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2018 A year of creepy AF smart home headlines

first_img See All Google’s efforts were impressive, but Duplex didn’t sit right with all of us. “In this age of disinformation, where fake news thrives and the public has trust issues with technology, Google designed a machine that can deceive humans,” wrote CNET’s Bridget Carey, who also voiced concerns over the fact that Google’s Assistant never identified itself as a robot. “Gosh, what could go wrong?”Two days after that editorial, Google told CNET explicitly that it will launch Duplex with “disclosure built-in” for better transparency.An Amazon Key in-home delivery: not as creepy as we expected! Tyler Lizenby/CNET Then there’s Amazon Key, which looks to leverage smart lock tech at your front door to let delivery people drop Amazon packages off inside your home. The Amazon Key Home Kit even includes an Amazon Cloud Cam to let you watch the delivery in real time right from your phone (more on cameras in just a bit, by the way).The idea of granting a stranger authorized access to your home was unnerving for many of us — but in the end, Amazon Key wasn’t nearly as creepy as we expected. In fact, the most we ever saw of the delivery people was an arm reaching inside the cracked door to drop a package off just inside. From Megan Wollerton’s recap:”While I started out hesitant about in-home delivery, I’d be comfortable enough to use it going forward (and to recommend it to frequent Amazon customers) — as long as I can keep an eye on whoever’s delivering the packages from my phone.”Camera creep2018 might be the year when the mainstream smart home opened its eyes, with a flood of new camera-equipped products and services designed to help us keep watch over our homes or stay in touch with loved ones. Early in the year, for instance, Amazon bought the home security startup Ring and its popular video doorbell. Now, a new app for Ring users called Neighbors lets you share, view and comment on local crime activity, complete with video clips from Ring cameras and doorbells in your community.The Nest Hello video doorbell is one of a growing number of smart home products using cameras equipped with facial-recognition technology. Chris Monroe/CNET That’s an appealing pitch to some, but consider the company’s recent patent applications focused on facial recognition. Each considers ways to use Ring cameras to identify “suspicious” people (convicted felons, sex offenders, etc.), then automatically alert law enforcement. That raised fresh surveillance state concerns from the American Civil Liberties Union.”Amazon is dreaming of a dangerous future,” the ACLU’s Jacob Snow said in a statement, “with its technology at the center of a massive decentralized surveillance network, running real-time facial recognition on members of the public using cameras installed in people’s doorbells.”We expect to see more uses of facial recognition technology in the coming year, including from cameras that are already equipped with the feature, like Google’s Nest Hello video doorbell. In other words, don’t expect this issue to fade from sight.And it’s not just the front door — from night-vision security cameras to connected baby monitors, people are parking cameras inside their homes, too. Doing so might require you to wrap your head around some potential privacy vulnerabilities. For instance, earlier this year, researchers from Kaspersky Lab warned that hackers could turn your own cameras against you by spying on you, or by fooling you with a duplicate, “cloned” feed. Your next vacation rental might have security cameras inside, too, which raises concerns about whether or not you could be filmed without realizing it during a weekend getaway.  That brings us to smart displays, a new smart home category that promises to bring even more cameras into people’s kitchens and living rooms. Amazon was first into the space with the Echo Show and Echo Spot, and Google soon followed suit with a suite of its own Google Assistant-powered touchscreens, including the Lenovo Smart Display and the JBL Link View. Tellingly, Google opted not to include a camera in its flagship, first-party smart display, the Google Home Hub.Of course, there’s another smart display worth mentioning. In fact, it gets the next section of this post all to itself.fl-portal-10 Chris Monroe/CNET Smart home hubris from FacebookThere was a collective “you’ve gotta be f***ing kidding me” from many of us who write about tech when Facebook, in the midst of scandal after scandal after scandal over the misuse of user data, unveiled the new Facebook Portal in-home video chatting devices. Because sure, why not let a transparency-challenged company that’s been — at best — wildly irresponsible with user data bring person-tracking cameras and always-listening microphones into your living room? They promise they’ll behave! Tags CNET Smart Home Aug 31 • The best coffee grinders you can buy right now More recently, a judge in New Hampshire ordered Amazon to hand over the Alexa audio of a user accused of two counts of first degree murder. For now, Amazon is fighting the ruling.”Amazon will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us,” an Amazon spokesperson told CNET. “Amazon objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course.”   Concerns about silent, “ultrasonic” audio attacks also raised our collective assistant anxiety this year, with researchers claiming that the most popular voice platforms were vulnerable to audio cues at frequencies too high for humans to hear. Researchers at UC Berkeley claim they were even able to fool Mozilla’s open-source DeepSpeech voice-to-text engine by hiding ultrasonic audio cues within brief snippets of music.Maybe most disconcerting — to date, none of the major tech companies responsible for these voice platforms have denied that attacks like these are possible.google-duplex-orens-hummus-demo-2-2Enlarge ImageWith Google Duplex, Google Assistant will call restaurants and salons to make reservations on your behalf. Google’s demo was one of the most convincingly life-like AI use-cases we’d ever seen. James Martin/CNET Big moonshots, big questions2018 saw some notable new ideas about where smart home tech may be headed — and some of those ideas raised a lot of questions.Let’s start with Google Duplex, the search giant’s effort to let the artificially intelligent Google Assistant make phone calls on your behalf. Google touted the feature as a way for the Assistant to book things like haircuts and dinner reservations — and the demo was pretty mind-blowing. Watch for yourself below: 1 Consumer Product Safety Commission asks: How dangerous is the internet of things? Here’s what Congress wants to know about Amazon’s Echo Dot for kids Senators call on FTC to investigate smart TVs tracking viewers’ data Your smart air conditioner could help bring down the power grid, researchers say California governor signs country’s first IoT security law Comment Google’s Duplex: AI that makes you think you’re talking to a human Voice of concern: Smart assistants create new openings for hackers Watch Google Assistant fire a gun Robot or human? Google Assistant will leave you guessing And hey, amid escalating scrutiny, perhaps they will. “We have a responsibility to protect your data,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a March 21 statement following the company’s Cambridge Analytica data-mining scandal. “And if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you.”Just keep in mind that since then, Zuckerberg’s company has come under continued fire for not doing enough to deal with a flood of fake news and Russian trolls on its platform during the 2016 US election. In July of this year, the company admitted to sharing user information with hardware and software partners even after claiming to discontinue the practice in 2015. Just this week, the New York Times reported that Facebook used “special arrangements” like those even more than the company initially disclosed — namely, to give Microsoft’s Bing search engine access to the names of all Facebook users’ friends without consent, and to allow Netflix and Spotify to read Facebook users’ private messages.Netflix denies that it ever accessed people’s private messages on Facebook, or asked for the ability to do so. Spotify didn’t immediately return a request for comment.At any rate, we are well past the point of taking Facebook’s word for anything when it comes to protecting your private data. But, if early market indications showing lots of interest in smart displays this holiday buying season are correct, that’s exactly what some people might be doing. That, or they’ve been drawn in by Facebook’s admittedly slick user interface — enough so to shrug off some extremely valid privacy concerns.After the year we’ve had, maybe that’s what creeps me out the most. reading • 2018: A year of creepy AF smart home headlines Microphone mishaps (no laughing matter)Things typically get a bit quiet in tech during the months following January’s big CES expo in Las Vegas. This year, a mysterious and disconcerting bout of laughter echoed out of the silence.The cackle in question came from Alexa, when users of Amazon’s popular voice assistant began sharing clips of eerie, unprompted laughter emitting from their Echo devices. Once the phenomenon began to trend on Twitter, Amazon confirmed the issue and told us it was looking into a fix.2018 saw a number of stories about Echo devices acting strangely. Chris Monroe/CNET “In rare circumstances, Alexa can mistakenly hear the phrase ‘Alexa, laugh,'” the company ultimately explained. “We are changing that phrase to be ‘Alexa, can you laugh?’ which is less likely to have false positives, and we are disabling the short utterance ‘Alexa, laugh.’ We are also changing Alexa’s response from simply laughter to ‘Sure, I can laugh’ followed by laughter.”In another Alexa headache this May, a family in Oregon claimed that their Echo device recorded audio of a private conversation and sent it out to a random contact without warning. Amazon’s explanation? It was the Alexa equivalent of a butt-dial.”[The] Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like ‘Alexa,'” an Amazon spokesperson told CNET. “Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a ‘send message’ request. At which point, Alexa said out loud, ‘To whom?’ At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customer’s contact list. Alexa then asked out loud, ‘[contact name], right?’ Alexa then interpreted background conversation as ‘right.'””As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely,” Amazon added.Still, accidents happen. Just today, Reuters reports that Amazon mistakenly sent the wrong files to an Alexa user in Germany who had requested his Echo recordings. As a result, he was able to download and access 1,700 recordings from another user’s household. Per Reuters, Amazon called this an isolated incident, and the result of human error.Assistant anxietyAmazon also found itself navigating potential legal battles over user privacy when Alexa became an apparent witness to not one, but two separate cases of homicide. The first came to a conclusion in March when Amazon agreed to hand over the Alexa audio recordings of a user in Bentonville, Arkansas, who stood accused of of first-degree murder, but only after that user consented to the release. Aug 31 • Alexa can tell you if someone breaks into your house 2018 is just about over, and it’s common for tech reporters to dig back into their beats to try and sum up the year’s news. And, as the CNET Smart Home team took a look back for our own year in review, there was one takeaway we just couldn’t escape:The smart home was… kinda creepy this year.To wit, there were evil cackles from Alexa, fake phone calls from Google Assistant, and concerns a-plenty about the connected cameras and microphones filling our homes. That’s not to mention the well-founded fears about the mass amount of data that these devices are asking to be trusted with (looking right at you, Facebook Portal. No thanks.)So, yeah, if the smart home had you a bit creeped out in 2018, I can’t say I blame you. Here’s a look back at the stories that probably played a role. Tough questions for the smart home in 2018 So Alexa decided to laugh randomly while I was in the kitchen. Freaked @SnootyJuicer and I out. I thought a kid was laughing behind me. pic.twitter.com/6dblzkiQHp— CaptHandlebar (@CaptHandlebar) February 23, 2018 Aug 30 • Battling bot vacs: iRobot Roomba S9+ vs Neato Botvac D7 Connected 4:25 Aug 31 • Best smart light bulbs for 2019 (plus switches, light strips, accessories and more) Now playing: Watch this: Share your voice 2018 in creepy assistants CNET Smart Home • Smart Homelast_img read more

2018 was really hot just like the last four years say NASA

first_img Tags “The impacts of long-term global warming are already being felt — in coastal flooding, heat waves, intense precipitation and ecosystem change,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The report also noted that warming is being felt most in the Arctic, where sea ice continues to melt, raising the sea level.Fight the Power: Take a look at who’s transforming the way we think about energy. Rebooting the Reef: CNET dives deep into how tech can help save Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Share your voice 2 Comments Culture The last five years have been the hottest on record.  NASA; screenshot by CNET Continuing a trend of rising temperatures, 2018 was the fourth hottest year on record, according to a climate change report out Wednesday from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).The past five years have been the warmest in the modern record, the report said, and 2018’s global temperatures were 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit, or 0.83 degrees Celsius, above the mean temperatures for 1951-1980.last_img read more

Kapil Sharma gets scolded by a 6yearold and the reason is very

first_imgKapil Sharma, Krushna AbhishekSony TVThe Kapil Sharma Show never fails to entertain its viewers and the upcoming episode will be filled with comedy.It will be graced by popular playback singers – Alka Yagnik, Himesh Reshammiya and Javed Ali – the judges of the reality show Super Singer as well as contestants of the show such as, Thanu Khan, Mohammed Fazil, Nistha Sharma, Urgen Tsomuand Guntas along with the captains of the show Salman Ali, Nitin Kumar, Sachin Valmiki and Jyotica Tangri.According to a report in Times Now, a six-year-old, Thanu Khan will be seen scolding Kapil on The Kapil Sharma Show because of a very cute reason that will leave viewers in splits.The report said that the young contestant before walking towards the stage for his performance left a fruit (litchi) with Kapil. However, right before his performance, the kid asked the comedian about his fruit’s whereabouts and Kapil answered that he ate it. Realising the same, young kid scolded the comedian in the most adorable way.”I gave Kapil ji my fruit to hold till the time I perform, but he took the chance and ate it while I was performing. I expressed my disappointment when he ate my litchi but as nice he is with his comedy, he offered me all the fruits on the table,” Thanu Khan said, as reported by the web portal.In his personal life, Kapil is on his way to becoming a father. Although the ace comedian hasn’t made any official announcement about the same, reports are doing the rounds that his pregnant wife Ginni Chatrath is in her first trimester.Apparently, ever since Kapil learnt about Ginni’s pregnancy, he has reportedly made a lot of changes in his busy shoot schedule to be with his wife. Initially, Kapil used to quickly wind up for the day from shoot and rush home to take care of Ginni. But now, Ginni has shifted to Amritsar, Punjab, and with her family. Kapil, who is in Mumbai busy shooting for The Kapil Sharma Show, is flying to and fro whenever he gets time from his busy schedule.last_img read more

School becomes a field hospital in Iraqs Mosul

first_imgMembers of the Iraqi forces tend to a civilian who was injured by Islamic State (IS) group jihadists at a school turned hospital in western Mosul. Photo: AFPFifteen-year-old Mohammed enthusiastically helps the staff of a makeshift hospital set up in the bullet-scarred school in west Mosul where he himself studied before jihadists seized Iraq’s second city.The Islamic State group used the school as part of its programme of indoctrination until it lost control of the area during a major Iraqi offensive launched last month, and it is now used to treat people wounded in the ongoing battle for the western side of the city.Like many buildings in Mosul, the school bears the signs of warfare.In addition to being pockmarked with bullets, most of the windows are broken, walls are cracked and the floor is littered with bullet casings.The entrance hall has been transformed into an emergency room, which is stocked with only limited equipment but still allows for first aid to be administered to the wounded and sick.One young man lies on a narrow bed, his face pale and tired.“A sniper (from IS) fired at him but missed, so he started to run, and the sniper shot again and hit him,” says Fathi Waad, one of the victim’s relatives.“This is the third time that someone in the family has been hit by a sniper,” he adds.Each day, the hospital looks after around 100 patients, both civilians and security personnel, often the victims of gunshot wounds, says Aqil Karim, a medic from the elite Counter-Terrorism Service.A dust-covered red pickup suddenly stops in front of the school to deliver a semi-conscious old man whose foot has been injured.American dreamUnlike the previous patient, he is not the victim of violence, but rather of an accident, and he is also suffering from dehydration.As soon as he arrives, he is carried to a bed, where his wound is washed, disinfected and dressed.Treating him is just as important as tending to those wounded by war in a city where the fighting has destroyed many medical facilities.More than 200,000 Iraqis have fled west Mosul since Iraqi forces began the assault to retake the area on February 19, the government says, but hundreds of thousands more are still in danger inside the city.With school lessons unlikely to resume at any time soon, several former pupils have returned to the building to help the medical staff.Indifferent to the sound of gunfire and explosions outside, one of them rushes around helping out where he can, dressed in a tracksuit with a blue hood.Mohammed has barely finished unloading a delivery of equipment when he is already back inside handing out food rations.“We cook, clean the equipment, and when wounded people arrive we help them,” says the slender teenager, who is delighted no longer to be in class under the jihadists.“Our teachers were hard on us. They’d beat us,” he says. “And they’d ask us to pledge allegiance to IS.”But Mohammed does not see a future for himself in the ruins of a city disfigured by months of heavy fighting. Instead, he yearns to join his relatives in the United States.His dream job once there? “Doctor” of course.last_img read more

300 migrants rescued off Libiya coast

first_imgLibya’s coastguard rescued more than 300 migrants on Tuesday at sea west of the capital Tripoli, a spokesman said.“Coastguards rescued early morning today 140 illegal migrants west of Tripoli and another group of 164 migrants were rescued off Sabratha including seven women and six children,” a spokesman for Libya’s naval forces told Reuters.The migrants included people from sub-Saharan countries, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, he said.Hundreds of thousands of migrants from Africa and the Middle East have crossed the Libyan desert and taken to flimsy boats on the Mediterranean in the hope of reaching Europe in recent years.A plan was agreed on Monday by four European countries and three African states, including Libya, to support nations struggling to contain the flow of people.Leaders agreed on the principle of setting up a mechanism to identify legitimate migrants fleeing war and persecution, and to use the United Nations to register them in Niger and Chad so as to prevent them from being exploited by people-smugglers.Libya has been in turmoil since an uprising six years ago overthrew former leader Muammar Gaddafi.last_img read more

Will Greater Houston Get More Flooding This Week

first_img Emergency management officials in the region are monitoring the weather and bracing for possible flooding, damaging winds and hail.“We’ll have periods of rain and thunderstorms and then breaks between,” National Weather Service forecaster Dan Reilly said. “So, it’s not going to be raining the whole time but we certainly will have rounds of thunderstorms right through Friday.”He said those rains are moving in from the southwest. Corpus Christi experienced some heavy flooding Sunday night.Francisco Sanchez with the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management said the ground and bayous are still saturated from the historical floods last month – and so it doesn’t take a heavy downpour to cause more flooding.“It becomes a little difficult when, as we get later in the week, it’s going to take less and less rain to actually cause these problems to get worse,” Sanchez said. “So we’re keeping an eye on that.”In Galveston County, officials are also monitoring the weather but emergency management coordinator Garret Foskit said they are not too concerned about this week.Meanwhile, the American Red Cross is ready for more flooding in Greater Houston.“We’re meeting with community partners and we are putting shelters on standby,” MaryJane Mudd with the Red Cross Texas Gulf Coast Region said. “In the case that if there is a need, if people do leave their homes based on flood damage or having to evacuate, that we can then reach out to those partners and open those shelters.”Officials advise residents to check weather and traffic conditions before they leave their homes this week.NWS To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code: Listen 00:00 /01:20 Share Xlast_img read more

DCs Sibley Memorial Hospital Launching New Community Health Program

first_imgAccording to the D.C. Department of Health, in 2010, Ward 8 residents had the highest rates of obesity and were least likely to exercise; the second highest rates in the District were in Ward 7. Research from the D.C. Policy Center also found that areas in Ward 8—Anacostia, Barry Farms, Mayfair and Ivy City—comprise the majority of the food deserts throughout the city. Food deserts are defined as geographic areas where people have limited access to healthy food.During a series of conversations with Sibley officials, D.C. community and faith leaders, senior-citizens and students expressed concerns about having access to healthy fruits and vegetables, and the impact that the lack of access has on the community’s well-being.“Sibley is 100 percent committed to improving lives of all residents in the District. And what makes our commitment unique is Sibley’s culture of human-centered design, which is based on listening and understanding,” said Richard O. Davis, president and CEO of Sibley Memorial Hospital.The hospital will create an advisory board comprised of Wards 7 and 8 residents, organizations, health care representatives and elected officials to inform health focus areas and evaluate health and wellness initiatives. Additionally, Sibley invites residents and nonprofit organizations serving Wards 7 and 8 to apply to the first cohort of the program by visiting www.wardinfinity.com. Each resident-led group will receive up to $25,000 to fund health and wellness-related projects in their community, as well as coaching and guidance from industry designers and entrepreneurs. In an effort to improve the health and wellness of D.C.’s communities, Sibley Memorial Hospital is launching a first-of-its-kind Community Health Innovators in Residence Program. The program, which consists of Wards 7 and 8 organizations and residents, will work collaboratively with Sibley to create solutions for improving health and wellness issues in the community.last_img read more

DHTour marks 75th anniversary of DDay with four trips

first_img Travelweek Group Posted by << Previous PostNext Post >> Tuesday, January 29, 2019 Sharecenter_img Tags: D-Day, DHTour, History, New Tours BURLINGTON — London and UK specialist DHTour is offering four tours to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy on June 6.“Each passing year takes us further away from the events that shaped our country and the world in which we live in today,” says Gordon Burwood, President, DHTour. “The pivotal battle of Normandy which began on June 6, 1944 was one such event. Seventy-five years have since passed from what was known as operation ‘Overlord’ or ‘D-Day’ but its importance is strongly remembered to this day.”DHTour’s trips will focus heavily on the role Canada, along with its allies, played in both World Wars. Tour ‘A’ starts in London, with a look at the effects of the war on the city from the Blitz onwards and then visits the great naval port of Portsmouth for the ferry across to Normandy. Tour ‘B’ follows the allied forces from Normandy, through Holland, to Berlin. After Normandy, Tour ‘C’ looks at the Liberation of Holland while Tour ‘D’ concentrates on Belgium. All tours will include the Canadian Juno Beach ceremonies on June 6.DHTour also arranges private battlefield tours both in Europe and in Vietnam, “wherever, and whenever, your clients want to go – at their pace – for their interests”, says Burwood. Either as a small group in nine-seater Mercedes Executive vans or in Saloon cars, along with a guide who will be an expert in military tours and local culture, and whether for a few days or longer, DHTour can customize the journey according to the style of accommodation clients are looking for. Visitors can have a chance to visit the major Canadian battlefield sites such as Vimy Ridge, Juno Beach or Dieppe as well as smaller, more personal, areas and cemeteries. Agents can contact DHTour for a quote and customized itinerary. More details are at dhgrouptours.com or call 1-888-597-3519. DHTour marks 75th anniversary of D-Day with four tripslast_img read more