Crunch Report | Netflix is now worth more than $100 billion

Netflix is now worth more than $100 billion, Uber Eats acquires Ando and Rupert Murdoch wants Facebook to pay for the news. All this on Crunch Report. Read More

Net neutrality is bad? 1 million PornHub employees can’t be wrong. Oh, wait.

WASHINGTON, DC—If Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai actually allowed the weight of public comments on the FCC’s proposed changes to network neutrality regulations to sway (or confirm) his position, he seems to have given more credence to the “opinions” of spam-generating software “bots” than actual citizens, researchers have found.

At the Shmoocon information security conference on Saturday, Leah Figueroa, lead data engineer at the data analytics software company Gravwell, presented a detailed analysis of the public comments submitted to the FCC regarding network neutrality. Applying filters to the over 22 million comments submitted to the FCC, Figueroa and her team attempted to identify which comments were submitted by real US citizens—and which were generated by bulk-uploading bots

At the end of September, Figueroa said, she and her team pulled in all of the submitted comments from the FCC site and applied a series of analytical steps to separate “organic” comments—those most likely to have been submitted by actual human beings—from comments submitted by automated systems (“bots”) using faked personal data.

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Video demonstrates the marvel of CRT displays at 380,000 frames per second

We spend a lot of time reading about the differences between display technologies like LCD and OLED, which, like all display technologies, are built to fool our eyes into seeing things that are only simulated, not real, like colors, or realistic movement. But it helps to see it in action.

A video from YouTube channel The Slow Mo Guys (originally reported on by Motherboard) vividly illustrates how CRT, LCD, and OLED displays work by either zooming in very close or by recording in insane frame rates at ultra slow motion.

You’ll still find enthusiasts who insist that it’s all been downhill since CRT monitors and TVs went sunset for most of the market. While this video doesn’t make much of a case for CRT’s relative quality, it does show that they were engineering marvels for their time.

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Trump puts 30% tariff on imported solar cells and modules

On Monday afternoon, the Trump administration released a fact sheet (PDF) detailing new tariffs on imports, including a tariff schedule for solar cells and modules starting at 30 percent.

The solar tariff determination had been tensely anticipated by the US solar industry, with manufacturers arguing that cheap imports from Asia have harmed their businesses. Solar installers, financiers, and sales people, however, argue that cheap imports have created a bigger boom in employment than manufacturing ever could.

The news is likely a blow to the wider solar industry, although it’s not entirely unexpected. Trump has been vocal about his preference for tariffs and has shown little desire to extend a hand out to the solar industry, which is often seen as a competitor with fossil fuels. When the International Trade Commission (ITC) voted in favor of imposing tariffs on solar imports in September, the trade association Solar Energy Industries of America (SEIA) prepared for the worst.

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Making tools gives crows a big food boost

Tool use among animals isn’t common, but it is spread widely across our evolutionary tree. Critters from sea otters to cephalopods have been observed using tools in the wild. In most of these instances, however, the animal is simply using something that’s found in its environment, rather than crafting a tool specifically for a task. Tool crafting has mostly been seen among primates.

Mostly, but not entirely. One major exception is the New Caledonian crow. To extract food from holes and crevices, these birds use twigs or stems that are found in their environment without modification. In other environments, however, they’ll remove branches from plants and carefully strip parts of the plant to leave behind a hooked stick. The behavior takes over a minute, and the crows will typically carry the tool with them when they explore new sites, and they will sometimes store it for future use.

Understanding how this complex behavior came about in crows requires us to understand the evolutionary advantages that might be had from a good tool. A group of researchers, mostly from the University of St. Andrews, has now done just that: the researchers have quantified how tool manufacture influences food harvesting. The results show that the use of bird-crafted tools can increase food extraction by up to 12 times the rate the crows could achieve by using unmodified sticks.

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SpaceX gets good news from the Air Force on the Zuma mission

A little more than two weeks have passed since the apparent loss of the highly classified Zuma mission. Since then, SpaceX has publicly and privately stated that its Falcon 9 rocket performed nominally throughout the flight—with both its first and second stages firing as anticipated.

Now, the US Air Force seems to be backing the rocket company up. “Based on the data available, our team did not identify any information that would change SpaceX’s Falcon 9 certification status,” Lieutenant General John Thompson, commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center, told Bloomberg News. This qualified conclusion came after a preliminary review of data from the Zuma launch. That’s according to Thompson, who said the Air Force will continue to review data from all launches.

However tentative, this statement buttresses the efforts by SpaceX to say that, from its perspective, the mission was a success. The statement also adds to the concerns of Northrop Grumman, which built the Zuma payload and the adapter that connected it to the Falcon 9 rocket. Northrop Grumman was also responsible for separating after the second stage of the Zuma rocket reached space. The aerospace veteran has yet to publicly comment on specifics of the Zuma mission since the launch.

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Sorry, FCC: Montana is enforcing net neutrality with new executive order

Montana will require Internet service providers to follow net neutrality principles in order to receive state government contracts.

Governor Steve Bullock, a Democrat, today signed an executive order imposing that requirement beginning July 1, 2018.

“There has been a lot of talk around the country about how to respond to the recent decision by Federal Communications Commission to repeal net neutrality rules, which keep the Internet free and open,” Bullock said. “It’s time to actually do something about it. This is a simple step states can take to preserve and protect net neutrality. We can’t wait for folks in Washington, DC, to come to their senses and reinstate these rules.”

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Windows VR headsets now available with deep discounts

With its Windows VR headsets, Microsoft wanted to make it simpler and cheaper to get into PC-based virtual reality.

But perhaps not quite this cheap. Most of the Windows VR headsets on the market are now available on Amazon in the US for around 50 percent off; for as little as $200, you can get a headset complete with a pair of motion controllers that will run Windows Mixed Reality software and which has beta quality support for SteamVR titles, too.

When it first announced the products, Microsoft promised its headsets would cost around $300-500, compared to the $600 or more for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Since then, both the Rift and the Vive have some big price cuts of their own, and while the Windows VR devices do still retain the pricing edge, the difference is much less pronounced than it once was. For the moment, the Windows hardware retains one advantage—it doesn’t need base stations to track movement because all the tracking is handled in the headset itself, which makes installation and setup substantially easier. But this benefit, too, is set to disappear in the near term, as this style of tracking is going to become the norm.

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