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Netflix may run Watergate series developed by George Clooney

To be clear, Clooney is hedging his bets. He's producing another miniseries, an adaptation of Catch-22, that's being produced by Paramount Television (i.e. Viacom) and Anonymous Content. However, it's notable that he's making a series for Netflix. It's not just that the internet video giant now has enough power to attract A-list talent -- it's that people like Clooney now see streaming services as viable (and potentially ideal) places for shows that previously had to be shoehorned into conventional TV schedules to get a lot of exposure.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/12/16/netflix-may-run-watergate-series-developed-by-george-clooney/

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Firefox faces backlash for auto-installing ‘Mr. Robot’ add-on

A screenshot of Looking Glass version 1.0.3 captured by TechCrunch shows that the extension's profile barely had anything in it. Version 1.0.4, which one of Engadget's editors found in his browser, was more forthcoming and admitted that it's a collaboration between Mr. Robot and Mozilla.

Based on the details unearthed by affected users, the add-on was developed by Mozilla's Shield Studies program, a platform available on all Firefox channels that gives you a way to test features before they're released. Some Shield studies ask for your permission to opt in, others automatically make their way to your browser and require you to actively opt out. Problem is, some weren't even aware that they're part of the Shield program, so they had no idea where the extension could've come from.

Mozilla is now facing backlash for installing the add-on without people's consent, especially since it always stresses how important users' privacy is to the organization. In fact, in the page explaining what Looking Glass is, Mozilla wrote:

"The Mr. Robot series centers around the theme of online privacy and security. One of the 10 guiding principles of Mozilla's mission is that individuals' security and privacy on the internet are fundamental and must not be treated as optional. The more people know about what information they are sharing online, the more they can protect their privacy."

Despite the troubling way the extension was installed, Mozilla said it doesn't do anything to your system until you opt into the Alternate Reality Game, the immersive experience the organization designed to take fans into the Mr. Robot universe. Those who couldn't care less about the show can kill the extension by typing about:addons in their address bar and removing Looking Glass.

Update: A Mozilla rep reached out and told Engadget:

"Our goal with the custom experience we created with Mr. Robot was to engage our users in a fun and unique way. Real engagement also means listening to feedback. And so while the web extension/add-on that was sent out to Firefox users never collected any data, and had to be explicitly enabled by users playing the game before it would affect any web content, we heard from some of our users that the experience we created caused confusion.

As a result we will be moving the Looking Glass Add-on to our Add-On store within the next 24 hours so Mr. Robot fans can continue to solve the puzzle and the source can be viewed in a public repository."

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/12/16/firefox-mr-robot-extension/

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California advises against keeping your phone in your pocket

The advisory follows the release of CDPH findings from 2009, which were prompted by a lawsuit from UC Berkeley professor Joel Moskowitz in his bid to explore possible links between cellphone use and increased risks of cancer. He believes that cellphone radiation poses a "major risk." Other agencies, such as Connecticut's own Department of Public Health, have put out similar recommendations.

The CTIA wireless industry group, which has historically opposed attempts to raise public concerns over phone radiation, isn't taking a definitive stance. In a statement, the CTIA said that health was "important" to its members and that people should "consult the experts."

It's a bold move when some of the companies that dominate the cellphone landscape are based in California. The question is whether or not the advisory will make a difference. Without a definitive link between phone use and health issues, the statement may not carry much weight. And let's face it, telling people to stop using smartphones as they normally do (especially in California) is like telling them to stop breathing. There would have to be a clear risk to make everyone give up devices that have quickly become staples of modern life.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/12/16/california-advises-against-keeping-your-phone-in-your-pocket/

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Google won’t show news from sites that hide their country of origin

A spokeswoman speaking to Bloomberg explained it as a matter of adaptation. Google has to update its policies to "reflect a constantly changing web," she said, and that means ensuring that people can "understand and see where their news online is coming from."

It's no secret as to why Google is implementing another measure to crack down on duplicitous news sites. The internet giant is under pressure from lawmakers and the public to do more in light of Russian attempts to influence the 2016 US presidential election, and culling sites that are deceptive by their very nature (not just their content) could be a significant help. The question is whether or not Google will be effective at spotting sites that hide their nation of origin. If it regularly waits until sites become news, pulling them will be more of a symbolic gesture than an effective deterrent.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/12/16/google-bans-news-sites-which-hide-country-of-origin/

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CDC barred from using ‘science-based’ in budget documents

CDC's senior officials in charge of its budget have apparently revealed the new edict to the agency's policy analysts in a 90-minute meeting. WaPo's source said attendees couldn't believe what they were hearing, especially since the administration didn't even offer an explanation. While the CDC could come up with workarounds, this will make it a lot tougher for its divisions to report about their work in a factual manner and could ultimately impact the funding of health initiatives.

Can you imagine working on reproductive health or diseases affecting pregnant women like Zika and not being able to use the word "fetus?" How will a health worker focusing on LGBT issues refer to transgender health concerns without being able to use the word "transgender?" "Vulnerable" is commonly used when referring to diseases and populations.

And then there's "science/evidence-based." It's typically used to indicate treatments, programs and approaches backed by available evidence from scientific research. It's also a term used to discredit pseudoscience and quack medical theories. In fact, there's a medical approach called "evidence-based medicine," which the National Institutes of Health describes as "conscientious, explicit, judicious and reasonable use of modern, best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients."

The government wants the agency to replace instances of "science-based" or "evidence-based" in their documents with "CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes." Dr. Gleb Tsipursky wrote on Scientific American that by using that poor alternative for "evidence-based," the administration is saying that it "wants doctors to shift away from treating people based on the best scientific research, and instead use the fuzzy standard of 'community wishes.'" Tsipursky, who calls the censorship part of the administration's war on science, leads Pro Truth Pledge, which aims to fight fake news and alternative facts.

WaPo's source believes the agency's scientists and subject matter experts "will not lay down quietly." But unless they can convince the administration to lift the ban on those words ASAP, then CDC's officials already have a rewrite to attend to: the White House sent back budget drafts with the words "vulnerable," "entitlement" and "diversity" for correction.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/12/16/cdc-banned-words-evidence-science/

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What do made-for-AI processors really do?

Last week, Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 845, which sends AI tasks to the most suitable cores. There's not a lot of difference between the three company's approaches -- it ultimately boils down to the level of access each company offers to developers, and how much power each setup consumes.

Before we get into that though, let's figure out if an AI chip is really all that much different from existing CPUs. A term you'll hear a lot in the industry with reference to AI lately is "heterogeneous computing." It refers to systems that use multiple types of processors, each with specialized functions, to gain performance or save energy. The idea isn't new -- plenty of existing chipsets use it -- the three new offerings in question just employ the concept to varying degrees.

The Snapdragon 845.

Smartphone CPUs from the last three years or so have used ARM's big.LITTLE architecture, which pairs relatively slower, energy-saving cores with faster, power-draining ones. The main goal is to use as little power as possible, to get better battery life. Some of the first phones using such architecture include the Samsung Galaxy S4 with the company's own Exynos 5 chip, as well as Huawei's Mate 8 and Honor 6.

This year's "AI chips" take this concept a step further by either adding a new dedicated component to execute machine-learning tasks, or, in the case of the Snapdragon 845, using other low-power cores to do so. For instance, the Snapdragon 845 can tap its digital signal processor (DSP) to tackle long-running tasks that require a lot of repetitive math, like listening out for a hotword. Activities like image recognition, on the other hand, are better managed by the GPU, Qualcomm's director of product management Gary Brotman told Engadget. Brotman heads up AI and machine learning for the Snapdragon platform.

Meanwhile, Apple's A11 Bionic uses a neural engine in its GPU to speed up Face ID, Animoji and some third-party apps. That means when you fire up those processes on your iPhone X, the A11 turns on the neural engine to carry out the calculations needed to either verify who you are or map your facial expressions onto talking poop.

On the Kirin 970, the NPU takes over tasks like scanning and translating words in pictures taken with Microsoft's Translator, which is the only third-party app so far to have been optimized for this chipset. Huawei said its "HiAI" heterogeneous computing structure maximizes the performance of most of the components on its chipset, so it may be assigning AI tasks to more than just the NPU.

Differences aside, this new architecture means that machine learning computations, which used to be processed in the cloud, can now be carried out more efficiently on a device. By using parts other than the CPU to run AI tasks, your phone can do more things simultaneously, so you are less likely to encounter lag when waiting for a translation or finding a picture of your dog.

Plus, running these processes on your phone instead of sending them to the cloud is also better for your privacy, since you reduce the potential opportunities for hackers to get at your data.

The A11 Bionic's two "performance" cores and four "efficiency" cores.

Another big advantage of these AI chips is energy savings. Power is a precious resource that needs to be allocated judiciously, since some of these actions can be repeated all day. The GPU tends to suck more juice, so if it's something the more energy efficient DSP can perform with similar results, then it's better to tap the latter.

To be clear, it's not the chipsets themselves that decide which cores to use when executing certain tasks. "Today, it's up to developers or OEMs where they want to run it," Brotman said. Programmers can use supported libraries like Google's TensorFlow (or more specifically its Lite mobile version) to dictate on which cores to run their models. Qualcomm, Huawei and Apple all work with the most popular options like TensorFlow Lite and Facebook's Caffe2. Qualcomm also supports the newer Open Neural Networks Exchange (ONNX), while Apple adds compatibility for even more machine learning models via its Core ML framework.

So far, none of these chips have delivered very noticeable real-world benefits. Chip makers will tout their own test results and benchmarks that are ultimately meaningless until AI processes become a more significant part of our daily lives. We're in the early stages of on-device machine learning being implemented, and developers who have made use of the new hardware are few and far between.

Right now, though, it's clear that the race is on to make carrying out machine learning-related tasks on your device much faster and more power-efficient. We'll just have to wait awhile longer to see the real benefits of this pivot to AI.

Images: Huawei (Kirin AI processor), Apple (A11 processor cores).

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/12/15/ai-processor-cpu-explainer-bionic-neural-npu/

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Facebook tests option to bypass profiles and only post to News Feed

In one image shared by Navarra, a status update asks if you want it to show on your profile. If you don't select that option, the post would just show up in News Feed. In a second image, there's an option to share to News Feed and/or Facebook Stories and not a user's profile.

Allowing users to choose where their posts show up could lead to more overall sharing and Facebook has been working on a couple of other features that could help improve the user experience. Today, Facebook launched its "snooze" feature that lets you temporarily mute friends, groups or Pages for 30 days and in October it was reported that the company was testing a split News Feed that separates Page-generated posts from ads and content shared by friends. Facebook also recently launched a polling feature and is currently testing a "breaking news" tag for developing stories.

We've reached out to Facebook for more information about the sharing options being tested and we'll update this post when we learn more.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/12/15/facebook-bypass-profiles-post-to-news-feed/

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Apple signs ‘Battlestar Galactica’ developer for new space drama

Fargo co-executive producers Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi will join Moore on the project, which does not yet have a title. It's the third series ordered by Apple's worldwide video programming division, which is headed by former Sony execs Jamie Erlicht Zack Van Amburg. The tech giant had previously hired Steven Spielberg to produce a new version of the old Amazing Stories anthology series, as well as buying a TV drama created by and starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon.

There's no news on when Moore's show will be released, but his experience is reason enough to get excited. He started as a writer and eventual producer on Star Trek: The Next Generation before moving on to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and a stint on Star Trek: Voyager. He became a showrunner on HBO's Carnivale before developing the rebooted Battlestar Galactica and later Starz's Outlander series adapting the books of the same name. Moore also co-developed Amazon's upcoming sci-fi anthology series, Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/12/15/apple-signs-battlestar-galactica-developer-for-new-space-drama/

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Set sail with your pals in a new ‘Adventure Time’ game

A new Adventure Time game is in the works and it features some maritime fun, a nameable boat and pirates. Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion begins with a flooded Land of Ooo and Adventure Time characters have to set off to figure out what's going on. You'll be able to play as Finn, Jake, Marceline and BMO as you battle pirates, add others to your crew and hunt for clues. And the boat you and your pals will be riding on -- you can enter to name it through a competition that opens today.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/12/15/set-sea-new-adventure-time-game/

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Google Inbox will remind you to unsubscribe from unread promo emails

If you have any emails that Inbox has classified under its "Promos" tag, you might start seeing a new Inbox Tip that offers an easy way to unsubscribe (or say no thanks, if you want to keep getting the emails). The feature appears to be new, and seems to only be available on Android phones and the web version of Inbox.

None of the editors at Engadget seem to have one of these tip cards, yet, but Android Police has images of the feature and we've reached out to Google for confirmation. We'll update this post when we hear back.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/12/15/google-inbox-remind-unsubscribe-unread-promo-email/

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