China has unveiled a new floating bullet train capable of hitting speeds of about 372 mph (600 km/h). CNN reports: On Thursday, the body prototype for the country's latest high-speed magnetic-levitation (maglev) train project rolled off the assembly line in the eastern Chinese city of Qingdao. Developed by the state-owned China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) -- the world's largest supplier of rail transit equipment -- the sleek-looking train is scheduled to go into commercial production in 2021 following extensive tests. Maglev trains use magnetic repulsion both to levitate the train up from the ground, which reduces friction, and to propel it forward. The project was co-created by Shanghai Maglev Transportation Development Co. Ltd., a German Consortium consisting of Siemens AG, Thyssen Transrapid GMBH and Transrapid International GMBH. "Take Beijing to Shanghai as an example -- counting preparation time for the journey, it takes about 4.5 hours by plane, about 5.5 hours by high-speed rail, and [would only take] about 3.5 hours with [the new] high-speed maglev," said CRRC deputy chief engineer Ding Sansan, head of the train's research and development team, in a statement. For comparison, current trains on the Beijing-Shanghai line have a maximum operating speed of about 217 mph (350 km/h).
The Baltimore city government is recovering from a devastating ransomware attack that has locked up its systems, but officials in the city faced a new problem today. As first reported by The Baltimore Sun, Google blocked city departments from using Gmail accounts created as a workaround. The Verge reports: On May 7th, a ransomware attack froze government systems, including email, and demanded the city hand over bitcoin to reverse the hack. Weeks later, the city is still recovering from the attack, which has also shut down systems for paying water bills and some other services. While officials deal with the problem, which could still take months to fix, some have reportedly signed up for free Gmail accounts to keep operating.
Gmail distinguishes between individual users and users in businesses and other organizations, requiring the latter to pay for the service. According to the Sun, which cited the mayor's office, Google's systems deemed the city officials to be part of an organization, and shut down the temporary accounts. Emails to the city health department, city council aides, and the mayor's office bounced on Thursday, according to the report from the Sun. UPDATE: Google has since fixed the problem. "We have restored access to the Gmail accounts for the Baltimore city officials," the spokesperson said. "Our automated security systems disabled the accounts due to the bulk creation of multiple consumer Gmail accounts from the same network."
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Forty-seven Democratic members of Congress are calling for a net neutrality compromise with Republicans, who have refused to support a full restoration of the net neutrality rules repealed by the Ajit Pai-led Federal Communications Commission. The Democratic-majority U.S. House of Representatives voted in April to pass the Save the Internet Act, which would restore the Obama-era FCC's net neutrality rules. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared the bill "dead on arrival" in the Republican-majority Senate.
Republican lawmakers say they'll only accept a net neutrality law that isn't as strict -- even though large majorities of both Democratic and Republican voters support the FCC's old net neutrality rules. On Wednesday, dozens of Democrats asked their party leadership to compromise with the GOP leadership. "We, the undersigned, voted for [the Save the Internet Act] because it represented an opportunity to resolve questions that courts have struggled with for decades," the Democrats wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). "At the same time, we recognize that this legislation is unlikely to become law, or pass through the Senate, in its current form. If that proves true, consumers will be left without enforceable net neutrality protections while partisan conflict continues. We believe this result is unacceptable and unnecessary." The letter to Pelosi was led by Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Scott Peters (D-Calif.) and signed by another 45 Democratic members of the House. It goes on to suggest that the House create "a bipartisan working group" that would write a net neutrality law that's acceptable to Republican lawmakers.
Microsoft's redesigned SharePoint platform is proof that Microsoft is serious about making their software more stylish. "It's colorful, pretty, and makes SharePoint seem sexy instead of the boring corporate intranet website that most people associate it with," writes The Verge's Tom Warren, in response to Microsoft's latest sizzle video all about SharePoint "innovations." From the report: Microsoft's video also contains the bubbles that form part of the new SharePoint logo -- part of a broader revamp of the company's Office icons that are rolling out right now. It also includes a bunch of Microsoft's Fluent Design elements that form part of the company's big push towards open design internally.
So why did Microsoft make such a flashy video for SharePoint? The company held a SharePoint conference earlier this week and launched a new SharePoint home sites feature. It's a new landing site for a business' intranet that combines news, events, content, video, and even conversations. SharePoint is used by businesses to encourage collaboration, and these new home sites look like a far more modern way to achieve that. Warren notes that Microsoft's newly unveiled Windows Terminal also had a sizzle video that promoted the new design.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly met with Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss to discuss the company's plans to launch its own cryptocurrency. "The Financial Times reported Thursday that Zuckerberg met with the Winklevoss twins and executives with Coinbase, a popular online cryptocurrency exchange, as the company considers partnering with the company and others such as Gemini, the exchange founded by the Winklevoss brothers," reports The Hill. From the report: Zuckerberg's past legal conflict with the twins was one of the defining plot points of "The Social Network," the Academy Award-winning movie based on Zuckerberg's rise to power as Facebook's founder. The two brothers claimed in legal proceedings to have come up with the original idea for Facebook while students at Harvard with Zuckerberg.
At Facebook's developer conference in April, Zuckerberg indicated that he was interested in Facebook becoming a tool for sending money quickly, a feature that would be a core part of the company's entrance into the cryptocurrency realm. "When I think about all the different ways that people interact privately, I think payments is one of the areas where we have an opportunity to make it a lot easier," he said at the conference, according to CNBC. "I believe it should be as easy to send money to someone as it is to send a photo," he reportedly added last month.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Krebs on Security: The Web site for Fortune 500 real estate title insurance giant First American Financial Corp. leaked hundreds of millions of documents related to mortgage deals going back to 2003, until notified this week by KrebsOnSecurity. The digitized records -- including bank account numbers and statements, mortgage and tax records, Social Security numbers, wire transaction receipts, and drivers license images -- were available without authentication to anyone with a Web browser.
Santa Ana, Calif.-based First American is a leading provider of title insurance and settlement services to the real estate and mortgage industries. It employs some 18,000 people and brought in more than $5.7 billion in 2018. Earlier this week, KrebsOnSecurity was contacted by a real estate developer in Washington state who said he'd had little luck getting a response from the company about what he found, which was that a portion of its Web site (firstam.com) was leaking tens if not hundreds of millions of records. He said anyone who knew the URL for a valid document at the Web site could view other documents just by modifying a single digit in the link. And this would potentially include anyone who's ever been sent a document link via email by First American. KrebsOnSecurity confirmed the real estate developer's findings, which indicate that First American's Web site exposed approximately 885 million files, the earliest dating back more than 16 years. No authentication was required to read the documents. "As of the morning of May 24, firstam.com was returning documents up to the present day (885,000,000+), including many PDFs and post-dated forms for upcoming real estate closings," Krebs adds. "By 2 p.m. ET Friday, the company had disabled the site that served the records. It's not yet clear how long the site remained in its promiscuous state."
A spokesperson for the company issued the following statement: "First American has learned of a design defect in an application that made possible unauthorized access to customer data. At First American, security, privacy and confidentiality are of the highest priority and we are committed to protecting our customers' information. The company took immediate action to address the situation and shut down external access to the application. We are currently evaluating what effect, if any, this had on the security of customer information. We will have no further comment until our internal review is completed."
Hackers breached a company that provides license plate reader technology for the US government, including at the border with Mexico. From a report: The hackers posted what appears to be the internal data of the company, called Perceptics, on a dark web website on Thursday. A company employee confirmed to Motherboard that Perceptics was hacked. "We are aware of the breach and have notified our customers. We can't comment any further because it is an ongoing legal investigation," Casey Self, director of marketing for Perceptics said in an online message. The Register first reported the news on Thursday. The data appears to include a variety of databases, company documents, and financial information, according to the file directory giving an overview of the stolen material. Boris Bullet-Dodger, the hacker who listed the data online, contacted Motherboard with a link to the stolen data on Thursday. Perceptics, once a subsidiary of major government contractor Northrop Grumman, mainly distributes license plate readers, under-vehicle cameras, and driver cameras to the U.S., Canada, Mexico to place at border crossings.
An algorithm, it seems, could determine, in some cases, who gets shown lifesaving information, and who doesn't. From a report: The researchers behind the New Media & Society paper set out to understand this odd quirk of Google's algorithm, and to find out why the company seemed to be serving some markets better than others. They developed a list of 28 keywords and phrases related to suicide, Sebastian Scherr at the University of Leuven says, and worked with nine researchers from different countries who accurately translated those terms into their own languages. For 21 days, they conducted millions of automated searches for these phrases, and kept track of whether hotline information showed up or not. They thought these results might simply, logically, show up in countries with higher suicide rates, but the opposite was true.
Users in South Korea, which has one of the world's highest suicide rates, were only served the advice box about 20% of the time. They tested different browser histories (some completely clean, some full of suicide-related topics), with computers old and new, and tested searches in 11 different countries. It didn't seem to matter: the advice box was simply much more likely to be shown to people using Google in the English language, particularly in English-speaking countries (though not in Canada, which Scherr speculates was probably down to geographical rollout). "If you're in an English-speaking country, you have over a 90% chance of seeing these results -- but Google operates differently depending on which language you use," he said. Scherr speculates that using keywords may simply have been the easiest way to implement the project, but adds that it wouldn't take much to offer it more effectively in other countries, too.
A Google spokesperson, who asked not to be quoted directly, said that the company is refining these algorithms. The advice boxes require the cooperation of local organizations which may not always be available, they said, but that relevant resources will still show up in regular search results. Google said the service does not have comprehensive global coverage, and while it is actively working on new languages and locations, rolling that out takes time.
Microsoft today shared more details about its Project xCloud game streaming service, revealing that developers won't have to make any modifications to their games for their titles to be supported by xCloud. From a report: That means that technically, Project xCloud supports the over 3,500 games that are playable on the Xbox One, even including the Backward Compatibility list. That means that Xbox and Xbox 360 games will work as well. Moreover, Microsoft said that there are over 1,900 games in development for the Xbox One, so that brings the total to well over 5,000 games. And when a game is updated on the Xbox Store, it's automatically updated for xCloud. Of course, the key words to pay attention to in the blog post are "technical capability." Just because a game is technically able to stream doesn't mean that it will. Presumably, this will be left up to the developer.
Director Jeff Fowler has announced that Paramount had delayed the release of 'Sonic the Hedgehog' by three months, to allow the visual effects team some more time to work on the central character's redesign. A report adds: To say that reaction to the first 'Sonic the Hedgehog' trailer was mixed would be overly diplomatic. But at least fans were able to look beyond the thin premise and bizarre Jim Carrey turn for long enough to focus on what was really important: the weird-ass Sonic design.
A new San Francisco city report details the devastating drop in on-demand rides for the disability community after the rise of Uber and Lyft. From a report: The financial blow to the taxi industry, the report alleges, was also a blow to the availability of on-demand trips for anyone who uses a wheelchair. The report also points a way forward for the multi-billion dollar ride-hail industry to roll out wheelchair accessible vehicles and inclusive transportation for people with disabilities more broadly. It's a bit of an uncharacteristic kumbaya moment between old-school taxicab regulators and the tech transportation darlings, but one San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Director of Taxi and Accessible Services Kate Toran said is necessary to provide people with disabilities the service they need.
"We take a positive view because we're trying to increase service on the street," Toran told the San Francisco Examiner. "Really, the end goal is to make sure the rider gets the service, that's what we stay focused on." The report also comes on the heels of recent workshops to implement Senate Bill 1376, authored by State Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), which implemented a 5-cent per-ride surcharge on ride-hails to set up a fund so Uber and Lyft could finally provide wheelchair accessible vehicles. The bill set up a process for the California Public Utilities Commission, to establish rules requiring ride-hails to provide rides to all Californians regardless of disabilities.
A top NASA executive hired in April to guide strategy for returning astronauts to the moon by 2024 has resigned, the space agency said on Thursday, the culmination of internal strife and dwindling congressional support for the lunar initiative. From a report: Mark Sirangelo, named six weeks ago as special assistant to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, left the agency as NASA abandoned a reorganization plan due to a chilly reception on Capitol Hill, Bridenstine said in a statement. His departure came after lawmakers rejected NASA's proposal to create a separate directorate within the space agency to oversee future lunar missions and ultimately develop human exploration of Mars. [...] Last week, the Trump administration asked Congress to increase NASA's spending next year by $1.6 billion as a "down payment" on the accelerated goal of landing Americans back on the moon by 2024, more than half a century after the end of the U.S. Apollo lunar program.
Russia's largest tech company is launching a delivery service that allows a customer to tell a restaurant what to cook, whether it's on the menu or not. From a report: Yandex NV will prepare meal kits with ingredients based on a customer's requested dish and send it to a nearby restaurant for cooking. Once the food is ready, Yandex couriers will handle delivery. Yandex has been rapidly expanding its delivery services. In 2017 it merged with Uber Technologies' Russian ride-hailing and food-ordering businesses. The new offering, which it calls a "cloud restaurant" service, mashes together Yandex.Eats, which delivers cooked food from restaurants, and Yandex.Chef, which already supplies meal kits for home cooking. For now, customers won't be able to create completely bespoke delicacies, but Yandex has created a list of hundreds of the most popular dishes among users of its food businesses, which will be priced typically for no more than 250 rubles ($3.86) per dish. The service will be initially available in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
An anonymous reader writes: For more than a year, mobile browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox, and Safari failed to show any phishing warnings to users, according to a research paper published this week. "We identified a gaping hole in the protection of top mobile web browsers," the research team said. "Shockingly, mobile Chrome, Safari, and Firefox failed to show any blacklist warnings between mid-2017 and late 2018 despite the presence of security settings that implied blacklist protection." The issue only impacted mobile browsers that sued the Google Safe Browsing link blacklisting technology. The research team -- consisting of academics from Arizona State University and PayPal staff -- notified Google of the problem, and the issue was fixed in late 2018. "Following our disclosure, we learned that the inconsistency in mobile GSB blacklisting was due to the transition to a new mobile API designed to optimize data usage, which ultimately did not function as intended," researchers said.
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