apple Tweaks Its Troubled MacBook Keyboard Design Yet Again, Expands Repair Program

Slashdot - Tue, 21/05/2019 - 19:16
Apple is announcing an update to its keyboard repair program today. All MacBooks with the so-called "butterfly mechanism" (that's pretty much all modern MacBooks) will now be fully eligible for Apple's Keyboard Service Program. From a report: The expansion means that a few newer models that weren't previously covered will be able to get repairs. Unfortunately, Apple is not extending how long that program lasts -- it's still "4 years after the first retail sale of the unit." Apple is also announcing that it has created yet another iteration of its butterfly keyboard, which will ship on the new MacBook Pros. It also promises that it will speed up keyboard repair times. You will not be able to just take your MacBook in to have its keyboard replaced if you don't trust it, of course; it will need to exhibit issues for Apple to fix it. Apple has been put through the wringer over the reliability of its butterfly keyboards for the past few years, and rightly so. Although the company stressed again in a call today that the "vast majority" of customers don't have a problem, all too many of them have had issues with stuck keys that could cause double letters or no letters at all.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Until Dawn dev's new nautical horror Man of Medan gets an August release date

Eurogamer - Tue, 21/05/2019 - 18:49

Until Dawn developer Supermassive Games has revealed that Man of Medan, the first instalment in its Dark Pictures Anthology horror series, will be scaring up a storm on Xbox One, PS4, and PC on 30th August.

Based on everything we've seen so far, the Dark Pictures Anthology looks to build on the popcorn-munching cinematic thrills of Supermassive's enormously enjoyable interactive slasher horror Until Dawn - particularly in regard to its choice-driven branching narrative - with each new entry set to dabble in a different sub-genre of horror.

For the Man of Medan specifically, though, Supermassive is swapping creaking cabins in endless moonlit forests for a great big boat and a whole lot of water. As previously revealed, it follows a group of divers as they set out in search of rumoured WW2 shipwreck while on holiday. As a storm rolls in, however, the crew finds itself trapped aboard a seemingly abandoned ship, and forced to confront the secrets it's been harbouring all these years.

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Categories: Video Games

Firefox 67 Arrives With New Performance and Privacy Features, Voice Search Widget on Android

Slashdot - Tue, 21/05/2019 - 18:40
Mozilla today launched Firefox 67 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. From a report: The 10th release since Mozilla's big Firefox Quantum launch in November 2017 doubles down on performance and privacy. Firefox 67 includes deprioritizing least commonly used features, suspending unused tabs, faster startup, blocking of cryptomining and fingerprinting, Private Browsing improvements, voice input in the Android search widget, and more. [...] Firefox 67 is better at performing tasks at the optimal time, resulting in faster "painting" of the page. Specifically, the browser deprioritizes least commonly used features and delays set Timeout to prioritize scripts for things you need. Mozilla says Instagram, Amazon, and Google searches now execute between 40% and 80% faster. Firefox also now scans for alternative style sheets after page load and doesn't load the auto-fill module unless there is a form to complete. Next, Firefox 67 detects if your computer's memory is running low (under 400MB) and suspends unused tabs. If you do click on a tab that you haven't used or looked at in a while, it will reload where you left off. Finally, Firefox 67 promises faster startup for users that customized their browser with an add-on.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

This Spyro Reignited freeflight glitch lets you soar wherever you want

Eurogamer - Tue, 21/05/2019 - 18:02

While Spyro is a peppy and cute little dragon, you've gotta admit: his flying skills could do with some work. Aside from when using power-ups or on speedway levels, Spyro's stumpy little wings can only take him so far, leaving players to jump and run their way across the game's platforms.

Now, thanks to a newly-found Spyro Reignited Trilogy glitch for PS4, you can soar through the skies whenever and wherever you want. You can even fly outside level boundaries to discover some truly weird and wacky stuff, including planets and a giant floating dragon head.

Oh, and I guess this could potentially be pretty useful for glitch speedruns. Flying is so much faster than walking.

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Categories: Video Games
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